The Willis Museum

Basingstoke

Cross Street

During the period of Town Development the northern side of Cross Street (originally Cow Cross Lane) was demolished to allow access to be provided to the servicing areas under the new shopping centre. Cross Street was home to the Bluecoat School, established in 1646 with a gift from Richard Aldworth, who was an Alderman of the City of London. The school was rebuilt in 1862, by which time it had been incorporated into the National Schools system. The neo-gothic building can be seen in the earlier photograph to the left of the empty shops. At the time of the earlier photograph the building had long since ceased to be in educational use and was the ‘Aldworth Printing Works’.The Union flags in the first floor windows of the shops were celebrating the coronation of George VI in 1937.

The Bluecoat connection has been maintained with the erection, by the Heritage Society, of the statue of the Bluecoat Boy visible in the later photograph. The funds of the Aldworth Trust are still administered by trustees who give educational grants to underprivileged children.

The building in the background, on the corner of New Street and Flaxfield Road, is the only real visual link between the two photographs. Its recent repainting has changed its appearance a little, but it is the only building in the town centre which exhibits the characteristics of Art Deco design of the late 1920s and 1930s. It was built in 1934, just three years after the establishment of the Museum in the former Mechanics Institute just a few metres up New Street.