A History of Waterlooville

By Tim Lambert

The Beginning of Waterlooville

Waterlooville and Cowplain did not exist before the year 1815. Before then it was part of the Forest of Bere, which stretched from the border of Sussex to Winchester. Today Queens Inclosure is one of the last remnants of the forest.

On the southern fringe of the forest was a stream called Purbrook. Its name is a corruption of Pucan brook, which means the brook of the water spirit. North of it was Horndean. That may be a corruption of Saxon words meaning dormouse valley. Also nearby was Denmead. Its name was originally Denu mead which means the meadow in the valley.

By the 13th century, there was another village called Stakes. It may have got its name because a stockade of wooden stakes surrounded it. A track led through the forest from Horndean to Portsmouth but it was only usable in summer. In winter coaches had to make a detour to Havant. This changed in 1711 when a much better road was built from London to Portsmouth which went from Horndean to Cosham along London Road.

The first census in Britain was held in 1801 and showed these villages still had very small populations. Clanfield had a population of 153 and by 1901 it had risen to only 213. Blendworth had a population of 174 in 1801. It rose to 268 in 1901.

Waterlooville in the 19th Century

The village of Waterlooville began in 1815. After 1810 the forest of Bere was divided into plots and sold for building. By 1815 there were 5 buildings by the side of the road that ran through it. One of these was an inn called the Heroes of Waterloo, after the battle that had just been fought by Wellington. The new settlement was called Waterloo after the inn.

Napoleonic soldiers

Later it was called Waterlooville to distinguish it from another place called Waterloo. At that time a new road was built from Stakes to Hambledon. It bisected London Road and formed a crossroads. The other 4 buildings by the roadside were retirement cottages. It was an attractive place to live.

In those days most of England was divided into parishes. You had to pay rates to support the poor, repair certain roads and bridges, and to upkeep the county jail. Waterlooville was extra-parochial that is it was outside any parish (until 1858). Therefore the people who lived there did not have to pay rates.

More houses were built and by 1829 a village had grown up. In that year it was decided to build a Church of England church. St George’s church was consecrated in 1831. It was rebuilt in 1870.

In the mid 19th century Waterlooville was still a small village with less than 200 people but it had a butcher and a baker by the 1830s. In 1854 a Baptist chapel was built in Chapel Road (hence its name). A new church was built in London Road in 1884.

In 1869 Purbrook Industrial School opened in Stakes Road. At it, vagrant boys learned trades such as shoemaking. St Michael’s convent was built in 1885.

After 1858 Waterlooville was divided into 2 parts by the crossroads. The area south of it was part of the parish of Farlington while the area north of it was part of the parish of Catherington.

By 1851 Waterlooville had a population of 195. By 1901 it had risen to 609. n In 1820 the Hulbert family bought an estate at Stakes. In 1881 one of the Hulberts had Hulbert Road made up at his own expense. It is, of course, named after him.

The other villages in the area also grew during the 19th century. By the mid 19th century houses were built north of Waterlooville on London Road. The new hamlet first appears on maps in the 1860s. An inn called the Spotted Cow appears on a map dated 1867.

Cowplain is believed to get its name from the Spotted Cow. Locals called the stretch of land around it Cowplain. (In those days ‘plain’ meant any stretch of open land, not necessarily a large area). More houses were built on Cow Plain and by the late 19th century it had become a thriving little village.

A brewing industry has existed at Horndean since the 1720s. In Horndean, Merchistoun Hall was built in the late 18th century. It was originally called The Grove. In 1836 it was bought by Admiral Charles Napier who renamed it after his birthplace Merchiston Hall in Scotland (with a change in spelling). He was an eccentric character who used to walk around the village with a pet monkey on his shoulder. In 1860 a boy’s school opened in Horndean.

The local workhouse was also built in Horndean. If you were destitute in those days you had to enter a workhouse where life was made as unpleasant as possible to discourage ‘idlers’.

Gales Ales was founded in Horndean in 1847. The brewery burned down in 1869 but was quickly rebuilt.

In 1880 All Saints Church was built. The population of Catherington parish, which included Horndean and Lovedean rose from 559 in 1801 to 1,356 in 1901.

Early in the 19th century, a windmill was built in Purbrook. St John’s Church was built in 1858. Purbrook Park House was built in 1770. It was rebuilt in 1837. In the 1920s the house became a grammar school and later a primary school.

Waterlooville in the Early 20th Century

In the 19th century, there was a house called Hart Plain House opposite Queens Inclosure. It had an estate around it. In 1901 the estate was sold for building and houses were built there. (Although Hart Plain Lodge, the estate keeper’s cottage still stands).

Waterlooville Golf Course began in 1907. Meanwhile, Waterlooville gained gas street lighting in 1904.

In 1910 Lovedean was still a sleepy little village with a general shop and blacksmiths. Cowplain was a hamlet with an inn and a general shop. In 1920 a Memorial Monument was erected in Horndean.

