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Down Grange

Down Grange – the History of a House and its Occupants

The history of Down Grange was one of the first projects that Kempshott History Group undertook in 2012 when the group started.

In the first few years of research on Down Grange - almost entirely undertaken by Barry Hedger – it became clear that the story had more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie  who-done-it.

While research has continued sporadically and significant help has been forthcoming – sometimes from unexpected sources-  we concluded that this was a story which needed to be told and researched comprehensively.

So, we have gone back to the beginning…. and have set ourselves the task of  completing the documentation of the house and its occupants from the 1780s to the 1980s in 5 phases:

1. The Creation of Down Grange  - 1780s to 1825.

2.  The Mistress of Down Grange and the Victorian years – 1825 to 1887

3. Down Grange into the 20th century – 1887 to 1919.

4. The ups and downs of fortune - 1919 to 1985

5. The Whistler /Portsmouth family – North Hampshire  farming after the agricultural revolution 1820 – 1930.

We have given ourselves a stiff task. We hope to have the first phase completed and written up this summer, 2019. Phase 2 will hopefully be completed in 2020. The  later 3 phases which can be tacked partly in parallel, will follow that.

History Timeline for the Down Grange Estate 18th – 20th century

Pre 1780

Kempshott  area is known as Basingstoke Down -  common land for grazing &  site of  Racecourse

1762-3 Lord Bolton’s estate maps   which include this area are compiled

1760 George III becomes king







1786-88 Enclosure of agricultural land in Basingstoke

1788 Down Grange estate created in southern half of common land - held by Davis family of Basingstoke.


1789 French Revolution

1783-85 extreme weather variability - cold winters, summer droughts


Tax returns indicate buildings on Down Grange estate


1795-1815 Napoleonic wars

1797 Suspension of Gold Standard

1798 Pitt introduces temporary tax to finance wars

1788-1815 Agriculture prospers and

 prices rise



1808 After death of John Davis, John Levy of Alton owns Down Grange estate

1805 Battle of Trafalgar


1806-1815 Agricultural prices for staples rise so  cost of living rises


1818 Down Grange estate bought by Augustus John Hankey, London banker  & improvements begin

1815 Corn Laws enacted to protect UK wheat production

1815 Battle of Waterloo

Post 1815 crash in  wheat prices and agricultural economy suffers depression


1832 Augustus Robert Hankey dies,

Down Grange  house & farm split – Cassandra Terry  life tenant of  Down Grange house, farm tenanted

1832 Great reform Act

1838 Victoria becomes Queen


Agricultural Depression continues

1830 Swing Riots in Basingstoke

1839 the railway reaches Basingstoke



Whistler – Portsmouth family association with Kempshott farms begins


1841 First National Census taken

1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws


1840-75 agriculture prospers

1839 - 41Tithe commutation in Basingstoke

1848 Railway line Basingstoke to Reading opens


1853 Cassandra Terry dies  -  nephew Robert Augustus Hankley lets Down Grange  house to tenants

1850 Great Exhibition

1853-5 Crimean War


1856-7 Thomas Burberry, Wallis & Steevens agricultural engineers factory opens, Milwards shoe factory  open in Basingstoke


Down Grange house tenanted until 1887







1870 Foster Education Act puts elementary schooling in reach of all children

1871 Trades Unions legalised in Britain

1873-96 Agricultural depression in southern England due to imperial imports (wheat)

1870-80 Rise of the dairy industry serving large conurbations 


1887 Robert Augustus Hankey dies & estate is sold to Petter family - never resident

1888 County Councils set up in Britain

1881-82 Massagainians riots  follow Salvation Army presence in Basingstoke

1883 Outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease



1890 Farmer Portsmouth builds new Down Grange farmhouse – Beechdown


1899-1902 Boer War 

1889-97 weather variability from drought to flood

1898 Thorneycroft Company  opens factory in Basingstoke to build steam and then  combustion engine vehicles



1905 Down Grange house bought by Col Lycett Engledue May. New pig sties and cow sheds on farm

1909 Homesteads Ltd  re-development  on Down Grange/ Old Down  farmland proposed

1901 Queen Victoria dies and Edward VII becomes king


1901 Alton Light Railway opens


1914-18 World War I






1926 General Strike

Post WWI  agricultural depression


1933 Henry Portsmouth dies &  Down Grange house sold, sold on again 1937 -38

1938 George VI becomes king

1939 - 45 World War II

1939 Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals factory opens  in Basingstoke



1945 WWII in Europe ends

1943 Lancing  Bagnall  factory opens in Basingstoke

1946/7 Coldest winter on record




1952 Elizabeth 1 becomes Queen

Post War reconstruction and house building


Down Grange estate becomes public park

Down Grange farmland becomes housing estates

House used  by local authority for offices then social club.


1967 Britain first applies to join EEC


1961 London Overspill - Basingstoke expansion planned

1969 Thorneycroft factory closes


Completion of urbanisation of  Kempshott with  housing,  local shopping centre and schools.

Sports facilities in Down Grange Park laid out.


1971 Decimalisation

1973 Britain joins the EEC


1971 M3 motorway  past Basingstoke opens

1973 AA headquarters building opens



1985 Down Grange house bought by Grand Met,  renovated and opens as a Berni Inn.

Beechdown becomes a private sports and fitness club.


1982 Falklands War


1987 Hurricane fells 15m trees in southern England