National Gazetteer (1868) - Hampshire


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"HAMPSHIRE, (or Hants), formerly named Southamptonshire, is a maritime county on the S. coast of England, lying between 50° 34' and 51° 22' N. lat., and 0° 43' and 1° 54' W. long. It includes the Isle of Wight, which is separated from the rest of the county by a broad channel 3 miles across in some parts, and 1 mile in others. The part of the shire on the mainland is nearly a parallelogram, varying in length from N. to S. from 37 to 46 miles, and in breadth from W. to E. from 28 to 41 miles. It is bounded on the N. by Berkshire, on the E. by Surrey and Sussex, on the W. by Wilts and Dorset, and on the S. by the English Channel, in which the Isle of Wight is situated. This last extends from E. to W. near 23 miles, and from N. to S. 14 miles.

The whole county comprises an area of 1,070,216 acres, being the eighth in size of the English counties, with a population in 1861 of 481,815, showing a large increase as compared with 1851, when the population was 405,370, and more than double since the commencement of the present century, when the population was 219,290, as returned by the census of 1801. Owing to the number of sailors and labourers employed in the docks and other public works, the proportion of the male population exceeds the female, contrary to most other counties, the former being 246,585, and the latter, 235,230. The number of inhabited houses, according to the census of 1861, was 86,428, uninhabited' 3,738, and building 626.

In the earliest times this part of the island is believed to have been inhabited by the Iberians, who were superseded by the Celts, who in their turn gave way before the Belgæ, a Teutonic colony from the opposite coast of Gaul. These, when Julius Cæsar landed, he found divided into three tribes, the Regni, who occupied the coast with parts of Sussex and Surrey; the Belgæ, who inhabited the middle portion with part of Wilts; and the Atrebatii, or Attrebates, who occupied the northern confines, with the greater part of Berkshire. These tribes were finally subjugated by the Romans under Vespasian, and their country included in the Roman province of Britannia Prima.

The chief cities at this time were Winchester and Silchester; the former, called by Ptolemy Ovevra,- and by Antoninus Yenta, was no doubt the Caer Gwent, or "White City," of the Britons, which name is still preserved in the modern Winchester, the first syllable of which is a corruption of the British Gwent, and the last of the Saxon ceastre, equivalent to the British Caer. The walls with which the Romans enclosed the town are still standing, and on the S. side, on St. Catherine's Hill, are ancient entrenchments, supposed to mark the site of the castra æstiva.

The remains at Silchester are even more perfect than those of Winchester, the walls of the old Roman town being from 16 to 20 feet in height, and enclosing an octagonal space of about 100 acres, traversed by lines indicating the direction of the ancient streets, and diverging from a central space, once the forum, where the foundations of a large building have been discovered. At a short distance to the N.E. of the walls are the ruins of an ancient amphitheatre. Although numerous coins and inscribed stones have been dug up, antiquaries are still doubtful whether this station should be identified as Vindomis, or Calleva Atrebatum, the Caer Segont of the Welsh.

Other stations, as Clausentum, near the modern town of Southampton, Brige, at Broughton, near Stockbridge, Andareon at Andover, Portus Adurni at Porchester, the castle of which exhibits some portions of Roman architecture, and numerous other camps and entrenchments, are met with along the lines of Roman road leading from Yenta, and from Silchester in various directions. On the departure of the Romans, this county, like the rest of the island, was again governed by its native chieftains, and we hear nothing of it till the invasion of the Saxons and Jutes under Cerdic, who vanquished the Britons, and founded the kingdom of the West Saxons, when Venta, under the Saxon name of Wintanceastre, again became the seat of government, and subsequently the metropolis of all England under Egbert. In the 9th century the Danes fearfully ravaged the county, and several times attacked and plundered Winchester, which, however, continued till after the Norman conquest to be the principal seat of royalty. The extension of the New Forest by William the Conqueror, and his arbitrary conduct in that transaction, have given a character of cruelty and sternness to his reign; and the misfortunes which subsequently befell several members of his family, whilst enjoying the sport of the chase in this forest, were regarded by the English as the just judgments of heaven.

In the civil wars of Stephen's reign, the city of Winchester suffered much, Wolvesey Castle being in the hands of the king's' party, and Winchester Castle in the hands of the Empress Maud, who, when hard pressed in the siege, made her escape by being carried in a coffin through the lines of the opposing army. In the reign of John, Odiham Castle was taken by the barons, and in the reign of Edward III., Southampton was taken and sacked by the combined fleets of France, Genoa, and Spain, about the same time that Newtown and Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight were burned by the French, and Carisbrook Castle besieged, but ineffectually. In the subsequent reigns of Henry V. and Henry VIII., the French again attacked the Isle of Wight, but were repulsed, and in 1554 the city of Winchester was the scene of the marriage of Mary with Philip II. of Spain. In the reign of Charles I., George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, was stabbed at Portsmouth, whilst attending the departure of the fleet for Cadiz; and later in the same reign this county was the scene of hostilities between the royalists and the parliamentary forces. In December, 1643, Sir William Waller defeated the royalists, but failed in his attempts to storm Basing House, near Basingstoke, which was nobly defended for two years by its owner, John Paulett, Marquis of Winchester, against all the attempts of the parliamentarians, till October, 1645, when it was stormed by Cromwell, who burnt it to the ground. Two years later, Charles took shelter in Titchfield House, after his escape from Hampton Court, and eventually delivered himself up to the governor of the Isle of Wight, Colonel Hammond, when he was imprisoned at Carisbrook, and afterwards at Hurst Castle.

