The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Historic Settlements

Chichester Harbour

There has been a port established at Chichester since the end of the Mesolithic Period in 2500 BC. A Neolithic camp at Trundle is believed to have been reoccupied and made a town from the 5th century BC, possibly the principle Iron-Age site in the area. Iron-Age remains may also be found on Hayling Island. Roman settlements developed at Langstone, Warblington, Touncil Field, Broadbridge, Bosham, Sidlesham, Fishbourne, Dell Quay, Havant and Chichester. Many of these were located along the course of the road that is today followed by the A259. Bosham, Hayling, Warblington and the Wittering’s have names that are of Saxon derision. The Saxon charter also lists Birdham and Itchenor.

In the thirteenth century it was an important wool exporting port and by the eighteenth century corn was the main export and coal the main import.  During the 19th century it waned as a working harbour, except for fishing and is now primarily a centre for boating.   The Emsworth Museum tells the story of the town.


Selsey is a town with the sea on three sides and held an important strategic position.  At one time it had three coastguard and one signal station which ships used to record their intended arrivals and departures.  A lightship at the Owers shoals is used as the navigation mark for rounding Selsey Bill and keeps ships clear of the treacherous shoals.


The first settlement in the area was the pre-Roman port town of Clausentum, which was located on the River Itchen where Bitterne now stands. The town was abandoned by the Romans and the Saxon’s built a large new town, Hamwic (Hamtun), on the location that is now St. Mary’s church. The silting up of the Itchen and decline of the town following the Danish Raids of the 9th and 10th centuries lead to it being abandoned with some inhabitants moving to a new town, also called Hamtun beside the River Test. This town, later Southampton, prospered as a major port in the Middle Ages.


The unusual name for this Isle of Wight town comes from the two forts or 'Cows' built at either side of the Medina River by Henry VIII.  The town is famous for both its pirates and yachting, the nimble 'hunting' craft built to evade the pirates are thought to have caught the attention of the aristocracy and led to the founding of the sport of yachting.  Charles II received the gift of a yacht from the Dutch.  The first offical regatta took place in Cowes in 1812 and now 'Cowes week' takes place annually in August.


Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight was founded by the Saxons and the earliest record of its existence is 991 AD.  Located on the western side of the Island, the town grew as a result of its natural harbour, which is guarded by Yarmouth Castle, a fortification built to protect the Solent from invading forces by Henry VIII in 1547.

Portsmouth Area

While Portsmouth itself was only given its first charter in 1194, it eventually grew to swallow the neighbouring Saxon hamlets of Cosham, Wymering, Paulsgrove, Farlington, Drayton, Kingston, Stamshaw, Buckland and Copnor.  A Roman fort was established at Portchester in the 3rd century, it was expanded into a village by the Saxons. Fareham is also a Saxon town, and Gosport was founded in the Middle Ages.