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History of Rooksdown

Rooksdown Parish

Rooksdown is a civil parish in the Basingstoke and Deane district of Hampshire, England. The parish was formed on April 1, 2004. It covers a small estate in the north-west of Basingstoke on land within and adjacent to the former Park Prewett hospital. The local housing development started with ‘The Beeches’ in the North West, ‘Rooksdown’ to the east of that and ‘Park Village’ to the South. Development continued with ‘Limes Park’.

In 2016 the area across the A340 from the centre of Rooksdown, Sherborne Fields, was developed. Only a small part of this – the area up to Keble Road – in in Rooksdown: the rest is in Popley, which is part of Basingstoke town.

Rooksdown was originally part of the Parish of Sherborne St John, itself originally part of the Vyne estate.

Park Prewett

The land on which Park Prewett Hospital stands was originally part of the Park Prewett Farm. The farm was acquired by the authorities in 1899 although work on the hospital did not start until 1912. This was well advanced by 1914 when war broke out and the building was completed in 1917 to be used by the Canadians as a military hospital. The mental hospital finally opened in 1921 and by 1936 catered for 1400 patients. It returned to military use again in World War II, where Rooksdown House was used by Sir Harold Gillies, the pioneering plastic surgeon. The institution reverted to a mental hospital in 1946 and remained in use until 1997.

Historical Maps of Park Prewett

Rooksdown 1960

Rooksdown 1960s OS map

Rooksdown 1877

1877 Map of Rooksdown

Ordnance Survey 1817

This was taken from an 1817 survey, but additions were made later, such as the railway, which was added in an 1848 revision.

Rooksdown Map 1817

Ogilvy 1675

John Ogilvy’s strip map of 1675 went through the area where the following is recorded:

‘Parkprivet Warren’ on the site of the later farm. Note that a ‘warren’ refers to an enclosure for breeding game.

Strip map showing Park Prewett

‘Rooks Down’ on adjacent land

Strip map showing Rooksdown

Speed 1611

Described as Preu Park from Speed’s map of 1611.

Preu Park - Speed Map of 1611

Early History

The local area was occupied from at least Iron Age times at the nearby Winklebury Hill Fort. The site would have formed part of a wider occupation encompassing a number of archaeological sites, including an ancient Roman villa close to the A339 where the extension to Roman Road passes through the parish, as part of the original Winchester (Venta Belgarum) to Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) road.

The parish was originally part of Sherbourne St. John, in lands acquired by Hugh de Port, a Norman noble from Port-en-Bessin who became Sheriff of Hampshire following the Norman Conquest. This area later became part of the Vyne estate. The Vyne was built for Lord Sandy, Henry VIII’s Lord Chamberlain. The house was then owned by the Chute family for over 300 years (1653 to 1956) when it was passed to The National Trust.

The key feature of Rooksdown is of course, the former Park Prewett Mental Hospital and Farm, and this has some history of its own.

‘Park Prevet’ as it was then known was created by a grant from Edward I (Longshanks) to John de St John prior to 1302. This type of park is really a game enclosure, and the later reference to the park as as warren supports this.

Park Prewett Farm is clearly shown in 1877 and would probably have been built or rebuilt following the enclosure acts of 1845, when much of the parish was improved by the then owner of the Vyne, William Lyde Wiggett.