Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette September 19, 2003


THE Basingstoke Gazette covers a wide area of north east Hampshire including the many villages that are dotted across the countryside. Most of them have as colourful history a as Basingstoke itself, and one of those is Cliddesden village which lies just to the south of the town.

Cliddesden has a population which has hardly grown in comparison to other communities around Basingstoke, as census figures over the past 200 years have proved. In 1801 Cliddesden had 239 people living in its parish, then by 1881 it had rose to 334.

Another 80 years later, in 1961, it was 364. The latest figures, from 2002, show that 465 people are now in the village.

The village was mainly concerned with agriculture in 1801, with 229 working on the land, while only 10 were employed elsewhere.

With Hatchwarren Farm and its 7,000 acres, Upper Farm, and Manor Farm (the latter actually in the village centre) there was plenty of scope for agricultural work.

The best natural features around the area are surely the rolling hills and the wonderful views available from them, especially from Farleigh Hill, while the village pond, although sometimes dry in hot summers, is a “breakwater” against the danger of flooding in the lower section of the village from rainwater rushing down from the hills.

Cliddesden is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, when there were 18 villagers, 10 smallholders, and nine slaves. It consisted of 1,920 acres in those days but this changed when Hatch was added in the 14th century.

Of all the buildings in the village the church of St Leonard’s (pictured) is one of the oldest, as the nave dates back to the 12th century. Built of flint and stone the church has a 14th century roof, but much of the building was restored in 1868.

Further work was carried out in 1950 to keep the church in good condition. The rectory house, with 10 acres of glebe, later became Cliddesden Down House.

Another church was the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel but this became too small in the late 19th century, so the Methodist Church in Church Street, Basingstoke, was moved stone by stone and brick by brick to land at Southlea, Cliddesden, where it was rebuilt in its original shape, in 1904.

The new church had up to 200 people attend it in its early days, but by the 1970s only three or four attended on Sundays, so it was decided to sell the property through a Basingstoke estate agents. After the local council allowed the building to be converted into a residence the property was sold in 1984 and the old church, which dates back to 1876, is still there in all its glory.

The village school on top of the hill, just outside the village, was built in 1876 to replace an older one which stood in the village itself. Until 1954 all ages of children were educated there, but after that those over 11 years old were sent to Basingstoke. Even so, the primary school was fitted with an additional school room in 1965.

The village shop and post office was opened in 1936. Previously it belonged to the Thorntons of Basingstoke, and was used as a bakery. (The business was part of the many shops that Henry Thornton established in and around Basingstoke from 1886).

The Cliddesden shop continued until about four years ago, when it closed down, creating a great many problems for residents, especially elderly people, until a mobile shop visited the village on a regular basis. But even that came to an end, leaving residents without anywhere to buy their shopping.

The garage was once a cycle shop, which was started by the grandfather of Tom Mansbridge, who turned the premises into the present business.

The village hall was erected in 1923 by members of the village. Over the years it was used by various groups including the local Women’s Institute, but a larger one was needed, so in May 1999 the Cliddesden Millennium Village Hall was opened.

In the parish is Audleys Wood, a large mansion house, which is now the Thistle Country House Hotel. The name goes back to the Domesday Book when a keeper’s lodge was built at Odleys Copse. The present building was constructed in the late 19th century, then later occupied by the Simonds family who were famed for their brewery business.

In 1953 Hampshire County Council acquired the house as an old people’s home with Mr J Potts as warden. The stables were converted into a work centre for the handi-capped.

However the home closed and it was acquired by the Thistle hotel group in 1989.

There is much to write about Cliddesden but it would need a book to do it justice.

Before we close we must not forget the Alton Light Railway which passed near to the village. Built in 1901, closed in 1917, then opened again in 1924, and finally closed down in 1936, it was the place where Will Hay’s film Oh! Mr Porter was made. Another film, The Wrecker, was also made in 1928. The bridge which took the line over the Cliddesden Road was demolished on December 2, 1962.

Now another means of transport passes across the old Cliddesden Road – the M3.

The direct route from Basingstoke to Cliddesden is now blocked and replaced by a footbridge. Cliddesden has seen many changes over the years but it still retains that countryside look.