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Basingstoke in 1835

BASINGSTOKE, a market-town and parish, in the hundred of the same name, in Hampshire, 45 miles west-south-west of London, and 30 north-east of Southampton. It is situated in a pleasant part of the county, and being at the junction of five roads, one of which is the great western road from London, it has an appearance of much activity and commands considerable trade. Although the adjacent country is surrounded with woods, it is rich in pasture, and many fine houses are dispersed through it. A brook runs by the town, which was formerly mentioned as abounding in trout : this brook (called in the Ordnance Map, No.12, the Town Brook) rises about one mile and a half west of Basingstoke, and is the main branch of the Loddon, an affluent of the Thames. Basingstoke is mentioned in Domesday Book under the name of Basingtoches, and is described as having always been a royal manor which had never paid tax or been distributed into hides, and which had, at the time of the Survey, a market worth thirty shillings. The Saxon addition of Stoke, or hamlet, would imply that, previous to the Conquest, it was of inferior importance to Basing, now called Old Basing, in its neighbourhood, and which is historically remarkable for the long and spirited stand which was made in the castle called Basing House, by the Marquis of Winchester, its owner, against the parliamentary forces, until Cromwell took it by storm and burnt it to the ground in 1645.

At a short distance west from Basingstoke is an ancient encampment: the embankment is about 1100 yards in circumference, but no traces of a ditch are visible : it has two entrances, respectively east and west ; its form is that of an irregular oval, approaching to an oblong square.

An hospital for the maintenance of aged and impotent priests was founded at Basingstoke by Henry III, at the instance of Walter de Merton, bishop of Rochester and Lord Chancellor in that reign, and it became eventually appropriated to the reception of superannuated fellows and scholars from the prelate's other foundation, Merton College, at Oxford. It stood on the north side of the brook, a little below the town bridge, and some remains of it might be traced not very long ago. On an eminence at the northern extremity of Basingstoke are the remains of the Holy Ghost Chapel, described by Camden as having been erected in the reign of Henry VIII, by Sir William (afterwards Lord) Sandys for the use of a fraternity of the same name. Mr. Carter, however, is of opinion that the architecture of the chapel is not of later date than the reign of Edward IV, although carvings appear to have been added and alterations made in that of Henry VIII. The fraternity was dissolved in the reign of Edward VI, and its possessions vested in the crown ; it was restored by Mary I and the possessions granted anew 'for the maintenance of a priest for the celebration of divine service, and for the instruction of the young men and boys of the town of Basingstoke.' The fraternity became extinct about the commencement of the seventeenth century, and the estate was seized by parliament, and the building dilapidated and school shut up during the civil wars ; Bishop Morley, however, procured the restoration of the estate, about 1670, for ecclesiastical purposes to which it is still applied. The parish church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a spacious and handsome building, consisting of a nave, chancel, and side aisles, with a low square tower. The south side of the church is of stone, but the other sides are constructed with alternate squares of brick and stone. It was built in the reign of Henry VIII under the direction of Fox, bishop of Winchester. The living, which is of considerable value, is a discharged vicarage in the gift of Magdalen College, Oxford ; it is valued in the king's books at £301, 6 shillings and 5½ pence.

When woollen manufactures began to be first established in this country, Basingstoke obtained a considerable share in the business, and was particularly noted for its druggets and shalloons. These manufactures have long ceased and at present malting and the corn trade form the principal business, which has been much facilitated by a canal (called the Basingstoke Canal) from this town to the river Wey in Surrey, which communicates with the Thames and affords a water passage to London. The market is on Wednesday, and the fairs on Easter Tuesday, Wednesday in Whitsun-week, 23rd September, and 10th October ; all, except the second, are chiefly fairs for cattle. The number of houses in the town, according to the returns of 1831, was 727 ; and the population consisted of 3,581 persons, of whom 1,863 were females. The town was incorporated at an early date, and is at present governed by a mayor, recorder, seven aldermen, an equal number of capital burgesses, a high steward, and other officers. The petty sessions are holden here. Basingstoke possesses a free school of some repute and three charity-schools, one of which, for the maintenance, clothing, and education of twelve boys, is supported by the Skinners' Company of London.

John de Basingstoke, a distinguished scholar of the thirteenth century, Sir James Lancaster, the navigator, and the brothers Joseph and Thomas Warton, were born at Basingstoke.