A Brief History of Basingstoke
Many people think that Basingstoke is just an overspill town to house the growing population of London. Although the town did expand rapidly in the 1960s, the history of Basingstoke goes back much further than that. The earliest known settlement in the area is a Neolithic campsite from around 3000 BC. In the Domesday Book of 1086, Basingstoke is recorded as a weekly market site known as Basingestoches, and by 1214 a Wednesday market had been established by a royal charter.
During the English Civil War, the town’s St Michael’s Church was damaged whilst it was being used as an explosives storage. The cloth industry played a large role in the development of the town up until the 17th century.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, brewing was an important industry and the most successful brewery was May’s Brewery, founded in 1750. The railways arrived in 1839, connecting Basingstoke with London. This caused an increase in industrial activity. The most well-known companies started in Basingstoke include Thomas Burberry whose name lives on today, and Alfred Millward, whose chain of shoe shops could be found on any high street up until the 1980s.
Things To Do in Basingstoke
With over 20,000 objects local to Hampshire, the Milestones Museum is one of the best days out in Basingstoke. A network of Victorian and 1930s streets have been recreated with shops, factories and houses. There is a fascinating collection of vintage vehicles including a 19th century fire engine, a Romany caravan and classic motorcycles. There is also a Penny Arcade complete with authentic machines and old pennies. Head to the Collection Corner where you’ll find everyday household goods from olden days. When you feel peckish, stop by the 1940s Abraham’s Sweet Shop or the Edwardian pub The Baverstock Arms.
Basing House was once a major Tudor palace, even rivaling Hampton Court Palace in its grandeur. It hosted many important people, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Today, only the ruins of the basement and foundations remain. Set in extensive grounds, the ruins are a great place to explore. Roam round the Jacobean walled garden and visit the Basing House Museum where you can learn about the house’s history and discover artefacts which were unearthed onsite. Basing House also has an exciting programme of events, outdoor theatre, workshops and activity days.
For a taste of culture, catch a show at the Anvil, the largest performing arts organisation in Hampshire. Seating up to 1,400 people, the Anvil hosts a variety of performances including opera, classical music, dance, touring bands and artists, musicals and standup comedians. The Anvil is also home to two other venues. Within the same building is the Forge, an intimate 100-seat studio theatre often used for acoustic and folk acts. In town, the Haymarket is a 400-seat theatre set in Basingstoke’s original Corn Exchange.
This ruined castle is known locally as ‘King John’s Castle’. During King John’s 17 year reign in the 13th century, he built three fortresses including Odiham Castle. It was thought that he chose this spot as a convenient halfway point between Winchester and Windsor. Set next to the Basingstoke Canal, the castle was once a part of many historical events, from King John’s signing of the Magna Carta to the captivity of a Scottish king. The site has been disused since the early 17th century, but the ruins of the octagonal keep still remain.
Places to Stay in Basingstoke
Tylney Hall Hotel & Gardens
Nestled in the countryside, Tylney Hall is a 13 minute drive from Basingstoke. This Victorian mansion has luxurious bedrooms overlooking the 66 acre grounds. There are also two elegant lounges, an award-winning restaurant, and a health suite with outdoor and indoor swimming pools.
Oakley Hall Hotel
At Oakley Hall Hotel, you’ll find a wide range of comfortable bedrooms, including a charming garden cottage and four poster suites. If you fancy a walk, there are 315 acres of grounds and woodland. Enjoy modern British cuisine made with fresh ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen garden.
Audleys Wood Hotel
Built in the 1880s as a luxurious private mansion, the now four star retreat is surrounded by woodland and private grounds. The range of classically decorated bedrooms have modern comforts, while the restaurant served traditional British food with a modern twist.
Places to Eat & Drink in Basingstoke
The Lime Leaf
Enjoy authentic Thai cuisine at The Lime Leaf. Try a variety of traditional recipes that combine spicy, sour, sweet and salty – from classics like noodle and rice dishes, to curries and stir fries.
The Olive House
For a taste of Turkish and Mediterranean food, head to The Olive House. The food is hand-prepared onsite using fresh ingredients, from grills and kebabs to house specials.
Duck and Tipple
Duck and Tipple is a bar and restaurant offering fresh, light bites and classic dishes like signature burgers, deli boards and small plates. At the bar, you’ll find freshly prepared coffees and innovative cocktails.
In & Around Basingstoke
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
National Museum of the Royal Navy, Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 3LJ