Brief Summary of Hampshire’s Biggest Towns and Cities

Published: 20th January 2012
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Hampshire is a county in the South of England that covers approximately 1,400 square miles. The county town is the historic cathedral city of Winchester. Hampshire contains the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth as well as the New Forest National Park. Famous people have included Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This is a brief look at the five largest towns and cities in Hampshire; Southampton, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Gosport and Waterlooville, as well as Winchester.


Southampton is Hampshire’s largest city. Much of its character comes from the city walls which were built to protect it after an attack by France in 1338. Around half of these walls still exist to this day. Southampton Port has played an important part in its history and industries, and was key in both world wars. In 1912 the Titanic sailed from Southampton to begin its fateful maiden voyage. Regular ferries still depart from Southampton to the Isle of Wight. Cross channel ferries no longer leave from Southampton but many Cruise ships do, in particular those going to the Mediterranean. It is also the largest freight port on the south coast of England. Southampton has good transport links that includes an airport with domestic and European flights.


Portsmouth has a population of a little over 200,000, and settlements began before Roman Times. Like Southampton, the port has played an important role in its history. It is the world’s oldest dry dock and a major naval base with it having the headquarters of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marine Commandos. It is also a commercial port. A modern addition to Portsmouth is the Spinnaker Tower which was finally completed in 2005 after many years of delays. It is a 170 metre high tower that dominates the skyline and also goes by the name of the Millennium Tower. Designed to look like a sail to reflect the city’s marine connections it includes an observation deck with 360 degree views and a glass floor.


Basingstoke is a market town that was greatly expanded in the 1960’s when it became a London overspill town. It has good transport links to London with a fast train service and the M3 motorway, with Basingstoke’s junction 50 miles from the capital. Settlements go back to the Iron Age. The town was targeted in world war two, with bomb damage that included St Michael’s Church in the town centre. These days Basingstoke is home to the headquarters of several large businesses. The town centre has recently been largely rebuilt, with the Festival Place shopping centre a major new addition.


Gosport is on the south coast on a peninsular, with Portsmouth on the opposite side. Some think of Gosport as an extension of Portsmouth but it is a town in its own right. It used to be a major naval and military town but declined in the late 1900’s. It held the last specialist military hospital in the UK until its closure in 2007. The first recorded settlements in what is now Gosport were in Anglo Saxon times. Famous people include singer Joe Jackson, actor Keith Allen and former athlete Roger Black.


The name Waterlooville comes from a pub that used to be in the centre of the town; the Heroes of Waterloo. It was so named because on its first day of opening it was visited by returning soldiers from the Battle of Waterloo. Many of the soldiers settled there. A pub of the same name still exists, though in a different location.


Despite not being one of the largest cities in Hampshire in population, Winchester is one of its best known places and is the county town. It is a cathedral city with one of the most famous cathedrals in Britain, and one of the largest in the world. The cathedral was built in 1079. Settlements go back to the Iron Age and Winchester became a capital of England in 686, one of several. It became the main capital city in 827 and remained so until after the Norman Conquest. A fire in 1141 accentuated what was already a decline in the city’s importance. Winchester is now a popular city due to its history and character. Jane Austen died in the city in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral.

Andrew Marshall ©

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