IT has only been on the map for just over 180 years, and even its name has changed, but there is more to say about the heritage of Micheldever Station than for many much larger places.

When trains ran for the first time between Basingstoke and Winchester in May 1840 the only stop on the section was called Andover Road, after the town it served – that is until 1856, when Andover got its own station and the rail bosses had to think up a new name.

In fact, it had never been a convenient station for Andover, whilst naming it after Micheldever, several miles away, was not ideal. In fact, it could perhaps have been called Baring Station, as the influence of the chairman of the railway company, Sir Francis Baring, seated at nearby Stratton Park, probably had something to do with its location.

Black’s Tourist Guide of Hampshire & Dorsetshire, published in 1855 made a point of listing all the sights beside the line (now there’s an idea worth reviving). It had a large entry on the Baring estate, but only a tiny mention of the village ‘rising to some importance in the vicinity of the station’.

Basingstoke Gazette: Jane Chichester

No one could have foreseen that Micheldever Station would become a key asset in the last war, when a fuel depot was constructed alongside. Capable of storing seven and a half million gallons of aviation fuel, it was covered with 50 ft of concrete and protected by anti-aircraft guns and searchlights.

Today Micheldever Station has given its name to the small community clustered around the line, surrounded by beautiful countryside, with developers aching to cover it with houses perfectly situated for commuting.

Understandably, local residents – and many others – would weep to see such a lovely area covered with bricks and mortar. Instead, their main interest these last couple of years has been to find some way of celebrating the story of the place in the midst of the pandemic.

Basingstoke Gazette: Walking in My Sleep

With everything in place in 2020, the plug had to be pulled on the event, though Peter Clarke’s superb book, Parsons & Prawns on the first 180 years of Micheldever Station was published. It has been so successful that a reprint is in hand. Sadly, Peter, who had played such a large part in the organisation of the anniversary died suddenly soon after it appeared.

Now the celebrations are fixed for Sunday May 8, when a number of events will take place with the cooperation of Community Rail and Southwestern Railway. Perchance, the station has even recently been repainted and an information board is being put up to tell the story of the village.

Another great source of information is the website built by Tricia Patson and Marian Jacks for Micheldever and district ( It includes the ‘map boards’ placed at key locations by local rights of way volunteers, not only for Micheldever Station, but also Micheldever Village, East Stratton, Weston Colley and Alresford Drove.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The section on village history is a treasure-house of stories, sequences of historical maps and even a downloadable PDF of Alfred Milner’s History of Micheldever, published in 1924 and virtually unobtainable in print.

A highlight of the Micheldever Station community are the first-sunday-of-the-month walks organized by Sue Bell. Recently Linda Albin led one based on a remarkable true story told by Jane Chichester (1929-2016) in Walking in My Sleep (Isis Reminiscence Series, Oxford). She was a distant relative of the yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester. It tells of the idyllic – and frightening – time she spent nearby as a young girl just before and during the last war.

She and her family lived at Litchfield Grange, which straddles the parishes of Steventon and Ashe, rented by her father, a son of Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Chichester. She describes it as being at the centre of triangle, with corners at Overton, Steventon village and Micheldever Station.


It was a privileged life: Jane’s education came largely from living with dogs and ponies in rural Hampshire, and meeting the people who came to stay. They included a string of accomplished relatives, governesses, Leo Delitz an Austrian artist, Free French soldiers and Australian pilots resting from the hostilities.

Speaking French was obviously commonplace, but led to some interesting exchanges. Talking about Montgomery of Alamein, her mother remarked: “Son beret…c’est énorme.” To which her father replied: “Of course it’s énorme, c’est part et parcel de lui!”

Linda’s recent Sunday walk with readings from Jane’s book invoked the story of a remarkable incident. As a young girl scarcely in her teens she heard the terrible news of the London Blitz, where her father worked, and wanted to help him, perhaps as “a junior fire-spotter on the roof”.

Basingstoke Gazette: Micheldever sign over tunnel

So, she decided to escape and take the train from Micheldever Station, more than two miles away. She packed her pyjamas and toothbrush in her gas-mask bag and set off, following “the hedge on the Micheldever side of the two fields between [Litchfield Grange] and the railway line”.

She then climbed down the embankment and walked along the line in the direction of Micheldever Station. She was in a place that had given endless problems to the railway engineers who had built the line a hundred years before.

To her right was Litchfield Tunnel and to her left the two-part tunnel that the line runs through just before the station. They are relics of the heroic labours of thousands of Irish navvies with shovels and wheelbarrows who excavated more than three million tons of soil. There are still spoil heaps to prove it. And interestingly, the railway claims the land above the tunnels.

For a while, this part of the county resembled the Wild West and local grandee Sir Thomas Baring made the railway company contribute to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester, where men injured in brawls and worse had to be treated.

To reach the station Jane had to walk through the tunnel ahead of her. The first train to pass, on the down line, immediately showed her how difficult it would be. She wrote: “With a bound I leapt off the sleepers, cleared the clinkers and rolled onto the sloping grass bank, the gas mask slapping my shoulder.”

Undaunted, she remembered her illustrious ancestors, including those who had seen off the Spanish Armada. They were celebrated by The Chichester Arms in Deptford, a pub her father passed each day on his way to the office, though unfortunately during the Blitz it received a direct hit.

She continued along the line towards Micheldever Station, until another train passed on the up line. “I rolled sideways, dangerously near the down line that was thankfully empty, again mesmerized by the hurtling train and [its] pounding wheels.”

The sound of the next train sent tears rolling down her cheeks and made her shake “like a jelly”. She wondered if there might be some kind of niche to hide in inside the tunnel. Then, in complete darkness she fell and grazed her shin.

Even though her ancestors might have been “rattling their sabres in disapproval”, common sense kicked in and she returned to Litchfield Grange, where she passed the night in “one of the long mangers in the loose boxes”.

And that wasn’t all. A driver had spotted her and thought she was a German spy about to blow up the fuel depot at Micheldever Station. Which shut down the line for some while – quite an achievement for a teenager.

For more information on the events of Sunday May 8 and copies of Parsons & Prawns, contact:

For more on Hampshire, visit and

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