The site includes earthworks of a motte and bailey castle of Norman date, the motte being a large circular area for the accommodation of buildings, surrounded by a raised bank; to the south are outer defence mounds of the C17. After 1531, the motte was completely redeveloped as a large residence (the Old House), the top of the rampart on the outside having a brick wall and the inner side being lined with a series of structures, the central space having a large hall, courts, and other buildings. What survives is a complex of the lower parts of buildings, indicating cellars, kitchens with fireplaces, circular staircases all built of red brick in English bond, with several 4-centred chamfered arched openings. Only a short time later, the New House was built, mainly on the outside and to the north-east of the original castle, in the form of a series of rectangular structures around a central courtyard; what remains are brick footings and a large well, the canal development of the late C18 having cut away the outer parts. The footings of a large gateway mark the entrance to the Old House, the approach being a bridge across the ditch between the original motte and bailey, remaining as a painted brick arch. Throughout the area other base structures lie hidden, including a tunnel from the Keep under the moat, on the west side. This extensive fortified residence served as a strategic defence point during the Civil War, being held for the King in a famous siege which ended in the storming of Basing House by Cromwell in 1645. The area was later "slighted" and not rebuilt, its materials (mainly Tudor bricks) being re-used in the construction of many of the village houses. (Listed Building Report)
Basing is first mentioned in the will of King Edred (946-955). It was held by Hugh de Port of the King at Domesday as the chief of his 55 lordships in Hampshire. It has always been held by that family and by its descendants and successors (the St. Johns, Paulets, Marquesses of Winchester, and Dukes of Bolton). Lord Bolton, Lord of the Manor in 1911, excavated the remains and obtained an intelligible plan, the finds being preserved in a museum on the site. (VCH 1911)
The situation is of no great natural strength, the ground sloping gently to the valley of the Loddon on the north-west. On this side marshy ground reaches to within 100 yards of the 'Citadel'. (Williams-Freeman 1915)
The sequence of occupation of the site is as follows:-
1) Possible 'British' Camp.
2) Motte & Bailey, of the first half of the 12th century. The motte is now known as 'the Citadel'.
3) Mediaeval buildings within the circular rampart of the Citadel.
4) The Old House, built by Sir William Paulet about 1531 on the site of the Mediaeval buildings and probably from this fact deriving its name.
5) The New House, built outside and to the north-east of the Citadel, about the same time as or shortly after the Old House.
Both Old House and New House were destroyed by Cromwell in 1645 after a two-year siege by his forces. The ramparts erected for their defence by the fifth marquess are said to have extended for a mile in circumference. Outside the so-called British bank and ditch are the remains of three bastions. No traces of the parliamentary breastworks.
Possible 'British' camp. This suggestion is based only on the existence of a bank and 15' ditch some 300 yards in length, 25 yards south of the Citadel, and it is possible that it merely represents remains of part of the 1643 defences against the forces of Cromwell. (Brakspear 1924)
Motte and Bailey. The earliest mention of a castle here is in mid-12th century grant by John de Port to Sherbourne Priory. The circular motte measures 80 yards in diameter from crest to crest of the ramparts and 35' in height above its surrounding ditch. It belongs to an uncommon type in which the diameter of the circular earthwork is very large, and instead of being flat-topped it becomes a high rampart of earth surrounding a circular enclosure. The sides of the motte slope as much as 1' in 1'. A gap on the northern side leads into the bailey, which is of about the same area and also surrounded by a ditch, about 25' deep. There was possibly another bailey on the north-east, but this has not been confirmed. In 1261 Robert de St. John had licence to strengthen his dwelling at Basing with a stockade.
Mediaeval Buildings: Nothing is now known of these, only 'a few flint foundations' remaining towards the south of the interior of the Citadel rampart. Excavations revealed insufficient evidence to indicate their plan or extent.
The Old House: The ramparts of the Citadel were lined and surmounted with a brick wall, and its interior nearly filled by the vast buildings and courts. They comprised a hall about 60' by 25', living rooms, a hexagonal kitchen, and other buildings. A large gatehouse was built to the north of the Citadel and another on the west side of the bailey. Within the Citadel was a well, and a subterranean passage or drain nearly 100 yards long ran out beneath both rampart and ditch on the western side.
The New House: A further large gatehouse built on the east of the bailey led to this magnificent house, possibly situated in a pre-existing outer court (the possible additional bailey referred to
above). It comprised two courts surrounded by ranges of buildings having turrets at intervals round their inner side. At the south-west was a well-house with a large well. Apart from a few fragments of walling at its south corner nothing of the house now remains. Associated with this development are terraces, walled gardens, pigeon and dove-cotes and fishponds. To the north-west is a fine 16th-century Tithe Barn, all that remains of the Grange.
