Closer to find

I took this photo at dusk, just after New year on the way home from work. It was seasonally chilly and the Christmas lights were still out… I was almost home, but sometimes It’s good just to stop and take it in.

© Nigel Smith

Trenchards Lane, which links Dummer to Oakley, seems also to direct everyones Satnav’s this way, turning it into a bit of a ‘rat-run’, (which the road isn’t really fit for). Often though it can be a great last leg of a journey, making us grateful of where we live, even after a holiday. Most times is just the part of the commute home.

© Nigel Smith

This lovely tree was in Ganderdown Copse, which was on the edge of the Roman Road. By Southwood Farm, the road between Silchester and Winchester crosses. Most of the route still follows the A30 from Dummer then forks off on the A33, but its undefined along this point, apart from showing on the map. I think of all the history and the travellers that would have passed this spot.

(I have several blogs about the history connected to our local highways.)
Please take a look at my side menu on the home page 

© Nigel Smith

At this spot, You can just pull the car in safely. It’s the highest point, and on a clear day you can look beyond Overton towards The North Wessex Downs. You can also see the Overton Mill, where Bank notes are made.

>Read more about the local history of paper making and banking Here


Further down this windy road and I’ve posted this image before, but hey, it also happens to be where my favourite tree is. All the seasons have their time. It can be a bit trecherous and gets cut off with Snow, but winter here is particularly special.


London Love… (part 1)

Changing skies… © Nigel Smith

A slight excursion ‘north’ into London, on a really cold December day, as I booked some leave to oggle the ever changing skyline…

Its only 50 mins by train, but presently a trip to London is a treat for me… Whilst many commute daily from North Hampshire, I maybe can muster 3 visits a year if I’m lucky.

In the last 25 years or so, the additions to the London skyline has not been to everyone’s liking. And it seems since the arrival of The Shard 6 years ago, the pace has only kept increasing.

If you visited from America or Asia, our skyline will still seem slight and dispersed, but the names chosen for these towers – The Scapel, The Cheesegrater, The Gherkin etc… have become as important in distinguishing them for us as much as the architectural styles –

The City and Docklands remain the 2 main areas to see our hi-rise attempts, but other areas now such as South Bank and upriver to Westminster, are also seeing clusters of development.

Then and Now…

The below images show how the City of London skyline is changing…

From Hungerford Bridge © John Baker 1987


Dec 2018 My attempt to illustrate the city’s growth, from Hungerford Bridge © Nigel Smith

Walk in The City

I started my walk from London Bridge Station below The Shard, which with 95 floors, is currently the tallest building in Europe. It seems to have encouraged some other ‘stand alone’ projects along the South Bank towards Waterloo, but the cluster of high rise buildings I’m heading to is across the Thames in The City of London.

The Shard

Lets face it, London’s Financial District is still the envy of Europe, (well for now…) It’s historic status to attract business is only rivaled by Wall Street.

European capitals have tended to be low rise, and London too had it’s planning regulations. For a 1,00 years St Paul’s Cathedral in all its guises was the dominant building of the area and the city planners paid a strict reverence to it. (There was an interesting case in the news a couple of yearsback, of how are historic view of St Pauls across London had become obscured (read more here...)

But what the  La Défense region in Paris set about achieving above other financial areas was to create an eyecatching skyline, and in this regard ‘The City’ lagged seriously behind in ‘wow factor’. What it had in heritage could have been seen as a reliance on it’s past glories. In the 1980’s there had been The Natwest Tower, (now Tower 42), taller than any other building around it, and the nearest thing there was to a ‘skyscraper’ in the UK. I always felt it looked a bit stranded. The Lloyds Building built in 1986, was brave although not particularly high.  I dont know when regulations were relaxed or what pressure there was to change attitudes, but the building in 2010 of the Heron Tower seemed to let the genie out of the bottle, even if some felt the projects put forward looked more vanity driven than what was aesthetically right for the skyline. I guess also the rapid expansion at Docklands needed a reaction from the traditional area of commerce, but more on that later…

Whats new?

I walked across London Bridge, in the direction of Bishopsgate and Leadenhall. The new skyscraper to be in the Eastern Cluster is called ’22 Bishopsgate’ and it is nearing completion. Originally conceived as ‘The Pinacle’ it was shelved when the recession hit.
(I originally visited the site in 2011 and saw the core). The design was also changed after a review. Whilst it relates well to Tower 42, apart from its scale, I found its design to be a little underwhelming, which is a pity.

