Caring for our town - past, present and future

Registered Charity No 1000447

Basingstoke Heritage Society

Stories of Basingstoke

the people who gave us our Heritage

In September 2009 Basingstoke Heritage Society organised a heritage

open day in the old cemetery at South View - the Holy Ghost Cemetery.

The panels you see here tell part of the story of the people of Basingstoke

whose history was touched on for the Open Day.

These are just some of the stories of Basingstoke, not a history of the town. All of the panels here do connect in some way with the Holy Ghost Cemetery and that is the link.  The chapel ruins have been a subject for artists for many years – the image on the left dates from 1808 and was made for George III’s topographical collection by  Peter J de Loutherbourg.

Chapel ruins today.

Sir William de Brayboeuf - Lord of the Manor of Eastrop d.1284

George Willis - 1877 - 1970

Gilbert White English naturalist - 1720 - 1793

John Arlott OBE - 1914 - 1991

John Burgess Soper - 1821 - 1895

John May -Brewer and benefactor 1837 - 1920

John Aidan Liddell V.C. - 1888 - 1915

Who were the Massagainians?

The Milward Family shoe shops from 1857 - 1994

The Case of Mrs Blunden - 1674

Mussellwhite - Basingstoke builders from 1840 to 1960

Oliver Cromwell and the Fall of Basing House 1645

Thomas Burberry 1835 - 1926

Thomas Warton, Poet Laureate 1728 - 1790

Arthur Wallis & Charles Steevens, Basingstoke engineers – mid 1800s

William Sandys 1470 - 1540

Some Ordinary Folk

History timeline

Cemetery Trail

Mrs Blunden is exhumed! Heritage Open Day.


Sir William de Brayboeuf

Lord of the Manor of Eastrop d.1284

This lumpen monument is all that remains of the tomb effigy of William de Brayboeuf who died in1284. It would have been inside the earlier church in the Holy Ghost cemetery, within a niche on the wall. Although badly eroded by the weather, it is possible to make out the knight’s shield and falcon.

Sir Arnald de Gaveston in Winchester Cathedral

Basingstoke’s historians,

Baigent and Millard, believed

that the effigy would have

closely resembled this one in

Winchester cathedral.

The tombstone of Sir William was re-discovered in 1817

described then as ‘a mutilated knightly figure with crossed legs’.

At the time of the Domesday survey in 1084, Hugh de Port held Basing among many other lands he had acquired after the Norman Conquest. He granted (sublet) Eastrop to Geoffrey de Brayboeuf who had also come with William the Conqueror. The manor of Eastrop extended from Norn Hill to Herriard. In 1223 a descendant of Geoffrey, Henry de Brayboeuf, asked to enclose land for hunting known as hag-woode, later Hackwood, which was part of this estate

Eastrop remained a separate parish until the 1890s. In the 17th century the manor of Lickpit still belonged to the descendants of the Brayboeuf family. Settling issues of land

ownership before maps were commonplace was often decided by a jury of townsmen.

In 1274, a jury decided ...

“ the hundred of

Basingstoke, William de

Brayboeuf holds Lickpit of the

Lord John de St John of Basing,

at the service of the fourth

part of one knight’s fee ...”

Part of Eastrop parish in 1839 – the river Loddon and St Mary’s Church can be seen

George Willis’s great legacy to Basingstoke is the Willis museum.

George Willis’s father, also named George, was a clock mender and had a jewellery business, which George inherited.  The premises were just across the road in  Wote Street. The original frontage has been removed to Milestones museum where a replica of his shop can be seen.  George Willis was awarded an Aldworth Scholarship to pay for his education at Queen Mary’s Grammar School. This local charity, set up by Richard Aldworth by his will of 1646, helped clever children to flourish at a time before education was free.  The school was then in Worting Road on the north side of BCOT’s Worting Road site. Later, George Willis was the chairman of the Aldworth Trust for many years.

George Willis with his watches

With his friends John Ellaway and Herbert Rainbow he walked the fields around the town discovering early man-made tools and fossils. He collected clocks and watches and many other objects made their way into his collection.

