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
The River Hamble rises near Waltham Chase and flows past Botley, then Bursledon, past Hamble and runs into The Solent. Its double tides provide a high tide which lasts well over 2 hours and after this there is a quick short ebb tide which is followed by a long flood tide. These double tides and the safe harbour the river provides has meant that the River Hamble has been linked to the country’s maritime heritage since men first went to sea in ships.
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.
The Hampshire & Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology
The Hampshire & Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA) have been exploring the maritime archaeology of the River Hamble for many years. This has included survey and historic research of the river’s foreshore. Trust volunteer, Richard Wyatt has recently produced an excellent series of short audio guides/podcasts to be enjoyed as you walk along the River Hamble. The files can be freely downloaded and listened to on an MP3 player. Richard’s commentary, with occasional snippets from HWTMA staff, provides fascinating insights into the history of the area and tells the story behind some of the vessels that have been abandoned on the River Hamble’s foreshore http://www.hwtma.org.uk/bursledon
The Trust have also produced a children’s activity book and foreshore companion on the maritime archaeology of the River Hamble which are available from their website www.hwtma.org.uk.