HISTORY OF THE
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
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
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