What is the AHBR?

This online atlas has been compiled in association with the Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record (AHBR) who wrote the text and provided images. Maintained by Hampshire County Council, AHBR is an index to 37,000 known sites, monuments, buildings and designed landscapes ranging in time from the earliest prehistory to the late twentieth century.

The information is held on a computer database linked to a digital mapping system which allows sophisticated analysis and data retrieval operations to be carried out. This is supplemented by a paper-based record which includes archaeological fieldwork and excavation reports, articles, images, and aerial photographs.

What does the AHBR do?

The AHBR is used to inform the advice Hampshire County Council gives to planning authorities and developers on the implications of proposed developments and provides information for the management, interpretation and conservation of Hampshire's historic environment. The record is also an important tool for academic and personal research and has a role in education, recreation and tourism, promoting interest and an appreciation of Hampshire's diverse heritage.

How can I get in touch?

You can e-mail, phone, or write to us with your enquiry, giving as much information as possible concerning your area of interest. Alternatively, the AHBR can be visited in person during office hours.

The AHBR covers the administrative area of Hampshire County Council. The Unitary Authority areas of Southampton and Portsmouth and Winchester City Council all maintain their own Sites and Monuments Records and enquiries for these areas should be made to the appropriate local authority


Historic Data Team

Landscape Planning & Heritage

Environment Department

The Castle


SO23 8UD

Tel 01962 846736

Fax 01962 846776



Hampshire Landscape

The Hampshire landscape has evolved over thousands of years and its character is a product of people's interaction with the topography, geology and soils of the area over time. The scale of human impact on the landscape has varied according to the available technology, cultural practices and political events.

The landscape character provides not only a framework in which to consider the archaeological evidence but the archaeology can also illuminate the way that landscape character has evolved.

What does landscape character tell us?

By presenting archaeological data against landscape character areas it can help to recognise and interpret distribution patterns in the data. All the maps presented here are against a background of the landscape character areas as set out in 'The Hampshire Landscape, A Strategy for the Future' published by Hampshire County Council. These are character traits of the present landscape and do not provide a landscape of the past. However, as much in the present landscape is derived from past activity landscape character, it is an illuminating backdrop.

Character areas in Hampshire

Hampshire downs

1. The 'Hampshire downs' is a remote and high chalk land forming a broad belt across Hampshire. It is predominantly arable and open with large and medium fields, but with woodlands particularly on the clay caps.

2. The 'Mid Hampshire downs' are lower parts of the chalk downs, and like (1) are dominated by arable.

3. The 'South Hampshire Downs' forms a high and prominent ridge, dominated by arable, well enclosed, with numerous woodlands.

4. 'Cranborne Chase' is a small part of a larger area lying mostly outside Hampshire. It is high open chalk downland, with arable farmland and small valleys.

Lowland and heath

5. The 'North Hampshire Lowland and Heath' is a generally low lying area with both arable and grazing in a wooded setting, many of which are ancient woodlands. It is a small scale landscape, with many old hedgerow, irregular fields and winding lanes.

6. The 'Western weald Lowland and Heath' is a distinctive, varied and complex area, with heathland, woodland and steep escarpments. It is a well enclosed landscape, with the land form reflecting the underlying geology.

7. The 'South Hampshire Lowland and Heath' which is a well enclosed low lying area, with small scale enclosures and well wooded areas, with many ancient woodlands.

8. The 'New Forest Lowland and Heath' has high open heathland plains with extensive tracts of woodlands.

Coast and river valleys

9. The 'New Forest Coast' is a gently undulating coastal plain, with arable and an open and exposed coast.

10. The 'South Hampshire Coast' which is open gently undulating coastal plain with wooded valleys and much urban development.

11. The 'River Valleys' of the Avon, Test, Itchen and Meon are shown in a light blue cutting through the landscape. They are often broad and open, with flood plain and arable.


500,000 BC-10,000 BC

The Palaeolithic, or Old Stone Age, dates approximately between 500,000 years BC to 10,000 years BC and represents both glacial and warmer inter-glacial periods. Britain was occupied principally during the warmer periods. Sea levels varied throughout this period and there were times when Britain was physically part of mainland Europe.

