Not the North – Hampshire’s Industrial Heritage

Hampshire may not have slag heaps, coal-mines and blast furnaces but it still has a substantial industrial heritage. Iron ore was smelted at Sowley at Beaulieu Manor from about 1600 to 1820. In the 1780s the process of ‘puddling’ pig iron to lower carbon levels and make wrought iron was revolutionised at Fontley, near Fareham, by ironmaster Henry Cort. But when heavy industry moved north, industrial ingenuity did not in any way desert Hampshire.

The dockyard at Portsmouth alone led the way to production line methods for making the huge numbers of blocks required to rig ships. Much else was done within the walls of the dockyard, where thousands of local people learnt the skills required to make wooden ships, then ships of steel, propelled by steam and later diesel engines. Electronics has been the Navy’s main weapon since WWII and has left a legacy of a world-leading IT and the design and production of satellites.

At Southampton and around the Solent there has long been a culture of invention involving ships and pleasure yachts that later fed into aviation, with some of the earliest aeroplanes trialled at sea. Before WWI the world’s yachting elite came to sail J-Yachts and after the war the area hosted the Schneider Trophy which eventually spawned the Spitfire (see E. Edward. The Schneider Trophy Story. Shrewsbury, UK, 2001).