History of Hook, Hampshire
"From Bricks to Clicks"
A mammoth tusk was discovered by workmen while digging a ditch near Lodge Farm. You can see it at the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.
The omnipresent Caesars Camp Hill fort near Aldershot can be glimpsed from the railway bridge just above the roof of Tesco’s.
The rich clay in the area was used by the Romans to make bricks and tiles and had kilns nearby at Pot Bridge. A villa existed at Lodge Farm between Hook and North Warnborough.
Fine examples of early Norman Churches were built in nearby settlements such as Nately Scures, Newnham, Odiham and Rotherwick.
Odiham or King Johns castle stands nearby on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal who’s construction destroyed much of its structure. Eleanor of Aquitaine stayed at the castle as did King John who reputedly left for Runnymede from the castle to sign the Magna Carta.
To the right of Reading Road just before the stream at the bottom of the hill stood a cross and the area was known as Hook Cross.
Hook Mill behind the Crooked Billet Pub standing over a mill stream from the River White Water was in operation from the 17th Century.
Nearby Basing House saw fierce fighting during the Civil War and it is certain that the besieging Parliamentary forces passed through Hook on the way from London.
Parliamentary forces were garrisoned in Holdings Farm which is why the area is known as 'The Barracks'?
Hook was conveniently situated at the cross roads of the London and Portsmouth Highways and the White Hart prospered as a coaching Inn.
Highway men plagued the London and Portsmouth highways nearby and Famous highway man Dick Turpin held secret meetings with fellow rogues on Cockadobby Hill near Farnborough. Another ‘Gentleman of the Road’ frequented Hampshire by the name of ‘Old Mobb’ who conducted his robberies dressed as a female. Highwayman William Davis was caught and hanged in nearby Bagshot.
Jack the Painter
Jack the Painter or John Aitkin to use his real name committed an act of arson in Portsmouth Naval dock yards on the night of the 7th December 1776. Aitkin was a French and American sympathiser and had approached the American minister in Paris, he returned allegedly with orders and a large sum of money. His attempt to burn the fleet did not go unpunished and he was caught in Hook’s Raven Inn while fleeing (not the modern pub of the same name but the building now known as Old Raven House pictured below).
Swift justice was exacted and he was hung in Portsmouth from the mizen-mast of a ship he was trying to destroy, the gibbet where his body hung as an example can be seen in the Westgate Museum in Winchester.
A racetrack existed on Hook Common and races were held between 1774 and 1900, giving the name to the North Warnborough pub ‘The Lord Derby’.
Hook had always stood in the shadow of nearby Newnham but it’s fortunes changed when the route of the London Road was changed, Newnham was now off the beaten track and Hook was the settlement on the busy London Road that was well placed to benefit from passing trade.
Another opportunity arrived in 1794 when the nearby Basingstoke Canal was constructed, nearby brick works benefited from access to this cheap transport network.
Sadly the canal ultimately failed and its intended plan to link London with the coast via the Itchen Navigation was never realised.
The local clay was suited to make bricks the construction material of choice for the industrial revolution, numourous brick works sprung up in the area, a fine example can still be seen on the left of reading road at the crest of the hill towards Rotherwick where the conical roofs of the brick kilns can still be seen.
The coming of the Railway in 1839 did little for Hook initially as there was no station. Hook had to wait for another forty four years for a station to be built in 1883 it differed from today's station by having a middle platform and a goods shed and cattle pens where the car park now is.
In 1886 a prefabricated tin church was built where Londis now stands, the structure was similar to the spiritualist church in Victoria Road, Basingstoke which survives to this day. Before it’s construction worshippers had to walk across the fields to Newnam.
Cast iron benches were erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897 along London Road
In 1901 the Ravan Hotel was constructed.
Like Hartley Wintney the village originally had two village ponds, one in the village centre where Boots carpark now is and one on the green by the war memorial, there is little chance of feeding the ducks now.
The brick works behind Crown cotteges in Crown Lane were in operation with a railway siding leading to the brick kilns so that the brick could be easily loaded and transported. The site was eventually buried as a land fill site in modern times.
The old church was demolished and a new one constructed in 1938 the building was designed by Edward Maufe who would later design Guildford Cathederal.
Second World War
In 1940 a bomb landed on the rail tracks near the brick works a mile away from the station near Crown Lane, six soldiers were sent to diffuse the bomb but sadly it exploded and all six died, a memorial plaque dedicated to their lives can be seen in Hook Station, the plaque reads.
"On the morning of 18th August 1940, Six young men of the Royal Engineers were killed whilst attending an unexploded bomb. The UXB had falled overnight and due to it's location could not be left. The time lapse also meant, as all the sappers were aware the UXB could explode at any time.
The UXB detonated whilst the Sappers were excavating it. Killing all six and injuring the Lance Serjeant in charge.
L/Sjt. Button was later awarded the George Cross for his actions that day."
The bomb was fitted with a new type of fuse. One that exploded many hours after it was dropped.
Hook was situated on the General Headquarters Line which was built to hold off the expected German invasion. Pillboxes, tank traps and other fortifications can be found in the countryside surrounding Hook. A gun emplacement can still be seen by the railway bridge near Bulls Bushes.
The new housing developments of the eighties saw Hook expand rapidly, with it being a popular choice for the commuter, being under an hour’s commute to the centre of London and having direct access to the M3 motorway built in 1968.
The expansion of the business park in the nineties drew in high technology and computer companies and provided employment for local residents and those who choose to commute to Hook.