"Memories of the siege are preserved in the name of Slaughter Close, a meadow" to the south-west of the Citadel.(VCH) No other authentic confirmation of an engagement at this site, published on the O.S. 6", 1932, was found; it is not mentioned by Godwin in his "Civil War in Hants", 1904 or in the Marquis of Winchester's personal 'Description of the Siege of Basing Castle', 1644. (Oppe; Cooke; Brakspear; Hoare; Peers)
Possible 'British Camp. So far as can be judged from surface indications, this rampart seems to form an integral part of the 17th-century defences, which also comprise a crescentic earthwork and its continuation along the south-east side of the New House, three triangular bastions and an elongated mound which has been mutilated by the construction of the Basingstoke Canal.
Old House: The brick and stone foundations of the hall are exposed and the cellar beneath is open. All that remains of the kitchen are the footings of its walls and a number of ovens built into the inner wall of the rampart. A large cellar is open in the north-east of the enclosure; it has curved sides and a corner turret. There are two small wells within the courtyard and a third on the counterscarp outside.
The 'subterranean passage' is a drain. It is 1.0m. high and 0.8m. wide, of Tudor brickwork, and leads from the Citadel, now terminating in a modern brick shaft but originally continued further, presumably to the river.
In Tudor times entry to the bailey was apparently by a bridge and gatehouse on the west. A few fragments of brick and flint walling, now overgrown, are all that now remain; fragments of brickwork in the opposite side of the ditch indicate the site of a pier of the bridge there. A bridge also spanned the ditch which separated the motte and bailey. This bridge remains and is a single four-centred span of Tudor brick, now partly collapsed. On either side of it the ditch has been filled in, but it seems likely that it continued round the Citadel rather than following the course shown on the O.S. 25". The foundations of a gatehouse can be seen to the south of the bridge.
The former ornamental garden to the north was enclosed by walls of Tudor brick which still remain. They average about 2.0m. in height and 1.0m. thick. Immediately north of the old canal the remains of a semi-octagonal brick tower stand to a height of about 6.0m. The Garrison Gate is a simple freestone arch set in the brick wall. The Pigeon Cote Tower, of Tudor brick, is in very good condition. An octagonal dovecot, probably originally identical, now has a thatched roof.
The former meadow of the Grange is partly enclosed by a Tudor brick wall. The large Tithe Barn is a fine buttressed Tudor brick building with two doorways in each of its long sides. A small 16th-century barn adjoins it on the west.
The three small fishponds, now watercress beds, are of similar date, being revetted in places with Tudor brick and having the remains of Tudor brick sluices. New House: Apart from a few fragments of walling at its south corner nothing now remains of the New House. The lines of foundations shown on the O.S. 25" are much overgrown. The well, of which the upper part has been rebuilt, is in good condition. (F1 VJB 18-JUN-56)
R.Combley for the Aldermaston Arch.Soc.attempted to date the S outer bank and ditch of the earthwork at Old Basing. Ro,pottery, 1st-4th c. found on the old turf line beneath the bank (See SU 65 SE 10) indicates that the site was continuously occupied in Roman times and that the earthwork is later. Civil War material found near the top of the ditch silt shows that while the ditch was in use during the Civil War it was constructed considerably earlier. Two minute fragments of 11th/12th c. thumb-impressed rim sherds found beneath the bank suggest the earthwork was built about this time. (Med. Arch. 1964)
Further to Combley's dating of the S.outer bank and ditch to probably c.11th/12th c., it should be noted that at the N.E.end the "New House"was constructed into the N.W. side and the top of the bank, giving it a pre-c.1530 date. (F2 ASP 10-MAY-67)
Excavations at Basing House from 1875 to 1908 revealed a vast quantity and range of artifact material dating from some time after 1531 up to 1645, with only a handful of medieval sherds of the 11th to 15th centuries. (Post-Med. Arch. 1970)
Excavations in 1979 by Hampshire County Museums Service revealed walls and foundations below the gatehouse relating to the pre-Tudor building, and also a small quantity of Iron Age and Saxon pottery in the gatehouse area. Evidence of modifications to the house in the post-Civil War period was also observed.
Excavations in 1980-81 in the gatehouse area produced evidence of three pre-Tudor phases, and confirmed that the interior of the ringwork was raised by up to 1.0m. above the medieval levels when Tudor building commenced. (Schadla-Hall)
Excavations in 1982-3 in the gatehouse area revealed a C13 drawbridge pit and the rectangular foundation of a probable C14 defensive gatehouse. Mesolithic and BA flint implements and waste were uncovered together with further IA, RO and Saxon pottery. (Barton and Allen 1983)
It was also demonstrated that the bank formerly thought to be a defensive ringwork of Norman date was built around 1680. (Barton; Egan)
The Basing House site, on the basis of pottery evidence, has been postulated as an Early medieval settlement site forming a part of the Early Medieval settlement hierarchy centred at Cowdery's Down (SU 65 SE 35) (Millett and James)