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Discover history and heritage in Basingstoke

There is a huge amount of history and heritage in the borough. From the stunning Highclere Castle (or Downton Abbey as you might know it) and The Vyne, a National Trust house and gardens which are a stone’s throw from the town centre to the Roman remains at Silchester and the Tudor buildings and ruins at Basing House.

History in action

If living history is more your thing, Milestones Museum is a fantastic day out, offering nostalgia and dynamic interactive experiences for children and adults alike. The vast hi-tech structure of this award-winning museum houses a network of 19th and early 20th Century streets. Thousands of authentic bricks, slates and tiles have been used to create a network of life-size street scenes, complete with period houses. You will even find a working pub!

Whitchurch Silk Mill, situated south-east of Basingstoke on Frog Island in the River Test, is the last working mill of its kind in the south of England. It was originally used to produce silk for Burberry raincoats and legal gowns. It now functions as a working museum, making silks for interiors and costume dramas. The riverside garden is particularly pleasant for coffee and home-made cakes from the Mill’s café. And you can buy silk produced at the Mill from the gift shop.

Explore history and heritage in the town centre

The Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery was named after local clock maker George Willis who became the first honorary curator in 1931. The Willis Museum explores the town’s history, from its archaeological past to the more modern development experienced during the 1960s and 1970s. The Sainsbury Gallery hosts a range of high-profile exhibitions throughout the year. The museum also offers a year-round programme of family events and community exhibitions.

Just outside The Willis Museum is the statue of Jane Austen, unveiled in 2017 to commemorate 200 years since her death. She attended regular balls at Basingstoke’s Assembly Rooms, above the old Town Hall in the Market Place. Demolished in 1832, this stood on what is now open ground next to Lloyds Bank. Jane was born in 1775 at Steventon where she lived until she was 25 and drew her inspiration for Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility from her life in Hampshire.

Take a walk down memory lane on the town centre heritage trail. A 90 minute self guided walk of the town centre, starting at 800-year-old Market Place, the historic heart of Basingstoke. 

Basingstoke's historic heart town trail