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County Flag of Hampshire.svg Coat of arms of Hampshire County Council, England.svg
Flag Coat of arms
Hampshire within England
Hampshire in England
Coordinates: 51°03′28″N 1°18′29″W / 51.0577°N 1.3081°W / 51.0577; -1.3081
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region South East
Established Ancient
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Nigel Atkinson
High Sheriff Revd Susan Colman (2020–21)
Area 3,769 km2 (1,455 sq mi)
 • Ranked 9th of 48
Population (2005 est.) 1,671,000
 • Ranked 5th of 48
Density 443/km2 (1,150/sq mi)
Non-metropolitan county
County council Hampshire County Council
Executive Conservative
Admin HQ Winchester
Area 3,679 km2 (1,420 sq mi)
 • Ranked 7th of 27
Population 1,259,400
 • Ranked 3rd of 27
Density 342/km2 (890/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-HAM
ONS code 24
GSS code E10000014

Unitary authorities
Councils Southampton
Hampshire numbered districts.svg
Districts of Hampshire
Unitary County council area
  1. Test Valley
  2. Basingstoke and Deane
  3. Hart
  4. Rushmoor
  5. City of Winchester
  6. East Hampshire
  7. New Forest
  8. City of Southampton
  9. Eastleigh
  10. Fareham
  11. Gosport
  12. City of Portsmouth
  13. Havant
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Hampshire Constabulary
Time zone GMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

Hampshire ( abbreviated to Hants) is a county in South East England on the coast of the English Channel. The county town is Winchester, but the county is named after Southampton. Its two largest cities are Southampton and Portsmouth which are administered separately as unitary authorities; the rest of the county is governed by a combination of Hampshire County Council and Non-metropolitan district councils.

First settled about 14,000 years ago, Hampshire's recorded history dates to Roman Britain, when its chief town was Winchester, then known as Venta Belgarum. The county was recorded in the 11th century Domesday Book, divided into 44 hundreds. From the 12th century, the ports grew in importance, fuelled by trade with the continent, wool and cloth manufacture, fishing and large shipbuilding industries. By the 16th century, the population of Southampton had outstripped that of Winchester. By the mid-19th century, with the county's population at 219,210 (double that at the beginning of the century) in more than 86,000 dwellings, agriculture was the principal industry and 10 per cent of the county was still forest. Hampshire played a crucial military role in both World Wars. The borders of the ceremonial county were created by the Local Government Act 1972 (enacted 1974). Historically part of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight was made a separate ceremonial county and the towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch were administered as part of the ceremonial county of Dorset.

The county's geography is varied, with upland to 286 metres (938 ft) and mostly south-flowing rivers. There are areas of downland and marsh and two national parks: the New Forest and part of the South Downs, which together cover 45 per cent of Hampshire.

Hampshire is one of the most affluent counties in the country, with an unemployment rate lower than the national average. Its economy mainly derives from major companies, maritime, agriculture and tourism. Tourist attractions include seaside resorts, national parks, the National Motor Museum and the Southampton Boat Show. The county is known as the home of writers Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Hampshire is also the childhood home of Florence Nightingale and the birthplace of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.


Hampshire takes its name from the settlement that is now the city of Southampton. Southampton was known in Old English as Hamtun, roughly meaning "village-town", so its surrounding area or scīr became known as Hamtunscīr. The old name was recorded in the Domesday book as Hantescire, and it is from this spelling that the modern abbreviation "Hants" derives. From 1889 until 1959, the administrative county was named the County of Southampton and has also been known as Southamptonshire.


Prehistory until the Norman Conquest

The region is believed to have been continuously occupied since the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 BCE. At this time Britain was still attached to the European continent and was predominantly covered with deciduous woodland. The first inhabitants came overland from Europe; these were anatomically and behaviourally modern humans, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Over several thousand years, the climate got progressively warmer, and sea levels rose; the English Channel, which started out as a river, was a major inlet by 8000 BCE, although Britain was still connected to Europe by a land bridge across the North Sea until 6500 BCE. Notable sites from this period include Bouldnor Cliff.

