I believe Hampshire may be unique as a county in having 3 cities within it – Southampton, Portsmouth and Winchester. As a result there are plenty of historical connections to our area, some of which make for excellent days out.
The fact we can directly access the Isle of Wight, and there are many historical connections there, gives us even more to see and do. And then there are the places people drive through to get somewhere else, some of which also have historical stories to tell.
I hope to write at a later date more detailed posts about some of the places I’ve visited.
One of the great joys of Chandler’s Ford is the ease of transport connections and while I think we would all like better bus connections and so on, it is equally true we can get to so many places by road, train and bus from here. And it is so easy to get to the ferry connections to the IOW too.
I think my love of history comes directly from my love of stories. British history is lengthy, varied, bloody and so much has been dependent on certain significant events. For example the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 is more vital to our identity than is usually given credit for. Why? Had Richard III survived, there would have been no Tudors, no Henry VIII, no Reformation, no Church of England and so on.
There are the remains of the Roman walls to walk around, of course.
And Southampton, along with Portsmouth, has its own World War 2 stories to share given both cities were badly bombed and so much had to be rebuilt.
Southampton also saw The Mayflower sail to the New World with the Pilgrim Fathers and centuries later was the port which launched the Titanic, which sadly never returned. The Titanic Memorial is near the Cenotaph and both monuments are places to reflect. It’s no coincidence I feel that no ship has been officially referred to as “unsinkable” again.
Mary Tudor was married to Philip II of Spain in the Cathedral. Hers was not the happiest reign this country has ever experienced. The only reason for being known as “Bloody Mary” was people were shocked at the scale of the burnings and killings during what what was a short reign.
The history of the Cathedral itself is interesting. Stephen Gardiner, Mary Tudor’s Lord Chancellor, is buried here and tried to stop at least some of the heresy burnings, including that of Archbishop Cramner. Sadly Gardiner failed. Whether he was motivated by compassion or by worry about resentment building up in the populace, I don’t know, but it is to his credit he tried. Sadly religious extremism is nothing new.
Jane Austen is buried at Winchester Cathedral. The relics of St. Swithin are here too. I wonder if anyone has tested the old saying about if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, rain will follow for 40 days afterwards. Mind, given the weather in this country, that could have been taken as a reasonably safe bet!
The saving of the Cathedral by William Walker is in itself a fascinating story. He had to work in the dark wearing the heavy diving equipment of the time and was in constant danger given nobody knew whether the Cathedral was about to collapse and whether Walker would be in time to save it. He spent six years on this and quite rightly is commemorated. When you consider the equipment we have now to tackle problems like this and that Walker had none of it, it makes his achievement even more amazing.
There is also the Great Hall with the Round Table in it.
The image in the middle of the table resembles a young Henry VIII. I don’t think that is a coincidence. And Hampshire’s symbol, the Tudor Rose, is a link to a major part of our history too.
The statue of King Alfred in the Broadway is a link to early history.
I must admit, whether the story of the burnt cakes is true or not, I do admire Alfred for his love of learning and books. Funnily enough he is really the founder of the Navy as we know it, not Henry VIII (who usually gets the credit).
Birthplace of our greatest male novelist, Charles Dickens. My favourite books from him are A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers.
Portsmouth is probably best known for being home to the Royal Naval Dockyard, which makes for several wonderful days out. I highly recommend getting the annual ticket. It saves money and encourages return trips. There is no way of covering everything they have here in one day or even two or three…
Highlights of the Dockyard for me are the Harbour Tour (always lots of information on the ships currently in dock), the Mary Rose Exhibition (especially since now you can see so much more of the ship, which is huge and an amazing feat when you consider when it was built), HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.
I also visited the Spinnaker Tower and on a good day you can see across to the Isle of Wight. I’ve also used our shuttle service to get to Eastleigh where I picked up the train to Portsmouth Harbour and the ferry to Ryde. From there I used the Island railway to get to the Steam Railway, which I also recommend as a day out.
The historical connection? Looking into the history of the Steam Railway and its locomotives, highly appropriate for someone living so close to a historic railway town in Eastleigh.
Isle of Wight
Carisbrooke Castle, former prison of King Charles I, is a fantastic place to visit. It is bigger than I thought it would be and it is remarkably well preserved. The moat is an impressive sight too.
Walking around the Keep and the castle walls was a great experience and the views over Carisbrooke are stunning. The nice thing is that though that activity would not be suited for anyone who would find climbing and/or steep steps difficult, there is plenty to do and see at ground level.
The chapel built by Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, in memory of King Charles I is beautiful. I hope to write a more in depth article on the castle at a later date but her gardens are lovely and the museum is good. It is also the only castle I’ve visited where they have working donkeys to draw water from the wells.
Generally the IOW is so easy to get to from here. While I cheated a bit this time and had a lift down to the Town Quay to pick up the Fast Cat, our shuttle train service would get you into Southampton Central and from there the Citylink bus takes you directly to the door of the ferry terminals. For those using the IOW ferry the service is still free. For anyone using this bus to just get into Southampton shopping precinct, it’s a £1 each way.
On the island, I picked up the bus (the No. 1) to Newport directly from the ferry terminal and bought an All Day Rover Ticket. For a group this is £25. For an individual it is £10 but with either you get all day bus travel and I highly recommend it though note the bus driver will want cash!
Nearly everywhere on the IOW it is a case of getting the bus to Newport Bus Station and then changing to another bus to get to wherever you want to visit. I would say this worked out significantly cheaper than trying to take the car over, the Fast Cat is only a 25 minutes crossing and I was impressed with the way the buses integrated well with the ferries and other linking buses (in this case the 7 to Carisbrooke and on the way back the 38 back to Newport).
At the end of my visit to Carisbrooke Castle, I only had to wait 20 minutes for a bus (so unlike Hiltingbury where it’s an hour’s wait to get to Fryern!) and that was only because my party and I had only just missed a bus. There is nothing quite like seeing the back of the bus you wanted to catch heading off in the sunset without you!
And then there is Titchfield Abbey, which I’ve not yet visited. It was where Mary Tudor held her engagement celebrations. The Abbey was spoilt by Cromwell. (And isn’t that an accurate term!).
Then there’s Hambledon, the birthplace of cricket of course.
Henry V stayed at Bishop’s Waltham on his way to Agincourt. Many of his longbow men came from Hampshire and their skill turned this war given the English troops were seriously outnumbered yet won.
The New Forest is, of course, famous for its variety of trees and heathland but, historically, it is best known for being planted by William the Conqueror as his own forest. It was then made infamous by the death of his son, William Rufus, which was almost certainly murder.
Then there are Exbury Gardens and Beaulieu Motor Museum in amongst the trees and the wildlife.
So if you have a love of history, you are spoilt for choice as to places to visit here and they are easy to get to from Chandler’s Ford.
As for the history of Chandler’s Ford, sadly we are probably going to be best known for that bank robbery. It is always the dramatic that grabs the headlines but that’s been true since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. And I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.
Note: Don’t miss Allison’s next post on Friday 20th November 2015.
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