© Nigel Smith

The city will probably never have the full effect of an ‘urban Canyon’ due to its ‘natural’ road layout, but for the first time you can now stand along St. Mary’s Axe and gaze up at towering skyscrapers… I spent quite a while just taking it all in. I loved photographing some of the shapes and refelections against a crisp, blue sky.

To a point… © Nigel Smith

I mentioned the Lloyds Building earlier, well now architecturally it has some great companions, and if anything they enhance it’s presence.

The ‘Scapel’, Willis Towers and The Lloyds Building © Nigel Smith

30 years ago a views like this in the City would have been unimaginable… Maybe its not unique to London, but I found it enthralling.

© Nigel Smith
The ‘Cheesegrater’ (Leadenhall), Aviva and The ‘Gherkin’ © Nigel Smith

There’s more…

Over the 7 years 9 more ‘hi-rise’ towers are planned (with other buildings are due to be built), including Undershaft which will top 22 Bishopsgate as the Eastern Cluster’s tallest, with 73 floors.

With ‘Brexit’, its fair to say Europe will probably expect to see more of the action, drawing away commerce. Maybe The City feels it needs to keep looking confident…

This was only part of my journey – My next stop would be to the Docklands area or the ‘Western Cluster’…

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…

River Hamble


We’ve had a couple of lovely autumn mornings this week, so I stopped off  beside the River Hamble at Lower Swanwick today. O.K. although the south of the county is out of my usual remit, its on my commute to work, and I wanted to share it with you.

This part of the Hamble, upstream is pretty unspoilt. Like other Hampshire rivers, there is a strong connection to boat building.
In a historical context, the close proximity of woodland helped contribute to the Navy’s fleet for many years. One of Henry V’s mighty ship’s The Grace Dieu, has lied submerged upstream since 1439!


From Paper Mill, to Palace of Gin

Bombay Sapphire, Laverstoke Hampshire © Nigel Smith

Last weekend I was taken on a surprise visit to Bombay Sapphire‘s distillery and visitor centre, in Laverstoke, Hampshire. It’s quite near to us, and had heard good reviews. I’d even dropped some friends off there for a tour – but we hadn’t been ourselves. Maybe not knowing much about ‘Gin’ had delayed our reason to visit…

On the first day of Autumn, we enjoyed a sunny afternoon there looking around the site, learning about Gin and at the end of the tour sampling a glass by the River Test. I also got a chance to look round the buildings, with their own important history that is thankfully acknowledged. This was the site of the Portal’s Paper Mill which supplied paper for the Bank of England’s notes, (till production was moved to the newer site at Overton).

I have written in more depth about the nationally important history that Paper Making and the River Test shared in an earlier blog, so to finally visit one of the sites was a bonus!

>Read more about The River Test and The Bank of England here

© Nigel Smith

As you get ready to start the tour, there is a good exhibition highlighting it’s previous use and national importance as print factory, with some fine examples and photos. Lets face it most people aren’t there for that, but it communicates well and is hard to ignore.

Now, the setting works and creates an authentic location for it’s new tenants, as we continued our tour, I was equally pleased to see some of the period features restored from the time of the print works.

© Nigel Smith

The River Test, being regarded one of the finest chalk rivers in the UK, served the purposes of providing clean water with few impurites in the paper making process. Bombay Sapphire literally tap into it’s quality with their ethos, and process of gin making. The designer Thomas Heatherwick’s installed glasshouses use the location to good effect.

Laverstoke Mill on the River Test © Nigel Smith

when you first see them, the glasshouses are impressive, with their form and function. But I equally loved the link between the original building and how they seem to ‘reach out’ of it’s past.

A connection © Nigel Smith

So we enjoyed a great afternoon there. For me as well as sampling the gin, I got a good sense of sampling the premises previous life!

The staff were helpful in guiding us round, and were knowledgeable about the now (and then). I’d gladly suggest this as a fun activity for adults anytime of the year, (with transport links available).  Without wanting to introduce a tacky gift shop, I think whats there in the way of items could have had more in the way of substance… Is there a local book available on the history on the Mill, and more detail on the project to convert the site?

