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Friends of the Willis Museum Logo

A registered charity that promotes, supports, assists and helps improve the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.

Meetings & Programmes

Under normal circumstances, the Friends hold ten meetings a year when the guest speaker usually covers a local history subject. The meetings are on the third Thursday evening of most months in the Archaeology Gallery at the Museum in Market Place, Basingstoke. The doors are opened between 7.10 and 7.30 with the meeting commencing at 7.35.

There is a short break after the talk when tea and coffee are usually available for a nominal amount and there is the opportunity to take part in our raffle for attractive prizes.

Nearby car parking costs £2.20 for the evening after 7pm.

Admission is FREE for Members. Once again a limited number of Guests can attend the meetings. Guests will have to pre-book by phoning the Museum on 01256 465902 (daytime) at least twenty four hours in advance.

A small admission charge of £3.00 per person is payable at the door. This £3.00 can be used towards a full membership fee of just £12.00 for the year if you join the Friends on the night. This ensures that you will have a seat at all future meetings without the need to pre-book.

Next Friends Meeting

Friends of the Willis Museum Talks Programme

July 20th 2023 - Debbie Reavell

Goldings and the Russell Family

Debbie Reveall will talk about the Russell Family who acquired land in Eastrop fields  at the time of the Enclosures, eventually creating the mansion known as Goldings

September 21st - Dr Stephen Goss

The Wit and Satire of Gilbert & Sullivan

Discover the witty commentary on contemporary society with a look at the stories behind some of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most famous – and less well known – pieces of music.Uncover the thinly veiled satire of some of the plots, what motivated Gilbert to write certain operas, and unmask the characters which were deliberate parodies of certain specific Victorian politicians and notables. The talk not only provides context to the operas, but also gives an insight into British society, history, culture, and world view in the Victorian era.

October 19th - AGM

AGM for all members Followed by 'More Photo's from the Past'

November 16th - Bob Clarke

The History of Shopping in Basingstoke

Bob looks back at the early shops in Basingstoke before the modern shopping centre developments that started in the 1960’s. In the early 1850s, when Basingstoke town’s population was about 4,300, the shops included 12 bakers, 12 drapers/tailors, 9 grocers, 8 boot and shoemakers, 8 ironmongers/whitesmiths, 7 butchers, 7 tailors and 6 general shopkeepers.

January 18th - Sarah Somerville

'A Guides Guide: Working in Historic Houses in the 21st Century'

Sarah’s talk explores the highs and lows of working in heritage in today’s world of technology. Having worked at various historic venues over 12 years including Highclere Castle, National Trust properties, and of course Shaw House, my work has been full of variety throughout the years. As such I share stories of leading exclusive tours, running large events, and working with TV crews, as well as tales of catching escapee sheep and finding buckets for water leaks!

February 15th - Diana White

Bramshill House - Ghost included

Bramshill House is one of the largest and most important Jacobean prodigy house mansions in England. It was built in the early 17th century by the 11th Baron Zouche of Harringworth but was partly destroyed by fire a few years later. The design shows the influence of the Italian Renaissance, which became popular in England during the late 16th century.

March 21st - David Stiles

Southampton Boy Evacuee and WW2 Blitz

David talks about his personal experiences and gives a schoolboy’s boy’s view of WWII. A distraught woman, her 6½ year old son and baby, wandered the streets of the little New Forest town of Ringwood looking desperately for accommodation for the night. On their lapels were tied the familiar large brown labels with their names and personal details, this confirmed that this forlorn family were war evacuees. They had just been ‘processed’ as latest batch of evacuees arriving from Southampton. Sadly, they had not been chosen in the line up by prospective billet hosts at the school hall reception centre. The date: 3rd Sept.1939.    The talk also has a display of WW2 rations and memorabilia.

April 18th - Kimberley James

Gilbert White - Life and Times

Gilbert White (1720 – 1793) is one of the most important naturalists of all time, learn more about the life of Gilbert White and what he contributed to our understanding of nature.

Over 250 years ago Selborne and its surrounding landscape inspired Gilbert White’s life-long investigation of the natural world, culminating in his world-famous book The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne

May 16th - David Wickens

'Lord' George Sanger - Britain's Greatest Showman

‘Lord’ George Sanger (1825 – 1911) was an English showman and circus proprietor. Born in Newbury to a showman father, he grew up working in travelling peep shows.

He successfully ran shows and circuses throughout much of the nineteenth century with his brother John. He retired in 1905 and was murdered in mysterious circumstances by a disgruntled employee in 1911 East Finchley, London.

In his youth, Sanger and his family were treated as “rogues, vagabonds, and deceivers of people” and often run out of town; seventy years later, he was lionised as a self-made businessman who rejoiced in the patronage of Queen Victoria and was an admirer of Benjamin Disraeli.

June 20th - Margaret Simons

The Life of Mary Russell Mitford

Mary Russell Mitford (1787 – 1855) was an English author and dramatist. She was born at Alresford in Hampshire. She is best known for Our Village, a series of sketches of village scenes and vividly drawn characters based upon her life in Three Mile Cross near Reading in Berkshire.

She grew up near Jane Austen and was an acquaintance of hers when young. At ten years old in 1797, young Mary Russell Mitford won her father a lottery ticket worth £20,000, but by the 1810s the small family suffered financial difficulties.