On Easter Monday we were delighted to be invited by Hampshire Cultural Trust to visit Basing House for their civil war re-enactment weekend in partnership with the Sealed Knot Society. When the English Civil War broke out in 1642 Basing House was owned by the Royalist John Paulet and was attacked by Parliamentary troops 3 times! It eventually fell in 1645 when Oliver Cromwell himself arrived with heavy artillery.
We parked the car and followed signs along a footpath next to the river to the entrance. We were met by a receptionist who gave us a map of the site and explained the timings for the days events. In the reception barn there are a number of artefacts to look at and some history of the house. There is also a small shop and area to buy hot drinks.
We first went into the Great Barn which certainly lives up to its name – it is huge! Amazingly you can see the holes in the walls left by canon balls during the great battles that took place there. Incredible!
After exploring the barn and surrounding area we crossed over the road to the other part of the grounds where the ruins and museum are. At the entry cabin we were shown a huge Lego model of what Basing House would have looked like before it was destroyed. The size of it was immense and the model just as impressive!
Further along the path we crossed the bridge onto the mound where there was a living history area set up. This was absolutely brilliant, especially for history enthusiasts like myself and my stepdaughter Lilian. The re-enactors were in full costume and living as though we had stepped back in time. They were boiling their kettles over fires and making broth for their lunch. Some were cleaning their muskets, others sewing or taking a nap. There were children and adults taking part and they were all happy to chat and explain about how life would have been. We spent a long time talking to a lady who had a variety of different animal furs hanging on her tent. She let us touch them and told us what each one was and how it would have been used. Lilian was fascinated! Another lady I spent a long time talking to about how the re-enactments work and she showed me her musket and how to load it,etc. Again it was fascinating and I could have happily stayed there chatting all day. You know how I love things that bring history to life! I know my kids will remember this so much more than any static museum we have visited.
Next we explored the ruins of the actual house. It amazes me how little there is left of such a grand estate but the ruins that are left really give you a feel for just how grand it would have been. The wine cellar which would have been below the banqueting hall is pictured below. It was fascinating reading the history on the information boards and discovering the meaning behind each part we were looking at.
We headed round to the formal garden so the kids could let off a bit of steam. There is a beautiful maze style garden in one corner which they loved exploring and it looked so beautiful. It was the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the sunshine and watch them play with some new found friends. There are also picnic tables nearby so this is a great spot if you’ve brought your own lunch.
Having never been to a battle re-enactment before I was very excited to see how the battle would take place and the event certainly did not disappoint! It was amazing! There was a speaker who talked us through what was happening during the re-enactment. It was loud with the gunshots and mortar and noise of all the fighting but so exciting to watch. If you have never seen a battle re-enactment before I would highly recommend it.
We had a smashing time visiting Basing House and really enjoyed the living history event. If your children like history I would recommend checking their events listings and planning your trip to coincide with a living history event if possible.
Address: Barton’s Lane, Old Basing, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG24 8AE (car park)
Disclaimer: Basing House kindly gifted us tickets to visit, however they had no involvement in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own.