Hampshire header 




The chalk downland of the South Downs and southern edges of Salisbury Plain were settled in the neolithic, and these settlers built hill forts such as Winklebury and may have farmed the valleys of Hampshire. Hampshire was part of an area named Gwent or Y Went by the Celts, which also covered areas of Somerset and Wiltshire. In the Roman invasion of Britain, Hampshire was one of the first areas to fall to the invading forces. The southern portion of the county known as the Meon and in particular the valley of the River Hamble was occupied by Jutish tribes from perhaps as early as 495. Later West Saxon migrants absorbed the Jutish tribes within Wessex after 530.

Some scholars believe there is evidence to show the traditional county boundaries of Hampshire may date back to the years of the original West Saxon settlement in circa 519. It is likely that both Winchester and Silchester would have fallen to the West Saxons between the years 508 and 514. A later thrust up the Hampshire Avon towards Old Sarum in 519 appears to have been checked by the Britons at Charford. The historian Albany Major in Early Wars of Wessex makes the case that the borders of the traditional county of Hampshire probably match those of the first West Saxon kingdom established by Cerdic and his son.

Evidence of this comes from the border between Hampshire and Berkshire which follows generally the line of the Roman road that ran east and west through Silchester, but it is deflected in the north in a rough semicircle in such a way as to include the whole of the district around the town. He argues that the capture of Silchester, of which no record has been passed down to us, was not the work of MercianAngles but of the West Saxons probably striking north from Winchester and possibly acting in concert with a separate force making its way up the Thames Valley towards Reading. Silchester was left desolate after its fall and it is most improbable that any regard would have been paid to its side of the border had the fixing of the county boundary been made at a later period.

Study of the borders between Hampshire and Wiltshire also seem to suggest the West Saxons' westward advance was checked by about AD 519. This would corroborate the date given in the Annales Cambriae for the crucial British victory at the Battle of Mons Badonicus in AD 517 which is believed to have stopped further Anglo-Saxon encroachments in south-west and midland Britain for at least a generation.

Hampshire was one of the first Saxon shires, recorded in 755 as Hamtunscir, but for two centuries represented the western end of Saxon England, as advances into Dorset and Somerset were fought off by the Britons. The name is derived from the port of Southampton which was known previously as simply "Hampton". After the Saxons advanced further west Hampshire became the centre of the Kingdom of Wessex, and many Saxon kings are buried at Winchester. A statue in Winchester celebrates the powerful King Alfred, who stabilised the region in the 9th century.

After the Norman Conquest the county was favoured by Norman kings who established the New Forest as a hunting forest. The county was recorded in the Domesday Book divided into 44 hundreds. From the 12th century the ports grew in importance, fuelled by trade with the continent, wool and cloth manufacture in the county, and the fishing industry, and a shipbuilding industry was established.

Over several centuries a series of castles and forts were constructed along the coast of the Solent to defend the harbours at Southampton and Portsmouth. These include the Roman Portchester Castle which overlooks Portsmouth Harbour, and a series of forts built by Henry VIII including Hurst Castle, situated on a sand spit at the mouth of the Solent, Calshot Castle on another spit at the mouth of Southampton Water, and Netley Castle. Southampton and Portsmouth remained important harbours when rivals, such as Poole and Bristol declined, as they are amongst the few locations that combine shelter with deep water. Southampton has been host to many famous ships, including the Mayflower and the Titanic, the latter being staffed largely by natives of Southampton.

Hampshire played a large role in the Second World War due to its large Royal Navy harbour at Portsmouth, the army camp at Aldershot and the military Netley Hospital on Southampton Water, as well as its proximity to the army training ranges on Salisbury Plain and the Isle of Purbeck. Supermarine, the designers of the Spitfire and other military aircraft, were based in Southampton, which led to severe bombing of the city. Aldershot remains one of the British Army's main permanent camps. Farnborough is a major centre for the Aviation industry.

The Isle of Wight has traditionally been treated as part of Hampshire for some purposes, but has been administratively independent for over a century, obtaining a county council of its own in 1890. The Isle of Wight became a full ceremonial county in 1974. Apart from a shared police force there are now no formal administrative links between the Isle of Wight and Hampshire, though many organisations still combine Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch also fall within the traditional county of Hampshire, but were ceded to Dorset in the local government reorganisation of 1974.

Transcribed from: http://en.wikipedia.org