Town in Hampshire, England, 72 km/45 mi west-southwest of London; population (2001) 90,200. It is a financial centre, containing the headquarters of the Automobile Association and Sun Life Insurance. Industries include light engineering, food processing, printing, publishing, and the manufacture of cosmetics (Wella, Alberto-Culver), scientific instruments, medical equipment, agricultural machinery, and electronics.
Many traces of Roman occupation have been discovered in the area. In the 18th century, Basingstoke was an important staging post on the turnpike road from London to Andover. The coming of the railway in 1840 brought more trade to the town. After its designation as a London overspill area in 1961, Basingstoke's population rose from 26,000 to 60,000 by 1973. The appearance of the town underwent drastic alteration, with major demolition operations sweeping away old buildings, and the creation of a new town centre. A 2002 redevelopment project, Festival Place, transformed Basingstoke's town centre once again.
Features The Milestones museum, exploring developments in transport and technology and their effects on people's lives, opened in November 2000. The Willis Museum and Art Gallery, in the Old Town Hall, includes local archaeological exhibits, as well as a collection of clocks, watches, costumes, and textiles. Stratfield Saye House has been the home of the Dukes of Wellington since it was presented to the Great Duke in 1817.
In the nearby village of Basing are the ruins of Basing House, a Tudor mansion built on the site of a Norman castle, and the scene of a two-year siege during the English Civil War. In 1645 Parliamentary forces, led by Oliver Cromwell, defeated the Marquess of Winchester and his Royalist followers here; the architect Inigo Jones was among those taken prisoner. Remains of the house include a 15th-century gatehouse, a dovecote, and a tithe barn.