THE various locales of Hampshire have been explored in a new book that delves into the history of the wonderful county.

50 Gems gems of Hampshire by Peter Kilby contains insightful and intriguing information about the quieter areas of the county as well as its major conurbations.

The following is a small taste of what the new book offers:

Southampton Common

Daily Echo:

Southampton Common is one of the best-known open spaces within the environs of the city, comparable with the city parks and vast waterfront.

It sits neatly alongside the adjoining suburbs of Bassett to the north and Portswood and Swaythling to the east, where it meets the busy Hill Lane for the full length of its western boundary.

The majestic avenue forms its principal tree-lined approach from Winchester, running north to south towards the city centre, once described as ‘This is a very fine approach, very gradual and artful, in progression from country to town’ (J. B. Priestly, English Journey).

The common comprises an area of some 365 acres, combining woodland, open parkland, rough pasture and nature trails in the Hawthorns Wildlife Centre, sited on land previously the home of Chipperfield’s Southampton Zoological Garden.

A principal feature of the common is the Cowherds Inn, dating from 1762 when it housed the cowherd and his family for a rent of £6 per year — as the name suggests, he was responsible for looking after cattle grazing on the common.

The cowherd was granted a licence to brew beer in order to supplement his income to offset his rent — an arrangement that was the forerunner of the later licenced premises here.

Nearby and to the south is the Southampton Old Cemetery, originally part of the common.

It was designed by the Scottish botanist John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) as a botanical garden, laid out for relaxation and pleasure rather than a place of mourning, and became his final project when he died in 1843.

Within this cemetery three chapels were built to cater for the diverse nationalities and religions in Victorian Southampton, including the Church of England, Nonconformists and Jews, the largest of which was the Church of England Mortuary Chapel, a Grade II listed building that was purchased from the council for £1 by the Southampton and Solent Building Preservation Trust and subsequently restored from a state of dereliction and later removed from the Buildings At Risk register.

Today Southampton Old Cemetery has been designated an area of Special Scientific Interest and is truly part of the overall glory of Southampton Common.

High Street

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The High Street, formerly English Street, is the principal street situated with the old town walls and links the Bargate to the north and Southampton Water to the south.

It was the centre of business in the town and home to all the major banks in Southampton, including the Bank of England.

Today there is a scene of change after the new developments following the Second World War when the entire street was almost completely destroyed.

Two major Coaching Inns miraculously survived, however, including the Star Inn and the Dolphin Hotel.

The Star Hotel (formerly Inn) is a typical coaching inn with a central porch to let coaches through. It has a plaque that reads, ‘Coach to London, Sundays excepted, Alresford and Alton, performs in 10 hours’.

This inn is mentioned in the deeds of 1600 as ‘a tenement of the Priory of St Denys’.

In 1831 Princess Victoria stayed here, and her coat of arms is high on the pediment of the front elevation to the High Street.

Later, as Queen Victoria, she came to Southampton with her entourage en route to Osborne House, her home on the Isle of Wight, stopping at a chemist in Shirley High Street to pick up supplies for the visit.

The Dolphin Hotel was first mentioned in documentation of 1267 and later in 1647 as belonging to the wardens of the Church of the Holy Rood (immediately adjacent), now a stabilised ruin after war damage, retaining the tower and serving as a memorial garden for sailors lost at sea.

The Dolphin Hotel, with its twin two-storey bay windows alongside the central archway, is both symbolic of Georgian architecture and typical of the day.

A plaque records that Jane Austen celebrated her eighteenth birthday here in company with her brother Frank while staying with the family of the Mayor of Southampton.

Bugle Street and St Michael's Square

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Bugle Street was once known as Bull Street as this was where the bull horn was sounded in times of danger.

Initially the houses were occupied by French merchants and many had basements, some vaulted, for the storage of wine.

Historically Bugle Street led down to the waterfront and the Water Gate, as noted on John Speed’s map of 1611.

The properties overall are both domestic and commercial, and in medieval times they were favoured by wealthy merchants.

Today some council housing exists in the ultra-modern Vyse Lane flats, which in part face the Bugle Street frontage, and are a welcome contrasting change to the timber-framed building nearby.

Possibly the most important building in the street is Tudor House, at the junction of Bugle Street and Blue Anchor Lane.

A late medieval townhouse, it remains essentially as it was when it was built in 1491-93 by Sir John Dawtrey, a wealthy merchant and MP for Southampton.

In 1898-1902 this house was restored by William Spranger and converted to a museum, with its ‘show facade’ facing Bugle Street.

Today it is called the Tudor House Museum.

Immediately on the opposite side of the road is the iconic St Michael’s Square and the Norman St Michael’s Church, with its square tower and tapered octagonal steeple, while inside is the black Tournai marble font, one of only four in Hampshire.

St Michael’s Square was once the site of the Fish Market (again noted on John Speed’s map of 1611), which was later resited alongside the West Gate where the Tudor Merchant’s Hall now stands.

Other interesting timber-framed buildings in Bugle Street include the Duke of Wellington public house, and on the opposite side of the road is No. 45 Normandy House, with its attractive Georgian bays on its upper two storeys, which has been extensively restored to its present condition.

In West Street, a side road nearby, stands the historic West Gate, through which the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America and where armies have passed through to the Battles of Crécy and Agincourt.

Eling Mill and Marchwood

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Marchwood village lays close to Eling on Southampton Water, and is also situated near to Hythe, which has its own pier and landing stage with ferry services to Southampton terminal and onward links to the Isle of Wight.

Access to Marchwood is via the A326, with the Marchwood bypass leaving local roads free from through traffic in this waterside town, creating a quiet and sequestered place to visit.

Two comfortable nights were spent in the Roebuck Inn in the village centre, providing a base to explore these far reaches of the New Forest and towns along Southampton Water.

Close to the village we found the impressive parish church, St John the Apostle, with its high tower and steeple set in beautiful open green space — all incredibly quiet, almost as if time had stood still.

Gone is the power station that once dominated the skyline, replaced by the far away images of the cranes in the dockland area.

Throughout, however, Marchwood retains is maritime image and character.

This town is mentioned in the Domesday Book where it was called Merceode.

The manor of Marchwood, once called Marchwood Romsey, was held by John de Romsey in 1316.

Marchwood was originally part of the parish of Eling, but in 1843 it became a separate ecclesiastical parish when the present new church was designed by J M Derick in the Gothic Revival style fashionable at the time.

Netley Abbey

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Netley Abbey was founded in 1240/1 as a Cistercian foundation and the first abbot was appointed in 1245. Henry III made grants for its foundation and became its patron.

At the base of the north-east crossing of the church, begun in 1246, there is an inscription confirming this.

In addition, the king’s mason at Westminster Abbey came here to work on its construction in Caen masonry.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the abbey fell into dereliction and its stone was used elsewhere.

Today it is a stabilised and majestic ruin, which after the restoration of the monarchy was converted to an elaborate brick-built residence according to a display on the site.

However there is absolutely no trace of this building today, only the original weathered stone of this once monumental and historic abbey.

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50 Gems of Hampshire by Peter Kilby contains 96-pages, 100 illustrations and is available for £15.99 from Waterstones, WHSmith, Amazon and more. The book can also be purchased in Kindle, Kobo and iBook formats.