Hunter gatherers in Hampshire

It is likely that hunter gatherers would have ranged over territories that included southern England and mainland Europe. The later Palaeolithic witnessed the emergence of anatomically modern human beings, who probably replaced the earlier population. These later populations introduced increasingly sophisticated tools which allow us to try and understand the developing human mind.


In Hampshire the evidence of Palaeolithic occupation is the stone handaxes they made. These tools, sometimes found in prolific quantities, have not usually been found where they were left or dropped, but are found washed into streams and mixed with post-glacial gravel deposits. The distribution map reflects the fact that many of these handaxes were found in gravel quarries in the river valleys, or on the foreshore where they have eroded out of gravel cliffs at the coast. The distribution therefore tells us more about how we find Palaeolithic remains rather than how the landscape was used.

Palaeolithic society

At present we know little about the lives or the culture of these people. Environmental archaeology, the study of plant and animal remains, can reveal information about the climate and the environment in which they lived. Excavations at Boxgrove in Sussex have revealed evidence of a semi-tropical climate which supported animals such as rhino and bear.


10,000 BC to 4,500 BC

The Mesolithic or the 'Middle Stone Age' begins in Britain when people return after the end of the last Ice Age at about 10,000 years BC. During the first part of this period the people still live in bands of hunter gatherers following the large animal herds across the landscape.

One of the most famous Mesolithic sites in Britain is Star Carr in East Yorkshire which was a hunting/industrial site located beside a lake. The evidence suggests that the site was used for about 250 years and the amount of animal bone, especially red deer, suggests it was a specialised site for hunting. The amount of animal bone tools also suggests that the making of bone tools was also a crucial aspect of the site.

Mesolithic Britain

In the middle of the Mesolithic Britain becomes separated from Europe. The island becomes thickly wooded and the large herds disappear. The mobile bands move around exploiting seasonal resources and living in temporary camps; some of these have been found and they appear to have been visited year after year and large amounts of flint debris was accumulated. It is during the second half of this period that the unique stone tool technology appears which was based on small flint blades, which were fixed into wooden handles to make a larger tool. As can be seen on the distribution map the finds of these tools are spread across the Hampshire countryside.

Sites and structures

Due to the temporary nature of the sites during this period, there is little evidence of structures. On some rare sites that have not been greatly disturbed since the Mesolithic the distribution of the flint debris can imply the presence of a windbreak or possibly a shelter.


In Hampshire, at Oakhanger, evidence of late Mesolithic occupation has been found which has included large numbers of hazelnut shells and a massive collection of flint tools including the microlith blades, suggesting this was another site which was temporarily occupied over a long period of time.


4,500 BC to 2000 BC

The Neolithic or 'New Stone Age' dates from about 4,500 BC to about 2000 BC. It is in the Neolithic that we see the introduction of agriculture. The transition from hunter gather to farmer probably took place gradually over a long period of time. Farming changed the way the people utilised the landscape and settlements became permanent and pottery is made for the first time.

Long barrows

In the Neolithic we also start to get monuments such as long barrows, mortuary enclosures, and henges, which were visible in the landscape and reflect the ritual beliefs of the period. Earthen long barrows are the only Neolithic monuments so far recognised in Hampshire. These appear to be communal burial mounds. The long mound is orientated east-west and is constructed from soil quarried from flanking ditches. Few human remains have been found from the Neolithic and those that have mainly come from the long barrows.

Neolithic artefacts

Amongst the artefacts that have been found from this period are leaf shaped arrowheads, small and delicately worked stone points for tipping the arrows, and polished axes. These axes are made from highly polished stone derived from a wide variety of sources across the country demonstrating long distance contact during the Neolithic.

Bronze Age

2000 BC to 750 BC

The Bronze Age is the first time we find evidence of metalworking in the archaeological record. Occasionally hoards of Bronze Age metal artefacts, usually axes, are found. Some of these are used and broken objects suggesting that they had possibly been collected together to be recycled.

However, some of the hoards are of unused objects which may have been broken and buried as part of a ritual ceremony. A further alternative explanation is that the hoards of metalwork were collected to be used in some form of trade process.

