A brief history

The documented history of the town begins with the Domesday Book, when the market was already in evidence and milling played a key role; a legacy which is retained in the place names Kingsmill and Houndsmill. Throughout the medieval period the woollen trade flourished, beginning a tradition of fabric production which has been reinforced by silk and Burberry gabardine.

By the 1700s the town had become an important staging post on the turnpike road from London to Andover. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the development of the canal and the railway brought more trade to the town. By the late Victorian period manufacturing was in evidence with the expansion of the Thornycroft company in the town. The 1960s witnessed significant change for the borough, with new building projects and massive population growth from London. Modern Basingstoke and Deane continues to evolve.

Borough timeline

c3000 BC Neolithic settlements were established at Kempshott, Battledown and Wellocks Hill
c1000 BC Bronze Age people settled at Kempshott
c600 BC The Celts settled in the borough
c400 BC Iron Age settlements were established in the Winklebury area
43 AD The Romans conquered North Hampshire. The influence of their occupation can be found in a number of the borough’s place names; North Waltham (from Wealtham, meaning a clearing in the forest) and Stratfield (meaning the field of the road or way, and deriving from the ancient Roman road from London to Silchester which crosses the parish)
c700 AD The Saxon tribe of the Basinga's made their settlement in the Loddon Valley. Evidence of Saxon occupation can be found in many of the borough’s place names: Overton (from Uferatun or ‘upper tun’, indicating a settlement on a slope)
871 The Danes successfully fought the Saxons at Basengum (now Basing)
909 Areas of the borough, including North Waltham and Overton, were given to Frithestan, Bishop of Winchester, by King Edward the Elder
1086 The population was c. 200. Basingstoke market was recorded in the Domesday Survey. Since 1241 this has been held on a Wednesday
1208-14 The Liten, or South View Cemetery, was established as a result of the Papal Interdict banning burials on consecrated sites
c1246 The Overton Sheep Fair was established
1348 The Black Death wiped out one-third of the area’s population
1642-45 Basing House played a key role in the English Civil War, serving as a significant Royalist stronghold until it was destroyed in 1645
1666 The Plague came to Basingstoke, having spread from London. Up to 50 deaths were recorded in the town
1724 Henry Portal, founder of Portals paper mill in Freefolk, obtained the contract to make bank notes
1762 The first detailed map of Basingstoke was produced
1775 The novelist Jane Austen was born in Steventon spending most of her life in the village
1794 The Basingstoke Canal officially opened
1801 The first British census recorded the population of Basingstoke as 2,589
1839 The railway was opened between Basingstoke and London and Winchester and Southampton
1868 Thomas Burberry's clothing factory opened in New Street in central Basingstoke
1901 The population was recorded as 9,510. The Basingstoke Light Railway opened.
1903 The Thornycroft Company began manufacturing cars in Basingstoke, continuing until 1912
1921 War Memorial Park was opened to the public
1929 Construction started on the Basingstoke Bypass
1940         German bombs fell on the town, killing at least 8 people
1952 Construction began on Oakridge estate, to house staff of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston, which opened the same year
1961 Basingstoke was designated as a London over-spill town
1967 Construction of a new town centre began
1970 The M3 motorway was opened
1971 Black Dam estate was developed
2001 The population was recorded as 152,573
2011 The population was recorded as 167,800
2021 The population was recorded as 185,200

Did you know?

  • Besom brooms continue to be made in Tadley and were featured in the Harry Potter films.
  • In 1795 the future George IV spent his honeymoon at Kempshott.

Explore our local history

Interest in local history has grown enormously in recent years, with individuals and communities keen to investigate their heritage. Find our more about where you live and for sources of information and suggested reading, by visiting The National Archives website.


For details of local history courses running throughout the country, take a look at The Local History Online website.


GENUKI website provides a virtual reference library of genealogical information of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a non-commercial service, maintained by a charitable trust and a group of volunteers.

Willis Museum Resource Room

Located on the museum's second floor, the Resource Room holds a wide variety of books, photographs, postcards, maps and other reference material. A team of museum assistants can help with enquiries, although visitors are advised to contact the museum on 01256 465902 to check their availability.

The museum's galleries explore the borough's rich archaeological heritage, from the Iron Age period through to the Romans and Saxons, as well as detailing the town's more recent past. The Willis Museum also houses many items of local interest, including the Basingstoke Stump Work and The Deane Cup.


All Hampshire County Council libraries hold basic reference collections and information about their local communities.

Hampshire Record Office

Located in Winchester, Hampshire Records Office contains a wealth of material, from maps and manorial rolls through to film and sound records. You can visit the office in person or make use of the paid search facility. For further information visit Hampshire Archives and Local Statistics webpages.

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