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Basingstoke in 1880

by George Plummer

The one thing I have noticed in looking at these past issues is that except for advances in technology, and having Austria replaced by America as the power of the day, nothing much has changed in the world.

INTERNATIONALLY: Lord Roberts was in Afghanistan with a British force, and there was a great slaughter of the enemy. There was trouble in the Balkans, Iraq and what is now Pakistan, and everyone was keeping an eye on Russia.

NATIONALLY: There was the Tay Bridge railway disaster, plus another accident at Burscough near Liverpool. Ten murders were reported nationally. And the weather was freezing.


 3 JANUARY, 1880

A new Act of Parliament had come into force. In the case of petty larcenies the magistrates now have the power to dismiss such cases as they think are of an unimportant nature.

Soiree: “A soiree took place in connection with the Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society held at the “British Workman”. The attendance was limited to members and their friends, and proceedings almost took the form of a social party.”

A Dangerous woman: “On Saturday at the police court, Mary Ann Snell was charged before the Mayor and Mr R Wallis with being drunk and disorderly in Brook Street on the previous day. Sergeant Waldren and PC Meers proved the case, after which the woman was charged with assaulting Sergeant Waldren in the same time and place. On being taken into custody Mary Ann used her utmost endeavours to escape from the hands of the police by kicking and biting and the other little aggressive practices resorted to by pugilistic women. In fact before getting her comfortably settled in the police station the sergeant discovered that he had made the acquaintance of a woman of mind, and, strange to say, one who had a strong disinclination to be escorted through the public streets by individuals wearing uniform. In the scuffle, the virago managed to bite a piece out of Waldren’s trousers, besides doing damage to other articles of his clothing. For each offence the prisoner was ordered to pay 5s and costs, but not being in a position to meet the demands of justice by a pecuniary sacrifice she was sentenced to 14 days confinement at Winchester.”

Essex Road: A letter was written to the editor bitterly complaining about the muddy state of Essex Road.

Tennyson’s poems: “G T Porter, Flaxfield, Basingstoke, can supply Tennyson’s poems complete in one volume, latest edition, beautifully bound at 5s 9d, (published at 7s 6d).”

Illuminating the Town Hall clock: At a council meeting the Mayor was asked the cost of illuminating the town clock.   He worked it out that it cost 4d an hour to have all four faces illuminated and 2d to have only two faces illuminated, though someone had to climb up a ladder to light the lamps and to extinguish them.


Fatal accident at Herriard: “Thomas Aslett, 14 years of age and undercarter at Hyde Farm met his death on Tuesday in the following circumstances. It seems he was driving three horses and a cart in a field, when it is supposed he was knocked down by a horse, the wheels of the cart passing over his head. Mr Richard Grinham and PC Wood were near the spot when the accident happened.”


The weather: It was reported that the weather was bitterly cold, and that Basingstoke was experiencing an old fashioned winter. The canal had been frozen over for a fortnight with hundreds of individuals of both sexes “engaged in the pastime of skating the Canal which is taking on the appearance of a Fair.”


Accident: “Mrs Franklin of Church Street stumbled over a ladder placed in the gutter outside Mr Jackson’s shop in the Market Place on Tuesday morning and was precipitated heavily to the ground. She was taken inside the shop and promptly attended to, and the Red Lion bus, which was passing just after the occurrence, conveyed the poor woman to her home. Mr C F Webb was quickly in attendance and made an examination.”

“Though no bones were broken, one of Mrs Franklin’s arms was very much swollen, and it is to be feared the shock to her system has been rather severe.”

Total Abstinence Society: “An interesting lecture was delivered at the Town Hall on Monday evening by Mr John Ripley of London, the subject being ‘Hungry people and how to feed them; ragged people and how to clothe them; bad people and how to mend them’.”

Amateur concert: “What we have said on several occasions respecting the musical talent which exists in the town of Basingstoke was again confirmed on Tuesday evening at the Town Hall, when a programme of songs, duets, glees, etc was given with taste and precision.”

Sunday trading: The Gazette reported that several traders had been fined for trading on a Sunday, one being fined for selling a 2d cigar. It stated that several village stores were taking part in this practice.