Bronze Age monuments

The most commonly encountered monument of the Bronze Age is the round barrow, often shown on modern maps as 'tumulus', which is a burial mound that usually contained one, but sometimes more, burials. They are found on their own, in small groups or in large numbers referred to as cemeteries which can extend over quite large areas. The mounds vary in size and form although they are generally constructed with a circular ditch, the soil from which was used to form the central circular mound.

Both inhumation, where the body is buried intact, and cremation were practised in the Bronze Age. The cremations are often found in decorated pottery urns and some of these burials are accompanied by grave goods which could be other highly decorated urns or bronze objects. The ring ditches depicted on the map are the remains of former barrows which have been levelled in the preceding centuries. Bronze Age barrows were, therefore, once spread across the whole of Hampshire with some dense clustering in certain areas.

Field systems

The remnants of field systems made up of small parcels of land can be found in the modern landscape. They are difficult to date, but whilst many seem to be associated with Iron Age settlements, some may have been formed as early as the Bronze Age. In some places long distance linear ditches, occasionally referred to as ranch boundaries, seem to divide up the landscape. These too seem to be evidence of farming practices in the Bronze Age as they are believed to have been used to manage herds of animals, most likely horses or cattle, over large areas of land.


Evidence of the places where the people lived is rare for the Bronze Age but small scale settlements have been identified which were made up of round houses constructed of timber posts with thatched roofs and wattle and daub walls.

Iron Age

750 BC to 43 AD

The Iron Age is characterised by the appearance of hillforts which dominate the landscape. These hilltop settlements were surrounded by massive earthworks of one or more bank and ditch. There are many prominent examples in Hampshire, such as Beacon Hill, St Catherine's Hill and Old Winchester Hill.

Danebury hillfort is perhaps the best known as it has been extensively excavated, revealing round houses and grain storage pits, as well as evidence of metal working and weaving, which allows us to reconstruct life in these settlements.


Further evidence of the agricultural economy is found in the landscape around Danebury which has revealed extensive field systems and smaller settlements or farmsteads enclosed with banks and ditches.

Banjo enclosures are another feature of this landscape; they are so named because they resemble a banjo when viewed from the air, having a large circular enclosure with long entrance, and they are believed to have been used for keeping or herding stock animals.

Ritual pits

Other features of the Iron Age include ritual pits where items, including horse bones, quernstones and loomweights were deposited and then deliberately backfilled. They are a feature of settlements throughout the Iron Age though the shape of the pits alter over time. At Danebury several thousand of these pits were identified. Other aspects of ritual practices in the Iron Age include the depositing of items in springs, bogs and rivers, a practice which appears to have begun in the Bronze Age.


The main occupation phase of hillforts occurred during the earlier Iron Age and many in Hampshire, such as Danebury, become abandoned around 100BC.

The last phase of occupation at St Catherine's Hill hillfort appears to have been about 50BC but as this hillfort declined the nearby enclosure at Oram's Arbour, closer to the centre of modern Winchester, continued. Oram's Arbour is an example of a new kind of settlement known as oppida which appear at this time. Oppida are large, loosely defined, settlements sharing some of the functions of later towns. They differ from hillforts in occupying less defensive low lying positions and appear to be sited for ease of access to trade routes.

Hampshire tribes

Oppida were centres for the tribal groups which also emerge in the later Iron Age. The territories these groups occupied are known from the distribution of the coins they minted and from the Roman written sources. In Hampshire, it is the Atrebates to the north, with their centre at Silchester, and the Belgae to the south, with their centre at Winchester, who dominate. Archaeological evidence suggests that these tribes had increasing contact with the Romanised continent and it is possible that some tribal chiefs were client kings of continental tribes, or even of Rome itself.

Iron Age finds

Recent finds have leant support to this idea, especially the torcs known as the 'Winchester Gold', which have been proven to have originated from the Mediterranean region. More common evidence of contact with the Roman Empire, can be seen in the fine pottery tableware imported from the continent. Imported pottery can also indicate a change in diet and containers for wine, olive oil and fish sauce, known as amphora, have been found at Silchester. It may be significant that the number of amphora imported appear to increase nearer the date of the Roman invasion, indicating the growing Romanisation of the native population during the late Iron Age.


