Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette March 5, 2005

OCCASIONALLY in this column, the name of Potters Lane is mentioned, and newcomers to Basingstoke must wonder where it used to be.

It was a road about 350 feet long that stretched from Church Street to Wote Street and was named after an old pottery that once stood on the corner of Wote Street and Potters Lane.

If the road was still there it would cut straight through the Iceland store in the shopping centre.

The road was demolished with all its buildings in November 1966, to make way for the Town Development Scheme.

Potters Lane had a public house at each end – the Angel Inn in Wote Street and the Rose and Crown in Church Street.

The Angel, where the pottery once stood, replaced another public house, the Cross Keys, in 1870.

The Rose and Crown was even older, dating back to 1669, the date on a brick above the main doorway.

The road in the early 19th century contained mainly cottages, two of them were thatched and had front gardens with a row of lime trees at the Church Street end.

In 1818, the road was so high in the middle, due to constant use by heavy horse-driven vehicles, that it became impossible to ride through there. So a gang of men got together one day and levelled it off.

By 1844, the road was used by tradesmen, as the Hampshire directory for that year records. There was George Wheatley, a blacksmith; Henry Hunt, a beer retailer; and two separate boot and shoe-makers, John Morley and John Redgrove.

By 1882, the local people reported to the corporation that the road was “dirty and little”, so the old cottages were removed and a row of houses were built on the south side.

The north side was also improved with shops with living quarters above. Behind them, various outbuildings were built, but most of the land was left bare. This became known as Carpenter’s Yard, with two cottages on either side of its entrance. It was on this land that it was said smugglers used to hide their “booty” on their way from the coast to London.

Over the years, the shops were used by a succession of trades people. One building on the south side, a corn store, was used as a meeting place by the Primitive Methodists, then it was demolished and a public house, the British Workman, was built in 1876. This, in turn, became a coffee house, then a café, and in its last years was a Chinese restaurant.

Other buildings on the south side, besides the row of houses, was an office kept by John Felgate, an architect, while further down the road, near Church Street, was a glass-roofed structure that was originally used as a photographic studio, before becoming a cycle shop run by Charles Everett.

Mr Everett repaired bicycles in a way that intrigued many people.

The bike was lifted up on to meat hooks fixed in the ceiling and he was able to carry out the work without too much bending down.

Mr Everett established his business in 1910 at 35 Church Street, then he moved to Potters Lane in the late 1920s.

On the north side, from Wote Street, in the late 1950s, there was the painting and decorating shop of Charles Munford, which he opened in 1902. In later years he was helped by some of his sons from a family of 11 children. He died in April 1944, seven months after celebrating his 60th wedding anniversary.

Next door was Mrs Farmer’s grocery store, and on the other side of the Carpenter’s Yard entrance was Mrs Litchfield’s shop, which sold toys, prams and gramophones.

Next to her was the Hampshire Dairies shop, where customers could get produce that was delivered by the dairy’s depot in Vyne Road.

Then came the leather shop belonging to Albert Botting, where he made all sorts of leather goods.

The aroma of leather would greet you as you entered the shop, which closed in 1961.

The following shop was a fishmongers kept by Edward Leighton, which smelled of all types of fish, from shellfish to salmon.

Next came Mrs Philpott’s bakery and confectionery shop, which her husband had opened in 1898, after moving to Basingstoke from Cookham in Berkshire. He died in 1935, leaving his wife with three daughters – Winnie, Ruby and Gertie – and a business to run. But they helped out and the shop remained in business until 1964, when it was finally closed down due to the demolition of the area. Mrs Philpott died in 1958, then Winnie in 1979, and Ruby in 1999. Gertie moved to Canada in the years before.

The last shop was kept by George Thackeray, a shoe repairer; which was next to the yard of the Rose and Crown public house, where the beer was delivered.

It is rather amusing to think that at that end of the street there was this element of interesting smells that gave the road its nickname of “the street of sweet aromas”, with leather, bread, fish and beer odours wafting through the air.