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Basingstoke before Redevelopment. The Personal Recollection of Bob Applin

Basingstoke from the air, c. 1960

When the decision was taken to rewrite the Hampshire volumes in the modern style, Basingstoke was selected as the first area for study because of its dramatic transformation since the first volumes were published, as a result of the town’s selection as a London overspill town.

The attached essay is my recollection of what the town was like before that transformation in the early 1960s.

Basingstoke was the subject of a major planned expansion as one of the post-war London overspill towns. Between 1964 and 1978 the town changed from a small market town, with four engineering works and a pharmaceutical company as the major employers, to a diversified industrial town with mainly ‘blue collar’ employment but also with a large element of office work. Many of the employers who moved to the town have subsequently either gone to other parts of the country or shut down. Their place has been taken by several company head offices and many smaller high-tech firms in the IT, communication, finance and service industries so that in 2013 the town had a thriving and diversified employment profile. The town and its surrounding villages also housed a large commuter community that took advantage of the excellent transport routes to other centres of employment.

The planned expansion involved the large-scale demolition of the northern part of the central shopping area and much of the surrounding low quality mid-Victorian workers’ housing.

Written fifty years after the event, the essay is necessarily subjective. I was in my mid 20s when demolition started; I was not sorry to see a lot of the buildings go and I am still of that opinion.

Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.