JUST 40 years ago, in 1967, Cranbourne Bilateral School was built in Cranbourne Lane, which is now known as Wessex Close.

In 1971, under Hampshire County Council's reorganisation plan, it became a comprehensive secondary school for boys and girls.

In the following years, specialist facilities included eight science laboratories, art/design craft rooms, sports hall, gymnasium, indoor swimming pool and a drama studio.

All the students followed a common curriculum in the first two years, including French, while a Latin course was given to others in the second year, and a second foreign language, usually German, was offered to third-year pupils.

In the following years at the school, pupils chose courses from a wide selection of options which led to either GCE, O-level or CSE examinations.

The area in which the school and its playing field is situated was once the site of two large garden nurseries.

On the east side of the road was the Baredown and Cranbourne Nurseries, while on the west side was the Basingstoke Joint Nurseries.

The huge complex of greenhouses consisted of 10 blocks on one side of the road, amounting to 22 altogether, and three blocks on the other side. When the sun shone, the glare from all the glass could be seen by aeroplanes flying over Basingstoke, and also from the nearby hills, such as at Farleigh.

It all began back in 1910, when Gustav Shroeder established his market garden on the land between 37 and 41 Winchester Road in Basingstoke.

Then, in 1920, two men, Mr J F Tacon and Mr C Horwood, purchased the business and traded under the names Tacon and Horwood until about 1927.

From then on, they called it the Basingstoke Joint Nurseries, and from about that time they acquired land in Cranbourne Lane to extend their work.

Over the following years, they built huge greenhouses for their plants and they became one of the largest nurseries in Hampshire.

Another nursery, under the ownership of a Mr Watson, was opened up at 89 Winchester Road, not far from the original Joint Nurseries. He later sold it to Mr K Jordan.

Meanwhile, at the Joint Nurseries, Mr Tacon died in August 1939 and Mr Horwood was left to carry on the business.

During the 1940s, he had to contend with the wartime restrictions and several hard winters which affected his plants.

In the years after the Second World War, directors of the Joint Nurseries noticed that business was declining due to competition from other nursery gardens in the area.

By the late 1950s, foreign goods arriving from abroad were much cheaper than theirs, resulting in the Joint Nurseries having to cut their prices.

Skilled labour was also difficult to get and all these problems led to an announcement, in October 1960, that the business was to close down.

Over the following year, the growth of tomatoes and cucumbers were discontinued, but the flower crops were continued for several months to allow shops and other tradespeople to find other suppliers.

Other local nurseries suffered similar problems in the years that followed and many were also forced to close.

One of the last was the Merrileas Nursery in Homesteads Road, Kempshott, which closed in May 1987.

The closure of the Joint Nurseries meant the land in Winchester Road, and especially in Cranbourne Lane, was left empty, the latter being noticed by the town development committee of the local council.

Consequently, Basingstoke Town Council paid £123,000 to acquire the 39 acres of land in October 1961, and several years later, the plans to build a new secondary school saw Cranbourne Lane being the main site for this project, while the Joint Nurseries site in Winchester Road was used to build a row of houses.

A land survey resulted in some interesting facts about the area, in which the origins of the name Cranbourne were revealed.

The word cran is apparently short for crane or a heron, while bourne is a stream, one of which once ran through close by.

At one time, according to an old early 18th century map, the lane was known as Combeway, which led to the hills at Cliddesden, where an ancient combe wood once stood.

Combe, in the 15th century, meant "a valley", but when Combeway changed its name to Cranbourne is not known.