History of the area
Most of Havant Town Centre is a conservation area, which developed from a junction of ancient thoroughfares dating from Roman times.
The route went from Arundel, along the south coast through Chichester and then towards Winchester, crossing a road from Hayling Island to Rowlands Castle and probably on towards London, joining what is now the A3. The Homewell Spring attracted the Romans to Havant, and those who succeeded them. This spring had never been known to freeze even in the hardest winter, and until 1970 it had never run dry.
Roman History in Havant
Several traces of Roman life can still be found here - the remains of a villa was discovered in 1926 in the garden of a house in Langstone. Coins, rings, brooches and combs were also found together with an almost intact hypocaust, which was the Roman system of central heating. Further remains exist at Warblington and Bedhampton, and there are also some Roman foundations under St Faiths Church in the heart of Havant town centre.
The hamlet of Havenhunte was later established and by 1086, when the Domesday survey was made, it boasted two mills and three salterns.
In the reign of King John a charter was granted authorising a weekly sheep and cattle market, and in the 15th century the town was granted the right to hold a two-day fair on the Feast of St Faith (6 October). The fair was abolished in 1871 but Fairfield Road, which took its name from the market, is still in existence.
It was the Homewell Spring that saw Havant become a centre for the treatment of animal skins for leather and parchment making and the production of tallow and other by-products. Havant parchment was very highly regarded because of its unique whiteness, a quality imparted by the spring water.
The earliest history of the Parish Church of St Faith, the girl martyr of Aquitaine, is unknown. However it is clear that around 1150 it was either built or rebuilt, though of this structure only the pillar of the crossing remains. The chancel is the most interesting part of the church, being a good example of the Early English work of the 13th century with ribbed vaulting and simple bosses. The transepts are unusually wide, the north being the original 15th century and the south a copy of it. The nave and tower were rebuilt in the 19th century. The tattered flag of a group of volunteers, who banded together to resist Napoleon when his invasion seemed imminent, still hangs in the church.
The centre of Havant was devastated by fire in 1760 leaving the Old House at Home, in South Street, the only remaining half-timbered building with projecting upper storey. However there are some attractive Georgian buildings in South Street and East Street, and the area behind East Street (The Pallant and Prince George's Street) has considerable character which is protected by the designation of much of the town centre as a conservation area.
Modern day Havant
Havant is now a thriving Market Town, characterised by its fine Georgian buildings and narrow weaving footpaths called "Twittens". Perfect for relaxed shopping; with an interesting blend of specialist retailers and major high street names. A modern indoor shopping mall, the Meridian Centre, fronts onto an attractive pedestrian precinct in part of West Street. Close by is Havant Park, around 100 years old with some magnificent trees, which provides excellent facilities for the town's cricket and hockey clubs.
The former Manor of Bedhampton, mentioned in the Domesday Book, is largely a residential area of which part is designated as a Conservation Area. It lies to the west of Havant under the slopes of Ports Down and its present role as a suburb of Havant hides its history, glimpses of which can still be seen around its thoroughfares. The Norman church of St Thomas the Apostle has stood since Saxon times, and in the churchyard are two ancient yew trees one of which is over six metres in girth.
In the north of Bedhampton at Hooks Lane, a name that can be traced back to the 14th century, there are extensive playing fields, part of which is now the home of Havant Rugby Club, one of Hampshire's premier rugby union clubs.
The Church of St Thomas the Apostle dates from three main periods. In the 12th century the old Saxon building was replaced by a church in the Norman style, a great part of which still survives. This was enlarged and improved in the 14th century, and then in the 19th century came a further restoration and the addition of the north aisle. Interesting features include a notable Norman chancel arch decorated with a diamond and sawtooth pattern and, on the exterior, two mass clocks.
From the 11th to the 19th century there were two flour mills in the village, which were operational until their purchase by the Portsmouth Water Company. Nothing remains of the Upper Mill, but the picturesque Mill house of the Lower Mill, in which John Keats is reputed to have written 'The Eve of St Agnes' in 1819, still stands, and is now a guest house.
The gradual growth of Emsworth has resulted in many attractive streets, which are lined by a mixture of brick and rendered Georgian houses and these, combined with high-walled gardens, give the village a genuine feel of the past.
Emsworth developed slowly from the 13th century when it was granted the right to hold a weekly market and annual fair. It became a port of considerable importance, exporting wool and importing wine, and by the 16th century most of the traffic of the 'Port of Chichester' passed through Emsworth. Even so it was never a very large place, and in the reign of Charles II it is thought that there were only around 50 houses in the town.
By the 17th and 18th centuries it had reached a peak of importance and advantage was taken of its rivers and tides to provide power for the mills which processed the grain from the farms of the area. In the 19th century boat building and the oyster trade became the prominent industries.
Langstone is a picturesque village that sits on the northern shores of Chichester Harbour on the eastern side of the road bridge over to Hayling Island.
Its harbour frontage features the Old Mill, the Royal Oak public house and some fishermen's cottages, which have almost become the Borough 'trademark' so often are they drawn, photographed or painted. The Ship Inn and The Royal Oak are said to have once been smugglers haunts. Today little evidence remains of the sunken lanes used to smuggle goods from Langstone to Havant, but nevertheless these two pubs at Langstone are popular haunts with visitors and locals.
The village was formerly the Port of Havant and had its own customs officials. As late as the end of the 19th century it was a coasting port and at one time a train ferry service ran from Langstone to St Helens on the Isle of Wight. It is a well-known sailing centre with good moorings and Langstone Sailing Club has its headquarters there.
The nucleus of the village has been designated as a conservation area. From the Old Mill a path runs eastwards along the shore to Warblington and Emsworth although part can be covered by very high tides.