In about 1928, the Mechanics Institute in New Street was transferred to the Town Council as “a

public free library, museum and place of instruction”. The Honorary Secretary of the institute was

John Richard Ellaway, friend of George Willis, and in 1931 the Willis Museum opened – a plaque on

the stairs in this building records that.

George Willis’s shop in Milestones Museum

The new public library was downstairs, but upstairs was this wonderful confusion of objects – the Willis Museum. It even included the ‘Basingstoke Spider’ – in actual fact a tarantula - as well as a stuffed fish and a cockerel which had laid an egg!! In 1983, when the council moved out of the Town Hall, the Willis Museum moved to this building.  George Willis’s contribution to civic life was

important too. He served as a councillor and alderman and was made a freeman ofthe borough in 1954, a fitting honour for a man who had done so much for his town.

George Willis 1877 - 1970

Gilbert White

English naturalist 1720 - 1793

Gilbert White was educated in Basingstoke by the Reverend Thomas Warton in the vicarage (now Chute House) and at the Grammar School in the Holy Ghost ruins.

In 1761 he took the curacy at Farringdon, near to Selborne where he stayed for over twenty years as it allowed his research to continue. He was the first English language writer of natural history and his great work The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne was published in 1789.

This sketch is one of only two images known to be of Gilbert White, probably by Thomas Chapman and held at the British Library.

White studied birds and other creatures particularly in his garden at The Wakes, Selborne and its close surroundings. He studied from observation and from life, at a time when most naturalists preferred to carry out detailed examinations of dead specimens.

He experimented, observed and recorded everything to do with his garden in Selborne.

These interests led him to his insights into natural history

White became one of the first people to confirm the process of hibernation, in an age when many believed that swallows hibernated in mud rather than migrated. From October 1770 Gilbert White wrote about a tortoise named Timothy. Over the following years, Timothy was observed, weighed, and called to loudly through a speaking-trumpet to see if he could hear.

“Though he loves warm weather he

avoids the hot sun; because his thick shell, when once heated, would as the poets say of solid armour– ‘scald with safty’.”

      Gilbert White 1773

His lifetime of experiment and observation started when he was a schoolboy, playing in the Holy Ghost burial ground, where he and his friends once tried to blow up part of the ruins! He confessed to this in his Natural History – a ‘vast fragment’ of the ruins fell down in the night!

‘Earthworms, though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, yet, if lost, would make a lamentable chasm. Worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them.’

     (Letter to the Hon. Daines Barrington, 20 May 1777).

John Arlott OBE 1914 - 1991

John Arlott was born in the cemetery lodge in Chapel Hill to Nellie and William Jack Arlott, who was then the cemetery keeper. He went first to Fairfields School and then became an Aldworth scholar at Queen Mary’s Grammar School in Worting Road. In 1934 he joined the police in Southampton. Although he is best

remembered for his outstanding contribution to cricket and for his Hampshire burr, his great love was poetry.

In 1943 and while still a serving police officer, he got his

broadcasting debut when he was asked by the BBC to do a talk about being a policeman who was addicted to poetry. He refused this piece of pigeonholing, but was asked to do a voice test and this led to him being given an opportunity for a radio talk.

His interests included writing about wine, but it is for cricket that he will be remembered.

His other forenames were Leslie and Thomas and he wrote poetry as Leslie Thomas.This is a poem he wrote about Basingstoke. The ‘cream and green Town Hall’ is now  the Willis Museum.


Of Basingstoke in Hampshire

The claims to fame are small;

A derelict canal

And a cream and green Town Hall.

At each week-end the ‘locals’

Line the Market Square,

And as the traffic passes,

They stand and stand and stare

Cemetery Lodge, Chapel Hill where John Arlott was born

















Time Line | Cemetery Trail | Plaques | Items of Historical Interest


Top of Page | Time Line | Cemetery Trail | Plaques | Items of Historical Interest