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View over Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill
View over Portsmouth from Portsdown Hill
Hampshire outline map with UK.png

Hampshire (/ˈhæmpʃər/, /-ʃɪər/ (About this soundlisten); postal abbreviation Hants.) is a county on the southern coast of England. The county town is the city of Winchester. Its two largest cities, Southampton and Portsmouth, are administered separately as unitary authorities; the rest of the county is governed by Hampshire County Council.

First settled about 14,000 years ago, Hampshire's history dates to Roman Britain, when its chief town was Winchester. When the Romans left Britain, the area was infiltrated by tribes from Scandinavia and mainland Europe, principally in the river valleys. The county was recorded in the 11th century Domesday Book, divided into 44 hundreds. From the 12th century, the ports grew in importance, fuelled by trade with the continent, wool and cloth manufacture in the county, and the fishing industry, and a shipbuilding industry was established. By the 16th century, the population of Southampton had outstripped that of Winchester. By the mid-19th century, with the county's population at 219,210 (double that at the beginning of the century) in more than 86,000 dwellings, agriculture was the principal industry and 10 per cent of the county was still forest. Hampshire played a crucial military role in both World Wars. The Isle of Wight left the county to form its own in 1974.

The county's geography is varied, with upland to 286 metres (938 ft) and mostly south-flowing rivers. There are areas of downland and marsh, and two national parks: the New Forest, and part of the South Downs, which together cover 45 per cent of Hampshire.

Hampshire is one of the most affluent counties in the country, with an unemployment rate lower than the national average, and its economy derived from major companies, maritime, agriculture and tourism. Tourist attractions include many seaside resorts, the national parks and the Southampton Boat Show. The county is known as the home of writers Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, the childhood home of Florence Nightingale and the birthplace of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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Twyford Down - - 155037.jpg

Twyford Down is an area of chalk downland lying directly to the southeast of Winchester, Hampshire, England next to St. Catherine's Hill and close to the South Downs National Park. It has been settled since pre-Roman times, and has housed a fort and a chapel, as well as being a 17th and 18th century coaching route.

In 1991, the down was the site of a major road protest against a section of the M3 motorway from London to the south coast of England. There had been plans since the 1970s to replace the 1930s Winchester bypass which was regularly congested due to design features that had become out of date. This was problematic due to the lack of available land between Winchester College and St. Catherine's Hill. After several public inquiries, particularly with using the water meadows near the college, a route was chosen that took the motorway over the down in a cutting. Although protests against the M3 had been ongoing since the early 1970s, the protest-action on top of the down, described in 1994 as the most controversial British motorway project ever to start construction, attracted a wider range of classes of people than had previously been the case, and included physical violence from onsite security officers.

The motorway was completed as planned, and provides an important link of continuous motorway between Greater London and the South Coast ports. Nevertheless, the protests attracted interest from the national media, and drew attention to this form of campaigning. Subsequent road schemes took greater account of the environment or were cancelled. Several protesters at Twyford Down subsequently formed campaign groups, or joined existing ones such as the Campaign for Better Transport. Read more...

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Statue of Saint Swithun
in Stavanger Cathedral, Norway

Swithun (or Swithin, Old English: Swīþhūn, Latin: Swithunus; died 863 AD) was an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester and subsequently patron saint of Winchester Cathedral. His historical importance as bishop is overshadowed by his reputation for posthumous miracle-working. According to tradition, if it rains on Saint Swithin's bridge (Winchester) on his feast day (15 July) it will continue for forty days. The precise meaning and origin of Swithun's name is unknown, but it most likely derives from the Old English word swiþ, 'strong'. Read more...

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