BASINGSTOKE, a market-town and municipal borough of Hampshire, England, 48 m. W.S.W. from London by the London & South-Western railway; served also by a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 9793. The church of St Michael and All Angels is a fine specimen of a late Perpendicular building (principally of the time of Henry VIII.). The chapel of the Holy Ghost is a picturesque ruin, standing in an ancient cemetery, built for the use of the local gild of the Holy Ghost which was founded in 1525, but flourished for less than a century. Close to the neighbouring village of Old Basing are remains of Basing House, remarkable as the scene of the stubborn opposition of John, fifth marquess of Winchester, to Cromwell, by whom it was taken after a protracted siege in 1645.
A castle occupied its site from Norman times. Numerous prehistoric relics have been discovered in the district, and a large circular encampment is seen at Winklebury Hill. Basingstoke has considerable agricultural trade, and brewing, and the manufacture of agricultural implements, and of clothing, are carried on. The Basingstoke canal, which connects the town with the river Wey and so with the Thames, was opened about 1 794, but lost its trade owing to railway competition. It was offered for sale by auction unsuccessfully in 1904, but was bought in 1905. The municipal borough is under a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors. Area, 4195 acres.
Basingstoke is a town of great antiquity, and excavations have brought to light undoubted traces of Roman occupation. The first recorded historical event relating to the town is a victory won here by ZEthelred and Alfred over the Danes in 871. According to the Domesday survey it had always been a royal manor, and comprised three mills and a market. A charter from Henry III. in 1256 granted to the men of Basingstoke the manor and hundred of that name and certain other privileges, which were confirmed by Edward III., Henry V. and Henry VI. As compensation for loss sustained by a serious fire, Richard II. in 1392 granted to the men of Basingstoke the rights of a corporation and a common seal. A charter from James I. dated 1622 instituted two bailiffs, fourteen capital burgesses, four justices of the peace, a high steward and under steward, two serjeantsat-mace and a court of record. Charles I. in 1641 changed the corporation to a mayor, seven aldermen and seven burgesses. Basingstoke returned two members to parliament in 1295, 1302 and 1306, but no writs are extant after this date. In 1202-1203 the market day was changed from Sunday to Monday, but in 1214 was transferred to Wednesday, and has not since been changed. Henry VI. granted a fair at Whitsun to be held near the chapel of the Holy Ghost. The charter from James I. confirmed another fair at the feast of St Michael the Archangel, and that of Charles I. granted two fairs on Basingstoke Down at Easter and on the Loth and 11th of September. The wool trade flourished in Basingstoke at an early date, but later appears to have declined, and in 1631 the clothiers of Basingstoke were complaining of the loss of trade and consequent distress.
See Victoria County History - Hants; F. G. Baigent and J. E. Millard, History of Basingstoke (Basingstoke, 1889).
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