Possibly the most famous military centre in Britain, Aldershot is very much an army town, with a number of service museums such as the Airborne Forces Museum and the Royal Corps of Transport Museum.
Beaulieu Abbey was founded in 1204. Most of it has been demolished; of the remaining parts the refectory has been rebuilt as the parish church, the lay dormitory is a restaurant, and the Domus building contains an exhibition on monastic life. Palace House was once the abbey gatehouse, but today, after being extended and refurbished in the 19th century, it is the family home of Lord Montagu. The National Motor Museum contains a large library and over 250 veteran and vintage cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Exhibits range from the first petrol; driven car of 1895 to Donald Campbell’s ‘Bluebird’. Visitors can take monorail or veteran bus rides in the grounds, and there is a model railway. Steam fairs are sometimes held here too.
An enchanting New Forest village where the original main street leads to the church, notable for its ‘parlour pews’ each one private, and belonging to the occupants of the big houses in the neighbourhood. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried in the graveyard. The creator of Sherlock Holmes greatly loved the New Forest, spending much of his last years at Bignell Wood in Minstead. Conan Doyle’s historical novel The White Company was set in the area and was written two miles south of Minstead at Emery Down. Furzey Gardens covers eight acres of woodland glades, in the midst of which is an Art and Craft Gallery.
Six miles south west of Minstead, an altar and wooden cross stand on Mogshade Hill near Bolderwood, where the 3rd Canadian Division prayed on the day before D-Day, 1944.
Mottisfont Abbey, near the River Test, is a lovely sight with elegant lawns, some enormous old trees, and with water meadows beyond. Founded by the Austin Canons at the beginning of the 13th century, Henry VIII gave the priory to his Lord Chamberlain. William, Lord Sandys at the Dissolution. Sandys pulled down much of it, converting the nave of the abbey church into a house.
The New Forest covers approximately 145 sq miles between the River Avon and Southampton Water. Partly owned by the Crown, it is a mixture of wood and heathland. William I appropriated it in 1079 and designated it a royal hunting preserve, imposing fierce penalties on local villagers, death for killing deer, blinding merely for disturbing them. Five common rights survived and in many cases still survive for the inhabitants of the Forest: pannage, the right to let pigs forage; turbage, the right to cut peat or turves; estover, the right to cut firewood, ; marl, the right to improve the soil and pasturage, the right to graze stock. The most famous event associated with the Forest is the shooting of William Rufus (described as ‘loathsome to well nigh all his people’) by Walter Tyrrell. An obelisk marks the spot where he is thought to have fallen. Eventually, in the Tudor period, deer ceased to be protected because of the importance of New Forest timber for building warships. Herds of red, roe and fallow deer roam freely, as do the famous ponies. Verderers’ Courts, which administer Forest laws, are held at Lyndhurst, one of the prettiest towns.
This was a medieval route linking the two great cathedral cities of the south, Winchester and Canterbury, and their shrines of St Swithun and St Thomas a Becket. It led across the slope of the North Downs, following for part of the way the line of a prehistoric track. Like the Ridgeway, it is now a long distance footpath.
The first monarch to appreciate the strategic importance of Portsea Island in the defence of the English Channel was Richard the Lionheart, who ordered the first docks to be built in 1194: ‘It pleased the Lord King Richard to build the new town of Portsmouth’, reads the entry in the Curia Regis rolls of that year. Over the centuries, succeeding monarchs have improved the defences and extended the clocks to ensure that Portsmouth remained an impregnable fortress and secure base for the navy in times of war. The King’s Bastion and the Long Curtain Battery are all that remain of the medieval defensive ramparts, but the Round Tower, earliest of the fortifications, and the Square Tower, built by Henry VII, still remain, as do the sea and land forts built in the Victorian era.
