For this week’s Flashback, we have delved into the archives to unearth this column from The Gazette’s late historian, Arthur Attwood MBE.

First published in February 2002, Arthur took a look at the fascinating origins of Old Basing and pondered on what the future might hold for the town.

BASINGSTOKE and Salisbury have much in common. Just as Old Sarum was the forerunner of Salisbury, so too was Old Basing the forerunner of Basingstoke.

People at Old Basing have a just right to be proud of the fact that their settlement is much older than Basingstoke and does in fact have more signs of an earlier civilisation.

When Basi led his tribe to a settlement on the banks of the River Loddon, he chose an area afforded natural shelter.

As a journalist, I was told from the earliest association with The Gazette always to prefix Basing with “Old”.

Several readers of my latest book have been quick to point out I had an old picture of Basing Church on the same page as St Michael’s.

This was something beyond my control for the book was laid out at Derby and Frome. I have a picture of Victorian days showing Church Street as a country lane, very similar to the one of St Mary’s which mistakenly appeared. Had the book been finally laid out at Basingstoke, the error would have been spotted.

Having written for The Gazette since 1947, I have always tried to be correct in my work, but things do slip through the net.

Although not Old Basing-born, I am proud to have many associations with what is a beautiful village and I can recall, in the early days of the last war, walking around Old Basing village with a man staying with me as a munition worker. I shall never forget how thrilled he was with the unspoilt thatched cottages in The Street.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The prefix “old” is not used because of the Siege of Basing House which happened 350years or more ago, but because of the days when there was a church in the village – nearly 900 years ago.

It was the de Port family who had much to do with the land around Old Basing and were, more or less, squires.

The first of the de Ports helped William defeat Harold at Hastings and he was thanked by being given acres of land in and around Old Basing.

The “old”, however, applied to a much earlier date – 12,000 years before the Birth of Christ when King Bali led his people to England from across the channel.

A geologist once told me that it was 12,000 years or earlier that the British Isles was severed from the mainland of Europe.

People with any qualms throwing doubt on such a link with Europe may find reassurance for their doubts when they are told that the gravel beds to be found at Hazeley Heath, Bramshill, were washed down from the Alps, as the consistency of the gravel shows.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The danger to be faced by small hamlets and villages surrounding Basingstoke, or any small town, is that they will be swamped and eventually become part of a larger connurbation.

This has been happening for years in London where all the suburbs, some almost in the City itself, were once part of rural England.

Old Basing has been lucky to have, more or less, retained its rural surroundings and even watermeadows. Sherborne St John has managed to retain its green belt whereas Worting has seen the area between itself and the town become very built up, thus blurring the boundaries.

It was not long ago that Eastrop was a village with a very small population separated from Basingstoke by meadows.

One village to retain its identity has been Cliddesden, helped in no small way by the building of the M3.

One can understand the concern of Oakley folk should Oakleystoke become a reality. It has long been mooted that Old Basing and Oakley are well placed for railway stations with such happenings bringing great relief to traffic problems.

I often wonder how big Basingstoke will grow in my lifetime. I have seen much development with old country walks now built up.

How many times have I walked through Buckskin out to Kempshott with no development either side of Kempshott Hill?

It would be very enlightening if our planners could publish a map showing what they think Basingstoke will look in 2050. Not that it will mean anything to me at 86!

n The late Arthur Attwood MBE was a columnist for The Gazette. He passed away in March 2002. You can purchase his book The Illustrated History of Basingstoke on Amazon.