Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette January 30, 2004


THE local council has recently begun the process of consultation to designate the Fairfields area as a conservation area. This will cover the part of Basingstoke between the Top of the Town and the Wallis Road section, and across from Cliddesden Road to Bounty Road.

The area involved has a great deal of history attached to it, especially around the Fairfields School land where sheep and pigs were once sold on land where fairs and other activities took place many years ago.

The Fairfields land was given to the Basingstoke Corporation in 1786 as replacement for land at Kempshott, which was under the Enclosure of Commons Act agreement.

Over the following century the land remained more or less the same, with the fields attached with names such as Jubilee Meadow, Davis’s Close, The Folly and Old Castle field.

It was on Jubilee Meadow in 1883 that the Fairfield private estate was constructed, with Jubilee Road, Beaconsfield Road, Fairfields Road, Castle Road and Wallis Road being built over the following months.

Below the Beaconsfield area the Back Lane route – this being Southern Road and Bounty Road – was also allowed to have private houses erected along what was once a rough track.

Back Lane until then had open countryside on both sides. An old barn once stood there where vegetables were dried out prior to being sent to the Crimea for the troops to eat during the 1845 war.

Where the Southern Road car park is now, there used to be orchards with pear and apple trees, and along the roadside was a row of elm trees, which began at Hackwood Road and continued along to Allen’s Lane – now known as Victoria Street. These trees were cut down in about 1820.

Victoria Street was originally a track from Winchester Street to the cattle market at Fairfields, then in 1899 a new entrance was made and the road widened. The old entrance was kept to the right of the new road, off Winchester Street, with the old name of Allen’s Lane.

Between Southern Road and the old town centre several roads were built, these being Castons Road, Cambridge Terrace, and Victoria Park Road. Upon the town’s development in the 1970s, and in that area to allow the extension of New Road to Victoria Street, these short roads were demolished and the residents were rehoused.

The cattle market, referred to earlier, had sales every week and on one occasion it is recorded that in one day some 3,500 sheep and lambs were put into pens for sale. These pens, or fences, were later dismantled upon the market’s demise, and used as fencing in Flaxfield Road.

The pig market section was converted into a children’s playground.

Some of the iron staples which held the pens against the flint wall, between the market area and the present cricket ground, were left there to rust away.

Close to the market was the Cattle Market Inn, which is now called The Bounty Inn – another historic building, having been built in Victorian times.

Across the road is Fairfields School, which was constructed in 1886/87, when the government brought in boarding schools for the education of all children in the country.

The work of building the large school complex for both juniors and seniors was carried out by H J Goodall of Basingstoke, and on February 16, 1888, the schools were opened for 1,300 children.

The road which led to the schools was called Council Road, and later, opposite the schools, kitchens were built to provide food for the children and staff. In the early 1960s these were demolished and the site was used for the present Carnival Hall, which was opened in September 1964.

After a short period of closure for repairs, this building has now reopened and is available for any clubs or societies to use for their activities.

Close by, in Fairfields Road, is the recreation ground, which originally held the bandstand that now stands in the War Memorial Park.

The land was laid out in 1892 with shrubs provided by Walter Wadmore, grocer of Winchester Street and mayor of that time.

In 1902, John May helped to finance further facilities and now the grounds boast tennis courts and a bowling green. The latter allowed the formation of the town bowling club in 1912, which is still in existence to this day.

Another building of note is All Saints Church, which was built between 1915 and 1917 at the expense of the Rev C Hall, of Coombehurst House, Cliddesden Road. It was from a hall built in Victoria Street in 1902 that the church originated from.

To tell the complete history of the area would require a book. There are many other buildings and places in Fairfields with interesting stories, and these will be told in the future.