Agriculture had arrived in southern Britain by 4000 BCE, and with it a neolithic culture. Some deforestation took place at that time, although it was during the Bronze Age, beginning in 2200 BCE, that this became more widespread and systematic. Hampshire has few monuments to show from these early periods, although nearby Stonehenge was built in several phases at some time between 3100 BCE and 2200 BCE. In the very late Bronze Age, fortified hilltop settlements known as hillforts began to appear in large numbers in many parts of Britain including Hampshire, and these became more and more important in the early and middle Iron Age; many of these are still visible in the landscape today and can be visited, notably Danebury Rings, the subject of a major study by archaeologist Barry Cunliffe. It is maintained that by this period the people of Britain predominantly spoke a Celtic language, and their culture shared much in common with the Celts described by classical writers.

Hillforts largely declined in importance in the second half of the second century BCE, with many being abandoned. It was probably around this period that the first recorded invasion of Britain took place, as southern Britain was largely conquered by warrior-elites from Belgic tribes of northeastern Gaul - whether these two events are linked to the decline of hillforts is unknown. By the Roman conquest, the oppidum at Venta, modern-day Winchester, was the de facto regional administrative centre; Winchester was however of secondary importance to the Roman-style town of Calleva, modern Silchester, built further north by a dominant Belgic polity known as the Atrebates in the 50s BCE. Julius Caesar invaded southeastern England briefly in 55 and again in 54 BCE, but he never reached Hampshire. Notable sites from this period include Hengistbury Head (now technically in Dorset), which was a major port. There is a "Museum of the Iron Age" in Andover.

The Romans invaded Britain again in 43 CE, and Hampshire was incorporated into the Roman province of Britannia very quickly. It is generally believed their political leaders allowed themselves to be incorporated peacefully. Venta became the capital of the administrative polity of the Belgae, which included most of Hampshire and Wiltshire and reached as far as Bath. It is not recorded whether the people of Hampshire played any role in Boudicca's rebellion of 60-61 CE, but there is evidence of burning in Winchester dated to around this period. For most of the next three centuries, southern Britain enjoyed relative peace. The later part of the Roman period saw most towns build defensive walls; a pottery industry based in the New Forest was exported widely across southern Britain. There was a fortification near Southampton called Clausentum, part of the Saxon Shore forts, traditionally seen as defences against maritime raids by Germanic tribes. The Romans officially withdrew from Britain in 410 CE.

Records are unreliable for the next two hundred years, but in this time southern Britain went from being Brythonic to being English and Hampshire emerged as the centre of what was to become the most powerful kingdom in Britain, the Kingdom of Wessex. Evidence of early Anglo-Saxon settlement has been found at Clausentum and on the Thames at Dorchester, dated to the fifth century, and by the seventh century, the population of Hampshire was predominantly English-speaking. It is also around this period that the administrative region of "Hampshire" seems to appear; the name is attested as "Hamtunscir" in 755, and Albany Major suggested that the traditional western and northern borders of Hampshire may even go back to the very earliest conquests of Cerdic, legendary founder of Wessex, at the very beginning of the sixth century. Wessex gradually expanded westwards into Brythonic Dorset and Somerset in the seventh century. A statue in Winchester celebrates the powerful King Alfred, who repulsed the Vikings and stabilised the region in the 9th century. He was also a great scholar, who commissioned the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a powerful tool in the development of the English identity. King Alfred proclaimed himself "King of England" in 886; but it was not until 927 that Athelstan of Wessex officially controlled the whole of England.

Middle Ages onwards

By the Norman conquest, London had overtaken Winchester as the largest city in England, thanks in part to Alfred the Great's investments in infrastructure, and after the Norman Conquest King William I made it his capital. The centre of political power moved away from Hampshire, although Winchester remained a city of importance: it was the proximity of the New Forest to Winchester that made it such a prized royal hunting forest; indeed King William Rufus was famously killed in suspicious circumstances while hunting there. The county was recorded in the Domesday Book divided into 44 hundreds. From the 12th century the ports grew in importance, fuelled by trade with the continent, wool and cloth manufacture in the county, and the fishing industry, and a shipbuilding industry was established. By 1523 at the latest, the population of Southampton had outstripped that of Winchester.

