Limpsfield, Oxted RH8 0DR
One of the most derided towns in England, renowned for its dullness, Basingstoke is distinguished only by its numerous roundabouts and absurd Modernist architecture. Rupert explains that the post-war planners, who inflicted such features as ‘the Great Wall of Basingstoke’ on the town, were politically-motivated and bent on destroying all traces of its past. He reveals the nobler Basingstoke that is buried beneath the concrete, and the few historic gems that have survived the holocaust. Hilariously told, it is a story that neatly illustrates the ugliest episode in England’s architectural history. As Betjeman wrote prophetically, ‘What goes for Basingstoke goes for most English towns’.
Rupert Willoughby specialises in the domestic and social life of the past. He is the author of the best-selling Life in Medieval England for Pitkin and of a series of popular histories of places, including Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village. His most recent book – perhaps his greatest challenge to date – is Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture. Rupert has published numerous articles, contributes regular obituaries to The Daily Telegraph, writes histories of houses, occasionally broadcasts to the nation and is an experienced lecturer, whose repertoire ranges from the life and personalities of the Middle Ages to the world of Jane Austen.