IN LOOKING at the historic past of Basingstoke it is natural to focus on the entrepreneurs and pioneers without giving credit to those ordinary people who struggled to survive with the little they had.

At the turn of the 20th century and just a few years before the outbreak of the First World War, 25 percent of people were living in poverty.

Children sharing an egg for breakfast, eating meat just once a week and families sitting down to a plate full of potatoes were normal life for many in the poorer classes.

Women often made their underwear from rice or flour bags and some poor families made prams from orange boxes.

Things were tight and the enterprising poor had to use initiative to survive. The first council houses were built around this time although they were not generally available until the late 1930s.

In 1906 a Liberal government made some reforms and children were given free school meals, and in 1909 the first old age pensions of five shillings a week were introduced to people over the age of 70.

Carriers travelling by horse and cart from outlying villages earned a living by taking shopping orders from people in outlying areas and travelling into Basingstoke, picking up orders for those who were unable to get to the shops themselves.

Travelling on a recognised route each day of the week, some carriers took passengers maybe 10 or 12 at a time, travelling into town from all directions on market days to buy and sell goods.

Others travelled by foot or donkey.

Besom broom makers from Tadley; an old man with vegetables from Little London travelling by pony-pulled wagon; women bringing fruit, vegetables, poultry, butter and eggs, selling apples, plums and red and black currants at 4d per gallon; picking daffodils from Pamber Forest on the trek into Basingstoke, bunching them up in neat groups to sell on the streets.

A well-known figure, Mrs Scamp from Pamber, would climb down from her cart and lead her donkey on the bridle down the long road of Chapel Hill from the double railway bridge selling her wares house to house.

The neighbours learned of her arrival and would come to the door to see what she had to sell, and before long her baskets were empty, and she had enough money to buy her food for the week from the market stalls.

Gypsies were a common sight selling clothes-pegs or flowers in neat homemade baskets.

Carriers continued in their trade into the 1960s when it started to die, along with that of street traders, due to more convenient travel and the increased frequency of buses allowing people to come and go easier.