Over several centuries a series of castles and forts were constructed along the coast of the Solent to defend the harbours at Southampton and Portsmouth. These include the Roman Portchester Castle which overlooks Portsmouth Harbour, and a series of forts built by Henry VIII including Hurst Castle, situated on a sand spit at the mouth of the Solent, Calshot Castle on another spit at the mouth of Southampton Water, and Netley Castle. Southampton and Portsmouth remained important harbours when rivals, such as Poole and Bristol declined, as they are amongst the few locations that combine shelter with deep water. Southampton has been host to many famous ships, including the Mayflower and the Titanic, the latter being staffed largely by natives of Southampton.

Hampshire played a crucial role in the Second World War due to the large Royal Navy naval base at Portsmouth, the army camp at Aldershot and the military Netley Hospital on Southampton Water, as well as its proximity to the army training ranges on Salisbury Plain and the Isle of Purbeck. Supermarine, the designers of the Spitfire and other military aircraft, were based in Southampton, which led to severe bombing of the city. Aldershot remains one of the British Army's main permanent camps. Farnborough is a major centre for the Aviation industry.

Although the Isle of Wight has at times been part of Hampshire, it has been administratively independent for over a century, obtaining a county council of its own in 1890. The Isle of Wight became a full ceremonial county in 1974. Apart from a shared police force there are now no formal administrative links between the Isle of Wight and Hampshire, though many organisations still combine Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch also fall within the traditional county of Hampshire, but were transferred to Dorset in the local government reorganisation of 1974. The boundary was changed again in 1992, when South Tidworth was transferred to Wiltshire.

The City Museum in Winchester covers the Iron Age and Roman periods, the Middle Ages, and the Victorian period over three floors.

United States

Hampshire was the departure point of some of those later to settle on the east coast of what since 1776 is the United States, earlier during the 17th century, giving its name in particular to the state of New Hampshire. The counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton in Virginia reflect the origins of some of the earliest Jamestown settlers. Portsmouth VA, appropriately enough, is home to one of the US Navy's main dockyards, the Norfolk (formerly Gosport) Naval Yard.

Southampton from Netley Hospital


See also: Immigration into Hampshire


At the 2001 census the ceremonial county recorded a population of 1,644,249, of which 1,240,103 were in the administrative county, 217,445 were in the unitary authority of Southampton, and 186,701 were in Portsmouth. The population of the administrative county grew 5.6 per cent from the 1991 census and Southampton grew 6.2 per cent (Portsmouth remained unchanged), compared with 2.6 per cent for England and Wales as a whole. Eastleigh and Winchester grew fastest at 9 per cent each.

Southampton and Portsmouth are the main settlements within the South Hampshire conurbation, which is home to about half of the ceremonial county's population. The larger South Hampshire metropolitan area has a population of 1,547,000.

Cities and towns by population size: (2001 census)

The table below shows the population change up to the 2011 census, contrasting the previous census. It also shows the proportion of residents in each district reliant upon lowest income and/or joblessness benefits, the national average proportion of which was 4.5 per cent (August 2012). The most populous district of Hampshire is New Forest District.

Population from census to census. Claimants of JSA or Income Support (DWP)
Unit JSA or Inc. Supp. claimants (August 2012) % of 2011 population JSA and Income Support claimants (August 2001) % of 2001 population Population (April 2011) Population (April 2001)
Hampshire 2.4% 4.3% 1,317,788 1,240,103
Ranked by district
Borough of Havant 4.1% 7.2% 120,684 116,849
Borough of Gosport 3.7% 5.7% 82,622 76,415
Borough of Rushmoor 2.9% 4.1% 93,807 90,987
Borough of Basingstoke and Deane 2.6% 3.8% 167,799 152,573
Borough of Eastleigh 2.3% 4.0% 125,199 116,169
New Forest District 2.2% 4.7% 176,462 169,331
Borough of Fareham 2.0% 3.7% 111,581 107,977
Borough of Test Valley 2.0% 3.8% 116,398 109,801
East Hampshire District 1.8% 4.0% 115,608 109,274
Winchester District 1.7% 3.6% 116,595 107,222
Hart District 1.3% 2.3% 91,033 83,505

Ethnicity and religion

At the 2011 census, about 89 per cent of residents were white British, falling to 85.87 per cent in Southampton. The significant ethnic minorities were Asian at 2.6 per cent and mixed race at 1.4 per cent; 10 per cent of residents were born outside the UK. 59.7 per cent stated their religion as Christian and 29.5 per cent as not religious. Significant minority religions were Islam (1.46 per cent) and Hinduism (0.73 per cent).

