Hampshire is steeped in rich, cultural history and has fortunately retained many of its important historical sites, some of which date all the way back to antiquity.
The ages in which many of the historic locations range from the period of Roman occupation to the Age of Revolution, Enlightenment and Industry.
Here is a list of the top 10 best historic sites in the county.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an area of HM Naval Base Portsmouth which is open to the public. Managed today by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the dockyard contains several historic and famous ships including HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose.
Housing the Royal Navy Museum and still part of an active naval base, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard today offers visitors a great insight into the British navy, both its past and present.
Winchester Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of England in Hampshire, England. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the greatest overall length of any medieval Gothic cathedral in the world.
Once the seat of the royal power of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans, a Christian church was built here around 645AD and over the next 350 years it became the most important church in Anglo-Saxon England.
By 1000AD, its status as one of the grandest cathedrals in Europe was assured. Its early Norman roots are visible in the round-arched crypts and transepts and over the centuries, ‘soaring Gothic arches’ were added, as were stunning works of art, medieval carvings and the 12th century 1.5 ton Tournai marble font.
Every year, three hundred thousand people from all over the world visit the cathedral.
Winchester Castle is a medieval building in Winchester, Hampshire. The Great Hall, “one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century”, contains the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, King Arthur’s Round Table, and is all that now remains of Winchester Castle.
The castle dates back to 1067. Only a year after the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the site was chosen by William the Conqueror to be the location of one of the first Norman castles in England. For over one hundred years it was the seat of Government of the Norman Kings.
Winchester Castle’s three main features, The Great Hall, The Round Table and Queen Eleanor’s Garden are all open to the public.
Jane Austen’s House is a small independent museum in the village of Chawton near Alton in Hampshire. It is a writer’s house where the famous novelist Jane Austen spent the last eight years of her life.
Today, Jane Austen’s House is one of the most important literary sites in the world, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year.
The Museum holds an important collection of objects associated with Jane Austen, including letters written by Jane and personal effects belonging to her and her family. Particular highlights include her jewellery, first editions of her books, furniture, textiles and the table at which she wrote her much loved novels.
Portchester Castle is a medieval castle set within the walls of a 3rd century Roman fort, the most completely preserved example in Northern Europe. Today, the castle is run by the English Heritage charity organisation.
Built during Roman times, the castle is the country’s only example of a Roman fort whose walls still stand complete up to around six metres.
Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has been renovated and rebuilt many times and its use has altered to suit the needs of its owners. In the 11th century, parts of Portchester Castle were rebuilt into a Norman keep and in the 14th century Richard II transformed it into a palace. Like their Roman predecessor, both of these incarnations served a defensive function.
Yet, during the Napoleonic Wars, the role of Portchester Castle changed, as it became a prison for around 7,000 French prisoners of war. This change was due in large part to the reduced importance of Portchester Castle as a defensive structure following the building of the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard by King Henry VII.
Fort Nelson in Hampshire comprises one of five defensive fortifications built on Portsdown Hill in the mid-19th century to overlook Portsmouth Naval Base and Dockyard.
in 1859, a Royal Commission was formed to enquire into the ability of the United Kingdom to defend itself against an attempted invasion by a foreign power, and to advise the British Government on the remedial action required.
Resulting from this investigation was a plan, sanctioned by the British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, to build a series of five fortoifcations along Portsdown Hill protecting Portsmouth and its Dockyard.
Today, Fort Nelson acts as a museum that is home to the Royal Armouries national collection of artillery and historic cannons – the big guns.
The Tudor House and Garden in Southampton is a restored 15th century historic home which now operates as a museum.
Though previous structures existed on the site, the existing Tudor House and Garden that is seen today traces its roots back to around 1495AD, when Sir John Dawtry, an important local official, had the building constructed from those houses which previously stood here.
The building is accompanied by King John’s Palace, an adjacent Norman house accessible from Tudor House Garden, dating back a further 300 years.
Recently restored, today the the house is now one of Southampton’s most important historic buildings. It has a fascinating history and provides us with rich insight into the lives of people in Southampton over the last 800 years.
Beaulieu Palace House is a 13th-century house in Brockenhurst, Hampshire. It has been described as one of the few “Treasure Houses of England”.
Beaulieu Palace House was originally built in the 13th century as the gatehouse of Beaulieu Abbey – built on land given by King John for Cistercian monks. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the estate was purchased by Sir Thomas Wriothesley, later 1st Earl of Southampton, in 1538. The house passed through marriage into the Montagu family and is still owned by the 1st Earl’s descendant, the 4th Baron Montagu of Beaulieu.
Palace House and the abbey remains were first opened regularly to the public by Edward, Lord Montagu in 1952. Displaying one’s stately home to the public was not a new idea at this time and curious visitors had already been peering into England’s grand houses for a couple of centuries. But the idea of creating a professional business venture was unheard of until this point.
SeaCity Museum is a maritime museum located in the heart of Southampton’s city centre. It tells the story of the people of the city, their fascinating lives and historic connections with RMS Titanic.
In terms of its wider maritime history, Southampton has remained a hub of human migration to England over the centuries, something which the Museum explores. Ever since the Norman Invasion of 1066, Southampton became an important trading port, as well as a gateway for migrants entering and leaving Britain.
During the victorian era and in the twentieth century, hundreds of other ocean liners, excluding the RMS Titanic, connected the port with Britain’s Empire and with America, making the city Britain’s “Gateway to the World”.
The Mary Rose Museum is a historical museum located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in the United Kingdom. It is run by the Mary Rose Trust.
After being salvaged in 1982, the wreckage of the Mary Rose was previously held at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. In 2012, her hull was removed from public view and is now on display at the museum.
Visitors can view the Mary Rose from three galleries, seeing how the men of the Mary Rose lived, worked and fought in the dramatic audio-visual display.
Visitors can also see thousands of genuine Tudor objects, from the large bronze and iron ship’s guns, to personal items like wooden bowls and nit combs, which recreate life on board with an authenticity no other attraction can provide.