Hampshire Landscape a Short History
Hampshire is home to Graduate Landscapes and many of our garden design projects are created for gardens in Hampshire. Whilst understanding the history of Hampshire may not always directly influence our garden designs, it does form the backdrop to our design practice.
Hampshire is home to spectacular landscapes of rolling chalk hills and downlands, scarps and valleys stretching over to The Solent and Isle of Wight on the coast. This magnificent county is steeped in rich history dating as far back to Neolithic and prehistoric times.
The Isle of Wight has a fascinating heritage with burial mounds and hill forts dating back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Hillforts were built as protection from wars or battles and located high upon hilltops to see the enemy advance and surrounded by defensive banks and ditches. There are many hill forts dotted around Hampshire, particularly near Winchester and Bournemouth’s Hengistbury Head which can be discovered and explored today.
During the Roman invasion of Britain, Hampshire was one of the first invaded counties but some historical remains still stand. Silchester is one area which has largely remained untouched. After being abandoned, unlike other areas it was never built over. Roman walls around the town provided protection from attack, and the remains of these walls still stand alongside the amphitheatre nearby. Roman roads characterised by long straight lines connect areas like Winchester to Southampton and Chichester which are still popular routes for many. Perhaps you have noticed ditches either side of the road from Winchester? These also date back to Romans times.
Hampshire was invaded by Saxons and Jutes in the early 5th and 6th centuries when the Wessex kingdom was formed. After defeating the Vikings, Hampshire gained it’s name from one of the Shires of Wessex. Winchester became the centre and Capital of England with King Alfred ruling Wessex till his death in 899. The 9th century saw power and politics reign throughout, creating Hampshire as one of the most powerful early Kingdoms of its time. Wessex was the only one out of four kingdoms to survive the Viking invasions. The Romans defended themselves by building castles along the coastline between Portsmouth and Southampton, some of these still remain such as Porchester Castle.
Manufacturing wool was one of the main medieval industries at the time, with Southampton ports helping to establish a key role in exporting and importing materials. Castles, monasteries and forts helped defend the harbours of Southampton and Portsmouth. Beaulieu, Netley and Odiham are home to some fine Castles to explore, Odiham Castle was where the vernacular Magna Carta was produced within two weeks of the original document being sealed.
Hampshire played a fundamental role during World War II with it’s large Royal Navy presence in Portsmouth and Aldershot’s army camp within close proximity to training ranges on Salisbury Plains. Portsmouth played a pivotal role in the D-Day landings, the D-Day Story is a museum which tells the fascinating story and insight in to lives affected during the Allied invasion.
The Georgian period saw some towns decline, with agriculture undergoing change. Medieval open fields disappeared to make way for transport systems to ease traffic at Ringwood and many other places. A steep rise in unemployment made conditions tough for Hampshire’s rural poor, whilst others enjoyed prosperity with stately homes like Avington Park. It was within the Georgian period, Jane Austen made the county famous with her idyllic drawing and romantic writing.