Havant // is a town in south east Hampshire on the South coast of England, between Portsmouth and Chichester. It gives its name to the borough (population: 125,000) comprising the town and the surrounding area. The town has rapidly grown since the end of the Second World War.
It has good railway connections to London, Portsmouth and Brighton, being served by Havant railway station. The A27 road runs past its southern side, beyond which lies Langstone, and then Hayling Island. To the north is Leigh Park, a large council estate suburb which lies within Havant's boundaries, and beyond that Staunton Country Park. To the east is Emsworth, another small town, whilst to the west lies Bedhampton and Portsdown Hill. The A3(M) motorway passes to the west. The old centre of the town was a settlement from before Roman times, but the town has grown a lot since World War II, currently forming part of the Portsmouth conurbation.
The old centre of the town is on a classic crossroad configuration, with the four streets being named North Street, East Street, South Street and West Street, and St Faith's Church at the crossing. At least one axis (and evidence suggests both) is a known Roman road.
There are several natural springs in the area, including one a short distance south-west of the church on West Street at the end of Homewell. This used to be the home of the premier parchment making facility in Southern England (closing in 1936) which later became a glove making factory and leather processing plant. The Treaty of Versailles was written on Havant parchment.
The main shopping centre is called Meridian Shopping (formerly known as the Meridian Centre), as well as a pedestrianised section of West Street. The old town hall now houses the Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly known as Havant Arts Centre). Havant is home to the local community radio station, Angel Radio which specialises in music and memories of the pre-'60s era.
Archeological digs in the 19th and 20th centuries uncovered evidence of Roman buildings – near St Faith’s Church and in Langstone Avenue, along with neolithic, mesolithic remains.
Havant was known around 935AD as ‘Hamafunta’ (the spring of Hama), referring to the spring to the south-west of St Faith’s Churchyard and a settlement was made at the crossing point of tracks from the Downs to the coast and another east – west along the coast.
In 1086 (at the time of Domesday Book), Havant was a village with a population of around 100. In 1200, the monks of Winchester Cathedral were granted the right to hold a market at Haveunte. Around 1450 an annual fair was held.
Much of Havant was destroyed by fire in 1760, leaving only the church and the adjacent late 16th or early 17th century cottages. The cottages are now known collectively as "The Old House at Home", and are now used as a pub. It is claimed that the two main beams in the lounge bar were recovered from the Spanish Armada, and that the "Bear Post" within once had the last dancing bear in England tethered to it. The fire did allow widening of roads and the easier passage of stagecoaches through the town: the Bear Hotel and Dolphin Hotel were notable coaching inns. In the early hours of 25 October 1784 Havant suffered a minor earthquake, and a similar event occurred on 30 November 1811.
One of Havant's architectural gems is Hall Place, a large Georgian house on South Street. It was rebuilt in 1796 by John Butler on the site of an older house reputedly built with stone from Warblington Castle. The present house, of buff bricks from Dorset, passed in the early part of the 19th century into the ownership of the Longcrofts, a well-known local family of solicitors, who retained the house until the middle of the 20th century. The history of Hall Place and its owners is recorded in The Longcrofts: 500 Years of a British Family by James Phillips-Evans (2012).
Early English in style, the oldest undisturbed parts of the Church of St Faith, such as the chancel, date from the early 13th century. Some of the foundations however are believed to date from Roman times. The vestry is 14th century and there is a brass to William Aylward, 1413.
By 1768 Havant had its first postmaster and the town’s post office operated from several locations from different central addresses until premises opened in East Street in 1936 (being one of only two post offices in the UK with the crown of Edward VIII above the entrance). In 1976 the 8½ pence Royal Mail Christmas stamp was an angel design from a medieval embroidery in the Victoria and Albert Museum originating from the Catholic Mission at Brockhampton near Havant.
In 1847 Havant became connected by railway to Portsmouth and Chichester, and this was followed by a connection to London in 1859 and a branch line to Hayling Island in 1867 (closed in the 1960s). Since then it has been an important junction.
The first hospital in the town opened in 1894 in Potash Terrace as a fever hospital, closing in 1939. A war memorial hospital opened in 1929 in Crossway; in 1935 a fine frieze of Wedgwood tiles depicting nursery rhymes was added to the children’s ward.
Although there had been private schools before, it was not until the 1870 Education Act that Havant gained its first state schools – one in Brockhampton Lane, followed by one in West Street and then in Fairfield Road.
Havant has one of the more favoured colleges within the Portsmouth district, Havant College, located just to the north of the town centre (until the mid-1970s Havant County Grammar School). This success is partly due to the transport connections Havant has, including bus, train and roads, allowing students to commute from nearby towns. The college performs consistently well at AS/A-level with an impressive pass mark of over 99%, which encourages this, especially since several nearby areas either lack a state sector sixth form (e.g. Petersfield), or the local college significantly underperforms by comparison (e.g. Fareham).
The town's senior non-league football side is Havant & Waterlooville F.C., On 16 January 2008 they reached the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, beating Swansea City 4-2 in a third-round replay, setting up a 4th round match against Liverpool at Anfield, which they went on to lose 5-2 despite having led twice in the first half. The town is represented by Havant RFC (founded 1951) for rugby and Havant HC (founded 1905) are three times winners of the English Hockey League. The latter contributed several players to the British Olympic gold medal winning side of 1988. Havant Hockey Club also contributed two players to the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The astroturf was provided by the National Lottery Fund. The town has a successful amateur cricket club (founded 1876), which has attracted a number of first-class cricketers. Havant Cricket Club have won the Southern Premier Cricket League in 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008 and most recently 2009. In 2005 Havant Cricket Club reached the semi-finals of the Cockspur Cup.
Havant is also home to a notable rifle and pistol club. This club was the training venue for a member named Malcolm Cooper who won Olympic Gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the 1988 Seoul Games, a feat not yet matched or beaten.
Havant has one of the largest tennis clubs in the area at the Avenue club, with notably ten high quality grass courts, more than any club for many miles.
- UK Office for National Statistics
- Cousins R & Rogers P. Bygone Havant. Phillimore & Co Ltd, Chichester, 1993.
- Reger AJC. A short history of Emsworth and Warblington. Reeves, Portsmouth, 1967.
- The Shell Guide to England, ed Hadfield J, 1970 & 1977.
- Havant's Christmas Stamp. Hampshire County Library, Winchester, 1976.
- BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Secondary schools in Hampshire