Whilst you are here…

With The Manydown Cafe Bus on hand, between drinks, maybe allow for a 30 minute stroll?  From the picturesque examples of mill workers cottages opposite, follow the Test to Freefolk and you will also sample the beauty of the River setting and local archictecture of thatch and flint, and gems such as 13th Century St. Nicholas Church and its contents. Its really close by…

St. Nicholas Church, Freefolk, Hampshire © Michael Ford



Popping back to Popham

Site of Popham’s Church © Nigel Smith

Breaking News… I have revisited the hidden cemetery and site of St. Catherine’s Church in Popham, Hampshire.  And, yes… I’ve finally seen a photo of what the ‘new’ church looked like! After more research I’ve also been able to locate the site of where the original Chapel was, so I feel I’m slowly piecing it together…

My earlier blog  was about the hamlet of Popham’s victorian chapel, and cemetery, (which still survives next to the A33). I also found there was an earlier chapel connected with the Popham family that was originally located nearer their manor. Old Ordnance Survey Maps showed the ‘newer’ chapel’s location, but I had to speculate on the location on the site of the former.


The ‘New’ Chapel

First things first – Hurrah! I now know what St. Catherines / Katherines Church looked like. Thanks to Hampshire Record Office, the photos were taken by a Terry Hunt on glass plates around 1915. I’ve been trying to visualize what it was like for ages, so to see an image of the church was amazing. I wasn’t dissapointed. Although small, the building looks grander than I imagined. The church was in exisitence for just 70 years. The reasons for its final demise were its struggle for existence in a sparse parish. And when the foundations were damaged by a nearby German raid in 1944, the cost of repairs were the final straw. Demolition started in 1946.

c1915 and Now…

Lets look as close to the Locations Terry Hunt’s photos were taken.

From the A33 Winchester Road, the original flint wall was strengthened, as it butts
up the modern A33 road ©Googlemaps

If it were possible to stand on the M3 southbound, you could still just make out the surving wall. The M3 was dug out so is lower now than when the
original photo was taken. ©Googlemaps

The oiginal wall looking to where the church was.

I don’t know who has ultimate responsbility for the cemetery, but in this year as we mark the centenery of WW1 ending, I hope the War Graves Commission will come and do a clean up… Over the year, the brambles have really covered most graves up. I took the below picture back in spring but my trip yesterday it was hard to see anything!

Facing the A33 direction, the church would have filled the middle plot

Before we look at the old chapel, its worth reminding the major changes that have taken place to the landscape. My previous blog has more maps to compare, but the The M3 cuts through Popham manor and its path to the church, but thankfully because of the war graves, the site was preserved.

© National Library of Scotland Archives

I’d like to know about this road below which is slowly being taken back by moss and bramble. Was a road put in to serve the chapel? If so, its life would have been shortlived, or might it have been a slip road for the motorway from Popham nearby? When looking at maps from the 1970’s a link road to the then new motorway’s terminus seems more likely. This too was surpassed by the M3 extension, which made this redundant. Thats the thing about this place, nothing seems to stay the same for long!

The mysterious road to the chapel…


The Old Chapel

I have since found an earlier map of Popham, which shows clearly the site of the old chapel on the other side of the estate to where I imagined!


1876 OS
© 1876 O.S. Map of Popham

The Chapel was between the Popham Court and the farm. Alas there is no access to Popham Court, but this new evidence at least gave me more a chance seeing the site from viewpoints around, I can get to. The house and what was the farm buidligs are still there.

Popham Court © Google Maps

I did a trip out to Popham in June. The first viewpoint I got to looks back on the line of trees, The house is to the right, but wasn’t visable through the trees.


So I walked on, by the pond and turning right I passed a pretty row of cottages. The footpath is going away from the court, but this was the closest I could get. You can see the chimneys of Popham Court, so the chapel would have been to left of this…


The one feature known to survive from the chapel was the font. In 1883 as the old chapel was closed, it was given to neighbouring St Michael’s in North Waltham. (Why it didn’t go into the new church isn’t recorded). There may have been a few features used and incorprated into the new church, but sadly with its own demise, nothing is know of them now.

The Font originally from the Old St Catherines

Incidently as a footnote, and a nice link for me, North Waltham’s old font then came to my Church, St. Mary’s Eastrop!

So I have found a photo of the St Catherines, the only one I know of. I now know where the old chapel was located, and I got to see a part of the old church preserved. Its helped fill a few gaps nicely. And yet…
(So far), it’s been hard to find much evidence from press sources relating to the closure of St Catherine’s. It therefore isn’t surprising that we have almost forgotten the existence of this place in 70 years. It was never a big church. Most of the history was lost with the old church’s closure and the new church never had the archictecural importance to save it. I’m grateful for a journalist and a local photographer who passed it, took time to record it!

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!