Caring for our town - past, present and future

Registered Charity No 1000447

Basingstoke Heritage Society

 Latest News...…

Local List. We have nominated these surviving structures from the Alton Light Railway for the Local List. We did this in May but don’t know when we will know if they have been successful. Spurs from the line ran into Park Prewett Hospital and to Thornycroft’s.
Walls and Boundaries. We want to start a project to photograph old walls and boundaries around the town. Please do send us photographs or descriptions. The wall in this photo is in South View.
The Electric Cinema, Wote Street – we don’t expect you to remember this, but you might remember the Savoy which took over and expanded it. Frederick Darrell a ‘Landed Proprietor’ born in Cotterham, Cambridgeshire in 1862 seems to have been key in bringing this new-fangled idea to Basingstoke in 1910. The 1911 census shows that he and his family were living in Bramblys Grange House. It was, in part, his money which funded this early cinema.
Image from Basingstoke Gazette article by Robert Brown, November 2nd , 2010
Park Prewett – new history. A Place Apart. The Story of Park Prewett Hospital. The author of this book is Malcolm Isted. It’s a useful addition to what we know about the old psychiatric hospital, especially as an earlier book by Dilys Smith is difficult to get hold of. The story reminds us of the progress made in the treatment of psychiatric patients over the years and includes ‘inside stories’ of those who worked or were treated there, as well as the use made of the hospital during both World Wars. As the author was not aware of the Blue Plaque we put up to commemorate the work of Sir Harold Gillies during WW2, you will not be surprised to hear that we contacted him and received a pleasant reply. The book is £10 and available from The Willis.
The Willis Museum Sainsbury Gallery has been the venue for some superb exhibitions this year. The latest one, which ended on 16th December was based on works of painter J.M.W.Turner, born in 1775 in Covent Garden. The exhibition was praised by a society member, who commented that the Hampshire Cultural Trust had done a good job of displaying the exhibits of the landscape painter. The exhibition included an early work from 1796, Fishermen at Sea, and some of the views of Venice, for which he was renowned. The sketch books on show were objects of great beauty. His tour of the West Country in 1811 ended with a stop in Basingstoke where he sketched some aspects of the Holy Ghost Ruins. The sketchbook is part of the Turner Bequest at The Tate. Although it’s difficult to see on this image, I hope you can make out the distinctive shape of the ruins.
45-47 Winchester Street. This application is to alter the frontages of the 3 units (photos, right) and bring them altogether with a flat aluminium frontage. (shown below). This would mean the loss of the features of these frontages which are a rare survivor in the Top of Town. We have raised our objection, but if you would like to as well, then go onto the council’s Search Planning Applications page and comment as a ‘neighbour’. The reference is 03970

Membership Information
If a Basingstoke resident why not Join us? -  We need your support
Help us by joining the Basingstoke Heritage Society today.
Annual subscription - £5.00 per person, or £6 per household
      (Students and under 18’s FREE)

Membership Benefits:

Quarterly Newsletter

Occasional free talks, walks and visits to places of local interest

Opportunity to attend the Society’s monthly Business Meetings & make views known

Opportunity to contribute to submissions on issues of concern

Support the protection of your locality from inappropriate development

To download an application form go to the ‘contact us’ page.
The Society focuses its attentions on the town centre area of the Borough where residents have no Parish Councillors to represent them.  Particular emphasis is on the six conservation areas and any surrounding area likely to impact on the town.  Subject to this the Societies objectives are -

To promote high standards of planning and architecture.

To inform the public in the geography, history, natural history and architecture in the area.

To secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest.

You can follow and contact us on facebook by following this link.

General Data Protection Regulations 2018 – please click here for the BHS Data Privacy Policy
On 15th August we inaugurated the new interpretation sign at Viables, with the help of Deputy Mayor, Cllr Diane Taylor seen below with our chairman Ian Williams. We hope that if you have not seen the sign yet, then you will pop to Viables and have a look.

It was the Saxons, who named it and they called it ‘Herepath’ or ‘ancient way’. On its route is Viables Farm, where a remarkable Romano-British burial was unearthed in the 1970s.  We had the Community Association and the Council both content with this project to put a board at the Craft Centre.

The sign has been designed by Andy Thomsen (who also designed our signs in the Holy Ghost Cemetery). The sign is large with lots of information about this ancient route and the inns along its way and has taken many months of work to finalise the text.

The sign shows a portion of the 1762 map, where the Golden Lion is shown   as The Halfway, and Skippetts as Skypperds, which was sometimes an inn, sometimes a farmhouse. The route was an undisturbed minor lane  until it was eventually crossed by the Alton Light Railway. When the Basingstoke by-pass shifted the mass of jammed traffic heading east and west between London and the south-west out of the top of the town, it followed part of this ancient route and became very busy, attracting restaurants such as the Pied Piper and the Venture. In its turn, the bypass was superseded by the M3.

The Harrow Way enters Basingstoke from Oakley, down Pack Lane to Fiveways. At the White House it heads eastwards to pass Viables and the Golden Lion, then Skippetts and the Tunworth Road and on towards Well. The route may have altered depending on weather and safety, sometimes following a high route over the hills.

