THE story behind a gateway to Basingstoke has been recorded in a new history book.

The Basingstoke Triumphal Gateway was launched at an event in The Willis Museum, attended by Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Councillor Martin Biermann, and his wife Chansopha.

The book tells the story of how the Gateway, at Top of The Town, in London Street, was commissioned, designed and constructed.

It also explains how the 16 bronze panels which decorate the Gateway represent the history of the town.

The book has been published by the Friends of The Willis Museum, supported by a ‘Promotion of the Heritage of the Borough’ grant from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

It includes working drawings from designer Peter Parkinson, and information from workers at the Morris Singer Foundry. The bronze panels were cast in the world-famous foundry in Basingstoke, before it moved to Lasham Airfield.

The Gateway was the largest public work of art in the town, and was met with mixed reaction before it was officially unveiled in February 1992.

Objectors criticised its size, modernity and cost, and queried its suitability for a conservation area, with one councillor describing it as a “monster.”

Mr Parkinson, who was commissioned to design the Gateway, said: “All I was told was that they wanted a triumphant gateway. I asked ‘what’s the triumph?’, and everyone laughed.”

John Hollands, a volunteer at the museum, who wrote the book, said: “It’s intended both for visitors to the town and local people, and I’m hoping it will be of interest to schools.

“The first part is about the making of the Gateway from location to design and the way it was constructed, and some of the initial reactions to it. The second part is about the historical and cultural references made by the bronze panels.”

Richard Quinnell, who made the steelwork for the Gateway, said it was the most “controversial piece of public art” he had ever worked on, and it received a “torrent of abuse.” But he added that the public grew to love the Gateway, which he said has become a “symbol for their community.”