Historic Hampshire Guide
by Ben Johnson
Hampshire is a county of contrasts: big, bustling cities such as Southampton and Portsmouth mix with beautiful countryside including the New Forest, ancient hunting ground of kings.
The catheral city of Winchester is not far from Southampton and has much to offer the visitor. This lovely city is the ancient capital of Engand: King Alfred the Great made Winchester his capital in the 9th century. Winchester Cathedral is a fine example of Gothic architecture, and here you will find the grave of Jane Austen, who lived nearby. St Swithun was an Anglo-Saxon bishop here at Winchester and his shrine attracted pilgrims to Winchester for centuries. Winchester Castle has been suggested as one of the possible locations for King Arthur’s Camelot, perhaps in part because of the Winchester Round Table, pictured above, which has hung in the Great Hall for centuries.
There are several important Roman sites in Hampshire, including Silchester Roman Town (Calleva Atrebatum), a unique example of a Roman town abandoned after the Romans left Britain and not redeveloped afterwards. The remaining walls are impressive and there are also ruins of an amphitheatre on the site.
Hampshire is ‘Jane Austen Country’. As mentioned above, her grave is in Winchester Cathedral and she spent the last eight years of her life in the village of Chawton, near Alton. Here you can visit her house where she wrote or revised all her novels, and also Chawston House Library where her brother Edward Knight lived.
The New Forest is home to the famous New Forest ponies that run free through the forest. It was also in the forest that the son of William the Conqueror, William II (William Rufus) met his untimely end in a ‘hunting accident’. The villages of Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst and the yachting centre of Lymington are all popular places with their cafes, restaurants, shops and inns.
One of England’s most popular family attractions is also in the New Forest. Beaulieu, a former abbey with monastic ruins and a museum for visitors, is home to the National Motor Museum.
The New Forest is within easy travelling distance from London; trains from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst run frequently throughout the day and take just 90 minutes.