“WHY are the 1960s looked upon as the ‘Swinging ’60s’?” is a question often asked to us older ones by the younger generation.

Looking back to that decade, those years were full of changes in many ways, especially in the world of entertainment and fashion.

It was a vibrant and exciting period which influenced future generations in many ways.

Mention the 1960s to those who are now in later life and they will think back to a time when they were teenagers enjoying the musical sounds of The Beatles, the joy of England’s World Cup triumph and smile at memories of hippies.

In Basingstoke, at the beginning of the 1960s, the population was 26,000.

By the end of the decade, it had risen to 53,000 due to the Town Development Scheme, which brought hundreds more people to Basingstoke.

Housing estates, industrial and commercial areas, car parks, schools, churches and other amenities were built to accommodate the London overspill.

These newcomers to the town were able to enjoy the entertainment provided by the yearly carnivals and the other annual events, such as the Whitsun fete and sports in the War Memorial Park. There were two cinemas and a theatre to visit, while those who enjoyed rambles were able to reach the countryside and stroll through the trees and country lanes.

The various services in Basingstoke were expanded during the 1960s, especially the sewage plant, which involved a new sewage works being built to replace the old sewage farm, which could only cope with a population of 36,000. The first section of the new works came into use in 1967.

The gas service saw the demolition of the two gas holders near Basing Road and the introduction of North Sea Gas; and the telephone systems saw the construction of a new automatic exchange built in Victoria Street in 1965.

Local buses had their services expanded, while a new and larger bus station was opened in 1962.

Parts of Basingstoke hospital were opened in 1969.

Transport in the area was improved by the construction of the M3 motorway, south of the town, in 1969, with the Basingstoke section opened in May 1971. And in 1967, the railway mainline to London was electrified, bringing an end to the steam era.

In 1968, the town’s expansion was being widely publicised and the idea to carry out a twin-town scheme led to correspondence with Alençon, in France. This later saw visits between the two towns by the local councils and various schools. Other towns in Belgium and Germany followed this example.

Meanwhile, the commercial and industrial sites in the town were attracting firms from around the country; while the new shopping centre, which was opened on the south side in November 1968, saw the arrival of some of the leading stores and shops which had never been to the town before, such as Tesco and Sainsbury.

In the field of sport, emphasis was made in providing much-needed facilities with the Sports Centre in the middle of the town; land at Down Grange, Kempshott, was laid out for athletics, football and rugby, while other sports were played nearby; and at West Ham, further sports were provided for.

Basingstoke Town Football Club, in Winchester Road, spent more than £60,000 on constructing a new club house, a large grandstand with internal dressing rooms, and levelled the ground after many years of playing on a slight slope. In later years, professional floodlighting was installed for evening matches.

The Basingstoke and North Hants Cricket Club at May’s Bounty, in Bounty Road, also saw improvements made in the 1960s, with new squash courts added.

Other local sports facilities, which have been in the town for many years, were improved to attract new members in readiness for the population increase during those years of the 1960s.

Fashion changed considerably in the 1960s, especially for women, and one of these was the arrival of the mini-skirt, which was introduced by Mary Quant in 1965. According to the national press, this symbolised the permissiveness of the ’60s.

Another type of mini also arrived in the same decade – the Mini car.

Designed by Alex Issigonis, it made its debut in August 1959, and by 1965, the millionth model rolled off the production line.

Since the 1960s, Basingstoke has experienced a whole new way of life, both locally and through national events.

Entertainment in many forms has brought a great deal of joy to local folk, one of which was the arrival of the showbiz charity groups in the early 1960s, whose teams played both football and cricket, at different times, with stars such as Tommy Steele, Bernie Winters, Bernard Bresslaw and Cliff Michelmore taking part.