Halfway along the pedestrian area in Winchester Street from Market Square, nestled between the Basingstoke Service Centre and Secret Garden, is an archway which leads to an insignificant car park beyond.

Now known as Jacob’s Yard in the days of horse-drawn transport this was a very important area, and where the car park is now situated there existed a major industry in the manufacture of horse-drawn waggons.

Because Basingstoke was a key point in the main route between towns like London, Salisbury, Southampton, Winchester and Poole, and lesser routes from Reading, Alton, Aldermaston and Kingsclere, it was ideally situated for the success of a manufacturer of waggons.

Producing high quality coachwork and individual workmanship John Joice & Son (Arnold Joice) was a leading name in the field with his waggons to be found all over the world. Recognised for their quality, each carriage was hand built in the finest Ash for it’s strength, flexibility and lightness. Quality was paramount and a thing of beauty with the stylish finish of the wheels, shafts and accessories. Coach lamps were hand-made in brass with silver reflectors and crystal glass windows, and it was said that carriage doors closed perfectly with an almost inaudible click.

Arnold took over the running of the company at the end of the nineteenth century having served his time as an apprentice for five years in the Winchester Street premises, followed by two years in the Euston Road, London branch. It was reported that Arnold and his accomplice could build a Victoria carriage in eight days.

As well as being the manufacturer of waggons an income was also obtained by always being on hand when the stage-coaches came in from the various directions, a twenty-four hour seven day a week requirement of a farrier, harness-maker and wheelwright in case of breakages to allow a quick turn around for the coach to proceed and meet it’s time schedule.

By the turn of the century Arnold was employing fifteen men and was producing a number of models from Broughams, retailed at £120, and Landaus, at £160. A miniature Shetland pony carriage was a speciality of the company and models were sold all over the world, including India. They also produced a one-off cart for two people to be drawn by the smallest Shetland pony of the time with a height of 71 cms.

Trade was profitable but was to be eventually compromised by the coming of the railway, the branch from Vauxhall being opened on 10th June 1839, and by the 1850s, the production of the first ‘horse-less carriage’ vehicles propelled by steam. This inevitably meant the era of the horse-pulled waggon was sadly consigned to history.