Category Archives: Jane Austen

The Other Stratton Park

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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.

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

 

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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!

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The old Buckskin farm house – still standing © Nigel Smith
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Sitting comfortably with Jane…

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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.

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The Walled Garden, Down Grange

 

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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.