Caring for our town - past, present and future

Registered Charity No 1000447

Basingstoke Heritage Society










AT 7.30PM





The society has unveiled two plaques since the last newsletter or at least we have presented one and unveiled the other. The first one was presented to Audleys Wood Hotel. They have opened their ‘Simonds’ room as a fine dining restaurant and 2 of us were lucky enough to go and enjoy the opening evening and to hand over the plaque. Although Audleys Wood was owned by the Simonds family for many years, it was built by Thomas Paine (1823-1885) who lived at a house called The Grove. Research by Martin Webber, who works at the hotel, suggests that this house was where the petrol station is next to the Holiday Inn on Grove Road. If you know anything more about this house, then do get in touch. Thomas Paine was living there in 1871 and at Audleys House, as it was then known, by 1881. Thomas Paine was a founder-benefactor of the Cottage Hospital.

Basingstoke Cottage Hospital. From the HRO collection

News October 2011


Other matters:

We were asked about a barn at West Ham Lane, which was removed brick by numbered brick sometime in the 1960s and taken to the New Forest, where it was re-built as a cafe. If you have any information on this, please let us know.

The panels we did for the exhibition at The Willis have found a permanent home in the Discovery Centre. Thanks to Cathy Williams and to Sarah Faithfull at the DC. If you didn’t make the exhibition, then you can now find them in their new home.

An application to build on land on the canal route in Old Basing has been turned down. The society objects to applications which would further destroy the route of the Basingstoke Canal.

Morrison’s and the old Thornycroft Gantry. If you fill up at Morison’s you will know this silver structure. We are told that Morison’s are going to re-exhibit the Thornycroft images which used to be in Safeway and also to make a sign for the gantry.

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Planning applications for changes to windows and doors in the conservation areas. The society did a lot of work when the conservation areas at Brookvale, Fairfields and South View were designated. These areas have Article 4 Directions, which means that windows and doors cannot be changed without consent. We do often object to these applications but were pleased to note that a house in Winchester Road is to replace its clay roof tiles with slate which is a lovely piece of appropriate restoration.

A Memorial Death Plaque

Debbie Reavell led a walk around South View on a showery Sunday in August. We were able to visit St Thomas’s Chapel, courtesy of Barchester Healthcare, and see the very fine brickwork and moulded or pressed tiles. The story of this part of Basingstoke begins with the Inclosures, when the May family, yeomen farmers and brewers, acquired the land in the town’s Chapel Field in 1788.

The Chapel, St Thomas’s. Photo by Gideon Coolin

Sherborne House,  Photo by Gideon Coolin

The women had to stay for two years and were trained in laundry and dairy work, cooking and needlework as well as some basic studying. In 1882, it cost £54 7s per woman per year to keep a woman there – the equivalent of about £4500 today. The site was planted with 600 or 700 trees and shrubs. Across the road, is the Warden’s House where the Rev. Reginald Fitzhugh Bigg-Wither lived from 1878 until about 1895. Jane Austen fans will remember his grandfather, Harris Bigg-Wither who proposed to the author, was accepted and then next day, refused!

John Burgess Soper bought the land and in 1874, he sold 3 acres to the Winchester Diocese as the site for St Thomas’s Home for the Friendless and Fallen. By 1885 there were 60 ‘penitents’ as well as servants and sisters. The home intended to give women the chance of recovering the character they have lost before God and Society”.

Sherborne House, built in the mid-1870s by W H Bayley is a good example of a surviving ‘gentleman’s residence’ in Basingstoke. It was later the home of Charles Steevens of Wallis and Steevens and it is his initials, ‘CJS’ in the semicircle over the porch. Recently a descendant of W H Bayley has been in touch with BHS - we are sharing information and hope that the family will have an image of Sherborne House.


Four of the sites we nominated have been added to the local list – the WW2 shelters at Brinkletts and the possible gas decontamniation unit at Whiteditch as well as no. 3 Vyne Road and the Soldiers Return pub. 3 Vyne Road is an early house in South View, once known as Prospect Villa. As buildings grew up around it and its ‘prospect’ disappeared it was renamed Dean Lodge. It is not in the Conservation Area and its inclusion on the Local List means that at least a developer would have to consult locally.


The Local and Family History Day in the Discovery Centre on 9 October was a success with 500 people visiting the DC that Sunday.  Ian Williams has  a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ for a Basingstoke man, Alfred Cecil Pointer, which was part of our display.  These bronze plaques were properly called ‘Memorial Death Plaques’ and they were given to the families of those killed in the 1914-1918 war. Over 1.3 million were made.


Alfred Cecil Pointer was born in Basingstoke in 1896. He enlisted at the age of 19 years 7 months when his occupation was given as ‘tailor’s presser’. At that time, there were three firms for whom he may have worked - Burberry; Gerrish, Ames and Simpkins or John Mares. The family home was at 12 Norn Hill and in 1911 he lived there with his mother, Susan, a widow, who had been born in Andover, his brother Frederick and sister Rosina. He was killed on 3 September 1916 serving with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 11th Battalion, less than a year from when he had enlisted. He has no grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

   3 Vyne Road

If you read the local papers then you will know that on October 1st we unveiled a plaque at Limes Park to commemorate the work of Sir Harold Gillies C.B.E., F.R.C.S. Sir Harold, a New Zealander by birth, was known as the ‘father of plastic surgery’ and we had intended to note his work at Rooksdown during and after WW2 for many years, but had waited until works at Park Prewett had settled down.  Rooksdown House was demolished many years ago so the plaque has gone onto the building which was the main and grand entrance to Park Prewett Hospital – formerly known as Clocktower House and now as The Clock Tower. During WW2, Park Prewett became a civilian hospital with patients from London hospitals being treated here. Gillies, already a pioneer in plastic and reconstructive surgery from his work in the First World War, chose Rooksdown House as a suitable place. We were delighted that two grand-daughters of Sir Harold, Susie Winter and Clare Fox came and they met up with Roy Nash, who, in 1945 had been wounded and brought to Rooksdown where Sir Harold had saved his shattered hand.  Another story was

“We were delighted that two grand-daughters of Sir Harold, Susie Winter and Clare Fox, came”

from Peter Leavey, who at the age of 12 and as a young cadet in the St John’s Ambulance, remembers being woken at night to go to the goods yard to help move wounded men from the ambulance trains onto Venture buses for the journey to Rooksdown. The hospital, with 200 beds, was particularly busy after Dunkirk and again after D-Day. Rooksdown was essentially for army patients and many RAF wounded were treated at East Grinstead and were members of the famous ‘Guinea Pig’ Club under Sir Archibald McIndoe, but the work at Rooksdown, although not so well known, is of equal significance and was pioneering in terms of approaches to treatment. Rooksdown House Hospital closed in 1959.

Rooksdown House.  Photo by Robert Brown