THE old cemetery at South View was the town’s graveyard from around 1208 and was finally considered full up in around 1912, when the new one opened in Worting Road.

Although the cemetery is no longer a burial ground, it is full up with end-to-end burials, although many are without headstones.

Over the centuries, the cemetery expanded and in a major re-figuring in 1858 it took on the appearance of a Victorian cemetery, with the addition of two mortuary chapels with spires, a lodge, and mown paths.

The cemetery was divided into Episcopalians, north of the ruined chapels, and Dissenters on the east side, near Vyne Road, each with their own mortuary chapel.

READ MORE: Basingstoke's old cemetery and chapel ruins

The Quaker burial ground is at the southern end near Vyne Road.

Catholics are buried on the west side of the cemetery close to the Holy Ghost Church.

Broadly speaking the Dissenters included Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists.

Episcopalians were mainly Anglican.

The many old box graves south of the ruins were removed about 50 years ago and the two chapels a little earlier. (Author Thomas Hardy, passing by in the train to London thought that these ‘new’ chapels should not have been put there to detract from the 13th and 16th century building).

For those who knew the old Basingstoke, a walk around is like meeting the ghosts of the past; Thomas Burberry and many of his family; William Gerrish of the clothing firm on Station Hill; John Mares, another clothing manufacturer whose business was on the corner of New Street.

Brewer John May and his brother, Charles are here too, as well as John Burgess Soper who developed South View.

Blue plaques relate to Gilbert White, famous for his ‘Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne’ published in 1761, Mrs Blunden’s story and Architect John James.

Gilbert White, born in 1720, was sent to Basingstoke to be educated by the Vicar, Reverend Thomas Warton, who lived in the Vicarage House (now Chute House).  

Young Gilbert was taught alongside Warton’s sons, Joseph and Thomas Jr and it seems likely that they took some of their lessons with the town’s grammar schoolboys among the ruins of the Holy Ghost and Holy Trinity Chapels in the old graveyard.

Gilbert’s great-grandfather, Richard White, had been curate at Eastrop and later Vicar of Basingstoke (1660-1685).

Interesting to see that his wife Elizabeth was the daughter of Rev. Charles Butler, famous for his work where he proposed that a beehive was governed by a queen.

Gilbert White owns up to contributing to the damage to the ruins when he and other boys set a charge of gunpowder, which blew up during the night, bringing down masonry from the ancient building.

White studied from observation and from life, adding much to the understanding of nature.  

Perhaps the best-known story connected with the old cemetery is that of Mrs Blunden, wife of William Blunden, a wealthy maltster in the town and a member of the Holy Ghost Guild.

In 1674, during a hot summer and while William Blunden was away from home on business, his wife — almost certainly called Alice — felt unwell and sent her maid to the apothecary for a remedy.

History has not been kind to poor Alice who is described as “a fat gross woman accustomed many times to drink brandy”.

A remedy at that time would have been based on opium and it is said that she drank so much that she fell into a deep sleep.

She could not be roused and there was no evidence of breath when a mirror was held to her mouth.

It was hot weather, and the body could not wait to be buried; it was done hastily on the next day.

A day or so later, scholars playing in the graveyard heard sounds from the grave.

They reported their findings, but were not believed, and it was the following day that the schoolmaster was persuaded to go with them to listen.  

It was reported that when the coffin was opened, she was found ‘beaten and bruised in a lamentable manner’. 

It must be pointed out that the story was published in a broadsheet in London.

Was the town fined as the broadsheet said? There is no evidence of this and the story that she was alive when exhumed is improbable.

It is possible that, as the wife of an Alderman of the Guild,   she may have been placed in a vault beneath the chapel floor, which might have made her more audible, but who knows?

Many people know the location of the grave of Victoria Cross holder, John Aidan Liddell, who was awarded his posthumous medal with this citation:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on July 31st 1915. When on a flying reconnaissance over Ostend-Bruges Ghent he was severely wounded (his right thigh being broken), which caused him momentary unconsciousness, but by a great effort he recovered partial control after his machine had dropped nearly 3000ft and notwithstanding his collapsed state, succeeded, although continually fired at, in completing his course, and brought the aeroplane into our lines … the difficulties cannot be readily expressed, but as the control wheel and throttle control were smashed and also one of the undercarriage struts, it would seem incredible that he could have accomplished his task.”  London Gazette

John Aidan Liddell was the eldest of six children whose family had moved to Sherfield Manor (now a school) in 1908. It remained their family home until 1927.

The family was from the north-east of England and had made a fortune in coal mines.

They were Roman Catholic and Aidan was educated at Stonyhurst and then Balliol College, Oxford.

His early years were comfortable.

In 1912 he joined the Special (Reserve) of Officers and was granted a commission with the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Between April and May 1914, he learned to fly at Brooklands.

SEE ALSO: Princess of Wales's brother baby born in Basingstoke hospital

On July 31, 1915, while flying reconnaissance over Ostend-Bruges-Ghent, Belgium, Liddell's aircraft was raked by machine gun fire and Liddell was severely wounded in his right thigh. 

After having his leg removed and septic poisoning setting in, Liddell died of his wounds a month later at De Panne, Flanders, Belgium, on August 31, 1915, aged 27.

He was awarded the Military Cross on February 19, 1915, for action at Le Maisnil and later joined the new Royal Flying Corps.

His wealthy family were able to repatriate his body which is why he is buried here rather than in France.

His funeral cortege, with kilted Highlanders, was brought to Basingstoke after a London funeral.

It then wound its way through the town to the cemetery, flags on the Town Hall and St Michael’s Church at half-mast.  

Dorothy Liddell,  also buried here and sister of John Aidan,  was an archaeologist and had excavated a Roman Villa at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough, and had also served as a nurse in France. She was awarded MBE.