The Ruins of Basing House are situated in the village of Basing. Follow signs from the Ring Road or A30 to the west of Basingstoke.
The site of Basing House has seen virtually non-stop habitation since Iron Age times. The remains of huts belonging to the Belgic tribe have been discovered overlain by a Romano-British villa or farmstead which flourished up to the 4th century AD.
Following the Romans, the invading Saxons gave the name to the village and harnessed the power of the River Loddon to drive a series of corn mills. In 871 King Ethelred I was defeated here by the Danish Army, but Basing survived.
When William the Conqueror marched through in 1066 to take Winchester he gave the manor of Basing to his supporter Hugh de Port, who began to build a timber and earth castle. It is possible that the earthwork remains known as Olivers Battery, at the opposite end of The Street from Basing House, are those of de Port's first castle. However, it would appear that within the next century the de Port family, who by this time had changed their name to St. John, had moved to the site of Basing House and had begun to build a flint and stone castle.
By the 16th century the manor was owned by the Paulet family, and it was Sir William Paulet, later to become First Marquess of Winchester, who built here what was described as "the largest private house in the Kingdom." The "Old" and "New" houses together were even "'larger than most of the King's Palaces". Paulet used his great wealth obtained from his various public offices, particularly that of Lord Treasurer, to create for himself a most sumptuous home and place of entertainment for several Tudor Monarchs. However, defensive structures were included in the design and indeed this great red brick edifice was the last official castle ever built in England.
These defences were put to the test during the Civil War, for in 1643, held by the Royalist Fifth Marquess, the House was attacked three times. After the battle of Cheriton in Spring 1644, a conspiracy to hand over the garrison was foiled and a siege started in May lasted until November. In 1645, after a late summer siege, Oliver Cromwell himself organised and led a final dramatic attack with some 7,000 troops. The buildings were sacked and caught fire. The Marquess was sent to the Tower.
For years the site was a free quarry for the village, and following the Restoration, the Sixth Marquess, later to become the 1st Duke of Bolton, demolished the ruins and laid out the site as an elaborate landscape garden for his new house.This was constructed next to the Great Barn and was destroyed by fire in the early 18th century and demolished by 1740, The Paulets then moved to a new stately home at Hackwood, once part of the Basing hunting park.
Archaeological work commenced on the site in the 1870's and the ruins were purchased by Hampshire County Council in 1972.
A guide to and further information on the ruins.
This small display is a tiny fragment of a vast array of small finds from the site of Basing House. The finds give a vivid idea of life in the great Tudor house and range from the impressive carved bust of a Roman emperor to keys from long lost doors. The fragments of military equipment are testament to the Civil War which brought ruin to the House, whilst the large jardiniere its rebirth as a great garden at the Restoration.
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