Its not easy to imagine how one of the post-war development areas of Basingstoke is actually one of the oldest settlements, but the signs are there with the remains of an Iron Age fort and a Roman Road.
Our first house we brought was on a housing estate in Winklebury, on the North western edge of Basingstoke. The imaginatively titled ‘Roman Road’ marked a distinctive boundary to the town, with fields beyond, and when looking for a place to live, we liked the proximety to open countryside. I could also see on the maps an earthwork feature which gave its name to the area.
Approaching Basingstoke from the A339, the fort still rises above the housing around it. In the past it would have been noticable on the gentle slope and a good strategic point.
The hillfort dates from the Iron Age. Excavations that were carried out in the 1970’s indicate it being established around the 6th Century BC, and possibly earlier. Hillforts weren’t always used as a ‘fort’ as we think of them, but certainly as a means of defending supplies and livestock. The evidence suggests that the defences were strengthened again
in the 3rd Century BC.
The roman road from Silchester to Winchester ran close to the fort and they may have utilized the enclosure. There are several roman sites in the area and a stone coffin was found on ‘Winklebury Hill’ with a skeleton. “Fred” can now be visited in The Willis Museum in Basingstoke, where he will tell you a little bit about his life!
After the Romans left, the site continued through the years to be used for various farming needs. From the medieval period through to the post war development, we can see the evolution of the name. It was always an area ‘away’ from the town, maybe a happily neglegted cluster of small holdings which didn’t rouse the attention of the authorities. ‘Bury’ meaning fort and was also a name of a farm, till the housing arrived in the 60’s.
Below is an aerial photograph of Winklebury before World War 2, with the old A339 Newbury Road, east to west (Now Wellington Terrace), and ‘Roman Road’ running north to South.
Thankfully much of the original boundaries to the earthwork have survived, although eroded. The Fort Hill School being built within the ring has also protected the boundaries to a degree. The ring is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
This southern section of the ramparts is a scramble up from ‘Corfe Walk’, Winklebury.
You get some sense of the elevation, which is lost on the northern edge.
You wonder how many of the locals really know about their bit of heritage. Thankfully there are dedicated group of residents who have set up a project group The raise awareness and maintain the structure with the help of English Heritage, The School and The Councils. Thankfully, there can’t be any more building around the ring, but it’s an important landmark to keep preserving.