A Snapshot of Early Victorian Basingstoke
In 1837, the year Queen Victoria began her long reign, the Hampshire market town of Basingstoke and its surrounding villages and hamlets were the home to the families of William Whistler, the patriarch of a group of farmers and millers, John Whistler, a craftsman in the building trades living in the village of Sherborne St John, and Edward Whistler, a butcher of Old Basing. It is not known how these three families were related. Also, their link to the Thames Valley Whistlers of the seventeenth century has not been established – although a connection appears likely since Basingstoke is closely situated to the towns and villages known to the Thames Valley Whistlers.
The story of the Basingstoke Whistlers and their social network is explored in the webpages here.
In the 1844 edition of Pigot’s Commercial Directory the section for Basingstoke also covered the neighbouring villages of Old Basing, Worting, Sherborne St John (‘two miles and a half north’ of Basingstoke), St Lawrence Wootton, and Monk’s Sherborne as well as the hamlet of Eastrop located on the border of Basingstoke. The population, from the 1841 census, was reported as:
The Basingstoke 1844 directory included the names:
John Beatley was the husband of Laura, the sister of John Whistler of Sherborne St John. Richard Soper was married to Sarah Patterson, the half-sister of John Whistler and Laura Beatley. Therefore John Whistler, John Beatley and Richard Soper were brothers-in-law.
The Portsmouth entry in the Basingstoke directory appears to be Edmund Portsmouth whose wife Mary was the daughter of William Whistler. Farmers were not included in most of the Pigot’s directories. The census returns show that, at this time, two sons of William Whistler also had Basingstoke connections: William Whistler, the owner of the Norn Hill windmill, and George Whistler, a tenant farmer.
Reference: Pigot & Co.’s Directory of Berks, Bucks . . . , 1844, Part 2: Hants to Wilts, & Wales, (Historical Directories, University of Leicester Special Collections Online).
Author’s Note: An interesting comment on the art of writing family history was made by Sir Winston Churchill from his experience with writing his ancestor's biography Marlborough, His Life and Times (Martin Gilbert, In Search of Churchill, Harper Collins, 1994, p. 246):
One of the most misleading factors in history is the practice of historians to build a story exclusively out of the records which have come down to them. These records are in many cases a very small part of what took place, and to fill in the picture one has to visualize the daily life . . . the many days when nothing happened worthy of record, but during which events were nevertheless proceeding.