The docks have grown steadily since the 12th century: in 1495 the world’s first dry dock was constructed, and by the reign of Henry VIII, the docks had extended to cover about 8 acres of land they now cover about 300 acres. Henry not only built Southsea Castle to improve the defences, he also built ships, including the pride of his fleet, the Mary Rose, which tragically sank with all hands just off the coast. In 1982, in one of the most exciting marine salvage operations ever undertaken, she was raised from the seabed and is now on display. During the Napoleonic Wars the town played a key role as a base for the British fleet, and Nelson set out from here to take command at Trafalgar on ’21 October 1805. The Victory, his flagship, was eventually brought to dry dock in Portsmouth Docks.
Portsmouth suffered much from bombing in World War II, and the centre has been largely rebuilt. The old town, clustered around the harbour mouth, has been restored, and is now an attractive and fashionable area. In these old streets stands the cathedral, raised from the status of parish church in the 1920’s.
Southsea, Portsmouth’s neighbour, grew up in the 19th century as an elegant seaside resort, with fine houses and terraces, an esplanade, and an extensive seafront common made by draining the marshes. Still a pleasant resort, Southsea is now part of the City of Portsmouth, as is Eastney, which grew up on its outskirts in the 19th century. Also 18th and 19th-century developments are the ‘villages’ of Portsea, where many of the shipwrights and craftsmen employed in the docks had their homes, and Landport, now the commercial and administrative centre of the modern city. Charles Dickens was born in this area in 1812 in a house on Old Commercial Road. In 1892 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle established a surgery in Portsea; it was here that Sherlock Holmes was created.
This ancient market town stands on the River Test, noted for its trout and salmon. Broadlands, originally the home of Lord Palmerston, whose statue stands in the town’s market place, is better known as the home of the late Lord Mountbatten of Burma. It is an elegant 18th-century country house surrounded by a 400-acre park, landscaped by Capability Brown. Inside is an exhibition devoted to Lord Mountbatten’s life. Only the 12th century abbey church remains of the great abbey founded in the 10th century. However this Norman building is a splendid sight and contains many treasures, including an Anglo Saxon rood and a Crucihxion, the Romsey Psalter, an illuminated manuscript of the 15th century, and several interesting monuments.
A stream, dry in summer, runs beside the main street of this delightful village in a hollow of the Hampshire Downs. The 16th to 18th century houses and cottages are a blend of styles: cob wall and thatch; brick and tile; timber and stone. The 13th-century church lies on a grassy hillside. A half mile south east are a large Roman villa and a museu.
Gilbert White, born in 1720 and at one time curate of the parish, recorded the natural history of Selborne in a fascinating book of that name published in 1788, and in print ever since. Most of his observations were made in the steep beechwood ‘hangers’ that climb the slopes of the hills above the village, and he and his brother constructed a walk, ‘the Zig-Zag’ that leads up through the woods to Selborne Common, a sheltered grassy space on top of the hill. Gilbert White’s house and garden, The Wakes, is now a museum, devoted partly to his work and partly to an exhibition relating to Captain Oates (who died heroically on Scott’s last expedition to the Antarctic), who also had connections with Selborne.
The Romans called Silchester Calleva Atrebatum and it was a considerable town, with a dyeing industry. The inhabitants worshipped in 3 temples. In the 4th century, a small Christian church was built within the town walls. It is, so far as anyone can tell, the only one built in Britain during the years of Roman occupation. But the Romans departed and Calleva Atrebatum fell into total decay, except for the walls and a gateway, which are still substantial. The remains of an amphitheatre can be seen outside the walls and there is a site museum, though the best finds are in Reading Museum.
For many years the main port of departure for the USA was Liverpool, but in 1911 the White Star Line moved its base to Southampton and the others followed. Not only was it closer to London, and had a sheltered anchorage, it also enjoyed that unique phenomenon two high tides in every 24 hours. For the better part of half a century, the docks were enlivened by the massive and beautiful shapes of great ocean liners some plying between England and New York, others (the Union Castle ships) running a service to South Africa. When air travel came into its own, however, the liners disappeared, apart from occasional a ppearances by the QEII and the Canberra.
