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Hampshire

Hampshire was essentially the hinterland of the great port of Southampton from which it took its name, plus the Isle of Wight. The central parts are drained by the rivers Test and Itchen, the western by the Avon, and the eastern by the Hamble and the Meon. The shire is bordered by Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, and Sussex.

At the time of the Roman occupation, the region was inhabited by the Regni in the south-east, the Belgae towards the south-west, and the Atrebates in the north. The Roman advance, undertaken by Vespasian, was early and occupation thorough. There were two major towns, each probably of pre-Roman origins—Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) in the north, Winchester (Venta Belgae) in the south. Of the many villas in the area, the best known is probably Brading on the Isle of Wight. Portchester, near Fareham, was a Roman fort, erected by Carausius in the 3rd cent.

Saxon settlement was relatively easy and Winchester became the capital of Wessex, though Silchester was abandoned. Birinus visited the region in 634 on a mission. His bishopric was established at Dorchester-on-Thames to the north and he was buried there, but the see was soon transferred to Winchester and the building of a cathedral started. The Isle of Wight and the eastern valley of the Meon were areas of Jutish settlement and for a while formed part of the kingdom of Sussex. By the 8th cent., a harbour of Hampton had developed near the site of the small Roman port of Bitterne Clausentum. Under 755, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle referred to Hampton-shire, though we cannot be sure what area was intended. As Wessex flourished, Winchester became the capital of England: Edward the Confessor was crowned there and many kings, including Alfred and Cnut, buried there. The area suffered severely from Viking raids. In 860 a host stormed Winchester and during Æthelred's reign another army sacked Southampton in 981 and wintered there in 994, living off the countryside.

By the time of the Norman Conquest, Hampshire was an established shire. In the course of the 12th cent., the capital was removed from Winchester to Westminster, but Winchester retained importance as a bishopric: the new cathedral, the longest in Europe, was begun in 1079. The connection with Normandy and the continent enhanced Southampton's trade, particularly in wine from Gascony and Aquitaine. In the west of the county, the New Forest was appropriated by William I as a game reserve and it was while hunting there in 1100 that his son William Rufus met his death, and was taken to Winchester for burial.

In the Domesday survey of 1086, Winchester and Southampton were clearly important towns, and Basingstoke, Christchurch, and Stockbridge were of local significance. Portsmouth is not mentioned by Domesday but was granted a charter in 1194. Its prosperity rose with the establishment of the Royal Navy. The Tudors spent a good deal on fortifications and in Stuart times it became a major naval base. By 1801 it was the ninth largest town in England with more than four times the population of Southampton. Andover developed as a centre for the north-west of the shire and Basingstoke for the north-east: each was far enough from Southampton and Portsmouth to have its own sphere of influence. But, with the exception of the coastal fringe, Hampshire remained a predominantly rural county, growing corn and rearing cattle, providing timber for the navy, and supporting a domestic cloth industry.

During the Civil War, Hampshire was parliamentary territory, and attempts by the royalists to retain Southampton, Winchester, and Portsmouth were unsuccessful. But Basing House was held for the king by the marquis of Winchester throughout the whole war and surrendered only to Cromwell, who destroyed it. Hopton and Waller skirmished in the county in 1643 and the following year Hopton's men were badly mauled at Cheriton, near Alresford. After Charles I's escape from Hampton Court, he spent a year at Carisbrooke castle on the Isle of Wight and three weeks at Hurst castle on the mainland before being taken to Windsor for his trial.

Gilbert White was born in 1720 at Selborne, south of Alton, where he wrote his Natural History. Edward Gibbon, the historian, had an estate at Buriton, near Petersfield, and served as a captain in the Hampshire militia. Jane Austen was born at Steventon, near Basingstoke, and spent the later years of her life at Southampton and at Chawton, near Alton. She died at Winchester and is buried in the cathedral. William Cobbett, the radical, had a farm at Botley, between Southampton and Portsmouth and in Rural Rides wrote with enthusiasm of the downland country of north Hampshire.

Though relatively little touched by the industrial revolution, the shire changed considerably in the 19th and 20th cents. The popularity of seaside holidays in the Victorian period produced the extraordinary growth of Bournemouth. The Isle of Wight also profited, partly no doubt because of the publicity given to Osborne House: Ryde, Ventnor, and Shanklin in turn waxed and Cowes achieved social cachet in the Edwardian period. An equally spectacular growth was in the north-east of the county. The army began building barracks at Aldershot in 1854, transforming a hamlet into a sizeable town, and Basingstoke, chosen for urban development in 1963, grew from 25,000 to nearly 150,000. The Isle of Wight was given its own county council in 1890. By the local government reorganization of 1972 Bournemouth and Christchurch in the west were transferred to Dorset. After the Banham commission report on local government in 1994, Hampshire survived as a county, with Portsmouth and Southampton becoming unitary authorities.

J. A. Cannon

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Hampshire

Hampshire, county (1991 pop. 1,511,900), 1,503 sq mi (3,893 sq km), S central England. Winchester is the county town. The county is divided into the administrative districts of Basingstoke and Deane, Winchester, East Hampshire, Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Hart, Havant, New Forest, Rushmoor, and Test Valley. The terrain is undulating and is crossed by two chalk downs, rising in places to more than 800 ft (244 m). The principal rivers are the Test, the Itchen, and the Avon.

Hampshire is an agricultural county, devoted to corn production and dairy farming. Market gardening is also significant. There is oil refining at Fawley and aircraft engineering at Farnborough. Gosport, Southampton, and Portsmouth are three of Britain's leading ports; the last two, although historically part of the county, are now administratively separate. Evidence of prehistoric and Roman settlement is found in the county. Hampshire was once part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex and has numerous historical and literary associations.

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Hampshire

Hampshire County in s England, bordering the English Channel; the county town is Winchester. There are traces of Iron Age hill forts. The area was settled in Roman times. Predominantly agricultural, Hampshire contains the port of Southampton and the naval base at Portsmouth. Its coastal resorts and the New Forest are tourist attractions. Industries: agriculture, oil refining, chemicals, brewing, electronics. Area: 3782sq km (1460sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.) 1,222,100.

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Hampshire

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