Most of the cases before the town magistrates concerned being drunk and disorderly, deserters from the army, maintenance orders against fathers and petty larceny. One case sounded like a desperate hangover cure: the accused had stolen two eggs and an oyster. Another man was charged with stealing boots.

On MAY 15 the Gazette reported that Amos Jebbett, a clerk had been summoned to appear before the Mayor, Mr A Wallis and Mr J Poulter at the Police Court for damaging a lilac in the Burial Ground by picking a blossom from it. He did this whilst walking a dog there which was also an offence. He was fined 5s with 9s 6d costs.

In the issue of JUNE 12 the wine merchant F Blunden gave notice of the  following price increases resulting from “the failure of the vintage in France”:

Bot Gal
No 1 PALE CHAMPAGNE BRANDY – 8 years old (10 under proof) 5s 0d 30s
No 1 BROWN BRANDY – 6 years old (12 under proof) 4s 6d 27s
No 2 PALE BRANDY – 4 years old (12 under proof) 4s 0d 24s
No 2 BROWN BRANDY – 4 years old (8 under proof) 4s 0d 24s
No 3 PALE BRANDY – 4 years old (17 under proof) 3s 8d 22s
No 3 BROWN BRANDY – 4 years old (17 under proof) 3s 8d 22s
No 4 PALE BRANDY – 2 years old (17 under proof) 3s 4d 20s
No 4 BROWN BRANDY – 2 years old (17 under proof) 3s 4d 20s
MARTELL’S BRANDY (pale or brown) 57s per case


A society wedding was announced in the same issue. Mr William W Portal and Miss Florence Glynn were to marry at the Chapel Royal, Savoy on the 23rd of the month.

It was also reported that the inmates of the Union workhouse had been “treated with extra marks of favour on Thursday last on the occasion of Miss Portal’s wedding”, thanks to the generosity of Wyndham S Portal, Esq. They had been given tobacco, snuff and oranges, and provided with a tea in a meadow opposite “the house lend by Mr Wigg”. The Union Master, Mr Atkins put up a framework bearing the words “Happiness to the bridal pair at Malshanger” and there were hearty cheers for Mr Portal and his family.

Three accidents were reported on JULY 7:

William Lacey, a boy employed by Mr J Budd had caught his finger in an oil cake crusher whilst trying to pick out a piece of the cake. He was taken to the Cottage Hospital where the surgeon, Mr S Andrews had to amputate the finger.

A six year old boy called William Blunden suffered a compound fracture of the leg whilst trying to climb on to a moving roller on his way home from school in Basingstoke. He was taken to the Cottage Hospital and promptly attended to by Mr C F Webb.

Also in Basingstoke a married man called Frederick Rastin was severely injured in an accident on the London and South Western Railway. He was driving a shunting horse along the line when his left foot became trapped by a check rail. In his struggles to free himself his right foot also became trapped; this was then struck by the railway truck causing him a severe injury. Dr Lewis who happened to be on the station platform rendered first aid, and it then took Mr Webb four hours to staunch the flow of  blood.

On JULY 24 it was reported that on the previous  Thursday  the Volunteer Fire Brigade had enjoyed an excursion to London in perfect weather where they had visited “several places of historic interest in the great metropolis”, whilst on the Wednesday evening the men working on the building of the new hospital were entertained to a dinner at the Town Hall, by the Mayor, Mr Gibson, and the builders Kent and Lunn. A number of speeches were made, the chair being taken by the Mayor. He was “supported by Messrs H Portsmouth, J W Lodwidge, Blatch, Follett and Westcott.”.

A house in Winchester Street belonging to Dr Lewis was “submitted for public competition” at an auction at the Red Lion conducted by Mr H Downs. Bidding started at £1000 and reached £1700, but at that point the property was bought for £2500.

In Bramley Roberts, a gardener, sustained a compound fracture to a leg when he fell heavily to the ground whilst trying to take down a swing from a tree. Another accident occurred in Newfound. A man employed by Mr H Allen was driving a horse and wagon loaded with mineral water through the village when the pin connecting the shafts to the cart came out, causing the mare to bolt and the load to be thrown into the ditch with a great smashing of bottles. The frightened horse galloped off at a great pace with the shafts still attached and badly injured her legs  trying to free herself from them.