AD43 to 409

The Roman army invaded Britain in AD43, landing in Kent. Their passage into Hampshire may have been eased by the contact between Iron Age tribes and the Romanised continent in the years before the invasion and there is little evidence of any local resistance to the Romans arriving in the region.

Over the next 400 years of Roman occupation there were, however, social, political and technological changes which have left a significant mark in the archaeological record of the county.

Roman roads

The Roman army's most visible and lasting legacy is the construction of the road network, parts of which are still followed by many modern routes. The map depicts how the main Roman roads crossed Hampshire. Settlements are usually to be found where roads cross and the two major intersections in the county can clearly be seen at Silchester, in the north of the county, and Winchester in the centre, which were the main population centres in Hampshire in the period.

Roman towns

Both Silchester known as Calleva Atrebatum, and Winchester, known as Venta Belgarum, started out as earlier settlements incorporating the names of the Iron Age tribes, the Atrebates and Belgae, in the names of the Roman towns.

All Roman towns across the Empire were based on a common plan which took the form of streets laid out in a grid pattern surrounded by walls. Within this grid a range of amenities were provided, many of which would be recognisable in a modern town.

Silchester excavations

Excavations at Silchester have revealed buildings housing commercial, religious, administrative, domestic and industrial activities which were taking place within the town walls. Immediately outside the walls was situated the amphitheatre, where various entertainments were provided, and at Silchester the remains can still be seen. Also sited outside of the town walls were the cemeteries, and three sites have so far been discovered at Winchester, including Lankhills where a substantial inhumation cemetery has been excavated.

Roman villas

The Roman economy relied on agriculture and many Roman villas occupied the sites of former Iron Age farms. Compared with their Iron Age predecessors, the rectangular, usually stone built, Roman villas offered a high standard of living, often, as at Thruxton and Bramdean, having such luxuries as mosaic covered heated floors. The distribution of Roman villas reflects both the suitability of good agricultural land and the proximity to a market to sell the surplus produce, and many villas are situated within a days travelling distance of the towns where wealthy villa owners may also have had town houses.

Pottery production

Another element of the Roman economy can be seen in the two nationally important pottery production sites in Hampshire. In the north east of the county, near the present day Surrey border, is the site of the Alice Holt pottery industry. The pottery produced here was mainly for everyday household items and had a fairly local distribution. In the south west, the New Forest produced better made pottery which was exported further afield. Not all the pottery in Hampshire was produced locally, however, and items made in Italy, France, Oxfordshire, Dorset, and Northamptonshire have also been recovered.

End of Roman Hampshire

Towards the end of the Roman period there were incursions along the south coast by Saxons and Frankish barbarians. As a response to this the impressive, and still preserved, fort of Portchester was constructed. The period leading up to and immediately following the withdrawal of the Roman army in AD409 also saw a decline in urban living. Excavations at Silchester have found former sites of buildings being used as agricultural or garden land, perhaps an indication that the citizens were beginning to move out of the towns and into the surrounding countryside. Silchester, unlike Winchester, proved unattractive to later settlers and this abandonment has given archaeologists the opportunity to investigate the town which lies under farmland still enclosed by the surviving Roman walls.

Early Medieval / Anglo Saxon

410 to 1065

The period after the Romans leave Britain is known as the Early Medieval or Anglo Saxon period. The first half of this period is poorly understood and as a result this period has been referred to by some as the 'Dark Ages'. After the Roman army withdrew from Britain there appears to have been a period of economic decline which saw many urban centres retract as the population moved away out into the surrounding areas.

Angles, Saxons and Jutes

Later historical accounts suggest that the early post Roman period saw conflict between the invading groups of Angles, Saxons, Jutes and the native Romanised Britons. It is these accounts which gave rise to the legend of King Arthur. However, there is little in the archaeological record which would confirm that this was a period of intense conflict. The finds from this period have mainly been of personal objects such as brooches, but very few weapons have been found.

Chalton and Cowdrey's Down

In Hampshire the known Early Medieval sites include cemeteries and a few settlements. Two of the earliest settlements for this period include Chalton and Cowdrey's Down near Basingstoke. Both sites were made up of timber framed rectangular buildings some of these being large halls with opposing doorways, as well as smaller buildings and possible outbuildings. Chalton was a slightly larger settlement with at least 61 buildings, with only 18 identified at Cowdrey's Down.