Southampton had been in business as a port long before the luxury ships came to it. It was a place of embarkation for the crusades, for the Napoleonic Wars, and, indeed, during both World Wars when more than ten million Allied troops set off for France. In 1620, the Mayflower set sail from here an event that is celebrated by a tall stone column near the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers walked up the gangplank.
Marlands Hal is a museum devoted to the achievements of RJ Mitchell, designer of the Spitfire the first of which was built in Southampton. Among the exhibits is Mitchell‘s Supermarine 563, which won the Schneider Traphy race in 1931 with a speed of 340mph. Neither Spitfires nor Hurricanes could save Southampton from bombardment by the Luftwaffe in World War II. The damage was awesome and much of the past was smashed to rubble. As a result a good deal of the town is new. However, among the historic buildings which survived are the Bargate, which once served as Guildhall and courthouse and is now a museum; the 14th century Wool House (now the Maritime Museum); and God’s House Tower, the remains of a Norman hospital originally founded in 1185. The fine 16th-century Tudor House, set in a charming Elizabethan garden, now houses a museum of local history.
Stratheld Saye House was built in 1630, rebuilt in 1795, and, in 1817, presented by a grateful Parliament to the Duke of Wellington as a reward for his victory at Waterloo. During his long retirement from the army, the Duke divided his time between Stratlield Saye, his house in Piccadilly, and Walmer Castle which he occupied as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. Among the relics of the Iron Duke are a collection of leatherbound volumes collected during his service in India, Napoleon’s Tricolour, and a brass statuette of Copenhagen the charger he rode at Waterloo who is buried in the grounds.
For more than 40 years, Jane Austen’s father was rector of the 13th-century church, which contains several monuments to the family. Miss Austen was born in the village in 1775. While living at Steventon, and in her early twenties, she wrote the first versions of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey.
This is a pretty village in the ltchen Valley, made up of 16th and 17thcentury houses, many thatched, a part Saxon, part-Norman church on a hillock, and Tichborne Park, the Tichborne family mansion since Anglo Saxon times, rebuilt early in the 19th century. Tichborne has two claims to celebrity. First is the Tichborne Dole, an annual ceremony originated in the 12th century by Lady Mabella de Tichborne. The story is that her husband Roger decided to grant the poor the produce of as much land as the dying Mabella could walk around she managed to crawl round 20 acres before expiring . Second is the celebrated Tichborne Claimant case: in 1871 an Australian butcher represented himself as Sir Roger Tichborne, the long-lost heir. Many people believed him, but after a long drawn out trial, his claim was disproved and he ended in gaol.
Titchlicld is two miles from the mouth of the River Meon, at Titchfield Haven on the Solent. This small town used to he a seaport until Dutch engineers drained the marshes in the 18th century. Titchlield has a bridge across the river built in 1625; and many 17th and 18th century buildings, such as the Queen’s Head. Titchfield Abbey, or Place House, is the splendid ruined survivor of a great 13th-century building.
Already a sizeable town in the Roman period, Winchester became, under the Anglo Saxons, the capital of their kingdom of Wessex, and the place of coronation and burial of their kings. In Alfred the Great’s reign its influence grew and it became the capital of England, a status it retained until after the Norman Conquest. Although gradually eclipsed by London, Winchester retained its importance as a regional capital and maintained close links with the Crown until the reign of Charles II. At the centre of the city stands the magnificent cathedral, built by the Normans to replace the one erected by King Alfred. The crypt, transepts and part of the Cloisters date from the 11th century; the choir and Lady Chapel from the 12th century; the nave and west front were rebuilt in Perpendicular style in the 14th century. The bishop at this time was William of Wykeham, founder of Winchester College, one of the most famous public schools in the country, and also founder of New College at Oxford. Some of the college buildings can be visited. They lie just outside the peaceful Close, which itself contains several buildings of outstanding interest. Nearby are the Bishop’s Palace and remains (if Wnlvne nv
The thatched cottages of the beautiful village of Wherwell (traditionally pronounced ‘Orrell’) stand beside a tributary of the River Test. The 19th century church near the bridge contains part of an Anglo Saxon cross and two small 14th-century reliefs.