Village History

View of The Peoples Market from the top of the High StreetVillage History

When you come into Hambledon the first thing you notice is the profusion of cottages, every one a little bit different and some which could have been shops, and others obviously very old houses. The centre of the village is marked by the turn up to the High Street with the Church at the top and The Peoples Market and Manor Farm, built around 1200, at the bottom.

Early Days

The first evidence of a settlement at Hambledon are the Bronze Age barrows scattered around the parish. Of their successors, the Iron Celts, there is little trace, but by 100 AD a Roman Villa had been established and this stood near Bury Lodge. During the invasions of the 5th century the Jutes probably settled in this area, as well as the Meon valley. The first mention of Hambledon is in a charter by King Edgar dated 956 granting land at Chidden.

The name Hambledon may mean 'the homestead in the downs' or Hamela's Down. In Saxon days Hambledon belonged to the Abbey of St.Peter, St. Paul and St.Swithin at Winchester.

The original part of the Church of St.Peter and St.Paul is 11th century Saxon. There was possibly a Saxon village on the south slope above and to the east of the Church. Iron Age remains are dotted about the surrounding fields and the site of a Roman Villa is to be found close to where Bury Lodge now stands set on high ground at the southern end of the village.

The Middle Ages

Domesday Book mentions only two of the holdings in Hambledon, but figures given suggest quite a prosperous community. William I seized all church lands and in about 1160 Henry II returned the manor of Hambledon to the Bishop of Winchester. A hundred years later Henry III granted the Bishop a weekly market in Hambledon on Tuesdays. This meant a rapid growth in the prosperity of the village, and can be linked with the ambitious programme of enlarging the church.

The Church of St.Peter and St.Paul was extended several times, first in the early 12th century. Then followed a period of expansion in the next century when in 1256 AD a grant of a weekly market decreed that Hambledon was now a Town. We know that most of the Church dates from this time, but, apart from Manor Farm, no other domestic architecture can be assigned to it with confidence.

The Stuarts

Further expansion to the Church of St.Peter and St.Paul came when James I announced in 1612 that we could now have two Fairs every year. About fifty houses have features of the 17th century hiding behind their Georgian fronts.

The letters patent were stamped with the word 'Broadhalfpenny' which was the toll paid to the Lord of the Manor for the setting up of booths.

The village was involved in the English Civil War (1642-51) through the exploits of the 'Hambledon Boys', fighting for Parliament under Colonel Norton of Southwick.  They distinguished themselves at the Battle of Cheriton (29th June 1644).  After the battle of Worcester (3rd September 1651) and his escape by hiding in an oaktree, King Charles II who was disguised as a poor yeoman, spent the night of 13th October 1651 at the cottage adjoining the house of Mr Thomas Symonds.  The cottage still stands and is now called 'King's Rest'.  This was to be his last night in England before escaping to France and eight years as an exile.

The Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth century Hambledon suffered two fires. One in about 1725 destroyed most of the east side of the High Street. The other in 1788 destroyed the upper part of the church tower but the peal of six bells was saved. The second half of the century was the era of Hambledon's cricket glory during which the extraordinary fortunes of the village raised cricket from a sport to an art.

Hambledon remained sufficiently prosperous in the 18th century for many of the cottages and houses to be rebuilt or at least refaced in brick, this financed perhaps by Naval Prize Money. At this time there were up to twelve public houses in the village and surrounding area; as many as 20,000 people thronged to the cricket matches at Broad-Halfpenny Down; the stage coach linked with London and hunt balls were held at the George Inn. At the turn of the 19th century, however, the growth of Portsmouth drew people away and the village fell into some decay. William Cobbett wrote in 1826: 'There is now not even the name of the market left... if you go through the place you can see it was a considerable town. The Church tells you the same story; it is now a tumbledown, rubbishy place.'

The Flags of the Hambledon Volunteers, formed to repel Napoleon's expected invasion still hang in the church. The pull of Portsmouth and economic troubles led to the rapid decline of the village.

Modern Times

The arrival in 1874 of a new Vicar, the Reverend Dr.Thomas White, led to vigorous work in church building and reform of worship. The parish church underwent major repairs, and a new church of All Saints was consecrated at Denmead in 1880.

The War Memorial tells its own story of the toll of Hambledon in two world wars. On 22nd May 1944, King George VI visited Hambledon to review troops assembled in and around the parish in readiness for D Day.

In the present century Hambledon's population has remained static at about a thousand. The village has maintained its separate identity, its environs protected by the Green Belt, the National Trust and a committed Parish Council. The community spirit is thriving, the weekly activities are extensive. From its Saxon roots through the heyday of cricket at Broad-Halfpenny Down and on to modern times, Hambledon is an engaging place in which to live.