The Church of England Diocese of Winchester was founded in 676AD and covers about two thirds of Hampshire and extends into Dorset. Smaller parts of Hampshire are covered by the dioceses of Portsmouth, Guildford and Oxford.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth covers Hampshire as well as the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands.


Hampshire has wildlife typical of the island of Great Britain. The River Test has a growing number of otters, although other areas of the county have quite low numbers. There are reports of wild boar across the county. The New Forest is known for its ponies, which have free rein over much of the area. One distinguishing feature is that Hampshire has a large free roaming herd of red deer, including more than 6,500 stags during busy seasons. The stag population is managed by the government and hunting is carefully regulated.

Physical geography

Natural regions

Natural England has identified the following national character areas that lie wholly or partially in Hampshire:

Geology and climate

Hampshire's geology falls into two categories. In the south, along the coast is the "Hampshire Basin", an area of relatively non-resistant Eocene and Oligocene clays and gravels which are protected from sea erosion by the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, and the Isle of Wight. These low, flat lands support heathland and woodland habitats, a large area of which forms part of the New Forest. The New Forest has a mosaic of heathland, grassland, coniferous and deciduous woodland habitats that host diverse wildlife. The forest is protected as a national park, limiting development and agricultural use to protect the landscape and wildlife. Large areas of the New Forest are open common lands kept as a grassland plagioclimax by grazing animals, including domesticated cattle, pigs and horses, and several wild deer species. Erosion of the weak rock and sea level change flooding the low land has carved several large estuaries and rias, notably the 16 km (9.9 mi) long Southampton Water and the large convoluted Portsmouth Harbour. The Isle of Wight lies off the coast of Hampshire where the non-resistant rock has been eroded away, forming the Solent.

In the north and centre of the county the substrate is the rocks of the Chalk Group, which form the Hampshire Downs and the South Downs. These are high hills with steep slopes where they border the clays to the south. The hills dip steeply forming a scarp onto the Thames valley to the north, and dip gently to the south. The highest point in the county is Pilot Hill, which reaches a height of 286 m (938 ft), and lies on the border with West Berkshire. Butser Hill near Petersfield is the second highest point at 271 metres (889 ft) and lies in the South Downs National Park. The highest village in Hampshire at between 235-240m above sea level is Ashmansworth, located between Andover and Newbury. The downland supports a calcareous grassland habitat, important for wild flowers and insects. A large area of the downs is now protected from further agricultural damage by the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Itchen and Test are trout rivers that flow from the chalk through wooded valleys into Southampton Water. Nestled in a valley on the downs is Selborne, and the countryside surrounding the village was the location of Gilbert White's pioneering observations on natural history. Hampshire's county flower is the Dog Rose.

Hampshire has a milder climate than most areas of the British Isles, being in the far south with the climate stabilising effect of the sea, but protected against the more extreme weather of the Atlantic coast. Hampshire has a higher average annual temperature than the UK average at 9.8 to 12 °C (49.6 to 53.6 °F), average rainfall at 640–1,060 millimetres (25–42 in) per year, and holds higher than average sunshine totals of around 1,750 hours of sunshine per year.


There is a separate list of hills with Hampshire's highest and most notable hills.

Cities, towns and villages

New high-rise flats in the rapidly changing Basingstoke

Hampshire's county town is Winchester, a historic city that was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex and of England until the Norman conquest of England. The port cities of Southampton and Portsmouth were split off as independent unitary authorities in 1997, although they are still included in Hampshire for ceremonial purposes. Fareham, Gosport and Havant have grown into a conurbation that stretches along the coast between the two main cities. The three cities are all university cities, Southampton being home to the University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University (formerly Southampton Institute), Portsmouth to the University of Portsmouth, and Winchester to the University of Winchester (formerly known as University College Winchester; King Alfred's College).The northeast of the county houses the Blackwater Valley conurbation, which includes the towns of Farnborough, Aldershot, Blackwater and Yateley and borders both Berkshire and Surrey.