On the whole the Cowdrey's Down buildings are larger and it is possible that this was a high status site whereas Chalton was a village type settlement. Both sites are known to have been established by the 7th century AD. The settlement at Chalton had been abandoned by the 8th or 9th century, though a new site seems to have been established at the current village location probably during these centuries.


A larger Saxon settlement at Hamwic, near present day Southampton, dates from around AD700. Its location near the mouth of the river Itchen and archaeological evidence from the excavations at the site suggest that it was a trading centre, with links to mainland Europe. By AD900 Hamwic may have been largely abandoned and a new settlement sited at present day Southampton probably took over many of the trading and administrative functions.

Conversion to Christianity

In the 600s a process of conversion to Christianity is recorded, and is reflected in the archaeological record. The Old Minster at Winchester was founded during this period and the city became one of the largest religious centres in western Europe. Many local churches throughout the country were also founded, and several standing churches in Hampshire have been identified as retaining Saxon features. This period also saw the appearance of several nunneries and monasteries including a Benedictine nunnery at Romsey in about AD907 by King Edward the Elder and Wherwell nunnery founded in AD986.

Later Saxon period

By the later Saxon period, from the 9th century on, Winchester re-emerged as an important urban and administrative centre as well as a religious focal point. The modern street pattern was laid out during King Alfred's reign in the late 800s. King Alfred established several burhs including Portchester, which had previously been a Roman fort. The burhs were a series of defended towns designed by King Alfred to counter act the Viking incursions. One of the early battles between Alfred and the Vikings occurred in Hampshire in AD871 near modern Basingstoke.


1066 to 1539

The Medieval period traditionally begins with the Norman Conquest and ends with the Dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry Eighth in 1539. The modern landscape has many reflections of the medieval world. Many settlements can be traced through the medieval period, often listed in Domesday book and having churches with Medieval origins.

Medieval forests and deer parks

There were royal forests, such as the forest of Bere and the forest of Everesly, and in places the forests remain areas still rich in woodland. In some places we can see from the shape of the fields and the plants in the hedges the release of woodland to farmland, a process known as assart, and many farms in the these landscapes being first recorded in the Medieval period. Deer parks from the Medieval period can also be traced in today's landscape, through park pales, large earthworks topped by a fence or pale, which were built to prevent the deer from leaving the park.

Churches and castles

There are many high status buildings still standing in Hampshire including bishops palaces, monasteries, Winchester Cathedral, churches and castles, although some are much altered or are in states of ruination. The castles depicted on the map are both the early earthwork castles and later stone castles such as Odiham. The earthwork castles were often motte and bailey castles. The motte was a mound that was topped by a keep and the bailey was an enclosure which usually housed domestic buildings, stables and stores.

These are buildings with a complex role in society. They were symbols of power and wealth, and often acted as centres of defence. They were administrative centres often dealing with justice, taxes and rents and sometimes controlling local markets and trade. They were also homes. In some cases the lord or the king only visited occasionally, perhaps to hunt in nearby forests/deer parks, so they were also places of entertainment.


Moats are usually rectangular water features surrounding an island or platform, although circular moats are known. On the island there was usually a building or house, though some have revealed no evidence of structures and may have enclosed gardens or orchards. Some moats seem to be associated with episodes of assarting, where woodland was cleared for farming, and the holding was established with a moated site. Some of the moats on the map enclosed Medieval hunting lodges, where the lord and companions would come to hunt deer in forests, chases and deer parks.

Market towns

During the Medieval period markets towns were established, such as Petersfield and Whitchurch. Some were planned, such as Overton which was laid out across the river from the original settlement by the church. Others grew up around important centres such as at Romsey. One new town, at Newtown, failed, and today there is nothing to see but a few houses and open fields. The street plans of these towns tell us much, with market places or wide main streets in which the market took place.

