Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have a unique and interesting past dating back thousands of years, making it the destination for history lovers and those interested in discovering times-gone-by.
A proud history
Dive into the depths of maritime history at SeaCity Museum in Southampton where the infamous Titanic began its only voyage, and take a journey through the ages of Southampton’s shipping industry. Travel back further to the 18th century shipbuilding village of Bucklers Hard, focusing on its vessels including those built for Nelson’s Navy.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is the UK’s premier destination for naval history. Go on board and explore the decks of world famous historic ships including Lord Nelson’s world famous flagship HMS Victory, Queen Victoria’s HMS Warrior and the only surviving ship from the First World War’s Gallipoli Campaign, HMS M.33.
As strong as it’s maritime history, Hampshire also has a strong military history. With military-themed museums you can explore over 100 years of the British Army at the Museum of Army Flying, discover a restored Victorian fortresses and the ‘Big Guns’ at Fort Nelson, and spend a day out enjoying the 6 regimental museums at Winchester Military Museums.
You could visit Chawton House Library, a romantic 400-year-old manor house once owned by Jane Austen’s brother and known to her as the ‘Great House’. It’s full of historical treasures and fascinating stories, and boasts beautiful gardens and grounds. Situated in 1800 acres of beautifully landscaped parkland and ancient forest on the Hampshire/Sussex border, Stansted House is one of southern England’s best stately homes.
Inside the house at The Vyne, visitors of all ages can learn about William Wiggett Chute and his family who lived there in the mid-19th Century. Everyone can immerse themselves in this chapter of The Vyne’s past by dressing up like Victorians in the Housekeeper’s Room. In case any parents are keen to swot up; the mansion is celebrated for its historic gems including a pre-Reformation chapel, Tudor oak gallery with 16th-century wood carvings and neo-classical staircase hall.
Relive yesteryear at the Watercress Line. At over 150 years old, it is one of the most successful heritage steam railways in the country. Your ticket gives you all day unlimited travel allowing you to visit each of the charming period stations, with plenty to explore at each stop.
Centuries of history are buried within Mottisfont’s walls. Visit the lower-ground floor to find out how Mottisfont has changed over the years and step into the 13th-century cellarium. Upstairs, you’ll discover the lives of last owners the Russell family, who made Mottisfont their artistic retreat in the 1930s.
Experience life on board Henry VIII’s favourite warship. See the Mary Rose in her purpose-built museum in Portsmouth after 437 years on the seabed, and wonder at the thousands of Tudor objects preserved when she sank in 1545.
Step in histories footsteps
Hampshire is where you will also find the world famous Beaulieu, home of the National Motor Museum. You can easily enjoy a day at Beaulieu wandering around their impressive displays of over 250 vehicles telling the history of motoring in Britain. That’s not all there is, Beaulieu is also home to the Victorian gothic style Palace House, Secret Army Exhibition, and the conserved ruins of Beaulieu Abbey. For another historic family day out the Hollycombe Steam Museum is a great place to see the past come to life, with a traditional fairground and steam railway.
Winchester Cathedral is one of Hampshire’s most historic attractions, with over 1,000 years of history to explore. Admire magnificent medieval architecture, discover priceless treasures and be captivated by stories of people connected with the Cathedral’s history, from Anglo-Saxon kings and bishops to the much-loved author Jane Austen.
The history of Hampshire is enriched by the story of Jane Austen, Britain’s most-loved writer, who lived in the county for much of her life. Step in to Jane Austen’s world at Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton, and discover the house where she lived and wrote her much loved novels.
Step back in time to the 18th century at Buckler’s Hard. On the now tranquil banks of the Beaulieu River, this historic village was once a hive of shipbuilding activity, building ships for Nelson’s Navy. Step inside historic cottages and visit the Maritime Museum to discover the village’s fascinating past.
Commanding the entrance to the Solent is Hurst Castle, a powerful fortress, built by Henry VIIII in 1544 and steeped in centuries of military history. You can step into the heart of Hurst Castle to its Tudor fort, which retains much of its orginal appearance and follow the steps to the first floor of the Tudor Keep, where Charles I was kept prisoner here in 1648. Remaining in military use until 1956, the castle played an active role in both world wars and you can take a glimpse into the living conditions of a soldier here and also visit the last remaining theatre, constructed by the garrison to survive from the Second World War.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to walk through the streets of historic England, you can do just that at Milestones Museum as you take a stroll through the old-cobbled streets, you can even buy your favourite sweets from the vintage sweet shop or enjoy a pint in the Baverstock Arms. Continue your journey back in time and visit the 15th Century Tudor House & Garden in Southampton, where you’ll discover the lives and times of its residents. You could also travel through time at Hurst Castle in Keyhaven, Hampshire and see for yourself where Charles I was kept prisoner in 1648. Here at Hurst Castle, you can also glimpse into the living conditions of a soldier in the First and Second World Wars, with living quarters and washing facilities to explore.
Follow the workers as they made 8 million bricks a year in the Victorian brickworks at Bursledon. Now a museum the old factory was one of the first industrialised brick manufacturers in the county. It is now the only steam driven brickworks left in the UK and an important legacy to what was once a huge industry.
Discover what once roamed
Hampshire is also home to the New Forest National Park, once a hunting playground for William the Conqueror you can discover the interesting history of this stunning forest at the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, with interactive exhibits and displays.