The Hamble Valley has a wealth of fascinating local heritage connections and attractions which tell of years gone by and the role that the area has had in the history of southern Hampshire.
There are plenty of attractions across the Hamble Valley where the past comes to life. Discover Eastleigh’s past at Eastleigh Museum, which tells the story of a locomotive engine driver in the 1930s and has a regular programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and family friend events and activities during school holidays.
See a fine example of the county’s agricultural heritage at the beautifully restored Bursledon Windmill. Built by Phoebe Langtry in 1813-14 and in full working order, you can have a go at grinding the flour and purchase a bag of the high quality flour to take home.
Bursledon Brickworks Industrial Museum at Swanwick was founded in 1897 and produced 20 million bricks a year in its heyday. Open on Sundays, visitors can explore the brick workings and museum and see demonstrations of steam and pug mill engines. Regular open days and events provide exhibitions from historic cars to traditional crafts, along with a wildlife garden and coffee shop.
Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham tells the history of Fareham’s past including the ‘Fareham Reds’ which were locally produced bricks that built much of Victorian England; the largest export was The Royal Albert Hall, in London. There are local displays and events and activities for children, along with a Victorian public garden.
Visit the Heritage Centre within the Chapel at Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley and discover the history of largest military hospital. Opened by Florence Nightingale in 1863, Royal Victoria Hospital was over a quarter-mile long with 138 wards and around 1000 beds for the casualties of the Crimean War (1854- 56). Netley was also the home of the Army Medical School and one of its most famous doctors was Dr Watson, the partner of Sherlock Holmes. His connections with Netley are mentioned on the first page of ‘A Study in Scarlet’ the first Sherlock Holmes book.
There have been people living and working on the banks of the River Hamble for over two thousand years. Archaeology has shown that the Salterns, on the river edge near Bursledon, were in use from c100BC - 100AD
Henry V’s flagship the Grace Dieu was brought to the Hamble at Bursledon during the 100 Years War with France, but caught fire after being hit by lightning. Her wreck (one of many in the River Hamble) can be seen at low tide from Manor Farm Country Park.
The Elephant, Nelson’s flagship in the Battle of Copenhagen was built on the River Hamble. It was during this battle that Nelson ignored the command to withdraw putting his telescope to his blind eye and remarking to the ship’s captain “You know Foley, I have only one eye, I have the right to be blind sometimes, I really do not see the signal”
After the battle Nelson was promoted to Admiral. The Elephant also saw service in the 1812 war against the USA when she was under the command of Jane Austen’s brother Frank and featured in her novel ‘Mansfield Park’ was built on the River Hamble.
Walking around Hamble Square and the High Street there are many indications of the past trades of those associated with boats, including Rope Walk. Families of ship builders include The Ewers of Bursledon, Moody Janverin and Deacon’s Boatyard. The Hamble Valley Heritage Guides run Hamble based walks which bring to life these trades.
King John set up a customs collection service in 1203 which collected one fifteenth of all imports and exports, many people wanted to avoid paying so smuggling was born. Hamble’s sheltered waters were ideal for the landing of illicit cargo. Smuggling was established from there from 1235 when 11 ships were caught smuggling herring.
1944 saw Hamble as busy as it had been during the 100 Years War and there are several plaques and memorials along the river to commemorate the extraordinary activities that took place in the lead up to D-Day.