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Emsworth village centre
Emsworth shown within Hampshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Emsworth is a small town on the south coast of England, situated on the Hampshire side of the border between Hampshire and West Sussex. The village lies at the north end of an arm of Chichester Harbour, a large but shallow inlet of the English Channel.
Emsworth has a population of approximately 10,000 people. In the 19th century Emsworth had as many as 30 pubs and beer houses, probably to do with the fact that Emsworth was a fishing village. In some places the old oyster-beds can still be seen at low tide. The village has a basin for small yachts and a few fishing boats opposite the millpond, an artificial lake which fills at high tide can be emptied through a sluice at low tide. The River Ems, which is named after the village (not, as often believed, the town named after the river) also flows into the Slipper millpond, and although the mill is no longer in use it now houses a number of offices.
Adjacent to Emsworth is Thorney Island, formerly in Hampshire but now in West Sussex.
Emsworth began as a small Saxon village. At first it was linked to the more important settlement of Warblington nearby. People from Emsworth worshipped at St Peter's Chapel or in the church at Warblington. Emsworth was not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was probably too small to be mentioned on its own and was included with Warblington.
Emsworth's name came from Anglo Saxon Æmeles worþ = "a man called Æmele's enclosure". A worth was an enclosure like a farm or hamlet surrounded by a palisade.
Although Emsworth started as a small settlement it soon grew to be larger and more important. In 1239 Emsworth was granted the right to hold a market (in those days there were few shops and if you wanted to buy or sell anything you had to go to a market). Emsworth was also allowed an annual fair, in the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and people travelled long distances to Emsworth to buy and sell at them.
In the Middle Ages Emsworth was a busy little port. Large quantities of wine (the drink of the upper class) were imported from Europe through Emsworth.
In the 18th century and the 19th century Emsworth was known for shipbuilding, boat building and rope making. King Street is named after a man named John King who settled there in the late 18th century and started a ship building business.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Emsworth was still a busy little port. In Emsworth grain from the area was ground into flour by tidal mills. When the tide came in water was allowed to flow in behind a barrier. When the tide turned the water was trapped and it was only allowed to flow out under a mill turning its 'wheel'. Flour from Emsworth was transported by ship to places like London and Portsmouth. Timber from the area was also exported from Emsworth in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 19th century Emsworth had as many as 30 pubs and beer houses, probably to do with the fact that Emsworth was a fishing village. Today, only nine remain, and this number may have decreased due to the Emsworth fishing and oyster trade dying down, or to the consolidation of the pub trade in the 1990s and 2000s. Emsworth's once famous oyster industry went into decline in the early years of the 20th century. Recently, Emsworth's last remaining oyster boat The Terror was restored and is now sailing again.
At the beginning of the 19th century Emsworth had a population of less than 1,200, this made Emsworth a large village at the time. At the end of the 18th century it became fashionable for wealthy people to spend the Summer by the sea. People believed that bathing in seawater was good for the health. In 1805 a bathing house was built where people could have a bath in seawater. Bath Road is named after it. However, Emsworth failed to take off as a seaside resort.
The Church of St James was built in 1840. Two years later Queen Victoria visited Emsworth in 1842. Queen Street and Victoria Road are named after her. In 1847 the railway came to Emsworth with the construction of the West Coastway Line, Emsworth railway station was built to serve the town. The arrival of the railway led to the rapid growth of Emsworth.
By 1901 the population of Emsworth was about 2,000. It grew rapidly during the 20th century to about 5,000 by the middle of the century. (The 1,000th house in Emsworth was built in 1953). Today the population is about 10,000. In 1906 construction began on the post office, with local cricketer George Wilder laying an inscribed brick. The renamed Emsworth Recreation Ground dates from 1909 and is the current home of Emsworth Cricket Club, which was founded in 1811 and celebrated its Bicentennial in 2011. It was marked with a Grand Match against the MCC. Cricket in Emsworth has been played at the same ground, Cold Harbour Lawn since 1761.
In the 20th century Emsworth became a resort for pleasure boats. The oyster industry declined after 1902 when sewage polluted the oysters, which resulted in some people dying after eating oysters from Emsworth. Fishing oysters at Emsworth ended until new sewers were dug but the industry never completely recovered. The harbour is now used almost exclusively for recreational sailing with two main sailing clubs.
During the Second World War nearby Thorney Island was used as a Royal Air Force station, playing a role in the Battle of Britain. The north of Emsworth at this time was used for growing flowers and further north was woodland (today Hollybank Woods). In the run up to D-Day the Canadian Army used these woods as one of their pre-invasion assembly points. Today the foundations of their barracks can still be seen, as well as the remains of pillboxes. In the 1960s large parts of this area were developed with a mix of bungalows and terraced housing.
In March 2008, Emsworth was hit by a large storm which resulted in numerous trees being uprooted and, combined with a high tide, led to large parts of the town being flooded. Both mill ponds were flooded, along with the lower part of Queen Street, including the Lord Raglan pub. Numerous other roads were flooded, making access to some parts of the town impossible.
The town is part of the Havant constituency, which has for many years been a safe Conservative seat. The current Member of Parliament is David Willetts MP. The town is represented at Havant Borough Council by Councillors David Gillett, Brendan Gibb-Gray and Richard Galloway. The local County Councillor is Ray Bolton. The town has active branches of the Conservative Party, Liberal Democratsthe Labour Party and United Kingdom Independence Party.
From 2001 to 2007, Emsworth held its annual Emsworth Food Festival in September. Run entirely by unpaid volunteers this was the largest event of its type in the UK with 55,000 visitors in 2007. The Emsworth Food Festival was a community event involving local schools, businesses and community organisations. It was usually held in the town centre. However, in 2008 the festival was cancelled due to numerous complaints of disruption to residents and some businesses in the immediate proximity; it has been replaced by a series of smaller events, spread out over the year.
- The Quay
- The Mill Pond
- The Slipper Mill Pond
- The Gasometer
- St James' Church
- Sir Peter Blake – Yachtsman, buried at nearby Warblington Church.
- Sub-Lieutenant Peter Danckwerts GC, MBE, FRS, Royal Navy bomb disposal officer awarded the George Cross in 1940. Later Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge.
- Nicholas Lyndhurst – Actor, best known for playing Rodney Trotter in Only Fools and Horses was born here.
- Denise Black – Actress, best known for playing Denise Osbourne in the ITV1 soap Coronation Street and Hazel in Queer as Folk in 1999/2000.
- Sir Mark Evelyn Heath – Diplomat, British Ambassador to Chad (1975–1978), the first British Ambassador to Holy See (1982–1985) and Head of Protocol for the Hong Kong Government (1985–1988).
- Lee Spencer – Musician, music theorist and record producer.
- Malcolm Waldron -Footballer, former Southampton, Burnley and Portsmouth player.
- William Whitcher – Former Hampshire cricketer.
- George Wilder – Former Hampshire and Sussex cricketer whose name is inscribed on a stone at Emsworth Post Office dated 1906.
- P.G. Wodehouse – Writer.
- Albert Finney – Actor
- General Sir David Richards – British Army Officer, Chief of Defence
- Whitfield, Robert. Emsworth: A History. Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-86077-346-X
||Leigh Park (Suburb)||Rowland's Castle (Village)||Westbourne (Village)|
|Havant (Town)||Southbourne (Village)|
|Hayling Island (Island)||Chichester Harbour (Harbour)||Thorney Island (Village + Military Base)|