Christmas in this ancient market town

There's more to Basingstoke than Thomas Burberry and Jane Austen
Basingstoke is the largest town in Hampshire, a county in southern England. It has many attractions for visitors, from museums and theatres to bats and strange statues such as Willy on Wote (or Wote Street Willy).

Christmas in Basingstoke

My travel show recently had Rebecca Handley, deputy chief executive at Basingstoke Together, on to tell me all about Christmas in Basingstoke and also about the history of the town.

She said:

“We have heaps of things that are available for Christmas

“We’ve got the Christmas market in the Mall shopping centre that’s here until Christmas Day.”

There are also many pop-up shops and on 4th December there is Santa’s Parade

The Malls Christmas Market

Shopping

Retail has a long history in Basingstoke. Its market was mentioned in the Doomsday Book. In 1214, King John ordered that the market will be held every Wednesday, and it has done ever since.

There is also a Saturday market.

As well as the markets, there are two shopping centres, The Malls and Festival Place.

Other shopping opportunities can be found at The Top of the Town, which is in the historic Basingstoke town centre. It has restaurants, pubs, smaller and independent shops. It’s also where you find the Willis Museum and The Haymarket.

Theatres

Anvil Arts, the largest performing arts organisation in Hampshire, runs The Anvil, The Haymarket and The Forge in Basingstoke.

This year’s panto is Sleeping Beauty, and is on at the Anvil. Also showing in December is A Christmas Carol and Who Killed Santa Claus?  which are both on at The Haymarket.

 

Basingstoke’s History

There are many opportunities across the town to understand more about its history.

“Visitors can delve further into the past on a 90 minute town trail.

“This is a self-guided walk which brings the town’s history, architecture and personalities alive with its 45 talking points.”

 

For those who are less keen on walking, the is an exhibition of Basingstoke’s past and present at the Willis Museum. Until 14th January 2017, also on show is the British Library’s tour of Alice in Wonderland.

The British Library Alice in Wonderland tour

Burberry

Thomas Burberry moved to Basingstoke with his wife, Lizzy, in 1856. He invented gabardine, which revolutionised waterproof clothing.

“In 1901, he was asked by the army to produce a service uniform and that included the famous trench coat.”

This was worn by soldiers in the Boer War and World War One.

Ernest Shackleton, who led the ill-fated 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica also wore Burberry’s famous waterproofs.

Burberry’s three factories remained in the town until the 1960s when company reorganisation led to their closure.

Jane Austen

The novelist also has ties to the area. She is known for her six novels, which comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century.

Austen was born in Steventon, which is just outside of Basingstoke. Her father, George Austen, served as the rector for the Anglican parish.

“We used to have assembly rooms where Jane used to attend balls, which was on the edge of the market place.
“2017 marks the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and the year will be packed with exhibitions, talks, walks, writing competitions and performances.”

In the summer there will be up to 25 individually designed BookBenches will go on display through the streets, parks and public spaces of Basingstoke and the surrounding villages as part of the year-long programme of activities across Hampshire to celebrate Jane Austen’s life in the county.

Basingstoke Together has more information on what to see and do in Basingstoke
Christmas lights at Festival Place