Basingstoke and Milestones

We did our shopping yesterday so we got off to an early start today. As usual, I let our destination be a surprise and followed Tigger to the bus stop. The bus took us across Waterloo Bridge, where we had stood and watched the fireworks yesterday. The bridge was cluttered with temporary crowd barriers with, here and there, teams collecting them and stacking them on lorries.

Unascribed sculpture of three men in a boat
Unascribed sculpture of three men in a boat

At Waterloo station, we did the usual: Tigger bought train tickets while I went to Upper Crust to buy baguettes and coffee for breakfast. At certain times, when there is some event attracting  crowds, the station is busy and the food stalls have little left. Today was calm and it was easy to move about.

"Poppy" by Tom Merrifield
Poppy by Tom Merrifield

We had comfortable time in which to board our train and start eating breakfast. Then the train departed. It was the Southampton train but we were not going as far as Southampton. In fact, we disembarked at the second stop, Basingstoke, in the north-east of Hampshire.

A nondescript town
A nondescript town

I found Basingstoke a rather nondescript town, though I recognize that that may be a little unfair as it was a rather dull day and a Sunday to boot. Someone seems to be making an effort, too: the two sculptures pictured above were near the station and this one, of the Blue Coat Boy was lurking in a car park.

Blue Coat Boy
Blue Coat Boy

We also took a look inside the Festival Shopping Centre which, though I am sure it is very useful for people who want to do their shopping, and isn’t any worse than shopping centres and malls elsewhere, does nothing to improve the atmosphere of the town.

Festival Shopping Centre
Festival Shopping Centre

Our reason for coming here was not to visit the town but to explore the Milestones Living History Museum. From the train station, it is just a short bus ride away.

Milestones Museum, entrance
Milestones Museum, entrance

The museum is housed in a huge, purpose-built structure so large that underneath it, streets with houses, shops, industries and a railway station have been constructed.

Roof-top view
Roof-top view

Two time periods are covered by the exhibition, the Victorian era and the 1930s. Within this general scheme, other themes are explored, such as the development of public transport and steam power; local big industries, such as Thornycroft, manufacturers of cars and lorries, the Waterloo Iron Works and Tasker, makers of steam engines; and streets illustrating life and business in the eras explored.

The 1880s station
The 1880s station

Victorian ironmonger's shop in Jubilee Street
Victorian ironmonger’s shop in Jubilee Street

1930s shop fronts
1930s shop fronts

In one section, there is a set of four rooms, two kitchens and two living rooms, illustrating four periods of history from the 1930s to the 1970s. Below is the 1930s kitchen.

1930s kitchen
1930s kitchen

In addition to model figures placed at strategic points – some of which hold recorded conversations with one another – there are also human re-enactors dressed in appropriate costume who can give information and explanations to visitors and perform scenes from life.

Hammered dulcimer player
Hammered dulcimer player

An interesting example was this gentleman who, despite severe hearing loss, had refurbished a hammered dulcimer and learned to play it.

Thornycroft steam lorry
Thornycroft steam lorry

The museum has an impressive collection of vehicles of many different kinds, all immaculately restored, such as the Thornycroft steam lorry (top speed 5 mph) above.

The only problem encountered was that light levels are kept low to avoid spoiling the exhibits and this causes problems for photography.

Basingstoke station in the rain
Basingstoke station in the rain

We had lunch in the museum cafe and then caught a bus back to the station. It was raining and we were not sorry to board a train back to London. But if Basingstoke had not charmed us (we hadn’t really explored it), the Milestones Museum certainly had. It was well worth the time spent there and I don’t doubt that we shall return another time to see what enhancements have been added in the meantime.

The coal merchant and assistant
The coal merchant and assistant

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to Basingstoke and Milestones

  1. AEJ says:

    Are those Christmas decorations on the street in Basingstoke? I’m sorry your trip there wasn’t more exciting.

  2. WOL says:

    I can’t hear about Basingstoke without thinking of a passage in one of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books where Trillian analogizes a problem in physics to going round the Basingstoke roundabout on her Moped. Looks an interesting place, though. Interesting museum. We have a similar kind of thing here, The Ranching Heritage Museum. I’ve often toyed with the idea of applying to be a “docent” — they have to wear period costumes. Interesting idea having costumed model figures talking to one another. Motion sensor activated?

    • SilverTiger says:

      No, I think the conversation just replays every so often.

      For someone who enjoys acting and learning about the period, being a re-enactor could be fun. We have met them at other “living museums”, and it often turns out that they have being doing it for decades.

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