From the end of the 19th century, a horse-drawn bus ran between Portsmouth and Waterlooville. In 1903 a tram called the Horndean Light Railway began running between the city and Horndean. The trams were called green cars because they were emerald green and cream. For many Portsmouth people traveling to Horndean for a day in the summer was a big treat. The Light Railway closed in 1935 and was replaced by buses.

Harold Wadham began making bicycles in 1900. In 1905 he was joined by his brother Wilfrid. They started making coaches in 1908. In 1932 they began making ambulances. Butser Turf was founded in 1929.

Havant and Waterlooville Urban District Council was formed in 1932. By the 1930s the population of Waterlooville and Stakes was about 2,000. Denmead had a population of about 1,300. In 1936 Waterlooville gained a cinema, the Curzon.

A fire station was built in Horndean in 1939. Then during World War II, many people from Portsmouth came to Waterlooville and Horndean each night to escape the bombing. They slept in sheds and garages and in temporary shacks.

Waterlooville in the 20th Century

In 1945 Waterlooville was still a fairly small village but it grew rapidly from the late 1950s. Large numbers of people came to live in Waterlooville from other areas. Some were from Oxford and Reading but others came from as far as the north of England.

In 1951 Waterlooville had a population of 2,881. By 1971 it had risen to over 10,000. The little town was growing at a phenomenal rate. Between 1958 and 1973 about 9,000 private houses were built in the Waterlooville district. Waterlooville grew faster than any other town in Britain.

In the late 1950s, a building company called Berg built an estate west of Waterlooville including many bungalows (often jokingly called the Iceberg Estate). Highfield Estate was also built in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many houses were also built on Purbrook Chase in the late 1950s including 3 bedroom houses, bungalows, and 2 bedroom flats.

Many new houses and bungalows were built in Cowplain in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1958 a plan was drawn up for 8 shops, a pub, and 284 new houses.

Horndean also grew rapidly. By 1955 it had a population of around 4,000. In 1956 Merchistoun Hall was taken over by Horndean Community Association. Between 1953 and 1963 more than 800 new houses were built at Horndean.

Plessey moved to Waterlooville in 1964. But despite the rapid growth of the little town, its cinema, the Curzon closed in 1959. A shopping precinct was built in 1962 on the east side of London Road. Another precinct was built in 1965-66 known as Wellington Arcade. In 1965-66 a new industrial estate was built north of Hambledon Road. Waterlooville Library moved to a new building in 1973.

In the 1970s Portsmouth City Council built 2 ‘overspill’ council house estates at Waterlooville. One of these was built at Crookhorn. Another was built at Wecock Farm. Furthermore, Clanfield grew rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1971 and 1984 it grew by 50% to over 3,000.

In 1983 Waterlooville inner relief road was built. London Road shopping centre was made a precinct in 1985. n A new estate was built 1985-87 around Tempest Avenue, east of Queens Inclosure. Furthermore, in the 1980s new houses were built around Frendstaple Road.

Although the area grew rapidly a green belt was left between Waterlooville and Denmead. However today Denmead is growing rapidly and the land separating it from Waterlooville is disappearing. In the late 1980s Park Industrial Estate was built at Denmead. In Waterlooville, Brambles Farm Industrial Estate was also built in the late 1980s. A swimming pool opened in 1991.


Dukes Walk opened in 2000. However, 2006 marked the end of an era for Horndean as the brewery closed. In 2022 the population of Waterlooville was 34,000.

A Timeline of Waterlooville


A turnpike road is built through the forest between Portsdown Hill and Horndean


The forest is divided into plots and sold for building


An inn called the Heroes of Waterloo stands by the road. The new settlement around the inn is called Waterloo (later it was called Waterlooville).


St George’s Church is consecrated


Admiral Charles Napier buys a house and renames it Merchistoun Hall


Gales Ales is founded in Horndean


Waterlooville has a population of 195


A Baptist Chapel is built in Chapel Road


A Boys School opens in Horndean

c. 1867

An inn called the Spotted Cow is built


Purbrook Industrial School opens


All Saints Church is built


Hulbert Road is built


St Michael’s Convent is built


Harold Wadham begins making bicycles. Later his brother joins him.


Waterlooville has a population of 609. The estate around Hart Plain House is sold for building.


The Horndean Light Railway begins


Waterlooville gains gas street light


Wadham Brothers begin making coaches


Butser Turf is founded


Havant and Waterlooville Urban District Council is formed


Horndean Light Railway closes


The Curzon Cinema opens


A fire station opens in Horndean


Waterlooville has a population of 2,881. It begins to grow very rapidly. Cowplain and Horndean also grow rapidly.


The Curzon Cinema closes


A shopping arcade is built on the east side of London Road


Plessey move to Waterlooville


Wellington Arcade is built


Waterlooville Library moves to a new building


Waterlooville inner relief road is built


London Road Shopping Centre is made a precinct


A swimming pool opens


Dukes Walk opens