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Petersfield High Street
Petersfield shown within Hampshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||GU31, GU32|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||East Hampshire|
Petersfield is a market town and civil parish in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England. It is 17 miles (27 km) north of Portsmouth, via the A3 road. The town has its own railway station on the Portsmouth Direct Line, the mainline rail link connecting Portsmouth and London. Situated on the northern slopes of the South Downs, Petersfield lies wholly within the South Downs National Park.
The town is on the crossroads of well-used north–south (formerly the A3 road which now bypasses the town) and east–west routes (today the A272 road) and it grew as a coach stop on the Portsmouth to London route. Petersfield is twinned with Barentin in France, and Warendorf in Germany.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Attractions
- 4 Churches
- 5 Sport
- 6 Government
- 7 Transport
- 8 Schools
- 9 Local media
- 10 Commerce, business, industry
- 11 Notable residents
- 12 Town twinning
- 13 References
- 14 External links
As a prime location for habitation the heath (and Petersfield area in general) has always been occupied with frequent finds of flint axe and tool remnants from the Mesolithic period (up to 10,000 years ago). The burial mounds may be up to 4,000 years old, their distribution is mainly to the east and south east of the heath. These are considered to be one of the more important lowland barrow groups in this country. The barrows indicate that the area of the Heath was occupied by people who may have come to regard this area as sacred to their religion. As yet no trace has been confirmed for the dwellings of these people as the structures would have been wooden.
The town was founded during the 12th century by William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, later chartered by his widow, Hawise de Beaumont, and confirmed by charter in 1198 from "John, Count of Mortain" (later to be King John). In 1415 King Henry V granted the burgesses of Petersfield freedom from toll, stallage, picage, pannage, murage, and pontage throughout the realm of England. All charters are preserved in the archive files at Petersfield Town Council.
The town grew in prosperity due to its position on frequently travelled routes, local sheep farming, and cottage industries including leather and cloth. There were weekly markets in the town square for sheep, horse and cattle trading, and two annual fairs, in June (on the feast of St Peter and St Paul) and November (on the feast of St Andrew). An autumn fair which began in the early 19th century was held in October on The Heath, called "The Taro Fair".
The town's market square has a statue of King William III (of Orange) by Henry Cheere. The king is depicted sitting astride his horse, and the statue is raised up on an engraved plinth. This is one of only five statues of William in the United Kingdom outside Northern Ireland (the others being Glasgow, Brixham, Hull and Bristol) and, as such, attracts bands of marching Orangemen in mid-July to commemorate William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne.
Petersfield is situated in the valley of the Western Rother, on the Lower Greensand at the northern edge of the South Downs. The town lies at the western end of the Greensand Ridge, a sandstone ridge running through Hampshire, Surrey and Kent.
The town is surrounded on all sides by farmed countryside, with the South Downs south of the town, the Hampshire Downs to the west, and forested hills (Durford Wood) to the north east.
The town is a centre for exploring the South Downs National Park.
Close to the town and situated on the South Downs is Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which incorporates Butser Hill (270 metres), and has a variety of scenery including chalk hills, beech woodland and pine forest. The Hangers Way footpath starts from the country park, goes to Buriton, through Petersfield and on to Alton.
On the south east side of the town is Petersfield Heath, 95 acres (38 ha) of heathland including woodland, grassland, a pond, and a picnic and recreation area suitable for children. Petersfield Heath is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI). It also contains 21 Bronze Age barrows which have resulted in the site being given Scheduled Ancient Monument status.
Heathland is very rare throughout Europe and the Petersfield Heath is a typical heathland mosaic of micro habitats. Across the site are sandy heath and acid heath areas, grassland and scrub which gives the area diverse zones for insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals.
Weather and climate
There are an average of 200 days of sunshine each year in Petersfield.
The temperature range is similar to most of southern England.
The wind direction is prevailing south westerly although local variations are frequent due to the hills.
Being situated in a dip, with the South Downs to the south and The Hangers to the north, the weather in Petersfield can be quite different from the weather across the South Downs on the coast. In particular, there tends to be more fog than on the south (coastal) side of the South Downs.
Fairs and festivals
On 6 October every year the Taro Fair is held on Petersfield Heath, a reminder of cattle fairs that were held annually until the 1950s. It is now a fun fair. ("Tarw" is the Welsh shout by the herders for "Bull"; pronounced "Taro" in English).
