Byline Robert Brown

THE ancient village of Old Basing has much to tell about itself. Indeed, volumes could be written about this forerunner of Basingstoke.

It was along this stretch of the River Loddon that the Basa tribe made their encampment some 2,000 years ago, creating the settlement of Basengum.

But even before then, back in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, man came to like the area, as archaeology sites have proved in the past hundred years.

But it is the Basing House ruins that have brought the name of Old Basing into the history books. This Tudor mansion, with its moat, covering some 14 acres of land, was built on the site of a Norman Castle.

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It was the scene of a two-year siege during the Civil War of 1642- 45, when the Cavaliers were trapped in the house by Cromwell’s troops.

Finally, in October 1645, the Marquis of Winchester, the owner of the house, was taken prisoner and later held in the Tower of London.

Basing House was mainly destroyed by a fire, caused by a smouldering cannon ball in the wooden part of the building.

In 1972, Hampshire County Council became the owners of the ruins and opened them up as an attraction to the public. Prior to this, a great deal of excavation work was carried out to ascertain the general appearance of the house, and many items were found belonging to the 16th and 17th centuries.

In recent years, further “digs” have uncovered more objects.

The whole area around the ruins is one of antiquity, for just across the road is Grange Farm with its large tithe barn dating from the 16th century.

Another barn, dating back to the 17th century, had its thatched roof blown off in the gales of February 1974. This latter barn stood in The Street.

The 12th century village, St Mary’s, is another fine example of ancient times.

During the Basing House siege the church was badly damaged by the Roundheads, who burnt much of the interior and stole the bells and ornaments.

After the restoration in 1660, an appeal was made for money to repair Basing church, and £1,500 was raised.

Further restoration took place in 1874, with a new organ some four years later.

A sum of £500,000 was collected by the Friends of St Mary’s, in 1998, which allowed the church to be rewired, plastered and redecorated, and a new heating system installed.

Old Basing is often referred to as just Basing, and the reason for this is its more modern aspect, such as the Byfleet estate between Hatch Lane and Park Lane, which was built after 1927 when Mr C J Brake bought the farmland in that area and sold plots of land to buyers for £30 to £40 each.

Private houses and bungalows were built and soon the village was growing in size and in population.

In 1801, the community consisted of 819 people. Then, by 1901 it was 1,297. In 1951 it was 2,017 due to the development in the 1920s. The Basingstoke Development Plan brought the population figure to 12,173 by 1991.

As mentioned previously, the village has a fascinating story to tell and it is mainly its buildings which are the stars of such tales, buildings such as Barton’s Mill, the watermill on the Loddon, with much of its machinery still intact and dating from the early 18th century.

There are the local inns such as the Crown and the Bolton Arms, the latter dating from the 17th century; and local schools, the first one opening in 1868, and the others in 1972.

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Daneshill House, now largely an industrial site, was built in 1903 in a Tudor design by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Mr Walter Hoare.

The old workhouse (built in 1835) and infirmary (built in 1900) in Basing Road were pulled down in the 1970s to make way for the Hampshire Clinic. And along London Road, the Basingfield Old People’s Home, which was opened by the Hampshire County Council in 1946, was demolished in 1997 to allow new accommodation to be built close by.

So, for all those budding local historians who wish to put pen to paper, how about compiling a complete history of Old Basing. It would make a very interesting book.