Hampshire lies outside the green belt area of restricted development around London, but has good railway and motorway links to the capital, and in common with the rest of the south-east has seen the growth of dormitory towns since the 1960s. Basingstoke, in the northern part of the county, has grown from a country town into a business and financial centre. Aldershot, Portsmouth, and Farnborough have strong military associations with the Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force respectively. The county also includes several market towns: Alton, Andover, Bishop's Waltham, Lymington, New Milton, Petersfield, Ringwood, Romsey and Whitchurch.

Cities and towns by population size: (2001 census)

For the complete list of settlements see List of places in Hampshire and List of settlements in Hampshire by population.

Culture, arts and sport


County Flag of Hampshire
County flag of Hampshire

The Flag of Hampshire was officially added to the Flag Institute's registry of flags on 12 March 2019 after receiving support from Hampshire County Council, the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, and many local organisations. The county day and flag day is 15 July, St Swithun's Day; St Swithun was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester.


Hampshire is the home of many orchestras, bands, and groups. Musician Laura Marling hails originally from Hampshire. The Hampshire County Youth Choir is based in Winchester, and has had successful tours of Canada and Italy in recent years. The Hampshire County Youth Orchestra (with its associated chamber orchestra and string orchestra) is based at Thornden Hall.


Milestones Museum
Milestones Museum, Basingstoke

There are a number of local museums, such as the City Museum in Winchester, which covers the Iron Age and Roman periods, the Middle Ages, and the Victorian period over three floors. A "Museum of the Iron Age" is in Andover. Solent Sky Museum depicts the story of aviation in Hampshire and the Solent region, with more than 20 airframes from the golden age. Southampton's Sea City Museum is primarily focused on the city's links with the Titanic. Basingstoke's Milestones Museum records the county's industrial heritage. There are also a number of national museums in Hampshire. The National Motor Museum is located in the New Forest at Beaulieu. The Royal Navy Museum is part of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Other military museums include The Submarine Museum at Gosport, the Royal Marines Museum, originally in Southsea but was due to transfer to the Dockyard in 2019, the Aldershot Military Museum, the D-Day Story by Southsea Castle and the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. Several museums and historic buildings in Hampshire are the responsibility of the Hampshire Cultural Trust. Specialist museums include the Gilbert White museum in his old home in Selborne, which also includes The Oates Collection, dedicated to the explorer Lawrence Oates.

Annual events

The New Forest and Hampshire County Show takes place annually at the end of July; 2020 will mark its centenary. The largest gathering of Muslims in Western Europe, Jalsa Salana, takes place near Alton, with 37,000 visitors in 2017. The ancient festival of Beltain takes place at Butser Ancient Farm in the spring.

Buildings and protected monuments

There are 187 Grade I listed buildings in the county, ranging from statues to farm buildings and churches to castles, 511 buildings listed Grade II*, and many more listed in the Grade II category. National Heritage's figures include the Isle of Wight, listing 208 Grade I buildings, 578 Grade II* and 10,372 Grade II, 731 scheduled monuments, two wrecks, 91 parks and gardens, and a battlefield: the Battle of Cheriton, which took place in 1644, near Winchester.


Pavilion stands
Ageas Bowl cricket ground, West End, 2010

The game of cricket was largely developed in south-east England, with one of the first teams forming at Hambledon in 1750, with the Hambledon Club creating many of cricket's early rules. Hampshire County Cricket Club is a first-class team. The main county ground is the Ageas Bowl in West End, which has hosted one day internationals and which, following redevelopment, hosted its first test match in 2011.

The world's oldest surviving bowling green is the Southampton Old Bowling Green, which was first used in 1299.

Hampshire's relatively safe waters have allowed the county to develop as one of the busiest sailing areas in the country, with many yacht clubs and several manufacturers on the Solent. The Hamble, Beaulieu and Lymington rivers are major centres for both competitive and recreational sailing, along with Hythe and Ocean Village marinas. The sport of windsurfing was invented at Hayling Island in the south east of the county.