Hampshire has always been an agricultural county, and although much of the soil is poor, yet the produce is large, the tillage being in general good. It yields large crops of wheat, barley, oats, rye, peas, and trefoil; also fruit, honey, and hops, the last being chiefly grown in the Wealden district. The meadows are small, but the chalk downs afford excellent pasture for sheep, which are extensively reared, as are also hogs. These last are fed in the extensive forests on the W. and E. borders, comprising still 100,000 acres, though much waste land has been taken in of late years. The principal forests are the New Forest, in the western part of the county, covering upwards of 63,000 acres, Bere Forest in the S.E., 11,000, Woolmer in the N.E., about 5,949, Alice Holt in the E., 2,744, Waltham Chase, near Bere, 2,000, and Harewood Forest, near Andover, 2,000.

The whole shire rests on a bed of chalk, which shows itself near the middle of the county, the chalk land stretching from Basingstoke to Winchester, and rising into downs 900 feet high at Butser Hill and High Clere Beacon. The land beyond Winchester towards the N. is rich and fruitful, being mainly white or plastic clay, and in some places London clay; while the land to the S. and S.W. of Romsey, being mainly sand and gravel, is still covered with wood or waste. The whole of the S. part of the county, with the Isle of Wight and the intervening channel, forms a basin called by geologists the Hampshire basin, resembling in the arrangement of its strata the London and Paris basins. The county in the N.E. extends into the London basin, and in the E. includes part of the Wealden formation. The watershed is towards the S. The Itchen, which has been made navigable from Southampton to Winchester, the Hamble; Titchfield, Boldre, Test or Anton, Exor Beaulieu, and the Avon and Stour, which two last enter the county from Wiltshire, all fall into the English Channel, or into the Southampton Water, which runs for 8 miles up the middle of the shire, to the town of Southampton, at the junction of the Test and Itchen.

The northern portion of the county, which belongs to the London basin, is watered by the Auborne, the Wey, and the Loddon, small tributaries of the Thames. The county is intersected by three canals-viz: the Andover, which, commencing at Andover, runs in a southerly direction for 22 miles, past Stockbridge and Romsey, to Redbridge on the Southampton Water, with a branch to Salisbury; the Basingstoke canal commences near Basingstoke, and is carried on one level in an easterly direction for 22 miles to the river Loddon, which it crosses, and continues its further course through part of the county of Surrey to the navigable part of the river Wey, near its junction with the Thames; the third canal crosses the eastern part of the county from Arundel by Chichester to Portsmouth, thus connecting the Thames with the harbour of Portsmouth.

This important harbour forms part of the extensive bay, or inlet, indenting the eastern coast of the county, which here lies low, and is divided into three ports, or harbours, called Chichester, Langston, and Portsmouth harbours, by the islands of Hayling and Portsea. This last is about 4 miles long from N. to S., and nearly 3 broad, containing the borough of Portsmouth and the town of Portsea, with its royal dockyard. The coast then takes a north-westerly direction, and occasionally rises into low cliffs, till it comes to the opening of the inlet called Southampton Water, which is near 2 miles broad when the tide is up, but only half a mile at low water. The coast then bends to the S.W., and becomes nearly level, offering facilities for the extensive salt-works which are here carried on, and at length stretches out into a long neck of sand, at the point of which is situated Hurst Castle.

The coast then suddenly becomes high and abrupt, with the shallow bay of Christchurch and Hengistbury Head, facing the Isle of Wight, which will be described under its own heading. The principal ports on this coast are Christchurch, Emsworth, Fareham, Ramble, Havant, Lymington, Portsmouth, Redbridge, Southampton, and Titchfield, besides Brading, Cowes, Newport, Ryde, and Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight.

The principal naval dockyard in England is at Portsmouth and Portsea; where also are the convict hulks; but the extensive steam-docks are at Southampton, from which steamships depart to almost all parts of the world, and emigrant vessels sail for Australia, New Zealand, &c. Cowes is celebrated for its ship-building yards, and for being the station of the Royal Yacht squadron; whilst the Isle of Wight and several of the towns along the coast, as Anglesea, Bournemouth, Fareham, Hayling, Lymington, and Southampton, are frequented during the season by visitors for sea-bathing.

By ancient prescription, Winchester, though now the third town in population, is considered the capital of the county, having been made a city on the first conversion of the West Saxon kings to Christianity, who richly endowed the see, and fixed here the seat of the cathedral and the bishop's palace. It is also the assize town for that part of the county not included within the liberties of Southampton, which has assizes for its own shire. Besides the city of Winchester there are seven boroughs-Andover, Christchurch, Lymington, Newport, Petersfield, Portsmouth, and Southampton, which return members to parliament. These, with 13 others, viz: Alresford, Alton, Basingstoke, Bishop's Waltham, Fareham, Fordingbridge, Gosport, Havant, Kingsclere, Odiham, Romsey, Stockbridge, and Whitchurch, are market towns. The most populous are Portsmouth, containing 94,799 inhabitants; Southampton, 46,960; Winchester, 14,776; Christchurch, 9,368; Ryde, 9,269; Newport, 7,934, and Gosport, 7,789.