Free festivals are held throughout the year. The Petersfield Spring Festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend, the Petersfield Summer Festival over the August Bank Holiday weekend and the Petersfield Christmas Festival Market on the first Sunday in December.
Petersfield's market square holds markets, and there are also monthly Farmers' markets. Stallholders and farmers from Petersfield's French twin town Barentin visit Petersfield and hold a French market.
Petersfield has two museums, both run by the Petersfield Museum Trust. The Flora Twort Gallery, based in her old studio, displays the Bedales Historic costume collection, which consists of over 1,000 pieces dating from 1720. The gallery exhibits a small part of this collection, which is changed annually, along with examples of art by Flora Twort. Petersfield Museum exhibits social-history collections made up from maps, photographs, archives, oral history and artefacts related to the history of the town and is situated in the town's old courthouse. Exhibitions are sometimes also held at the Festival Hall, St Peter's Church, and the Physic Garden.
Petersfield was once home to the world's first Teddy Bear Museum, which opened in 1984. It closed at the end of 2006, and is now a private house.
In the High Street is the physic garden, which is a recreation of a 17th-century herb garden. It is open to the public nearly every day of the year. Next to the Red Lion public house is the small Charles Dickens garden.
Petersfield has a small volunteer run community garden, 'The Good Life (Petersfield) Community Garden', situated on the edge of the town next to Sheet railway crossing; the garden is open to members (membership is free).
Petersfield's Festival Hall shows plays and concerts during the year.
Petersfield Youth Theatre was formed in 1990 and performs annually at the Festival Hall, as well as delivering projects throughout the year.
Pubs and bars
Petersfield offers a range of public houses and bars to suit various tastes. There are 14 pubs in all, from historic coach stops to modern bars and coffee houses.
Petersfield had one nightclub, Vertigo (originally known as Oscars when it first opened in the early 1990s). This was housed in the old Savoy cinema, a 1930s building used as a cinema until its closure in 1985. In May 2007, Vertigo nightclub was closed for good and sold to a developer to make way for a restaurant/bar with 14 flats above. The Savoy building was demolished in 2008, the replacement development has yet to be completed, as of January 2012.
The King's Arms is the local youth club situated near the town centre.
The town is named after the Anglican parish church, St Peter's, a Norman church in the town centre, The Square. Other churches include the Methodist church – Station Road; the Catholic church, St Laurence's – Station Road; the United Reformed Church – College Street; the Evangelical fellowship which meets at the Herne Farm Leisure Centre on the eponymous estate; the Religious Society of Friends – Voluntary Centre, the High Street; the Salvation Army – Swan Street; Life Church Petersfield, formerly Petersfield Christian Fellowship, currently meets at The Petersfield School.
In a Catherine Tate Show episode featuring a drunk bride, the camera zooms out from an invitation referring to St Mark's Chapel, Petersfield: a completely fictional institution.
There are various sports venues including the Taro Centre, a leisure centre containing swimming pools, squash courts, a gymnasium and other facilities. The town also has tennis courts (both public and members only), an open-air pool, a number of playing fields and a golf club.
Petersfield has a number of cycling groups including a local CTC group and The Petersfield Mountain Bikers. Nearby is the popular Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) which offers two purpose-built cycling trails: a red grade trail for experienced riders and blue for newer riders and families. The trails are maintained and built by a group of volunteers. Enduro and other events are held.
The town also has Triathlon Club.
The East Hampshire District Council offices are in Petersfield.
Petersfield is part of the parliamentary constituency of East Hampshire. Its Member of Parliament (MP) is Damian Hinds, a member of the Conservative Party. He took over from Michael Mates who stood down at the 2010 general election.
Before the creation of the East Hampshire constituency in 1983, the town had been represented through the Petersfield constituency.
The County Councillors are John West (Petersfield Butser Division) and Vaughan Clark (Petersfield Hangers Division), since May 2009. The county elections were held in May 2013.
EHDC has supported the formation of the South Downs National Park, which includes Petersfield.
Petersfield is located on the mainline rail link (the Portsmouth Direct Line) between Portsmouth and London. It is served by Petersfield railway station. Additionally, there was at one time a branch to Midhurst, which closed in 1955. The main station buildings date back to the opening of the line in 1859 and are of a "town" type.
