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The AA's Basingstoke HQ Fanum House was opened by the Queen on 19 November 1973
It’s a familiar landmark to millions of drivers, rail passengers...and even helicopter pilots. Fanum House, the Basingstoke headquarters of the AA, was opened by the Queen 40 years ago today (19 November).
The eighteen-storey (274 feet or 83.5m) tower block with its distinctive net of aluminium fins is the second-tallest building in Basingstoke and, in its day, was said to be the tallest building between London and New York.
It was a big occasion when the AA moved out of its famous headquarters at Leicester Square, London, to the growing town of Basingstoke. The town was chosen as it offered plenty of room for expansion and excellent transport links with the capital and the south coast.
The day before we were told that the Queen would be visiting our office to see the membership records of other members of the Royal Family
Jan Archer, AA finance administrator
To mark the opening of the building, the Queen unveiled a commemorative inscription and planted a tree near the main entrance.
Jan Archer, AA finance administrator, recalls: “The day before we were told that the Queen would be visiting our office to see the membership records of other members of the Royal Family. We were also shown the correct way to curtsey and had to keep practising until we got it right, which was hilarious for some of us 16 year olds.
“Everyone crowded round and watched her tour on big old-fashioned TVs hung from the ceiling.”
David Last, AA finance specialist, remembers seeing the Queen in the restaurant on her tour: “There was a buzz around the place, as it was a big occasion, not only for the AA but for the town too. It really helped put Basingstoke on the map.”
AA president Edmund King says: “When the Queen opened Fanum House on 19 November 1973, it was the start of a long association with Basingstoke that continues to this day.
“Fanum House has long been a local landmark and we are delighted to be celebrating 40 years in the town.”
To celebrate the occasion, the AA is holding a 1970s-themed day for its employees. They will dress in 1970s outfits in aid of its local charity of the year – Basingstoke-based cancer charity RadCan – and have a celebratory afternoon tea. Some of the AA’s 1970s patrol vehicles will be on display and the company will later bury a time capsule to mark 40 years of the building.
The AA’s other offices are at Oldbury, Cheadle, Newcastle, Cardiff and Preston.
Fanum House construction (1972)
(19 November 2013)