Besides these there are many smaller towns, and about 277 townships and parishes. These are comprised in the 39 hundreds and 11 liberties into which the county is divided, besides the three separate jurisdictions of Winchester, Portsmouth, and Southampton. For parliamentary purposes the county forms three electoral districts, North and South Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, the two first returning each two members, and the last one, the places of election being respectively Winchester, Southampton, and Newport. It is comprised within the Western Circuit, and the district of the London Court of Bankruptcy, and forms part of the province of Canterbury, being an archdeaconry in the diocese of Winchester. The county magistrates have further divided it into 14 districts, viz: Alton in the E.; Andover, W.; Basingstoke, N.E.; Droxford and Fareham, S.E.; Kingsclere, N.; Lymington, S.W.; Odiham, N.E.; Petersfield, Ringwood, and Romsey, S.W.; Southampton, S.; Winchester in the middle, and the Isle of Wight in the S. It likewise forms 25 Poorlaw Unions and registration districts.

The principal seats are Osborne House, of her Majesty Queen Victoria; Palace House, Beaulieu, of the Duke of Buccleuch; Rose Rill, Owslebury, of the Earl of Northesk; Amport House, of the Marquis of Winchester; Heron Court, Blackwater, of the Earl of Malmesbury; Highcliffe Castle, Mudeford, of Lady Stuart de Rothsay; Winchester Palace, of the Bishop of Winchester; Broadlands, near Romsey, of Viscount Palmerston; Strathfieldsaye, of the Duke of Wellington; Grange Park, Northington, of Lord Ashburton; Greywell Hill, of Lord Dorchester; Heath House, Buriton, of Lord de Blaquiere; Holly Hill, Titchfield, of Lord H. Cholmondeley; Hurstbourne Park, of Earl Portsmouth; Hursley Park, of Sir W. Heathcote, Bart., once the residence of Richard Cromwell; The Abbey, Mottisfont, of Sir B. Mill, Bart.; Alver Bank, Alverstoke, of Hon. J. W. Croker; Beacon Lodge, of Hon. G. F. Berkeley; Belmont House, Bedhampton, of Admiral Sir J. Stirling; Blendworth Lodge, of Sir W. W. Knighton, Bart.; The Castle, Chalton, of Sir J. C. Jervoise, Bart.; East Cowes Castle, of G. Tudor, Esq.; Eaglehurst, Fawley, of General Berkeley Drummond; East Close, Hinton, of Sir G. E. M. T. Gervis, Bart.; Merchistoun Hall, Horndean, of Admiral Sir 0. Napier, besides numerous other residences of the landed gentry, which are scattered all over the county.

The railways chiefly belong to the London and South-Western system, which intersects the county in various directions. One section entering on the N.E. passes by Basingstoke to Southampton; another to Andover; a third through Guildford to Alton; and a direct line, called the London and Portsmouth, branches off at Woking, and passing through Guildford and Godalming, goes to Portsmouth; while a fifth section of the South-Western traverses the southern part of the county, from Gosport through Bishopstoke to Salisbury. These lines are joined in the S. by an extension of the London, Brighton, and South Coast line, which, passing through Chichester, goes to Havant and Fareham, and so to Portsmouth and Gosport; while in the N. several branch lines, as the Reading and Basingstoke, Reading and Guildford, and Hungerford, connect the South-Western and Great Western systems, thus bringing Hampshire into direct communication with the Midland and Western counties, as well as with London and the E. The principal coach roads cross the county from N.E. to S.W; the road from London to Portsmouth, that from Southampton to Poole, and the Great Western road through Salisbury, with its branch to Amesbury in Wiltshire. Besides these trunk lines, there are many cross roads leading from Winchester to the several ports on the coast, or connecting the small towns and villages in the interior.

The number of persons returned as engaged in trade, commerce, and manufacture, exceed those employed in agriculture, though the only manufactures carried on to any extent are silk, paper, and lace, with sugar refining and carriage building at Southampton, ship-building at Cowes, and salt-works along the coast. Fishing is carried on in the sea-coast towns, and wool, bacon, corn, and agricultural produce of all kinds are exported. The antiquities of Hampshire include the sites of several Roman towns and stations, as mentioned above, with the old castle of Porchester, which exhibits in its present structure traces of Roman, Saxon, and Norman architecture. Calshot and Hurst castles are of the time of Henry VIII., and though still occupied as garrisons, are of little strength. Netley Castle is now a ruin, as are also Netley and Beaulieu abbeys, and the priory of St. Dionysius, near Southampton. The other ancient edifices are ab Bishops Waltham, Christchurch, Romsey, Southampton, Winchester, &c., and will be noticed under those several heads."