Hampshire (, ; abbreviated to Hants) is a
South East England on the
English Channel coast. The
county town is
Winchester, England's former
capital city. Its two largest cities,
Portsmouth, are administered separately as
unitary authorities and the rest of the county is governed by a combination of
Hampshire County Council and
non-metropolitan borough councils.
First settled about 14,000 years ago, Hampshire's history dates to
Roman Britain, when its chief town was Winchester, then known as Venta Belgarum. 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, fishing and large shipbuilding industries. 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 borders of the ceremonial county were created by the
Local Government Act 1972 (enacted 1974).
Historically part of Hampshire, the
Isle of Wight was made a separate
ceremonial county and the towns of
Christchurch were administered as part of the ceremonial county of Dorset.
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. Its economy mainly derives from major companies, maritime, agriculture and tourism. Tourist attractions include seaside resorts, national parks, the
National Motor Museum and the
Southampton Boat Show. The county is known as the home of writers
Jane Austen and
Charles Dickens. Hampshire is also the childhood home of
Florence Nightingale and the birthplace of engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. (