Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Hampshire is located more or less at the centre of England’s southern coastline, on the English Channel. Whether you enjoy exploring history in quiet countryside locations, exploring maritime heritage along the coast, or the stories of successive periods in a city. Hampshire has all three. From the history of English literature at Jane Austen’s Chawton, the remains of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth, to the histories of Winchester and Southampton from Roman times to the present.

Temporary Exhibition

Aerial reconstruction of Silchester © Historic England Archive.

Willis Museum, Basingstoke
Becoming Roman - Silchester a town of change
10 February - 27 April 2024

50 years on from the start of excavations by the University of Reading to uncover the secrets of the important archaeological site at Silchester, visitors to Becoming Roman – Silchester, a Town of Change, will be transported back 2000 years to discover what life was like for the Atrebates, and how it changed with the Roman Conquest of Britain.

Aerial reconstruction of Silchester © Historic England Archive

Archaeology & History Sites in Hampshire

Breamore MizMaze

On the top of a hill with views over the fields of Hampshire and Wiltshire is the Breamore Mizmaze. A designated scheduled monument, it is one of only eight surviving medieval turf mazes in England and one of only two mizmazes. A path of turf was formed by cutting down into the chalk and removing the vegetation on either side, rather than the more common method used where a chalk path was created by removing vegetation. The turf path leads to a central mound. Eleven concentric rings, with a diameter of 84 feet, are bisected into quarters by a Christian cross.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is widely known having featured in the period drama, Downton Abbey. The Castle was the ancestral home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon – it was the 5th Earl who funded Howard Carter’s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. A few artefacts are now on display for visitors in the ‘Antiquities Room’, along with a near perfect replica of the mummy and sarcophagus of the boy king.

Lepe Beach

The beach near the village of Lepe is where the Mulberry Harbours were made and launched. These were critical to the success of the invasion, a deep water harbour which protected supply ships and provided facilities and equipment. Hundreds of troops, vehicles and ammunitions were hidden in the wooded area and narrow roads around Lepe. PLUTO, the pipeline that transported fuel to France for use in the invasion, left the mainland here. The area is now a sandy beach with cliffs covered in pine trees and wildflowers. Many remnants from D-Day preparations can be seen along the beach, such as construction platforms, sand hardening mats, slipways and gun emplacements.

Netley Abbey

Netley Abbey is one of the best preserved Cistercian abbeys in the south of England, with remains of the church, cloister buildings, abbot’s house, as well as remnants of the post-Dissolution mansion. The abbey was founded in 1239 and closed by Henry VIII in 1536. Its 300 year history was unremarkable, despite Royal patronage it was never a wealthy nor influential abbey. The extensive ruins have been an inspiration to Romantic writers and poets, and today the site is a popular visitor attraction.

Roman Silchester – Calleva Atrebatum

The completely buried remains of the Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, near present day Silchester, are still surrounded by what are considered to be some of the best preserved Roman town walls in England. Originally an Iron Age oppidum, the settlement was first occupied by Romans in about 45 AD and then abandoned by the 5th century. Outside the polygonal walls a relatively well preserved, albeit overgrown with trees and shrubbery, amphitheatre can be visited. There is a car park at St Mary’s church, from where it is easy to visit the amphitheatre and see the walls.

Stratfield Saye House, Country Home of the 1st Duke of Wellington

Stratfield Saye House was the stately home of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, from 1818 to 1852. The estate was acquired by the Sate as a gift to Wellington for leading the victory against Napoleon. Plans for a ‘Waterloo Palace’ to rival Blenheim Palace were abandoned due to the cost. Improvements were then made to the existing building. The Wellington Exhibition, which presents the life and times of the Duke with a large collection of military artefacts, is housed in what were the stables – Grad II listed buildings in their own right. Visits are by guided tour only, which must be booked in advance.

Join English Heritage and/or National Trust

Museums & Art Galleries in Hampshire

Willis Museum & Sainsbury Gallery

In a building and location rich in history, visitors can learn more about the history of Basingstoke and surrounding area. The Archaeology Galley has exhibits spanning a period from the Stone Age to Saxon England, and includes a mammoth tusk and artefacts from Roman Silchester. The story of Basingstoke covers the medieval to post War period – on display is a 1950s kitchen and what is said to be the world’s oldest wedding cake, having been created in 1898 it is now well over a hundred years old.

Winchester City Museum

At the heart of the historic cathedral city of Winchester is the City Museum. With a vast collection of archaeological and historical artefacts and objects on permanent display in three galleries visitors can learn more about the city’s history, from its origins in the Iron Age as an important trading centre, to Winchester as a regional Roman capital. From the capital city of the Anglo-Norman Kingdom to Victorian Winchester. With such historical characters as Alfred the Great and Jane Austen.