The early settlement of Basingstoke is indicated by a number of archaeological sites dating from the Neolithic period and the Bronze and Iron Ages. The largest site is Winklebury Camp, an Iron Age hill fort with complex defences dating from the fourth to the first century B.C. The Roman occupation of Basingstoke is demonstrated by the site of a villa on the north bank of the River Loddon, and several other places where pottery and coins have been found. Many of the archaeological finds have been deposited at the Willis Museum.
The documented history of Basingstoke begins with the Domesday Book, which lists the area as a royal manor: until the reign of John the kings of England held Basingstoke as a demesne manor. The Domesday Book also records a market in the eleventh century and mentions an important pre-Conquest church. Three mills were listed, of which two are recalled in the names of the Kingsmill and Houndsmill areas of Basingstoke.
A charter of Henry III, granted in 1265 to the men of Basingstoke and their heirs, made their tenure of the manor and hundred perpetual at a fixed rent of 80. By this charter Basingstoke became a self-governing community. The first grant of a fair to Basingstoke was made by Henry VI in 1449, when an annual fair was to be held around the Chapel of the Holy Ghost from the Wednesday in Whitsun week to the following Friday. In 1551 Sir William Paulet, into whose hands the rent had just come, was elected Lord High Steward of the town; successive generations of the influential Paulet family held this office until the nineteenth century. A charter of James 1, dated 1622, gave Basingstoke a new administrative and judicial system, and a further charter of 1641 was to remain in force until the reorganization of the borough system in 1835.
The manufacture of woollen goods was carried on in Basingstoke from an early date, and is mentioned by Daniel Defoe in his writings on his tour of Britain. In the eighteenth century Basing stoke was an important staging post on the turnpike road from London to Andover, and the coming of the railway in 1840 brought even more trade to the town. In 1961 Basingstoke was designated a London overspill area, and the population rose from 26,000 to 60,000 by 1973. The appearance of the town has undergone drastic alteration, with major demolition operations sweeping away old-fashioned buildings and an entirely new town centre being built with pedestrian precincts and multi-storey car parks.
Local Information Point
19-20 Westminster House
Hampshire RG21 7LS
Telephone: (01256) 473901
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council,
Telephone: (01256) 844844
Public car park two minutes walk from the Tourist Information Centre, behind south side of pedestrianised London Road. The Museum and Tourist Office is set in the former Town Hall, in a most attractive pedestrianised part of the town.
Variety of pubs, and places to eat in the High Street
Basingstoke has a BR Station (service from Waterloo, Woking, Salisbury, and Winchester. Public Bus Services operate to Basingstoke from Winchester, Farnham, Petersfield and Portsmouth.