Category Archives: Jane Austen

All to lose…


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

Taylors Map 1759

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.

Worting Junction


‘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.


Early 20th Century Worting


Post WW2 Worting


Present day Worting

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

The Old route of the Great West Road to Cornwall

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.

Old and new industry © Nigel Smith


© Nigel Smith
© Nigel Smith

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.

The old Infant School  © Nigel Smith


© Nigel Smith



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…
Worting House, formally Worting Park © Alan Swain

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.

Development is coming… Beyond the trees of Worting House, the houses are going up.


St. Thomas of Canterbury Church © Nigel Smith

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.

Church Lane © Nigel Smith
Looking back toward Worting Road © Nigel Smith

Carrying up Church Lane, there is a second entrance to Worting House.

Another glance of Worting House © Nigel Smith


© Nigel Smith
© Nigel Smith

Further up the unmade part of the lane you feel you are entering the countryside.

© Nigel Smith
© Nigel Smith

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.

© Nigel Smith
© Nigel Smith

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.

Soon to be a housing estate © Nigel Smith

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.

© Nigel Smith
Maybe the most beautiful spot, Cottages in Worting Wood © Nigel Smith

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…


The Other Stratton Park


It turns out there are 2 Stratton Parks just 6 miles apart… One is near Kempshott, the other is a much larger estate near the Stratton villages, which I have written about before. Different places, I was looking if there could be any connection between the two in the past.

As I have discovered through my previous blogs, The Baring family became major landowners in North Hampshire, and in the 1900’s the area of Kempshott was still a rural one.

Now a recreational ground,  Stratton Park has has plenty of its own history.  There has been evidence of occupation since the Bronze Age. A long barrow exists less than half a mile to the right,  and can be seen on maps. The land became primarily used for farming and also had part of Basingstoke’s own race course running through.

The park – a much needed open space © Photo  Nigel Smith


Stratton Park, north of Kempshott © Ordance Survey

The modern park owes its name to Sidney Stratton (1898 – 1966). Involved locally and a champion of amateur sports particularly football, he was an advocate of ‘sport for all’. The park was named in honour of him in the early 1970’s, when it was opened.

The history bit…

For centuries, There was a meeting of several tracks at a place that became known as Five Ways – the main route Pack Lane was part of the ancient Harrow Way. Another old route, the roman road that linked Winchester and Silchester passed nearby.  The area was farmed and one, Buckskin Farm was where there were a few clustered properties. And it’s still standing today!

The old Buckskin farm house – still standing © Nigel Smith
Old farmland towards Buckskin

Whilst the farms have gone and housing estates have taken their place, this large open space is enjoyed by the residents of Kempshott, Buckskin and South Ham.

For more about old farms in the area, read my article here.

Towards Buckskin, from the park © Nigel Smith

A History of Horse Racing

It may be a surprise to learn that Basingstoke had it’s own a race course. Racing was reguarly held on the downs near Kempshott, and from historic maps we can see where the site was marked, it run across what is now Stratton Park. With our modern take on horse racing, we think of the grandstands, the personel involved and the side show(s) that accompanies a race meeting. In times past there was less paraphernalia, but it was seen as important social event for the calendar and a popular past-time.

raceclose up

Racing is first recorded taking place at Basingstoke in 1687 in the London Gazette. Local landowners would have enjoyed participating, but riders nationally were also being encouraged to enter. By 1729, the course was marked out with posts, so it was being held on a regular basis, till around 1788.


After a gap of 23 years racing returned to Basingstoke in 1811, (and Jane Austen is said to have attended a 2 day meeting, with her family in 1813). Racing became a regular feature again, more often than not, and was last ‘revived’ in 1845. The final staged meeting in Basingstoke was recorded in 1850. By this time, the nearby Newbury course was growing in stature. A more relevant successor to Basingstoke would be nearby Hackwood Park, which today will still holds several events, although more of the  ‘Point to Point’ discipline. The fact the site of the race course was still being shown on maps 50 years later, shows the significance it brought to the area.

Even in the 1960’s the race site was being shown © Ordance Survey

These trees below on the southern edge of the park run alongside the racecourse, but they are much more recent addition! For more information on horse racing, see the excellent Kempshott History Group website with much recorded detail.


A growing Village

As Kempshott grew, a village hall was erected on a site adjacent to what was to become the park. (You can see in this photo the open farmland around). In 1968, The current hall replaced the one pictured below, and has been expanded several times since. Though not connected to Stratton Park, its location surely has been mutually beneficial for both!

Original Village Hall
The ‘second’ village hall © Kempshott History Group

It would be highly unusual for two separate estates, with the same owner to share the same name. But this particular landowner who had several estates in the North of Hampshire, could have feasibly had land in these parts.

Other than what I have read in research, I know nothing of Sidney Stratton, but the park is a fitting memory to a man who would not had the wealth of Lord Baring, yet has a sizable tract of land in honour of him!
Turns out it was just a nice coincidence, and I indirectly increased my knowledge about the race course!

Sitting comfortably with Jane…

Viables, Basingstoke

The ‘Sitting with Jane‘ initiative has been one of this summers great success stories for Basingstoke & Deane, as it caught the publics imagination comemerating the 200th anniversary of the Death of our most famous resident.

A big well done to ‘Desination Basingstoke‘ for organising the project to place commissioned benches by different artists, around the North of Hampshire sites connected to Jane Austen. As a creative, I particularly ejoyed the broad range of artistic styles there were from the ornate to some fun eyecatching submissions. I think they all help the public interact with them. I believe our friend, below visited them all!

You may not have liked them all, but that didn’t matter as you would soon find one you did. Over the summer, people didn’t need much encouragement to investigate where the benches were placed, with the children equally excited,  and once they started they wanted to find out where the others were – It seems a bit snide to begrudge Winchester and Chawton their own benches, as part of the scheme, (but Winchester often wants to grab the Jane glory – look at that new £10 note!), so for once it was great the majority of these benches where around the places she grew up in. This story is drawing to a close with a the chance for groups and individuals to bid at an auction of the benches – Its clear there is an appetite for keeping them.

The Walled Garden, Down Grange


Jane Austen Statue
Jane Austen in Basingstoke © Basingstoke Observer

We also have a permanment statue of Jane in the Basingstoke Town centre. It was a good story to let the World know. I also enjoyed this article by Rupert Willoughby.