Friends Meetings & Programme

With the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic now removed, the programe of regular meetings held at the Willis Museum has been reinstated.

Under normal circumstances, the Friends hold ten meetings a year when the guest speaker normally covers a local history subject. The meetings are on the third Thursday evening of most months in the Archaeology Gallery at the Museum in Market Place, Basingstoke. The doors are opened between 7.10 and 7.30 with the meeting commencing at 7.35.

There is a short break after the talk when tea and coffee are available for a nominal amount and there is the opportunity to take part in our raffle for attractive prizes.

Nearby car parking costs £2.00 for the evening after 7pm.

Admission is FREE for Members. At present due to a limitation on numbers in the Archaeology Gallery, the meetings are restricted to members only. As conditions improve we hope to allow a limited number of Guests to attend again. When guests are permitted to attend they will have to pre-book by phoning the Museum on 01256 465902 (daytime) at least twenty four hours in advance. A small admission charge of £3.00 per person is payable at the door. This £3.00 can be used towards a full membership fee of just £12.00 for the year if you join the Friends on the night. This ensures that you will have a seat at all future meetings without the need to pre-book.

Our Next Meeting is:

Feb22 poster


January 21st - Alan Turton

Arson in His Majesty’s Dockyards – the story of ‘John the Painter'

Alan will tell the story of ‘John the Painter’. This man went under many aliases and was a renowned criminal with personal grudges, specialising in setting fire to docklands, including Portsmouth. One of the first home-grown terrorists, he ended up apprehended by the Bow Street Runners in Odiham.

February 18th - Alan Jones

Keep Your Hair On

Alan Jones will talk about the history of Wigs, extensions, beards and eye brows. Discover the secretive and lucrative international world of Hair that is straight, wavy, long, natural or dyed! Smuggling, politics, religion, and fashion collide in a billion dollar trade.

March 18th - Neil Sadler

A Policeman’s Lot can be quite an interesting one

Neil spent 30 years as a police officer. Starting “on the beat” in the exotic holiday resort of Bognor Regis in the 1970s, he retired from a post in national and international police training. You may be amazed to hear who he met on his first solo night shift at 3am. Changes in police uniform and equipment and why not to be squirted with pepper spray. Also, where not to try and escape the traffic cops in one European country and a novel use.

April 15th - Jenny Mallin

A Grandmother’s Legacy: the early days

How Benjamin Hardy in 1798, a seventh generation weaver ancestor of Jenny Mallin from Mirfield in Yorkshire, sails to Madras with his British Army unit, fights for the next 22 years in India and decides to settle his family there for the next five generations.

May 20th -  Andy Skinner

The Mysterious Death of William Rufus

This talk explores a nearly-thousandyears-old mystery - the death of King William II, a stone’s throw from Southampton, in August 1100. Was it a hunting accident, as reported at the time, or something much more sinister?

Andy Skinner is a Learning & Engagement Officer for Southampton City Council Cultural Services - SeaCity Museum. Andy has a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Southampton and a master’s degree in Museums Education from the University of Leicester. He has worked for Southampton City Council since 2012.

 June 17th – Paul Robbins

 You've Never Had it so Good!

A nostalgic look back at society, culture, news, and music from the wonderful golden decade that was the 1950’s. Do you remember white £5 notes, rationing, trams, the festival of Britain, smog, and the third man film? If so, then this is the talk to bring back so many memories! 

​Paul Robbins, an experienced presenter, historian, and author. Paul has over 40 years of experience in public speaking.

July 15th -  Dr Gale Pettifer

The Murder by Smugglers in Hampshire 1747

In 1747, a notorious smuggling gang kidnapped and murdered William Galley, a Custom-House officer from Portsmouth, and Daniel Chater, a shoemaker from Fordingbridge. Smuggling was a venture perpetrated by gangs who were often considered to be folk-heroes, as avoiding custom duty was seen as a poke at the Government. However, the brutal murders of Galley and Chater sent shock waves through eighteenth century society.

September 16th – Diana White

The Suffragettes

Diana White will compare the non-militant and the militant approach used by ladies to gain” Votes For Women”. The talk will include our local Suffragette, Dame Ethel Smyth, a friend of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst.

October 21st – AGM for all Members

The AGM will be followed by a short presentation by John Hollands on a few highlights from the archive collection.

November 18th – Malcolm Isted

A Place Apart’ – Park Prewett Hospital

Malcolm Isted will tell the story of Park Prewett Hospital that had its own railway, working farm, bakery, butcher's, bank, clothes, shop and general store; an almost self-sufficient community. It was a place where Canadian soldiers, plastic surgeons, doctors and nurses from over the world and many others once worked and lived.

December – No Meeting

January 20th  - Bob Clarke

The Basingstoke Borough Police 1836-1889

Bob Clarke will tell the history of the Basingstoke Borough Police 1836-1889. Drawing on newspaper reports and original documents including the fascinating diary kept by Superintendent Franklin covering the years 1853-57,  a rich picture will be painted of criminal events in Basingstoke.

February 17th 2022 - John Hollands

A fifth dip into the Willis Museum archives

March 17th 2022 - David Powers

The History of the Watercress Line 

David Powers will explore why the railway became known affectionately as the 'Watercress Line' from its opening in 1865 through to its closure and near extinction in 1973, and re-opening in stages as a heritage railway from 1977.

April 21st 2022 - Nick Saunders 

The Victoria Cross Awards to the Hampshire Regiment in WW1

Nick will talk about the three Victoria Crosses awarded to the Hampshires in the First World War and the astonishing acts of bravery involved.

May 19th 2022 - Jane Hurst

Life in 1935 – what did you or your family wear, do, see?


June 16th 2022 - Roger Cansdale

Basingstoke Canal – last 6 Miles


July 21st 2022 - Derek Spruce

Basingstoke – A Town well endowed with Almshouses


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