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Love Basingstoke recently spoke to Debbie Reavell about the Basingstoke Heritage Society

Please do tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in Basingstoke and have lived in Winchester Road, Riverdene, Oakridge and South View. Two of those homes have been demolished. I am secretary of Basingstoke Heritage Society, an independent registered charity, founded in 1989, caring for our town, past, present and future.

What is your favourite part of Basingstoke’s history?

I don’t think I have a particular favourite part of Basingstoke’s history. It’s an interesting town to research because quite often you can find out things that no-one has ever researched before, especially with access to so many online archives and genealogical sites. The 18th century is interesting as Basingstoke was quite a significant town then in size, with a busy coaching trade, a gentlemen’s club and the Assembly Room in the old town hall, where Jane Austen and her sister came to dance.

You can read about the history of novelist Jane Austen in a blog I previously created for Love Basingstoke as part of Community History Month.

Find out more about the Jane Austen trail here Jane Austen Leaflet (

How can people find out more about local history?

There is a wealth of local history literature. The Basingstoke Archaeology and Historical Society has published many books on the town’s history and the Victoria County History Project is working on detailed areas of research. The town is fortunate to have had the 19th century History of Basingstoke by Baigent and Millard. Published in 1889 and using many records in Oxford College records, it’s a useful history. The Discovery Centre has a local studies section.

If you want to find out more, then check out our website for access to newsletters, the Town Trail, the Jane Austen in Basingstoke trail and more. Joining the Heritage Society will keep you informed of events by the other history societies such as the Friends of the Willis’ talks at the museum.  Facebook has some good history sites too. In a town like ours, which suffered partial demolition in the 1960s to build the new town centre, some older people are nostalgic for the old town, while others recognise the excellent planning done at that time.

Tell us about your work with Basingstoke Heritage Society

I became secretary of the society soon after it was founded in 1989 and since then, I have learned so much about the history of the town. The society was involved in the historical research for the South View and Fairfields Conservation Areas. Brookvale was designated earlier to save the school buildings which are now flats.

The society does town walks, has put up interpretation signs at Viables and Church Square, gives talks and has noted 25 sites in the town with either plaques or signs. We provided text for interpretation signs at the Top of the Town and in the old cemetery. We also monitor planning applications and comment where appropriate.

Tell us about your work/involvement with other local community groups and events?

The society is very supportive of activities in the town, including the recent mural painting to brighten up the pedestrian route under the Vyne Road railway bridge. Led by professional local artist Fatima Pantoja, local people helped with the painting and some of them are represented in the mural.

Our committee is hard-working and would welcome more people, particularly younger people, so anyone interested in our work should contact us using our online form.

Our thanks to Debbie Reavell for this blog
September 2023

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