The Story of Viables
Viables, with its history around it just being off the ancient Harrow Way and The Alton Light Railway, ceased being farmed in the 1960’s. It had been part of the Portsmouth Estateand it was known for its pedigree milking cattle. By the 1970’s the council and local campaigners saved the farm from demolition and now is a complex of arts & crafts units and businesses. Many of the old farm buildings are in use. The farmhouse built in 1939 was renovated.
All of the land and the farm belonged to the estate of Lord Portsmouth whose family live in Farleigh Wallop at the top of Farleigh Hill. In 1956, Viables was a family farm managed by Mr & Mrs Godfrey. Mr Godfrey died in 1967, Mrs Godfrey in 1963 both on the farm. They are buried in Worting Cemetary. Mr Godfrey always dressed very smartly, wearing a trilby hat and brown polished gaiters. His foreman wore black gaiters and drove a black Daimler car. There were 2 roundabouts into Basingstoke and he always drove over the edges.
The Harrow Way estate was part of the farm and so was part of Brighton Hill and the Factory sites. The farm was about 200 acres in total. They started in 1922 with about 12 brown & white Guernsey cows and by 1956 they had a herd of about 90 cows, which gave a very high yield of milk. There were 2 bulls on the farm. One was a champion called Shiwa Doris. He was bought by the Horlicks Company for breeding for 1000 guineas in 1956.
They also kept a large flock of geese and grew potatoes and mangles. There were 2 farm boys, one called David and one called Barry. There was a Dairyman who lived in the cottage, which is now the office and a Bull Man called Mr Leggett who lived in one of the other cottages. Have a close look at the brickwork in the walls by the office door.
In about 1963, Mr & Mrs Allen took over the farm, The herd of cows was sold and moved to another farm and Viables farm became arable. The Basingstoke & Alton Light Railway ran through the farm. The original barn was wooden but was burnt down in 1960. In the middle of the yard in front of the barn was a large clamp of mangle worzles. Do you know what a mangle worzle and a mangle clamp are?
Units 4,5 & 6 used to be the machinery sheds and the toilet block used to be the milking parlour. There is a well on the site, see if you can find it! Look for other names on buildings and old pieces of farm machinery around the place. In 1881 the farm had 400 acres spreading over towards Brighton Hill & Cliddesden.
The site was sold to the council in the 1950s. The original Granary burnt down, the replacement was transported whole and reclad with wood. There are 3 wells on site one by the farmhouse (about 60ft deep), one under the f/house kitchen floor, one at the end of the Bull pens (under a manhole cover)
The miniature railway was started in 1977 and opened in 79. The extension was opened in 2000. There was another farm by the Golden Lion named Jays farm. The thatched cottage behind the pub was the farmhouse.
Viables now hosts many arts and craft independent businesses. Although keeps heritage features of the farm, for example you will find the old Bull pens around a handful of our shops and notice different farm machinery and tools! The renovated units with cobble walls, wonky floors just help to blend the old with the new!