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Trackside: Fareham

Stories about people and places from across the South Western Railway network.

Fareham’s a lively market town on the north west tip of Portsmouth Harbour, and halfway between Southampton and Portsmouth.

Its High Street has many characterful, historical buildings and there’s plenty to enjoy – there’s a great mix of modern attractions with an important historical architectural background.  

Did you know that Fareham was one of the first town to have electric street lighting?

Early Fareham 

Fareham’s origins go back to a small settlement developed before Roman times around a crossing point of the River Wallington, close to the top of what is now High Street.

The Romans came to the area in about AD43 and built a large fortress at Portchester to shelter their garrison and defend Portsmouth Harbour.

There’s evidence of settlements in the Second Ice Age and Saxon times, with flint arrowheads, knives and other implements at Hill Head. During the Iron Age, the Celts are believed to have used the River Meon as a harbour.

Places to Visit:

Fareham Creek

Fareham Creek was been very important for hundreds of years…

William the Conqueror’s reserve army disembarked at Fareham Creek before marching on Winchester and then Wallingford. All before he took the crown from old Harold and became the first Norman King of England! 

It was an important commercial port for hundreds of years, shipping coal, corn, salt, timber, leather, bricks and pottery, as well as French wine.

And it’s not just trade – for hundreds of years, the area was an important place for ship-building – not least for the Royal Navy.  As well as ships, one of the other visible impacts that the Royal Navy have had are the houses. 

Many elegant houses were built for high-ranking naval officers to live in pleasant surroundings away from the dockyard.  With their wealth, shops and businesses grew. There was a cheese market in the high street and a large cattle market was held in the centre of West Street until the 1960s. 

Brick Making at Bursledon Brickworks

Until 1974, Fareham had an active brick making industry which used local clay to produce famous ‘Fareham Reds’ bricks.

Many Georgian houses in the high street are built of these, and did you know the distinctive red bricks of the Royal Albert Hall also came from brickworks in this area?

If you want to experience what it was like to work in the brickworks, check out Bursledon Brickworks Museum which is housed within a genuine Victorian brickworks.  You’ll experience the sights, smells and sounds of 125 years of brick-making and the lives of the people that drove it. With hands-on exhibits, as well as barrows, shovels and wagons, there’s plenty to see and do.

Cams Estate   

Another place to step back in time is a visit to Cams Estate. For centuries this was one of Fareham’s most stately residences, with a manor house recorded at Cams Hall as far back as the 13th century.

In 1781, a new building on the estate was bought by the Delme family who moved from Place House to live in the mansion. They spent a small fortune part-rebuilding and enlarging it into a superb mansion, known as Cams Hall, and it remained in the family for more than 100 years.

Portchester Castle

This fascinating Castle overlooking Portsmouth Harbour has been a Roman fortress, a Norman stronghold and even a prisoner of war camp during the Napoleonic Wars.

An interesting thing to look out for at the castle is the design of its towers. Their D-shape is because they were built around Roman defences that were already there that used this design. 

If you visit Portchester Castle, you can experience what life was like for the soldiers held here, and if you’ve got a head for heights, climb to the top of the 30-metre keep to take in breathtaking views over the Solent. 

The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson

If you’re a fan of military history, make your visit go off with a bang at The Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson.

With over 19 acres of tunnels, ramparts and artillery to explore, let your imaginations run wild. This Victorian fortress overlooking Portsmouth Harbour, is packed with artillery from across the world.

One of the oldest cannons is the Boxted Bombard; a 15th century English wrought-iron gun powerful enough to fire a 60 kg granite ball. There are French field guns captured at the Battle of Waterloo and fortress guns from India and China.

Whilst the Victorian era is known as a period of major advancements, it was also a period of international threat, especially from the French.  The government decided we needed to protect our naval docks and harbours along the South Coast, and one of the defences built was Fort Nelson to safeguard Portsmouth from attack by land.

Wouldn’t you believe it though, as soon as Fort Nelson was completed in 1871, the threat from the French disappeared! 

Fort Fareham

If you like a fort, you might like to explore the abandoned ruins of Fort Fareham. The fort was completed in 1864, and is the only one of three proposed “Gosport Outer Line” forts to be built. The other two were never constructed due to budget cuts.

Titchfield Abbey

For something a little more tranquil, take a trip to Titchfield Abbey

Originally a 13th century abbey, this grand building was given by Henry VIII to the Earl of Southampton who transformed it into a grand Tudor mansion called Place House.

It’s claimed that some of Shakespeare’s plays, including ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ were first performed here. The grand Tudor Gatehouse dominates the remains. 

If you like to get out and about, why not explore the Titchfield Canal which was built to irrigate meadows in the Meon Valley. There’s a great great guided walk along the canal

Or, visit Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, natural wetlands where you can enjoy hikes through scenic nature areas that are home to rare animals and plants.

What you like

We caught up with some children to find out their favourite places to visit in and around Fareham…

  • “We love going to Hill Head Beach – I like collecting shells and looking out for cute crabs”
  • “If you like birds visit Titchfield Haven Nature reserve – we saw so many different types and lots of chicks!”
  • “I like drama and we saw a really funny play at the Oak Theatre”

Famous People from Fareham

Sir Christopher Cockerell

Sir Christopher Cockerell was the inventor of the hovercraft. Although he wasn’t just interested in hovercrafts – by the time he died at the family home in Hythe aged 88, Cockerell had HUNDREDS of patents to his name. Fifty of his patents were associated with that most curious of hybrids – “neither an airplane, nor a boat, nor a wheeled land craft” which he named the hovercraft.

A passionate sailor, it all really started when Cockerell moved to the south coast in the 1950s, having already developed a life-saving World War Two radar defence system. Aware of D-Day and Normandy landings, Cockerell thought about how to get troops dry and safely up a beach fast. In his Norfolk boatyard he put his mind to this problem and set up what he called Ripple Craft. 

By placing two tins one inside the other and reversing the connections on a hair-dryer he was able to show that jets of air form an air cushion to reduce friction and enable boats to travel faster.

In 1959, the first Hovercraft, the SR-N1, was launched, crossing the English Channel between Dover and Calais. To get an idea of how versatile this amphibian vehicle is, it’s worth visiting the Hovercraft Museum at nearby Lee-on-the-Solent. It’s a working museum with over 80 exhibits, and is constantly restoring, preserving and maintaining the craft in their care.

The engineering hangar is open to visitors to see the craft being worked on and many can be boarded and experienced first hand!

William Thackeray

Another famous person associated with the town is William Thackeray, the novelist!

He spent many school holidays here visiting his grandmother’s house on the high street and also his aunt who lived in West Street. He was born in 1811 and became a very prominent English novelist and satirist.

He’s probably best known for his novel “Vanity Fair,” which has been described as a sharp and witty social commentary on British society. He liked to highlight the flaws and vanities of his contemporaries, using humour where he can, to shine a light on human nature and relationships.

His novels are popular to this day – so why not take a look at some of his books?

Getting to Fareham

Hop on a South Western Railway train to Fareham station to explore!



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Stories about people and places from across the railway network

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