IN THE bygone age of steam and heavy machinery, Basingstoke was at the forefront.

Companies like Wallis & Steevens, whose factory was in Station Hill (now approximately where Castle Square is), produced steam agricultural machinery, road rollers and traction engines which spanned the world.

For longevity Wallis & Steevens has to be a leader with 125 years of trading.

Founded in 1856 by Arthur Wallis senior, who was the grandson of Richard Wallis a Basingstoke merchant of Richard Wallis and Sons, and Charles Haslam, the company was originally called Wallis & Haslam manufacturing portable steam engines and a portable two-horse threshing machine.

Within a short space of time the company was commended at the Royal Agricultural Show in Salisbury for the manufacture of a hand-worked drilling machine, and was soon producing a wide range of agricultural machinery including a straw elevator, field roller and a clod crusher.

Working a 54-hour week and starting at 6am each day, the first voyage into steam engine production was in 1861 when the company manufactured a 36 inch steam driven threshing machine.

The following year Charles James Steevens joined the company and upon the retirement of Charles Haslam, became a partner to Arthur, and the company name was changed.

Then in 1877 the first traction engine was built. This was an eight horsepower single and was designed by Arthur Herbert Wallis who was the son of Arthur Wallis senior.

This led to more success for the company and eventually the name became known worldwide.

On April 24 1897 Wallis & Steevens, with assets valued at over £62,000, registered as a Limited Company.

After the turn of the century and into the 1920s and 30s the company, keeping pace with technology, expanded into it's Advance range of road rollers and diesel and petrol powered machines as the internal combustion engine started to take hold, but in 1929 the economic recession reduced the demand for motor rollers and by 1932 the company showed a loss of £10,300 although this improved slightly over the next few years.

Regardless of this setback, production continued at the Station Hill factory until the redevelopment of the town centre over 1966 and 1967 when the company premises were evacuated for demolition and the business was transferred to the Daneshill Industrial Estate.

In 1981 BSP International Foundations Ltd took over the company and moved the production to Clayton and the name of Wallis & Steevens ceased.

The age of steam, heavy machinery and the world renowned company Wallis & Steevens, was past.

Wallis & Steevens vehicles can be seen at the Milestones Museum.