Deserted villages

In addition to medieval villages that are still occupied today, and some of which have Saxon origins, there are several known deserted settlements in Hampshire. These can survive as earthworks and the house platforms and streets can be traced in the fields. Others, such as Hatch were lost altogether, it was rediscovered by archaeologists when the Hatch Warren housing estate was planned.

Black Death

These deserted settlements were originally believed to be the result of the Black Death in the 1300s, but now archaeologists and historians recognize there were many reasons for desertion. Some villages have shrunk to a single farms or only a few houses and these are referred to as shrunken villages. Foxcotte is described as a shrunken village which had been established as a planned village in the 1200s/1300s. It was not deserted in the Medieval period, but gradually shrank over time, though the reasons why this happened are not fully understood.

Timber framed buildings

Many timber framed buildings also survive from this period but they mainly date from the 1300s and 1400s. Most of these buildings were the homes of merchants and lords, the homes of agricultural workers have not tended to have survived. In Hampshire many houses which were thought to date from the 1600s onwards have recently been found to have earlier origins by close survey of the construction of the building, and by tree ring dating, known as dendrochronology.

Post Medieval

1540 to 1900

The Post Medieval period saw many changes. It begins with the Dissolution of the Monasteries which led to an opening up of vast tracts of land all over the country and as a result many country houses were established by those able to buy the former church and monastic lands.

Many such houses were built all over Hampshire, including Beaulieu Abbey which was granted to Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton who converted it into a hunting lodge in around 1540, which was extended in the following centuries to form the existing mansion.

Country houses

In the 1700s the country house landowners began to establish large parks which were designed to imitate natural landscapes, a philosophy which is known as the Picturesque. The country houses and landscape parks, along with the associated dovecotes and icehouses, all reflected the standing and high status of the estate owners. However, many of these country houses no longer exist in Hampshire and some of the landscape parks have disappeared under housing estates and farmland.

Industrial Revolution

The period from the 1700s also saw the Industrial Revolution though this did not have the same impact upon Hampshire as it did in the Midlands and the North of England. Hampshire remained an agricultural county and industry tended to remain at a fairly local level. The map depicts Post Medieval brickworks which would have mainly produced bricks for local building work, though the Rowlands Castle.

Brickworks also provided bricks for the Hotel Metropole in Brighton. These brickworks had been established around 1884, though Rowlands Castle has been an area of brick and tile making for far longer, even as far back as the Roman period. Other Post Medieval brickworks are noted in some number around the area, but many of these appear to been have closed by the time the Rowlands Castle Brickworks was established.


Another noted industry in Hampshire is brewing and many farms had oasthouses where they produced their own beer. Brewing was also carried out in many of Hampshire's towns on a fairly low scale, where brewhouses would often be linked to individual inns or public houses. In some towns, however, large breweries were established, most notably the two breweries in Alton: Watney's Brewery founded in 1763 and Hall's established in the early 1800s. Hall's Brewery was bought by Courage in 1903 and the site expanded and now covers a large area. Brewing ceased at Watney's Brewery in 1970 and it was demolished to make way for a supermarket.

Royal Navy

Hampshire also became the home of the Royal Navy during this period. The dockyard at Portsmouth had been established in the Medieval period, but in 1670 it became known as the Royal Dockyard. Many of the existing buildings date to the 18th century and include storehouses, ropeworks and smithies as well as the stone built docks themselves.

Royal Clarence Yard

On the other side of Portsmouth Harbour at Gosport stands the Royal Clarence Yard, the victualling yard for the Navy. The earliest known building at this site is the Player's Brewery which had been built in the late 16th century. Later there was a cooperage, where the barrels were made, which was built in 1765. Other buildings include a bakery, granary and flour mill complex as well as large ovens to make the ship's biscuits which formed the staple part of the Navy's diet in the Post Medieval period.

Watermills and windmills

The other sites depicted on the map show the water and windmills, both those still standing and those that have been demolished. Watermills are known to have existed at the time of the Romans and windmills probably first appeared in the Medieval period. The majority of Hampshire's existing mills, however, date to the Post Medieval period. Many of the watermills were corn mills and were therefore part of the agricultural economy, although some watermills became paper mills and saw mills. During the later 19th century some of the watermills were converted to steam mills powered by engines which were designed to increase production.

Last amendment date: 02/07/2015

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