Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette September 12, 2003


OVER the past 40 years Basingstoke has lost many of its buildings by demolition due to the Town Development Scheme, and for other reasons. But it is not only the buildings that have gone forever but other structures and objects which had a link with the past.

Sometimes, though, certain items are saved to live another day.

One recent example is the removal of the three iron bollards at the end of the pathway which leads into Church Street from St Michael’s Church main doorway. The bollards have been dug up to allow the regeneration of the older urban areas of the town.

The scheme, which is being carried out by the Hampshire County Council, will replace pathways among other projects.

Two of the bollards will be returned to their positions on the pathway after they have been cleaned of their rust. The other bollard will be placed elsewhere, allowing these century-old iron posts to survive for much longer, which is so different to other cases in the town.

Older pictures, taken by photographers such as Terry Hunt, show various pieces of street furniture which no longer exist. In the Market Place, just 100 years ago, a large street lamp was fitted to celebrate the May family, who used to have the Brook Street Brewery (now the site of The Anvil theatre).

The lamppost was unveiled in October 1903 by the local Member of Parliament, Mr Arthur Jeffreys, and it remained there until it was badly damaged by a large vehicle in the early 1950s. The lamppost was removed and never replaced.

The same thing happened to a water trough in Winton Square, on the junction of Sarum Hill and Winchester Street. It stood there for decades, allowing all sorts of animals from horses to circus elephants to quench their thirst, until a bus drove into it. Again, the damaged trough was removed, never to be seen again.

Another water trough, on the junction of lower Wote Street and Reading Road with Station Hill and Brook Street, was presented to the town by the British Water Trough Association in 1899. When the new shopping centre was built in 1868-70 the trough was removed – but this time it was bought to be placed in the garden of a home in the countryside.

Not so lucky was the hornbeam tree under which the trough stood, as it was cut down in September 1968. This tree was known as the “Reformer’s Tree” because it was used during the early 20th century by groups of people making decisions on various matters.

In recent years we have seen many trees cut down for housing purposes. In the middle of Penrith Road four trees once stood on an island in memory of a long line of trees which were on the Brambly Grange private estate. When Penrith Road was built in 1912 it was decided to keep four trees in the centre of the road, and the pavements on both sides were curved to allow the traffic to pass by. In those days the road was a culde- sac, until Bramblys Grange road was built in 1938/39. In 1960 Penrith Road was extended across the site of Jordan’s Nurseries, to Winchester Road, and the island along with its four trees was cleared away.

The Second World War saw trees cut down by the sides of roads in case cars ran into them during the black-out periods, when all lights were off as the German planes flew overhead. Other objects were removed in case bomb blasts knocked them down, and this included several large stone crowns on the roof of Fairfields School.

In Flaxfield Road, and other streets, concrete pavement slabs were laid to tell people to “walk on the left” of the path, to avoid bumping into people in the dark (pictured).

Meanwhile, large concrete “tank blocks” were fitted into the ground around the town, to stop enemy tanks entering certain places. Six were put in a space in Sarum Hill, where Brambly’s Close path is situated. There is now a house on the site. The blocks were removed in 1983.

In Winchester Street, between The Winton and The Right Move estate agents, is a sign painted on the side wall with “Teas and light refreshments” still looking fairly clear. The estate agents used to be a cafe and bakers shop kept by Henry Thornton, who had similar places around the town. He had a large bakery in Flaxfield Road, opposite the present New Inn, which he established in 1886. The business declined in the 1960s.

The Heritage Society is now trying to pinpoint places of interest by placing plaques in various parts of the town. This will make up for all the lost parts of the historic section of Basingstoke that have disappeared in the past.