Sir James Lancaster.
The Local and Family History Day in the Discovery Centre on 23 June was not well attended. There was more footfall than last year, but even so with all the work we had done, we wonder if it is worth it.  If you didn’t make it, then a few facts about Sir James Lancaster. Born in Basingstoke in 1554, he is most renowned as an early voyager for the East India Company in 1601 – opening trade with the East for spices. James I knighted him for this great venture. From his schooldays in Basingstoke, he was apprenticed to the Skinners Company in London, served at sea under Sir Francis Drake and was part of the moment when trade began to take over from privateering. The Lancaster family were connected to the Deane family, who founded the almshouses in London Street. His will left generous bequests to his home town – money for the poor and also to found a petty school, which is marked by a blue plaque on the wall opposite the west door of St Michael’s Church. He also left the income from two farms – one at Pamber and the other in Lincolnshire, the latter not being sold until 1977. He then devoted funds to finding a North West sea passage, which is why Lancaster Sound in the Canadian Arctic bears his name. The passage was not achieved until 1903-1906, when Amundsen made it through.

Harriot Stanton Blatch lived in Basingstoke from 1882 for 20 years. She had met William Henry (Harry) Blatch, the brewery manager of John May & Co’s brewery, on a transatlantic voyage. They married and settled at The Mount in Bounty Road (where the Conservative Club is today). Their two daughters, Nora, and Helen who died young as a consequence of whooping cough, were born there. Nora wrote an interesting memoir of her young girlhood in Basingstoke. Harriot was very determined for women’s suffrage and campaigned for this and other rights all through her life. The family went to live in the US in 1902, where Harry Blatch was electrocuted in a freak accident.  In 1884 Harriot spoke about women’s suffrage at a meeting in the Town Hall (today the Willis Museum). This was a debate on ‘Woman and the New Reform Bill’. This was a bill to equalise men’s rights to vote between town and country districts. An amendment was brought to include women householders and this meeting aimed to bring pressure for that to happen. As we know, it would be another 34 years before women over 28 got the vote.   This is why such illustrious visitors as Emmeline Pankhurst with her daughters Sylvia and Christabel were visitors to The Mount. George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb also visited.

This avenue of Limes was planted for the coronation of Edward VII. Can anyone tell where they are in the town and name this avenue? Answer coming shortly

Is Winklebury Iron age hill fort at risk? We understand that HCC intend to demolish Fort Hill school buildings, but what plans do they have? This is an important scheduled ancient monument and should be protected.

Art in Unusual Places was the theme for the Basingstoke Festival. Here we are by L’arc in Alençon Link on our Trail of some of the town’s sculptures. It’s interesting to know what the artists had in mind when doing work for Basingstoke. The sculptor of Church Stone in Wote Street, Michael Pegler, said that he welcomed the town giving his work the name it gets called. He said: “I don’t have any problem with the name ‘Wote Street Willy’ – I think it’s nice. It shows that the people of the town have adopted the sculpture as their own.”    

Throughout the summer … … we have continued to work for improvement and repair.
At long last, the graffiti has been cleaned from the chimney off the NatWest bank in London Street. We did email the bank’s CEO and although we didn’t get a reply, it did get finally removed. Maybe it helped.
A vandalised gravestone in the old cemetery was repaired. It was one of a row of ‘Gothic’ ones. The council has no duty to repair damaged stones, so we were grateful that this was done.   
The interpretation sign at the Chapel Hill entrance to the cemetery had been bent forward. The council have repaired this and strengthened the sign, which we hope will deter further problems.

Photo by Millie Doyle for the Basingstoke Festival
       1)  NatWest                                2) Gravestone smashed and repaired                              3) Sign bent forward and now straightened.
More copies of Ken Smallbone’s book about Basingstoke pubs ‘Gone, but not Forgotten’ have been printed. It will cost you £20 but is an invaluable piece of research. BAHS have lodged copies with the Discovery Centre, Local Studies section so you can look things up there. Contact the society and we will put you in touch if you would like a copy.

A current exhibition in Oxford’s Bodleian Library contains a letter by J R R Tolkien on headed notepaper from the Red Lion, Basingstoke, written in 1938:   Did he find inspiration for the Hobbit while in Basingstoke?
Derek Wren, author of ‘Dear Mr Willis’ has died at the age of 94. Derek made a great contribution to Basingstoke and its history.  He also put together the ‘the Story of Basingstoke. From earliest times to 1964.’ This was updated in 2008 and is available on DVD   If you don’t have a copy, then go to the Willis and ask for one as it’s well worth having. We have some concerns that once the existing ones are sold, this DVD will not be available.

Destination Basingstoke, who organised the wonderful Bookbenches for Jane Austen’s year, have a new idea. 'Basingstoke - Letters from the Untold Story' is a unique project to create an art installation that encapsulates the essence of Basingstoke - its past, present and future, telling quite literally, its untold story letter by letter. The link below is to a survey to seek memories of the town.

Reminder: The Peace garden will be officially opened on Friday September 21st at 2.00. Please do come along.
Former Lamb Inn site. There is an application to gate this development with a 1.8m high sliding entry gate. We think this will be detrimental to the Fairfield’s conservation area as well as causing potential traffic delays. We have objected. Check it out on the council’s planning site and add your comments too if you agree. The reference is 01727.  

Basing View has been the subject of an ‘archaeological evaluation’ which has revealed late Iron age and early Roman features. A small rural settlement here …. soon it will be buried under a new hotel!
This Google image shows Winklebury Ring, with Fort Hill School within it. I wonder how many towns have such a splendid ancient monument in a built-up area? It dates from the Iron Age with a rather overgrown ditch surrounding it. As you know, the school is to close, and it is important that this ancient site is cared for into the future.