Fratton Park, Sep 2006
Fratton Park football ground, Portsmouth, from Milton End, 2006

Hampshire has several association football teams, including Premier league side Southampton F.C., EFL League One side Portsmouth F.C. and National league sides Aldershot Town F.C., Eastleigh F.C. and Havant & Waterlooville F.C. Portsmouth F.C. and Southampton F.C. have traditionally been fierce rivals. Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 1939 and 2008 and the Football League title in 1949 and 1950. Southampton won the FA Cup in 1976 and reached the finals in 1900, 1902, and 2003. Aldershot F.C. were members of the Football League from 1932 to 1992. They were succeeded by Aldershot Town F.C. who in 2008 were crowned the Conference Premier champions and promoted to the Football League, but lost their Football League status after the 2012–13 season. Hampshire has a number of Non League football teams. Bashley, Gosport borough and AFC Totton play in the Southern Football League Premier Division and Sholing F.C. and Winchester City F.C. play in the Southern Football League Division One South and West.

Thruxton Circuit, in the north of the county, is Hampshire's premier motor racing circuit, with a karting circuit; there are other karting circuits at Southampton and Gosport. The other main circuit is the Ringwood Raceway at Matchams.

Lasham Airfield, near Alton, is a major centre for gliding, hosting both regional and national annual competitions.



Front window of Hampshire Chronicle newspaper, England, 1999
Former Hampshire Chronicle office in Winchester, circa 1999

The county's television news is covered by BBC South Today from its studios in Southampton and ITV Meridian from a studio in Whiteley, though both BBC London and ITV London can be received in northern and eastern parts of the county. A local independent television station, That's Hampshire, started transmitting in May 2017.


Around 25 commercial radio stations cover the area, and BBC Radio Solent looks after the majority of the county, while BBC Surrey can be heard in the north east. University journalism students also "broadcast" bulletins on line for local areas, such as the University of Winchester's WINOL (Winchester News Online), run by students on its BA (Hons) Journalism course.


Southampton and Portsmouth support daily newspapers; the Southern Daily Echo and The News respectively. The Basingstoke Gazette is published three times a week, and there are a number of other papers that publish on a weekly basis, notably the Hampshire Chronicle, one of the oldest newspapers in the country.



Southampton Airport, with an accompanying main line railway station, is an international airport situated in the Borough of Eastleigh, close to Swaythling in the city of Southampton. The Farnborough International Airshow is a week-long event that combines a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defence industries with a public airshow. The event is held in mid-July in even-numbered years at Farnborough Airport. The first five days (Monday to Friday) are dedicated to trade, with the final two days open to the public.


Cross-channel and cross-Solent ferries from Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington link the county to the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and continental Europe.


The South West Main Line (operated by South Western Railway) from London to Weymouth runs through Winchester and Southampton, and the Wessex Main Line from Bristol to Portsmouth also runs through the county as does the Portsmouth Direct Line.


M3 at Basingstoke - - 16459
The M3 near Basingstoke

The M3 motorway bisects the county from the southwest, at the edge of the New Forest near Southampton, to the northeast on its way to connect with the M25 London orbital motorway. At its southern end it links with the M27 south coast motorway. The construction of the Twyford Down cutting near Winchester caused major controversy by cutting through a series of ancient trackways and other features of archaeological significance. The M27 serves as a bypass for the major conurbations and as a link to other settlements on the south coast. Other important roads include the A27, A3, A31, A34, A36 and A303.

The county has a high level of car ownership, with only 15.7 per cent having no access to a private car compared with 26.8 per cent for England and Wales. The county has a lower than average use of trains (3.2 compared with 4.1 per cent for commuting) and buses (3.2 to 7.4 per cent), but a higher than average use of bicycles (3.5 to 2.7 per cent) and cars (63.5 to 55.3 per cent).

Inland waterways

Hampshire formerly had several canals, but most of these have been abandoned and their routes built over. The Basingstoke Canal has been extensively restored, and is now navigable for most of its route, but the Salisbury and Southampton Canal, Andover Canal and Portsmouth and Arundel Canal have all disappeared. Restoration of the Itchen Navigation, linking Southampton and Winchester, primarily as a wildlife corridor, began in 2008.


Eastleigh railway works
Eastleigh railway works

Hampshire is one of the most affluent counties in the country, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of £29 billion, excluding Southampton and Portsmouth. In 2018, Hampshire had a GDP per capita of £22,100, comparable with the UK as a whole.

