Caring for our town - past, present and future

Registered Charity No 1000447

Basingstoke Heritage Society

 News September 2015

Basingstoke Heritage Society

Caring for our town – past, present and future

News for Members no 101

September  2015

We hope you had a good summer and to round it off, here are a couple of pictures of the Aromatic Garden in Church Square which is looking very settled after it was re-planted just two years ago.

Eastrop House in Chequers Road is in the conservation area. In 2011 Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, who own  it, wished to demolish the old coach house and stable. We were one of the objectors and the council refused consent. Sadly the house is empty and the coach house has been seriously vandalised. The conservation officers at the council are aware of it and local residents have written to the present owners deploring its neglect.

The house was originally known as The Elms (there was an earlier Eastrop House to the west of St Mary’s Church). It dates roughly from the 1890s we think and was at one time occupied by Rev Richard Shields, Rector of Eastrop and his wife Ruth. The house is marked as a ‘notable building’ in the conservation area appraisal document.

Old Common. We continue to battle for the Old Common site, which council’s Cabinet seem determined to give away for 150 years at a peppercorn rent to Basingstoke Town Football Club. The Eastrop councillors’ investigations discovered a recommendation by the Land and Property committee of 1979, adopted by full council the following month. This was an outcome of the release of land for the Hilton Hotel on the east edge of the Old Common and this is what it said:-

“Recommended that

(2) (c) the western boundary be only finally agreed when the detailed scheme has been fully considered in order to ensure that adequate land has been allowed for the scheme to produce a fine setting commensurate with the need to keep the remaining land of the former Common undeveloped and of an open character.

(3) the Council recognise that, should this development take place, then such land as will remain between the hotel site and any possible school requirements be left undeveloped and of an open character”.

You might think that nothing would be clearer than this but at Cabinet on 28th July, at which we spoke, Cllr Ruffell said that the Council need not be bound by  decisions taken in prior years.  This is not unreasonable,  but the point is that Cabinet entered into discussions about this piece of land in ignorance of the earlier decision and what we are still trying to discover is whether it should be full council who have the power to set aside an earlier decision, or if not, then whom?  We are in correspondence with the council’s new Chief Executive, Mel Barrett, about this matter.

Jane Austen’s writing slope will be loaned by the British Library to the Willis Museum in January 2016 for a ‘taster’ exhibition in the lead up to greater things in 2017, the 200th anniversary of the writer’s death. As part of the Jane Austen theme, Destination Basingstoke organised a talk and film showing in The Willis in July (Becoming Jane in case you were wondering) and Debbie Reavell led a ‘Jane Austen in Basingstoke’ Walk in June. These events were both full and most people found out about the events through the Festival, which goes from strength to strength and is a great addition to the town. Basingstoke is modest about its connections with Jane Austen – after all, Chawton does have the home she and her mother and sister later occupied. But we have her youth – her first 25 years and the years in which she began three of her major novels.

This interesting old shop sign was revealed at 52 Alexandra Road during building works. But who were Littlejohns and who was Q. Neville? We did some research which showed that in 1911 Mrs Agnes Mary Sparkes was the shopkeeper. Trades’ Directories show this was so until 1927. Two of Agnes Sparkes’ daughters were Ellen and Sarah. Ellen Sparkes married Oliver Littlejohns in 1900 but it appears that the couple did not stay together. Ellen’s sister Sarah, married Fred Neville in 1898 and they had a daughter, Queenie – so it would appear that aunt and niece were running the shop together. The shop sign is hopefully going to be saved by a family member but if not, then Brookvale Hall will have it.

When the council’s 2018 Peace Garden appears it will be tucked into the War Memorial Park, just beyond the ha-ha near the council’s older offices. The problem is that there is a Beacon on a post here – see photo left. According to the mayor’s former administrator, Margaret Payne, the beacon was put up at Farleigh House on Lord Portsmouth’s land to mark the 400th anniversary of the Spanish Armada. This was in 1988. The council paid for it so they asked for it back to commemorate another anniversary – we’re not sure which, but it may have been in 1995 to mark 50 years since the end of WW2. The question is, can it be moved? It is not beautiful, has not been in the park very long and will not do much to improve the Peace Garden. So if you have strong feelings about it, then please get in touch. OTHERWISE IT WILL GO!!

We have been asking for better signage to the historic Holy Ghost and Holy Trinity Chapels and now have a brown ‘heritage’ sign in Vyne Road.  We would like to see one on the Alencon Link corner on the finger post there

Betting shop. Those of you who objected to the planning application by William Hill for yet another betting shop in the Old Town will have been pleased that the council turned down the application.  We have also objected to the Licensing Committee, although we know their powers are very limited. If William Hill appeal the planning decision, it may prove difficult to oppose it on planning grounds. Councils can make decisions about the numbers of premises like this in their towns. It is called a cumulative impact restraint and is meant to ensure that there is not an imbalance of traders in any area.

Architectural Visit by the Twentieth Century Society Southern. A group came to Basingstoke on 18 July. They visited the following: Churchill Plaza; Matrix (Sun Alliance); Snamprogetti (ENI); Mountbatten House (no admission); then Festival Place, the Church Street wall and the Anvil. Later they walked around South View, visiting The Vyne School, Temple Towers but not the Lilly building which is currently not viewable. Thanks to Bob Applin who was able to go round with them on the day.

25-27A Winchester Street

Hampshire Genealogical Society have an Open Day on 11 October 2015 at Everest Community Academy, Oxford Way, Basingstoke RG24 9FP from 10 - 4. Free talks include: 11.00am Kirsty Gray (M.D. of Family Wise) on Saving Your Research. 12.30pm Dr Kathy Chater (T.N.A.) on Suicides. 2.00pm David Annal (T.N.A. and Lifelines Research) on Brick Walls and Lost Ancestors

Planning applications – we continue to object to UVPC windows and doors where they replace wooden sashes and original wooden doors in the conservation areas. It’s a shame to lose these.

All mended at last!