- Your visit
- What's on
- Venue hire
- School visits
Unearth the amazing stories of Basing House, the nationally important ruins and grounds of the largest private house in Tudor England, which suffered at the hands of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War.
Just a short walk along the river Loddon from our free car park, start your visit at the visitor centre where you can see the display introducing Basing House and its long and fascinating history. View the site and buildings from afar and see the original, brick-lined fishponds. Step inside the battle-scarred Great Barn, dating from 1535, then continue on past the meadow to the ruins of the main house in Old Basing.
The ruins are set in extensive grounds which are fantastic to explore, perfect for a picnic or a walk with your dog. Visit the Jacobean walled garden and the Basing House Museum to discover artefacts found on the site and the full story of the house.
Don’t miss the magnificent views of Basingstoke from our platform overlooking the ruins or the Basing Mouse activity trail for children. Basing House also runs a full programme of events, outdoor theatre, workshops and activity days during its open period.
Things to do
- Discover the Great Barn and spot the artillery damage still visible on its walls
- Explore the ruins and imagine what the house would have looked like from the viewing platforms
- Visit the walled garden and learn about Basing House’s fascinating history in the museum
- Use the free app to experience every aspect of this remarkable site, from the ruins themselves to the gatehouse and LEGO model of the great house
- Walk your dog or find a picnic spot and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the vast grounds
- Have a coffee or ice cream in the visitor centre and pick up the Basing Mouse activity trail
Basing House today is a collection of banks and ditches, cellars and broken walls, with only the occasional surviving structure, such as the majestic Great Barn. The huge circular bank, or ringwork, and defensive ditches are all that remain of the castle built in the 1100s by the de Port family, who arrived with William the Conqueror in the Norman invasion of 1066. It was on top of these castle remains that Sir William Paulet, the first Marquess of Winchester and Lord Treasurer of England, chose to build his new house in 1535.
When first built, it was the largest private house in the country with around 360 rooms. In its heyday, it was frequently visited by the monarch of the time including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Philip II of Spain and Queen Mary I who honeymooned there in 1554 after their marriage in nearby Winchester
A once great house
Sir William succeeded in creating a fabulous castellated residence using his vast fortune amassed from a long life of service to the crown. He poured much of this into the expansion and elaboration of the property, which was said to be “larger than most of the King’s Palaces”. Sadly, in later years, the Paulets were unable to maintain this extravagant lifestyle and were forced to abandon areas of the house.
The English Civil War
When the English Civil War broke out in 1642, England was divided between the Royalist and often Catholic supporters of King Charles I and those who favoured a more powerful Parliament, mainly Protestants. At this time, Basing House was owned by John Paulet, the fifth Marquess of Winchester. He lived up to his family motto Aymez Loyaulte (Love Loyalty) and supported the king. There followed three chaotic years of intermittent fighting.
Basing House was attacked by Parliamentary troops on three occasions. The final assault came in August 1645 when 800 men took up position around the walls. The garrison held out, despite further reinforcements to the attacking force, until Oliver Cromwell himself arrived with heavy artillery. By 13 October 1645, the walls of the house had been breached, Cromwell stormed the site and left it a burning ruin. Today, all that remains are the foundations of this once great property.
The Great Barn
Standing on the south side of the river Loddon was The Grange, a once bustling centre of food processing and storage for Basing House. The only visible surviving features are the Great Barn and fishponds. The Great Barn was built from over a million bricks and tiles and has a magnificent roof frame of quality oak.
Despite suffering artillery damage during the Civil War, the barn stands virtually intact, giving visitors a rare glimpse of Tudor England. It is one of the largest examples of its kind in England and is the only Tudor building at Basing House to have survived intact to the present day. This is all the more remarkable since it was the at the centre of a famous attack by the Parliamentary army in 1643, an event which gave the barn its local nickname of "The Bloody Barn".
No stately home would be complete without its formal gardens, a place for relaxation and entertainment and also a source of plants used in medicine.
The walled garden reflects the final phase of Basing House as a great residence in the Jacobean period, 1600-1625. Sadly, no contemporary illustration or description of the gardens survived, so a distinguished panel of garden historians has designed the gardens following the design principles of the day using the Paulet family's heraldic devices, including their motto Aymez Loyaulte (Love Loyalty). During your visit, see the renovated Lady of the House garden which can be found in the far corner of the walled garden.
Basing House museum is situated in the walled garden area of the Basing House grounds and covers all aspects of its history, from Saxon times to the present day. The museum focuses particularly on the archaeology of Basing House, life at the house in its Tudor and Elizabethan heyday, the Civil War and eventual downfall of this once great house.