Milestones Museum, Basingstoke

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Basingstoke isn’t really known for it’s tourist attractions. Over the years we’ve been used by comedians as a generic name for sprawling ugly towns everywhere & have gained an image of concrete & roundabouts. It WAS like that once but It’s not entirely true these days. Most of the 60s architecture has long since gone, we’ve got a big new shiny shopping centre & there are some nice little areas tucked away if you look for them. “Milestones” is an attraction that seems to get very little media coverage, which is a shame cos it’s actually very good.
Standing on a raised bank overlooking the main Basingstoke ring road, the museum is housed in a purpose built “hangar” surrounded by a grassy play/picnic area full of agricultural implements & tactile modern sculptures. The whole place is very “hands on” with kids positively encouraged to touch the exhibits & lots of educational information. During term time they host a lot of school visits & have classroom facilities & guides in period costume to show the youngsters around.
So what is Milestones exactly then? Well, it’s a museum of Hampshire life within living memory. They’ve scoured the county & bought up examples of buildings, businesses & shops, dismantled them, then rebuilt them brick by brick here into street scenes.
It’s very well done, with real attention to detail, with pavements, manhole covers, tram lines, genuine wooden block-end cobbles -even down to stuffed birds sitting on rooftops. Window displays are full of genuine period products, vehicles stand on the streets & at certain times, enthusiasts wander the alleyways in period garb. It’s like strolling through a film set., A First World War Thornycrofts army lorry stands on a street corner, outside a Georgian pub that serves local Gales beers at lunchtimes & weekends. For some 75 years the main employer in Basingstoke was Thornycrofts. They had a large factory literally within a stone’s throw of the museum, (if you’re a good shot), & built heavy lorries, most famously the huge Antar tank transporters. They were still here when I first moved to the town as a teenager, though reduced to building gearboxes for other lorry manufacturers. Now sadly gone, their factory site is occupied by Morrisons supermarket, but the landmark

factory clock tower will soon be resurrected & mounted on a plinth on the roundabout in front of the museum. The Thornycrofts Society has provided some of the vehicles that fill the street scenes & did a lot of the fund raising for the project. Along with other local companies, they have a display of their history & even some of the fittings from the factory. Some of the shops are open for visitors to wander in & check out the shelves of goods, while others lead into display areas.
Besides shop fronts there’s a saw mill, railway ticket office & siding, factory yards, a garage -all kinds of stuff to discover. Everything is very informal, leaving you to stroll wherever you choose, but there are telephone style audio guides available to give you more in depth information on the exhibits if you want it.

There are lorries, buses, a tram, steam engines, motorcycles, railway wagons, an example of a three-wheeled sports car built by a local entrepenuer -even period bicycles filling the streets.When you enter the lobby the museum is set below ground level so your first view is of the rooftops of the buildings. There’s a very nice coffee shop & a classy gift shop, with lifts & stairs down into the exhibits & a cloakroom to leave your leathers & crash helmets in. It appears to be wheel-chair friendly but worth a call to check first I guess.
I like museums but hate the stuffy, sterile atmosphere of most. This one’s different. It’s fun & interesting. Most of the stuff on show is within living memory -I’ve heard pensioners reminiscing over various details of times gone by, only to find myself doing the same over displays of 70s cameras

& stereos! The A.A, who’s main headquarters is in Basingstoke at the moment, (though relocating soon), have a large display of uniforms, equipment & vehicles -including a Triumph younger than the one I used to blat around on!
Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area. Plenty to keep kids amused, (even boxes of vintage dressing up clothes on hand for children -or very small bikers). The outside play area is secure & safe & being on the main leisure park site, there’s a pub/restaurant within walking distance, as well as McDonalds, KFC & a pizza restaurant, plus Basingstoke’s ice-rink, (home to our own ice hockey team), a ten screen cinema, huge swimming pool with big curly slide thingies, ten pin bowling alley, indoor crown green bowling, bingo hall -all within walking distance. What more could
you want!


Milestones Museum is open Tuesday - Friday 10am - 5pm.
Saturday & Sunday 11am - 5pm.
3 miles from junction 6 of the M3 on the Leisure Park, off Churchill Way west.
£6.50 for adults
£16.50 for Family Tickets, (2 adults, 2 children).


For more information on Milestones Museum

Phone: 01256 477766


Or visit their website