Basingstoke’s Milestones Museum

Railways comprise a major part of local history. Phil Barnes visits a Hampshire museum which recognises this with an impressive display.

Portraying Hampshire’s living history, Milestones Museum is situated to the west side of Basingstoke only a stone’s throw from the site of the former junction of the branch line to Alton via Cliddesdon, which closed in the mid-1930s and was used for the filming of Oh Mr Porter, released in 1937.

Opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on December 1, 2000 the museum was a joint project between Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council and this was supported by money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In 2014, Milestones was transferred to the ownership of the Hampshire Cultural Trust as part of a larger transfer of museums in this area.

The museum building has the shape of a curved roofed aircraft hangar, but beneath it lays a small town of yesteryear.

The entrance to Chesil station showing the ornate roof and passengers disgorging from a governess cart.

The museum houses a lot of re-created buildings typical of the Victorian and Edwardian eras and while some of these are shops and houses, others are bigger and carry the names of local industries.

These include Taskers of Andover, Wallis and Steevens of Basingstoke and Thorneycroft which had its factory adjacent to the Alton branch line on a site only a few hundred yards from Milestones.

These three names were all involved in the manufacture of traction engines, road rollers, lorries and buses, which were of course machines in competition with the railways.

Railways form a major part of this museum – the largest item being the station, which is modelled on the former Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway’s Winchester Chesil station, which closed in the mid-1960s with the demise of this line. The replica building houses a model railway of Chesil station, a ticket office and outside is a diorama showing passengers getting out of a governess cart.

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