The main road (the A3) link between Portsmouth and London used to pass through Petersfield, before the bypass was built round the western side of the town. Another major road, the A272, now also by-passes the town via the A3 and a link road to Sheet on its route between Winchester, Hampshire's county town, and Heathfield, East Sussex.
The local state secondary school is The Petersfield School, usually referred to as 'TPS'. Primary schools in the area include Petersfield Infant School, Sheet Primary School and Herne Junior School. There are also a number of schools in the surrounding areas of Petersfield, which feed into the Petersfield secondary schools. These schools include Langrish Primary school, East Meon Primary School, West Meon Primary School, Steep Primary School and Buriton Primary School.
Along with other towns in Hampshire, Petersfield lacks a state-sector Sixth-form. Pupils normally continue their education at one of 3 local colleges, Havant College, Alton College or South Downs College.
The town and the surrounding villages are home to several independent schools. Churcher's College is located in Petersfield, and counts Tim Rodber and Tiny Rowland amongst its former pupils. Ditcham Park School is situated just outside the town, and Bedales School is located in the neighbouring village of Steep. Former Bedales pupils include the Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis, actress Minnie Driver and pop singer Lily Allen.
Formerly, Moreton House School was located in the town centre. In 1993 it was bought by Churcher's College to become Churcher's College Junior School, however, the school's success meant it soon outgrew these premises and has since relocated to Liphook. The old Moreton House school site has been converted to housing.
Petersfield has three weekly newspapers,The Petersfield Messenger, Petersfield Post and Petersfield Herald. There is a monthly community magazine, Life in Petersfield. Delta Radio was the local radio station and had been transmitting to Petersfield since 2003. Delta Radio was closed in 2010 and its service merged with Kestrel FM who now broadcast to the area.
Commerce, business, industry
There is employment in shops and offices in the town centre, and farms in nearby villages, while other people commute to London and Portsmouth. Light industry tends to be concentrated on the Bedford Road estate on the west side of Petersfield. Whitman Laboratories (part of Estée Lauder) is based near town. In 2007, the Norwegian-owned oil-supply giant Aibel Ltd added an engineering office in addition to their UK head office in Petersfield.
- Flora Twort – artist
- Ursula Moray Williams – children's author
- Sir William Henry Harris – musician
- Commander Loftus William Jones – Victoria Cross Holder
- Sir Stuart Bonham Carter – Vice Admiral
- Sir Percy Wyn-Harris – mountaineer and Governor of The Gambia
- Stuart Ernest Piggott – archaeologist
- John Worlidge – agriculturalist
- George William Francis Darvill – flying ace and military hero
- John Wyndham – author, 'Day of the Triffids'
- Jamie Campbell Bower – actor, singer
- Tamsin Egerton – actress, model
- Geoffrey Bennett – author and naval historian
- Thomas Horder, 1st Baron Horder – Royal physician
- Arthur Brough – actor Are You Being Served
- Ellis Jones – actor
- Erica Roe – streaker
- Wilfred Brown – tenor
- John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood – football fan
- Miranda Hart – actress, writer and stand-up comedienne.
- Charles Collingwood – actor Brian Aldridge in BBC Radio 4's soap opera The Archers
- Edward Kelsey – actor Joe Grundy in BBC Radio 4's soap opera The Archers
- Right Reverend Arthur Chandler – Bishop of Bloemfontein
- William Cowper (anatomist) – surgeon, gave his name to Cowper's gland
- John Goodyer – botanist
- John Small – shopkeeper, cobbler, and Hambledon cricketer.
- Buki Akib – actress
- Michelle Magorian – children's author
- Prof. David Wands – Cosmologist
- "Parish Headcounts, Area: Petersfield CP". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. 2001. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- "South Downs National Park Authority".
- Archaeology of Petersfield & Surrounds
- "Hawise de Beaumont".
- "Looking after the Heath". Friends of Petersfield Heath. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- "The Serpent Trail".
- "Petersfield Heath". Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
- "Welsh Words".
- "Petersfield Mountain Bikers". Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- "The QECP Collective". Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Chapman, Phil (May 2006). "Petersfield Twinning Association". Hampshire County Council. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
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