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.
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For those of you who are members your renewal is now due. Our subscription remains the same and is excellent value. The size of our membership is what gives us a voice, so please do renew, and encourage friends and family to do so as well. There is a great deal of information on our website so do look at it from time to time.
Gazette Archive – last steps. We had hoped that John Bird’s print press, which was in the foyer at Pelton Road, would be saved for the town’s museum. Twenty-three-year-old John Bird(1845 – 1905) moved from Somerset where, aged 16, he had been a printer’s apprentice. With his younger brother, Sidney, (1864-1939) he acquired premises in Church Street roughly opposite where the ramp leads to the Library in Festival Place.
Bird had bought an 18-year-old second-hand Arab Platen Print Press in 1878 and began publication. The first title of the paper was the Hants & Berks Gazette and Basingstoke Journal and soon added the Middlesex and Surrey Journal. In 1969 it became the now familiar Basingstoke Gazette. John Bird was a staunch Methodist and a teetotaller, for which reason he fell foul of the Massagainians in the brewers’ riots against the Salvation Army in the 1880s. The windows in Church Street were broken by the mob. He made his home in Cliddesden and was instrumental in getting the old Methodist church from Church Street moved and rebuilt in Cliddesden. The new one in Church Street was demolished in town development. Our efforts to save the items. We had been in touch with Hampshire Cultural Trust, which replaced the County Museum Service some years ago. We believed that the press and all the print cases and blocks which went with it were worthy of finding a home in our museums. Rebekah Waite of the HCT had met with Cllr Terri Reid and Debbie Reavell to talk about the print press in autumn of 2019. Rebekah was interested and we found out recently that she had, indeed, sought an appraisal of the Willis building to ensure that the museum floor could take the weight of the press. We had also been told that Milestones Museum, run by the Cultural Trust would like the print cases etc., They did not want the print press because they have one which works, which is not known about John Bird’s. I think because we are a voluntary society, the Cultural Trust would not properly engage with the society or reply to emails. Just before Christmas, your secretary emailed the chief executive of the HCT and the County Councillor member on the board. No replies. Debbie then contacted the Gazette Editor, who said that these items had been sold. The Editor regretted that HCTrust had not pursued with Newsquest the acquisition of these items. So that is the end of the story. Are we disappointed? Yes indeed. On a positive note, we did get many items saved by the Hampshire Record Office.
In Worting Road between Buckskin roundabout and the railway bridge is a small development called Worsam Court. A plaque on a bench there explains that this was the site of a Reading Room erected from a bequest of Louisa Alexandra Worsam, who died in 1907, aged 44 and is buried in South View. Like all good stories, bits came from various sources. At the request of a resident of the flats, we were asked to try and locate her grave in South View cemetery. Most often, this proves impossible, either because of erosion, or more commonly, because there was no gravestone to mark the place. As the old cemetery is ‘full’ with end to end burials, the task is difficult. The burial registers will give a plot number and that will indicate which part of the cemetery contains the burial – whether Catholic, Episcopalian or non-Conformist. The non-Conformist burials are in the east side of the cemetery by the Vyne Road wall and this is where we knew that Louisa is buried. She is not the only Worsam to be found and there is a gravestone for her cousin, Sophia who died shortly after the birth of her third child in 1874. Her parents were George and Matilda Freemantle – he was a timber-loader, living in Basing Road. Interestingly, the officiant at Sophia’s funeral was Thomas Burberry, who did take funerals from time to time. Louisa lived in the part of the town known as Worting Town End, or sometimes Worting, Towns End.
A planning application for 80 dwellings has been entered on the Chapel Gate site. The proposal is for flats higher than the current industrial unit at 4 storeys and will soar above the Rising Sun pub on Chapel Hill. It replaces Laleham Healthcare. From the old cemetery, with its scheduled ancient monument, the bulk above the pub will appear even more prominent. It seems a shame after all the work that has gone into making the White Building a very grand feature of this development, that this proposal which lacks any sympathy with the ongoing development on this site has been put forward. We have objected.
We had a contact about a piece of antique furniture, which had once belonged to James Montagu who had lived at Skippetts, and later at Old Jays farmhouse. Cathy did some research on this eccentric family, but we couldn’t help with the item of furniture. See right for item. If you ever saw it in Old Jays Farmhouse, do get in touch.
I am sure you all know about Jane Austen’s overnight engagement to Harris Bigg-Wither of Manydown. On the night of 2 December 1802, Jane, an old friend of the Wither sisters, Catherine and Alethea, was staying at Manydown on a visit from Bath. Harris proposed and was accepted. Phil Howe has written a little drama of this event, exploring Jane’s thoughts through what must have been an agonising night as she weighs up the pros and cons of such a marriage. The play is called Twelve Hours. www.twelvehours.co.uk Get a copy from Phil for just £9.99 plus post and packing. Email Phil for information at firstname.lastname@example.org. for a copy.
Phil Howe preparing for a performance of ‘Twelve Hours’ in Wootton St. Lawrence church with actor Kerry Fitzgerald in July 2019
Basingstoke Central Area Plan. This idea for a new look at a wide area, including the Top of the Town and stretching from Fairfields in the south to the railway station in the north and west as far as the Leisure Park at West Ham. We had asked to be involved with this work if possible. Then the pandemic intervened, but we now understand that consultants have been appointed to begin this work.
This delightful photo came from Australia. The family had lived in Basingstoke during the war at 83 Church Street. Our contact, Duncan only knew that the photo was ‘pram-pushing distance from Church Street’. It won’t take you long to recognise the location. Duncan, whose mother is in the photo, said that his mother and sister with their mother had moved from Surrey during the war and then stayed here until the war ended. Her father was in the RAF and their Surrey home was bombed during the war. She has lived in Australia since 1963 but remembered that W.A.Gittoes chemist shop in Church Street was widely known as ‘Waggitoes’.
Whiteditch again … … our professional researcher has sent 48 pages of various documents which is bringing our knowledge about this building to a conclusion.
The outcome is more prosaic than the V1 connection which your secretary had imagined for it! It does seem to be a tidying up of Rescue and First Aid Parties equipment and also recognises a need for better equipment – much of this relates to Hampshire. Our researcher hasn’t quite finished. so more will come our way. Then what? It might be helpful to have some information at the site of the building to explain it.