Portsmouth and Winchester have the highest job densities in the county; 38 per cent of workplace workers in Portsmouth commuted into the city in 2011. Southampton has the highest number of total jobs and commuting both into and out of the city is high. The county has a lower level of unemployment than the national average, at 1.3 per cent when the national rate is 2.1 per cent, as of February 2018. About one third are employed by large firms. Hampshire has a considerably higher than national average employment in high-tech industries, but average levels in knowledge-based industry. About 25 per cent of the population work in the public sector. Tourism accounts for some 60,000 jobs in the county, around 9 per cent of the total.

One of the principal companies in the high tech sector is IBM which has its research and development laboratories at Hursley and its UK headquarters at Cosham.

Many rural areas of Hampshire have traditionally been reliant on agriculture, particularly dairy farming, although the significance of agriculture as a rural employer and rural wealth creator has declined since the first half of the 20th century and agriculture currently employs 1.32 per cent of the rural population.

The extractive industries deal principally with sand, gravel, clay and hydrocarbons. There are three active oilfields in Hampshire with one being also used as a natural gas store. These are in the west of the county in the Wessex Basin. The Weald Basin to the east has potential as a source of shale oil but is not currently exploited.

The New Forest area is a national park, and tourism is a significant economic segment in this area, with 7.5 million visitors in 1992. The South Downs and the cities of Portsmouth, Southampton, and Winchester also attract tourists to the county. Southampton Boat Show is one of the biggest annual events held in the county, and attracts visitors from throughout the country. In 2003, the county had a total of 31 million day visits, and 4.2 million longer stays.

Azamara Quest
Southampton Docks

The cities of Southampton and Portsmouth are both significant ports, with Southampton Docks handling a large proportion of the national container freight traffic as well as being a major base for cruise liners, and Portsmouth Harbour accommodating one of the Royal Navy's main bases and a terminal for cross-channel ferries to France and Spain. The docks have traditionally been large employers in these cities, though mechanisation of cargo handling has led to a reduction in manpower needed.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch has its principal offices in Southampton, while the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has its head office in Farnborough in Rushmoor District . The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has one of its two offices at Farnborough.


The school system in Hampshire (including Southampton and Portsmouth) is comprehensive. Geographically inside the Hampshire LEA are 24 independent schools, Southampton has three and Portsmouth has four. Few Hampshire schools have sixth forms, which varies by district council. There are 14 further education colleges within the Hampshire LEA, including six graded as 'outstanding' by Ofsted: Alton College, Barton Peveril Sixth Form College, Brockenhurst College, Farnborough College of Technology, Farnborough Sixth Form College, Peter Symonds College, Queen Mary's College, and South Downs College.

Notable independent schools in the county include Winchester College, allegedly England's oldest public school, founded in 1382, and the pioneering co-educational Bedales School, founded in 1893.

The four universities are the University of Southampton, Southampton Solent University, the University of Portsmouth, and the University of Winchester (which also had a small campus in Basingstoke until 2011). Farnborough College of Technology awards University of Surrey-accredited degrees.

Notable people

Possibly the most notable resident was the Duke of Wellington, who lived at Stratfield Saye House in the north of the county from 1817. An eminent Victorian, who made her mark and “came home” to Hampshire for burial at East Wellow was Florence Nightingale.

Hampshire's literary connections include the birthplace of authors Jane Austen, Wilbert Awdry and Charles Dickens, and the residence of others, such as Charles Kingsley and Mrs Gaskell. Austen lived most of her life in Hampshire, where her father was rector of Steventon, and wrote all of her novels in the county. Alice Liddell, also known as Alice Hargreaves, the inspiration for Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, lived in and around Lyndhurst, Hampshire after her marriage to Reginald Hargreaves, and is buried in the graveyard of St Michael and All Angels Church in the town. Hampshire also has many visual art connections, claiming the painter John Everett Millais as a native, and the cities and countryside have been the subject of paintings by L. S. Lowry and J. M. W. Turner. Selborne was the home of Gilbert White. Journalist and social critic Christopher Hitchens was born into a naval family in Portsmouth. Broadcasters Philippa Forrester, Amanda Lamb and Scott Mills also are from the county. American actor and gameshow host, Richard Dawson, was born and raised here. Richard St. Barbe Baker Founder of the International Tree Foundation and responsible for planting over two billion trees was born in West End.

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