By Tim Lambert
Havant was once Haman funta. Funta meant spring. Hama was a man and the ‘n’ on the end of his name indicated possession like our apostrophe s. So it was Hama’s spring. In time the name of the settlement changed to Havant.
Denvilles derives its name from the Saxon word Denn which meant woodland pasture for pigs. (The ‘villes’ was added much later). The Saxon word ‘tun’ meant farm or estate. Brockhampton was brook home farm. Lang is the Saxon word for long so Langstone was probably once a village by a long stone.
Havant in the Middle Ages
At the time of Domesday Book (1086), Havant was a village with a population of about 100. It would seem tiny to us but towns and villages were very small in those days. Havant had 2 mills, which ground grain into flour to make bread for the villagers. One mill was Southwest of the town. The other was probably in Langstone.
St Faith’s Church in Havant dates from the 12th century although it was largely rebuilt in the 19th century.
In the Middle Ages Havant grew from a large village into a small market town. In 1200 Havant was given a charter (a document granting the townspeople certain rights). Among was the right to have a weekly market.
From 1451 Havant also had an annual fair. (In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and would attract buyers and sellers from a wide area). Later (the exact date is unknown Havant had a second annual fair).
However, to us, Havant would seem tiny. It probably only had a population of several hundred.
In the late Middle Ages and 16th century, there was a wool industry in Havant but it declined in the 17th century. However, there was an important industry tanning leather in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Havant had fellmongers (people who dealt in animal skins). Havant was also known for its glove-making industry.
The little town of Havant was also known for parchment making. Parchment was made from the skins of sheep, goats, or calves. It was used as a writing material instead of paper. Water was used to make parchment (the skins were soaked in it). The spring in Havant gave pure water, which made bright white parchment. So the parchment made in Havant was of high quality. There was also a malting industry in Havant. (Malt is used in brewing).
For centuries Langstone was a small port. Even in the 19th century, there was a coastal trade there. (In the past goods were often taken by ship along the coast from one part of the country to another instead of being transported overland). Langstone watermill was built in the 18th century to grind grain into flour.
Meanwhile, Warblington Castle was built around 1525. However in 1643 during the civil war parliamentary soldiers destroyed most of it.
Then in 1761 Havant was severely damaged by a fire but it was soon rebuilt. Meanwhile, stagecoaches travelling between Chichester and Portsmouth stopped at Havant.
Nevertheless in 1801 Havant was a very small market town. It only had a population of 1,670. In 1801 Havant was smaller than Petersfield.
Havant in the 19th Century
Havant grew steadily during the 19th century but in 1901 it still had a population of less than 4,000. The parchment-making industry in Havant continued. In the 19th century, another industry in Havant was brewing.
As Havant grew in the 19th century its amenities improved. Hayling Bridge was first built in 1824. In 1847 Havant was connected to both Portsmouth and Chichester by railway. From 1867 a railway ran from Havant to Hayling Island. From 1859 Havant was connected to London by railway. Railway stations were built at Bedhampton (1906) and Warblington (1907), to serve those two rapidly growing areas.
From 1855 Havant had a supply of gas (for lighting). Havant gained its first police station in 1858. From 1870 Havant had a piped water supply. Also in 1870 Havant Town Hall was built.
In 1871 a fire brigade made up of volunteers was formed in Havant. However, in 1871 the 2 annual fairs were abolished. Havant Park opened in 1889. In 1894 Havant became an urban district council.
Havant in the 20th Century
Conditions in Havant continued to improve during the 20th century. A cinema opened in Havant in 1913. In 1970 the building became Havant library. (The library moved to the Meridian Centre in the 1990s).
By 1949 the population of Havant was about 8,000. In 1926 remains of a Roman villa were found south of Havant.
The War Memorial Hospital opened in 1929. Havant railway station was rebuilt in 1938. Park Road was also built in 1938.
Havant watermill, which stood for centuries just outside the town, closed in 1934. It was demolished in 1958. Havant was changed in 1944 when Portsmouth City Council bought the Leigh Park Estate. They planned to build a new over-spill community there. Work began in 1947 and in 1949 the first residents moved in.
However, the new estate lacked amenities. The first shops, in Stone Square, did not open till 1952. The first shops in Park Parade opened in the autumn of 1955. More opened in 1956. Greywell Precinct opened in 1966. By 1956 Middle Park Way had been built.
In the 1960s Leigh Park was extended further when an estate was built at West Leigh. Warren Park was built in 1968-1972. By then Leigh Park had a population of 40,000. A new Community Centre opened in Leigh Park in 1963. It replaced one held in ex-naval buildings in Riders Lane.
Meanwhile, Parchment making in Havant ended in 1936. Glove-making ended in 1960.
However, after 1945 new industries such as light engineering and plastics came to Havant. In the 1950s land in Brockhampton was set aside for industry. In the late 1950s, an industrial estate was built at Westleigh. Kingscroft Industrial Centre opened in 1984.
Warblington Secondary School opened in 1954. Oak Park Secondary School opened in 1957. Broomfield Secondary School opened in 1958. After 2 years of sharing buildings with Broomfield School, in Leigh Park, Havant Grammar School moved to its present buildings in 1960. In 1974 it became Havant College. South Downs College also opened in 1974.
Market Parade shopping centre was built in 1961-62. In 1963 the railway to Hayling Island closed. Havant Police Station was built in 1964. Havant Bypass was built in 1965.
A swimming pool was built in Havant in 1974. Havant Arts Centre opened in 1978. Havant Museum opened in 1979.
Furthermore, a hypermarket opened in Havant in 1980. Then in 1982, a leisure centre opened in Havant. Part of West Street was pedestrianized in 1983 and a private hospital was built in 1984. The first shops moved into the Meridian Centre in 1991.
Meanwhile in 1974 Havant changed from being an Urban District Council to a Borough and gained a mayor. A Civic Centre opened in 1977.
Havant in the 21st Century
At the beginning of the 21st century, Havant is a bustling and prosperous town and it is still developing. Oak Park Children’s Hospital opened in 2006. Also in 2006, a new bus station was opened in Havant.
In 2009 Havant Arts Centre and Havant Museum merged to become The Spring Centre.
In 2022 the population of Havant was 121,000.