Hayling's essentially modern appearance hides a more complex history reaching back beyond Saxon and Roman times. The name is Saxon in origin, meaning the Island of Hegel's People, but when the Saxons first occupied the area there was already a Roman building in North Hayling. By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, most of the island had been settled. There were four manors and a population as large as that found in the three mainland parishes of Bedhampton, Havant and Warblington put together.
In North Hayling, St Peter's Church, built in 1140, is the loveliest building on the island. It is a fine example of a typical English village church of the Norman period. Its foundations are said to be large 'erratic' stones left as the ice receded in the post-glacial period. The peal of three bells is said to be the oldest in England, the tenor bell having been dated by the Whitechapel Foundry as from about 1350.
One of the trees surrounding the church is a yew tree, which is at least 800 years old. However the yew tree in the grounds of St Mary's Church in the parish church of South Hayling exceeds this. It is said to be almost 1000 years old and has a girth of nine metres.
The largest manor on Hayling Island was in South Hayling and had been given by William the Conqueror to the monks of the Abbey of Jumieges in Normandy. In the 15th century the lands of the Priory, which had been farmed by the King for some time, were given to the Charterhouse by Henry V. They later came into the possession of the Dukes of Norfolk.
Leigh Park, with the adjoining areas of West Leigh and Warren Park, is a housing estate of around 10,000 houses which takes its name from the estate of the Fitzwygram family who sold it to Portsmouth City Council in 1946.
The main part of the estate and farms were used to build housing for the bombed-out and expanding population of Portsmouth. Housing was planned with a shopping centre based on Park Parade and Greywell and a number of 'neighbourhood' shopping areas all around the estate.
The road system was designed with wide grass verges and uniform terraces were avoided by the introduction of 'closes' of 20 or so houses. Trees were left from the original park, and this has helped to soften the lines of the buildings. The road pattern was constructed with a view to easy access inside the estate and fast communication with its neighbours, Havant and Bedhampton.
The remains of the old estate form the Staunton Country Park named after Sir George Staunton, a noted Chinese specialist, whose influence on the landscaping of the Park remains today. Sir George purchased the lease of the estate in 1820 and seven years later the freehold from the Bishop of Winchester for the princely sum of Â£2,075. In recent years much work has been done by the partnership of public bodies, including Havant Borough Council, which administers the Park to recreate some of its former glories, including the million pound redevelopment of Sir George's glasshouses. One of the most recent additions to the Park is the Golden Jubilee maze that opened to the public in June 2002.
Warblington is an attractive residential area halfway along the road from Havant to Emsworth. It is somewhat remote from its church and the remains of Warblington Castle which are situated in quiet meadows on the shore of Chichester Harbour.
It is thought that the Saxon Weorbald established his village of Weorblingston here towards the end of the 5th century or at the beginning of the 6th century. At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, Warblington was the most important place in its own parish.
In the 13th century the then Lord of the Manor obtained the right to hold a weekly market and a yearly fair in Emsworth, which then became more important than Warblington village.
The Church of St Thomas a Becket, with its tiny timbered spire, is very old. The centre portion of the tower contains two Saxon archways in which traces of Roman brick can be seen, while the massive wooden porch dates from the 14th century. The nave is 13th century and the chancel floor is laid with medieval tiles of various dates. Two brick and flint stone huts at opposite corners of the graveyard once sheltered men who guarded the graves from body snatchers.
The single turret and part of the gateway are all that remains of Warblington Castle, a fortified manor house built between 1513 and 1526 by Margaret, Countess of Salisbury. During the Civil War the castle changed hands a number of times. After the Parliamentary forces finally took it, the building was dismantled. The remains of the castle are on private property.
Waterlooville and Cowplain
It is hard to believe that as recently as the early Middle Ages the closely-wooded Forest of Bere stretched from Havant almost to Hambledon and that there was no road through it. During the Middle Ages the edges of the forest were pushed back and clearings were made in it. Tracks developed through the forest, but even in the 17th century travellers had to take a guide through it.
In the 18th century a turnpike was built giving a shorter route from Portsmouth to London, and small settlements such as Cowplain, a mile north of present Waterlooville, began to spring up at the roadside. It became well used by stagecoaches and in 1815 the Waterloo Inn, the name of which referred to the battle of that year, was established in a small cluster of houses on the north side of the Hambledon road and Portsmouth to London Road crossroads. This area began to be called Waterlooville for postal purposes in the 19th century.
In 1903 a tram service was established, known as the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway, which followed the main road into Portsmouth. From a population of about 700 in 1800, Waterlooville had quadrupled in size by 1830. By the time the tramway closed down in 1934 the Waterlooville area had established itself as a good place to live, leading to its enormous post-war development.
About a mile to the south of Waterlooville is Purbrook, a residential district stretching outwards on each side of the London road and ending at the top of Ports Down from which there is a magnificent view of Hayling Island, Langstone Harbour, the Solent and the Isle of Wight.
Since the 1960s, Purbrook has developed around the Stakes and Crookhorn areas with houses, shops, schools and a golf course.
Much of its history is centred around the Deverell family. In 1830 John Deverell moved to the district and, as Lord of the Manor, bought Purbrook Park lands. He built the second Purbrook Park House between 1838-1840 and two schools. Purbrook also gave its name to one of the chain of forts, known as Palmerston's Follies, which string along the top of Ports Down. Built in 1860 at a cost of £92,000, Fort Purbrook was occupied by the Army until 1925. The Navy occupied the Fort in 1947 and it became one of its secret establishments. It now serves as a Youth Activities Centre.
The Wayfarers Walk passes near-by and there are some lovely walks linking to Purbrook and Widley and the Portsdown Hill and also out towards Denmead and Hambledon.