West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture
Report of the lecture given by Rupert Willoughby
on November 27th
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.
birthplace lies in the shadow
of the Great Wall of Basingstoke
So once where small thatched dwellings and a few more
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
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'!
Related Link (opens in new window):
Rupert Willoughby with members in the Arts
after his witty and stirring exposition