The history of one of Basingstoke’s former leading manufacturers, Wallis & Steevens, can be traced back to the 1940s. Located at Station Hill, approximately where Castle Square is today, Wallis & Steevens designed and produced steam, diesel and petrol road rollers, as well as agricultural equipment and traction engines.

Wallis & Steevens was originally called Wallis and Haslam, named after its founders Arthur Wallis and Charles Haslam. The company was established in 1856 in purpose-built premises, The North Hants Ironworks. Wallis and Haslam had rapid success and quickly grew to become a rival to another major Hampshire engine manufacturer, Taskers of Andover. They were soon producing a wide range of agricultural machinery and first ventured into steam engine production in 1861.

Charles James Steevens joined the company in 1862 and, seven years later on the retirement of Charles Haslam, he became a partner and the company was renamed. The first traction engine was built by the firm in 1877, leading to more success and the Wallis & Steevens name becoming known worldwide.

In 1913, an attempt was made by the company to move into the internal combustion engine market, however this was brought to a halt by the outbreak of war. Wallis & Steevens adapted to wartime circumstances, manufacturing bomb cases, traction engines and road rollers for the War Department. When the First World War ended in 1918, Wallis & Steevens appeared to be in a strong position, but a brief post-war boom in demand for tractors soon faded.

Shifting away from steam in 1922, the company developed, produced and successfully sold the ‘Advance’ roller in the following years. However, by the Great Depression of 1929, the demand for motor rollers had greatly reduced.

Internal combustion models were the main focus for Wallis & Steevens from the 1930s. Production continued at the Station Hill premises as it had done for 111 years, until its enforced closure with the redevelopment of Basingstoke town centre in 1967, when the firm moved to a new works at the Daneshill Industrial Estate.

Although the mid-1970s saw a brief return to profit, a recession led to the company being bought by BSP International Foundations who took over the company in May 1981. Wallis & Steevens ceased trading after 125 continuous years.

The legacy of Wallis & Steevens is preserved in a display of vehicles at Basingstoke’s Milestones Museum. The vehicles are part of the large engine collection cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust. The collection began in the 1970s and includes, amongst others, Wallis & Steevens agricultural equipment from the 1850s to steam and motor road rollers from the 1920s and 1950s.