During the same week Charles Woodford of Hartley Westpall was charged and brought before the magistrates for cruelty to a horse belonging to Mr Harris of Stratfield Turgis that was constantly getting into his garden.  Woodford fired about 65 shot gun pellets at the animal, penetrating the skin and causing festering wounds from the neck to the hind quarters. The magistrates imposed a fine and costs of £1 after hearing  that Woodford had already paid £5  compensation to the horse’s owner.

On JULY 1 the Gazette reported a grim item of national news that resonates today. A British brigade of about 3000 men, led by General Burrows had been totally annihilated in the Afghan War. Kandahar was threatened, and General Primrose with between 1700 and 2000 men had “abandoned his cantonments”.

On AUGUST 7 it was reported that the Town Crier had been out and about on the previous Wednesday announcing the loss of the local water cart. This had not been used for some days, and it was thought its disappearance would be taken by some people as an opportunity to poke fun at the authorities, hence the employment of the Town Crier’s services. The Mayor had then followed up this  matter , and there had been  an “exchange of sharp words between his Worship and a prominent tradesman in the town.”

The same issue reported that three labourers, G Chivers, J Marlow and David Marlow had been charged with malicious damage to about 1000 mangold-wurzels at Bury Farm, belonging to Mr John Butler.

A more progressive item of farm news was reported on AUGUST 21. A successful demonstration of a MaCormick’s self-binding reaping machine had taken place in a field beside the Winchester Road belonging to Mr Cleeve. A fair crowd of spectators had been impressed with the machine’s capabilities, and the Gazette anticipated that Messrs Wallis and Steevens, the agents, would succeed in bringing it into general use.

It was also reported that on the previous Thursday, the canal manager, Mr Gomme, had been thrown from his horse near Hatch bruising an arm and sustaining internal injuries. The horse had recently been purchased from Mr J H Baker and had proved unmanageable.

On the subject of the Salvation Army, the Gazette reported that it had been mistaken in stating previously that a contingent had held a meeting in the Market Place. There had been a religious meeting there addressed by “that somewhat distinguished individual” Ned Wright, but he was “allied to an organisation totally distinct from the Salvation Army”. The paper had learned that the Army had taken a lease on the old silk mill in Brook Street, and anticipated that in consequence Basingstoke would “probably be in a state of siege” in the course of a few days.  [ For more about the early days of the Salvation Army in Basingstoke see The Massagainians by Bob Applin].

Another report in this issue concerned a young boy called Henry Griffiths who had been brought before the Mayor and Mr Henry Portsmouth at the Police Court at the instance of Mr William Musselwhite for destroying carrots to the value of 2d. The boy pleaded guilty and the Bench decided that he should spend the day at the New Street Police Station under the supervision of Superintendent Hibberd. The ex-Mayor said he hoped the boy’s mother would give him a flogging on his return home, “a piece of advice that Master Harry did not seem to relish”. Mr Poulter, another magistrate, thought it “very hard that people should be made the victims of such wanton mischief after they had taken the trouble to cultivate their gardens.” It was hoped that this example “would have a salutary effect on the future conduct of other boys.”

On SEPTEMBER 25 the Gazette reported that two “Hallelujah lasses” from the Salvation Army had arrived in Basingstoke during the previous week. They had conducted services on the Sunday morning in the open air and at the Army’s newly established base at the old silk mill in Brook Street, now popularly known as the “Salvation Factory”. Further services during the week attracted large crowds. The Gazette expressed this view: “ Whatever may be said of the Salvation Army, and however ridiculous their manner of proceeding may appear to some eyes, there can be no doubt that their efforts have in some places resulted in a large amount of good. Drunkards and swearers, and people of the most vile and wretched character have through their influence been known to become sober and thoughtful men and women.”

On SEPTEMBER 30 it was reported that Charles Doe and Elizabeth Doe, a young man and a girl “of the gipsy fraternity” had been taken into custody for stealing a quantity of bones three days previously.  These, the property of Mr John Butler of Worting Wood, had been taken from a chalk dell near his farm buildings. It was said that the defendants were very well known to Mr Butler.

The same issue reported that during the week ending 30th September three patients were being cared for at the Cottage Hospital. A donation of one guinea had been received during the week from the Bramley Court of Foresters.

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