The Manydown development is happening. Worting, which will feel all the effects, will be surrounded by over 3,000 houses and they are building now. Technically a suburb, it still feels like a village as it has been situated on the western fringes of Basingstoke before you enter the countryside. Through the centuries as a ‘village’ it really hasn’t seen much change, but you feel thats all about to change and that prompted me to get a visit in.
Situated alongside the old Roman Road between Silchester and Winchester, Worting is mentioned at the time of Doomsday Survey and by then had a place of worship. The lands of the Norman manor were connected to Hyde Abbey in Winchester. The Settlement shows up on ‘Saxton’s 1575 map of Hampshire’ as ‘Wortyinge’. The manor passed into the possession of the Manydown in 1619.
On 9 May 1655, there was a Great Fire which burned down the Church, White Horse Inn and a number of Dwellings. The church was rebuilt, but the current one dates from 1848
Worting Park was puchased from the Manydown estate to the Bigg – Wither’s Family.
It was Harris Bigg-Wither (1781-1833) who proposed to the author Jane Austin on 1802.
In its ‘recent’ history, The Worting Road, 3 miles west of Basingstoke, was along part of the ‘Great West Road’ from London to Cornwall for centuries. But when roads were given ‘A’ numbers in the 1930’s, it wasn’t to remain The ‘A30’ for long and the area was bypassed.
> Read more about ‘The Old Great West Road’ here
Until now, the one thing that had altered Worting was the arrival of The main London to Weymouth Railway, in 1854. ‘Worting Junction’ cut through and was to drastically divide the village. The White Horse Inn was now the other side of the railway.
‘Roman Road’ from the Winklebury direction is still defined as it was 1,800 years ago, but in Worting, the railway junction cut through this ancient route showing no respect!
The images below show Roman road looking north, the bottom 2 are south of the tunnel.
In 1970, Worting become a district of Basingstoke, ceasing to be a village, (and a parish), in it’s own right, but it has clearly held onto to its identity with relative limited development westwards. Signs appeared in the the mid 2000’s highlighting its village feel.
Walk around Worting pt 1 – Industry along the Great West Road
My walk around the village fell nicely into 2 parts – Firstly along what was the main road to Cornwall, and some of the buildings here, past and present, reflect this relationship as you would expect on a main route, with a nod to history, but also function.
There were 2 farms – ‘Worting Farm’ and ‘Crossway Farm’ along Roman Road, which were still in operation after the arrival the railway, but by the outbreak of WW2 these both seem to have closed. The Worting farm complex of buildings still exists, but now have the first estate is showing up on their doorstop.
> Read more about Basingstoke lost farms, here
The buildings along this part of Worting Road are mostly ‘red brick’ in character, The old Forge site still survives and the site of an old school.
Opposite Worting Park, is the site of the first infant School, a mixture of Flint and brick. Originally opened as a school alongside the church, the new school was opened in 1855. It was extended several times before in the 1930, the school moved to a new site behind the railway with land acquired from Buckskin Farm.
There are a few alleys off the Andover Road to properties, and until 2017 you could walk into an area which felt unchanged from the post war, with farm tracks and a scattering of properties. Once in the snow in 2009, I walked out from Oakley. I now wish I had recorded the terrain… Now it’s bordered by new housing.
Walk around Worting pt 2 – Into the countryside
Walking back from Worting House, turn left by the church off the main road, and immediately the pace is quieter and leads onto Manydown…
I really hope what we have now will retain its nature and space, but alas you will see the buildings, even if the trees help a little to mask whats comming.
There is no doubt, Worting Church and Church Lane are the picturesque part of the village. The private houses reflect the feel, and as the road becomes unmade, it could still retain some of it’s old world charm.
But there are comming pressures on them and depending on how the area is treated I fear there is bound to be an increase in traffic. I hope the council assesses the issue with some sensitivity and discourage road usage.
Carrying up Church Lane, there is a second entrance to Worting House.
Further up the unmade part of the lane you feel you are entering the countryside.
I must look to see how this will be treated in the ‘Manydown Plan’ but this old track before you come out into open fields, even on the grey day I chose, felt I was going back in time to an ancient trackway. It then opened up into an open fields. Sure, Basingstoke was visiable on the horizon, but it didn’t detract from the space before me.
I took these 3 photos a couple of summers ago, when the weather was nicer, and they help illustrate the beauty of the landscape, and the amount of land to be swallowed up by housing. Even with the best intentions, the landscape and habitat will be lost.
Below, the Woods on the left will become part of a ‘country park’ and a buffer for Wotton St. Lawrence, but the fields will be built on.
I can enjoy the walk now, but can the tranquility really be retained once the building starts?
Basingstoke & Deane Council will cite the chronic need for affordable homes to be built, a valid point maybe. And I wonder if the people they wish to attract to the new homes are really the ones to show an interest in what it was like before. They are not wrong in just wanting a nice to place to live. We too were incomers once. When we moved here, and discussing with others who moved like us, the thing we loved was the accessibility to countryside.
As many old areas and farms in Basingstoke know well, over time they have been swallowed up by the Mother town’s growth and Worting will follow that pattern.
But it’s the loss of this countryside on Basingstoke’s doorstep that has been a major benefit to the town… We need to have New parts working together with the Old – and cherish the heritage that is here!
I just hope they get it right with keeping the traditional parts protected, to counteract the stick ‘Basingstoke, the place to be proud of’ can sometimes unfairly get…