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Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture

Churchill Way, Basingstoke
Copyright Simon Green and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Report of the lecture given by Rupert Willoughby
on November 27th 2013

The title rather describes the essence of the lecture which was a humorous take on the folly of 60's planning.

Basingstoke was once a small market town amidst the Hampshire countryside known for its watercress beds, fresh strawberries and fine local ale.   Maybe it was not a town of great architectural merit but what was to replace it is known, even by its own residents, as an overdeveloped concrete eyesore.

It all came about in the mid 60's when very left wing planners asked Sir Patrick Abercrombie,  a hugely successful 20th century architect, to build a London overspill town like Stevenage and Harlow as a show piece in the south of England.   Their theory was that council housing and mass production brought about a middle class structure for all.

Merton's birthplace lies in the shadow
of the Great Wall of Basingstoke

So once where small thatched dwellings and a few more prestigious homes such as that of the Merton Family (of Merton College fame), Jane Austen's relatives and Thomas Burberry, who invented the gabardine raincoat had stood,  a mighty soulless mega structure arose - The Great Wall of Basingstoke - concrete of course!   It encompassed tower blocks of flats, concrete shopping malls, cinemas and treeless open spaces.

Ironically, although most of the major retailers have deserted the concrete shopping malls, which now look strangely devoid of shoppers, Basingstoke has one of the Nation's highest rates of pay and employment.  So, as the locals would say, maybe it is not  'Blazingstoke'  but  'Amazingstoke'!

Julie Rashbrooke

Related Link (opens in new window):

Rupert Willoughby's website

Rupert Willoughby with members in the Arts Centre auditorium
after his witty and stirring exposition