Here, in Rupert’s own words, is his introduction to this lecture. Are his comments objective? Can he be serious? Of course!
“Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture is a whimsical, yet scholarly attempt to explain the phenomenon that is Basingstoke.
When I gave this as my audition piece for NADFAS, success seemed assured when the mere title was greeted with gales of laughter.
Sadly, Basingstoke is one of the most derided towns in England, famous for its pointless roundabouts, vacuous shopping centres and hostile modernist architecture.
Thanks to demented post-War planners, this has been the fate of towns across Britain. I remember explaining this at a previous ADM to representatives of one of the Norfolk societies. ‘The thing is,’ I said, ‘even the nicest places in England seem to have a Basingstoke on their doorstep. I don’t know Norfolk,’ I added nervously, ‘so am not sure where it would be in your case.’ Quick as a flash they replied: ‘Have you never been to Thetford?’
This is easily my most popular talk for NADFAS, accounting for about seventy per cent of my business. I urge you not to miss out on a talk that is funny, sobering and controversial. Its message is more immediate and relevant than you might suppose.”
Rupert Willoughby is a prize-winning historian who specialises in the domestic and social life of the past. A graduate with First Class Honours in History from the University of London, he is the author of the best-selling Life in Medieval England for Pitkin, of guides to castles owned by English Heritage and Hampshire County Council, and of a series of popular histories of places, including Chawton: Jane Austen’s Village and Basingstoke and its Contribution to World Culture. He contributes regular obituaries to The Times and The Daily Telegraph, writes privately-commissioned histories of houses, and is an experienced lecturer – and occasional broadcaster – on a broad range of topics, with a particular interest in architecture, interior decoration and costume.