Basingstoke Old Town Hall
From Mote Hall to Museum
Basingstoke’s Town Hall has had several re-incarnations in two locations over the centuries. It was originally on the west side of the Market Place, at the junction between Winchester Street and Church Street and was known sometimes as the Mote (or Moot) Hall, sometimes as the Market Hall or the Town Hall. After a disastrous fire in 1665, a more up-to-date Market Hall/Town Hall was built on the same site but this proved to be badly positioned once horse, cart and coach travel increased.
In 1829 an Act was passed for enlarging the Market Place and it was decided to demolish three properties on the north side so that a new Town Hall could be built there. Like the first building, it had an open ground floor, which was enclosed in 1865.
For Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 the mayor, John May, replaced the clock tower with a much bigger one, which many people regarded as a monstrosity. This was eventually taken down in 1961 for safety reasons. The bells associated with the clock went to the demolition firm Brant’s at Tadley.
In 1912 it became clear that more room was needed for Borough offices and the Council bought adjacent property, 3 Church Street, but that was still not enough. In 1921 they applied to the Ministry of Health for sanction to borrow £5,000 for the purchase and adaptation of Goldings House for municipal offices. At the public enquiry one of the Councillors, who was also a trader living opposite the Town Hall, was reported as saying ‘that the noise on market days must make it almost impossible for the borough officials to carry on their work, and on other than market days the square was frequently filled with chars-a-bancs and there was a great deal of noise from them also.’ The Town Clerk, Planning Department and other offices were moved to Goldings but the Town Hall remained the location for concerts, dances etc until a safety inspection revealed that the upper floor was not suitable for such events. In 1981 the building was sold to Luff Building Ltd, to be renovated for possible office use and a mezzanine floor was inserted, but the developers regretted their purchase. In 1969, when the Library moved from the Mechanics Institute in New Street to the new Town Centre, leaving the Willis Museum on the upper floor, Luff arranged an exchange of buildings with the Council. Luff took over the Mechanics Institute building and the Willis Museum moved into the old Town Hall, now having the opportunity to put on display the face and mechanism of the clock from John May’s clock tower.
In 1983 John Oliver wrote an article for a Workers’ Educational Association class (WEA), outlining the history and uses of the Town Hall up to and during the 19th century.
 Hampshire Record Office (HRO) 148M71/1/5/3
 Hants & Berks Gazette 27 October 1961, p 10
 HRO 50M63/B12/4
 Hants & Berks Gazette 27 June 1921 p 16
Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.