The Community of Hook with Warsash

It is only really since the building of our church and school in 1872 that Hook-with Warsash has become a community. Until that time it had consisted of a number of small communities — in actual distance very close together but in reality stretches of water and vast areas of common kept them isolated from one another.

The first signs of a real community here are of Bronze Age man. Gravel excavations around Fleet End and Dibles have revealed a ditched enclosure — probably a Bronze Age cattle compound — and Bronze Age pottery has also been found nearby, so we can imagine a community of Bronze Age people here, with their pigs and cattle, making their own pots and pans and cultivating the land.

Signs of Iron Age people have been found here and the remains of Roman and Early English slateworks were found at Hook Shore, so it seems the Romans were here too, as they were in many other parts of Hampshire. The Saxons settled communities along the banks of the Hamble too, probably at Hook or Warsash.

Hook became strategically important during the Hundred Years’ War with France (1337–1453). The main reason for this was its position and the wide sheltered mouth of the Hook River — just right for a dockyard. Henry V mustered his Fleet around the Hamble and ship building was going on in Southampton but Hook was obviously a much handier place for a dockyard — completely sheltered but right at the mouth of Southampton Water.

Hook sent 11 ships and 208 men to the French Wars. In 1354 it was granted a weekly Monday Market and Yearly Fair. It also opened its own chapel, without the permission of the Bishop, which created quite a stir. However its importance declined with the end of the French Wars and, with Chilling, it became a small farming, fishing and smuggling community At the end of the 18th Century William Hornby acquired the Hook, Chilling and Brownwich lands from the descendants of the Earls of Southampton and built a magnificent country house — the Hook — so Hook became a Country Gentleman’s Estate.

Newtown, on the other side of Hook harbour from Hook itself and between it and Warsash, was already a small community of its own. At the end of the 18th Century it had a tallow chandler, a blacksmith and above all it had the salterns on the shore. Again its accessibility by water must have been greatly in its favour, as this corner of Hampshire was certainly not easily accessible by land. The only ‘road’ was roughly on the line of Brook Lane; otherwise you crossed the Common to Titchfield; you went to Newtown from Warsash along the shore or across the Common and from Hook you crossed the water.

By the middle of the 19th Century the salterns at Newtown had become a Chemical Works — no doubt there was plentiful salt from the new salt mines by then and an iron smelting works grew alongside the Chemical Works. Much of the transport would have been by barge to Newtown Quay. A Coast Guard Station was also opened at Newtown, in place of the old coast guardship.

Warsash, before the end of the 18th Century, was a small community of fishermen’s houses, farms and squatters’ cottages built around the edge of the vast common which stretched to Swanwick in the north and to Titchfield in the east. That it saw its fair share of smuggling as well as fishing, is confirmed by numerous stories of old families. Like Hook it began to grow around shipbuilding — again for the French Wars.

George Parsons had been building ships at Bursledon for the Napoleonic Wars for some time, when his tenancy there was discontinued, so he moved his ship building activities to Warsash shore and Shore Road and most of its cottages grew up around his ship yard before its decline with the end of the French wars.

Newtown and Warsash were becoming busy and in 1865 Newtown Road was laid down to serve the Chemical and Iron Works and to join Newtown and Warsash. Victorian cottages appeared along it and Newtown and Warsash became virtually one.

Warsash had its own estate too — the Warsash House Estate — which with its families, Swintons, Sartoris, and Shenleys created its own life in the village. As the Chemical and Iron Works gradually declined towards the end of the century, the Crab and Lobster Tea trade was growing in Warsash. The village fishing boats went to Devon, Cornwall and Ireland to collect crabs and lobsters and bring them back to be kept in the lobster pond on the Shore until they were needed for these Crab and Lobster teas. These were served in James Lock’s little shop in Shore Road and later in the Crab and Lobster (Quay House) and also in the Shore Road cottages.

Meanwhile Arthur Hornby of The Hook had decided to build a church and school on the common between Hook and Warsash to serve both and with the opening of the church and school in 1871 Hook and Warsash really began to come together. The children met at school and the adults at church — the people from Hook came up Moor Hill where the Hornbys bridged the Hook River to make the drive to their estate and the people of Warsash came over the common. There were Easter Teas in the Vicarage garden, concerts in the School and Sunday School picnics in the fields of the Grange Farm — home farm of the Hook Estate. Warsash had a yearly Fair, held firstly on land between the Shore Road cottages and later on the shore. At summer weekends horse brakes bringing people from all around for the crab and lobster teas stretched right up Shore Road. A strawberry-growing trade was also growing up since much of the Common land had been enclosed by early this century, when the Hook and Warsash house estates were being sold up. The nearness of Cowes had began to make Warsash a popular yachting venue.

During the Second World War many troops stayed in camps in the area in preparation for D Day. On 5th June 1944 3,000 commandos set sail from Warsash to fight on the Normandy beaches. The D Day embarkation site is situated opposite The Rising Sun where there is a memorial and an information board.

We are are a happy and thriving village and the activities here are numerous. The last 60 years have seen considerable change in the Warsash area. Housing development has encroached on some of the open spaces and yet there still lovely walks where you can escape the bustle of modern life.

The Warsash Clock Tower (our Society’s emblem) reminds us of the days when the pace of life was a little slower and we didn’t have to wory about internet speed!

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