As part of our #TopOfOurTown Campaign, we are looking into some of the history that has shaped the Top of Town in Basingstoke. We finish this week with Wote Street.
Over the years Wote street has seen a lot of change, including its name! It was originally known as “Mote Street” but by the 18th and early 19th century was called “Oat Street” Today the street is home to many independent businesses including Taylors Hair and Beauty, Chennai Express, Stones and more recently the newly opened Egg Free Cake Box. The street is also a favourite for night-time visitors to the town with Plush and the Duck and Tipple providing popular drinking spots. The street is also home to a number of nail bars such as Cocos Nails and hairdressers like Taylors Hair and Beauty. The Pink Place calls Wote Street home, having been set up in 2010 to help those affected by cancer in our town.
One of the main and oldest attractions in Wote Street is the Haymarket Theatre. Where the Haymarket Theatre sits now was once the site of the towns Corn Market, which previously was held in Town Hall. The building opened in 1865 and cost £4,000 to build. The site would go on to be used as a public meeting hall, a roller skate rink and a cinema until it became the Haymarket Theatre in 1951.
The Theatre was run by the Horseshoe Theatre Company until 2007 when the company folded, and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council asked The Anvil Trust to take over the lease. After extensive refurbishment of the box office, bars and foyers, the building re-opened as The Haymarket. Visitors to the theatre nowadays will notice the stain glass canopy over the main entrance. This piece was commissioned and installed by local artists Sasha Ward and Alan Dawson.
Patrons at Laarsen’s pub may be unaware that they are drinking on the site of one of the town’s many historic coaching inns. Formerly known as “The Feathers” the inn is believed to date back to 16th century and the oldest surviving pub in Basingstoke. It is even rumoured that it’s medieval foundation are connected to a legendary tunnel system to various other structures in the town! The present-day establishment acquired its name from the owner’s love of Arsenal football club, with the name being an anagram of the famous club.
Further down Wote Street outside Plush Nightclub sits a famous and distinctive statue. Officially called The Church Stone, the statue was erected in 1994, on the site on an ancient Basingstoke church. At 9-foot-high the statue, made of granite depicts a mother crouching protectively over her child, praying.
It has over time gone on to be affectionately renamed by locals as the “Wote Street Willy” . Its creator, Michael Peglar, said it showed how the town had adopted the sculpture as their own. The sculpture was under threat of being removed from the town centre in 2002 when then deputy leader of the council, Rob Donnelly, wanted it relocated to the Milestones Museum. Clr Donnelly attempts were thankful in vain and the statue remains to this day.