Caring for our town - past, present and future

Registered Charity No 1000447

Basingstoke Heritage Society

News February 2013

The society’s ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING will take place on April 16th at Church Cottage, which has good links for public transport. It will be at 7.30 and our speaker will be John Holmes.

His talk will be on ‘Basingstoke – 1950 – 1970’.  

         John’s father, who worked for H N Edwards, photographed streets as they looked before the bulldozers moved in.

         So come along and remember or find out what the town used to look like! Parking is free at Church Cottage after 7pm but there is also the car park in Churchill Way, which is very close. Do bring a friend.

Free for members, guests £2. Refreshments.

Unveiling the Major Howard Plaque – 11 November 2012

“The officers’ mess was in The Wheatsheaf”  

On 11 November we unveiled the Major Howard plaque on The Wheatsheaf and to our delight veteran Jim Beasant (centre) came along and at the last minute it seemed right that he should unveil the plaque. Jim served in the 13th Parachute Battalion in Normandy, the Ardennes, the Rhine Crossing and the Far East. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur at the French Embassy in 2004. The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Councillor Martin Biermann praised the society for celebrating local history. David Robotham, Head of the Kings School spoke about Major Howard and his brief stay in our town at the very beginning of what became an amazing military operation. (Also in the photo is Ian Williams, society chairman).

We have not got anywhere trying to discover the ‘large Victorian building’ where the 1st Airlanding Brigade was based. A suggestion that it might be Kings Furlong house needs further research, but might fit well, not being far from both The Wheatsheaf and Ashley Lodge, where Howard was billeted with Dr Williams and his family. Interestingly, Kings Furlong House was the home from at least 1928 until 1935 of Brigadier General W B Lesslie, who was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1868, became an officer in the British Army and served with the Australian and New Zealand forces in WW1. He died in 1942.


Explaining our town’s history

This is one of 3 interpretation panels which have gone in to the cemetery at South View.

There is one at each entrance – Burgess Road, Chapel Hill and the railway end. They are all different and tell the fascinating story of this site from 1208 to WW2!  If you haven’t been to see them, then as soon as it warms up a bit, then do go. They were funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant, sought by the Hampshire Museums and Galleries Trust but the wording and images were all done by the society. The design was done by Andy Thomsen. Explaining and interpreting this site is really worth doing.

Also funded were leaflets which the South View Conservation Group have produced – so far about the Commonwealth War graves and the history of the ruins. These leaflets can be downloaded from the group’s website or found in the Willis Museum or Discovery Centre.

Cross Street

The developers invited a group of committee members to see how the work is going on to convert these handsome houses into flats. Over the years they have been offices with an extension at the back which has now gone (see photo left from 1966 ).

Many features have survived inside the houses, including shutters and a fine fireplace, which will end up in a bathroom!  Some research shows that they were almost certainly more modest houses, given a makeover in the early 19th century.  We were asked to suggest a name for the flats and have done. We wait to see if that will be the name they end up with. It’s good to see these buildings cared for again after some years of neglect. Small details like the detail on this door case have been carefully cleaned of years of overpainting.

Other matters:

Barchester Healthcare will be celebrating 10 years at St Thomas’s care home in Darlington Road and contacted for help with the history of this site. In 1874 John Burgess Soper sold the land for £250 per acre and it became St Thomas’s Home for the Friendless and Fallen.

Sentinel Housing are proposing around 500 homes on the Chapel Hill site, known to us as the Lilly site. They are sensitive to the difficulties caused by Lemon Land’s application and we have talked to them about the site - locally-listed Lilly building, closeness of the Holy Ghost ruins.  

The Local and Family History Day at the Discovery Centre on 28th October was well-represented by the society with a lot of work put in to create a good stand. Hope you managed to get to see it.

36 Vyne Road – yet another application to build at the rear of this property which is falling into disrepair. This is the most modest proposal and we have not opposed it as it should lead to the restoration of no. 36 (divided into two flats), which we got locally listed. It is unfortunately just on the edge of the South View Conservation area, so does not benefit from that.

The Local List - we intend to nominate a pair of houses in Pack Lane. They are the work of architect G H Kitchin who worked in a vernacular Arts and Crafts style, building houses and doing work in large houses mostly in Hampshire from about 1905 to the late 1930s.

Top of the Town – ongoing discussion about this area and a report has gone to the council. Planning consent was granted for another betting shop in Market Place ... further closures of Censo Bar (The Hop Leaf to you and me) and the Italian deli just next door seem to be about high rents. It is a struggle to keep this area looking good ..

Town Trail is out of print! As we provide it to the Discovery Centre, the Willis Museum and Milestones as well as the Apollo Hotel who say it is very popular with their guests, we are trying to inject some urgency into the council who have generously agreed to do a reprint.


Jane Austen – definitely in the news as it’s the 200th anniversary since Pride and Prejudice was published. But a recent book which looks at her life through objects notes that her writing slope, now held in the British Library was purchased by her father from John Ring of Basingstoke (where he bought a lot of   household necessaries).  Barbara Applin in Going Down Church Street locates John Ring’s likely premises and home as the handsome house at the most northerly end of the surviving row of houses before you reach Chute House. (Office Angels).  It is the one we noted in the town trail because it has interesting brickwork on the north elevation. The little ‘pie-crust’ table at Chawton House is possibly the one which the Reverend George Austen bought and where Jane wrote.

12-14 Cross Street

Thanks to all who came to the talk on the Last Five Miles of the Basingstoke Canal. Your interest is much appreciated.