Hampshire is associated with many famous faces, from literary greats such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to sporting and military heroes and present day celebrities.
In Winchester a famous statue pays tribute to King Alfred, who fought off the Vikings and was the founder of a unified Anglo-Saxon England. The fabled King Arthur’s Round Table, which features in Thomas Malory's tales of Le Morte D'Arthur, is also displayed in the Winchester Great Hall.
A lesser known Hampshire hero is William Walker, who spent six years diving in the waters underneath Winchester Cathedral to help shore up its foundations. Several statues of the famed diver can be seen in the Cathedral today.
Stratfield Saye House, on the Hampshire/ Berkshire border, was home to the First Duke of Wellington, and was his reward for success in the Battle of Waterloo. The house has exhibitions about Waterloo and the Peninsular War while the Wellington statue, showing the Duke and his famous horse Copenhagen, can be seen in Aldershot.
Romsey is home to Broadlands, the estate of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten, who oversaw the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India during World War Two. The beautiful salmon waters of the River Test flow through the grounds at Broadlands while its gardens were created by famous 18th century landscape designer Capability Brown.
Crimean War heroine Florence Nightingale also spent part of her childhood at Embley Park near Romsey and helped draw up nursing regulations for the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley, now a country park. She is buried at St Margaret’s Church in East Wellow.
Hampshire’s literary heritage is most associated with Jane Austen, who lived at Chawton and Steventon but also visited The Vyne in Basingstoke and Beaulieu and Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest. Less well known is that Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began his working life as a doctor there before creating the legendary Sherlock Holmes.
18th century naturalist Gilbert White, whose lovely house and gardens at Selborne are open to the public, is another of Hampshire’s celebrated writers.
Motoring heroes can be found at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest. Here you’ll find an exhibition devoted to fictional spy James Bond as well as Donald Campbell’s record-breaking Bluebird and cars driven by father and son racing drivers Graham and Damon Hill.
Hampshire’s fascinating museums, such as the Winchester Military Museums, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Aldershot Military Museum, the Museum of Army Flying and the Solent Sky Museum in Southampton, also pay tribute to many other Hampshire military heroes.
They tell the stories of the ordinary men and women who fought for their country and of characters such as aviation pioneer Samuel Cody, naval hero Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson and engineer RJ Mitchell, who designed the legendary Spitfire.
Present day celebrities associated with Hampshire include broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh, who lives in Alton, actress Amanda Holden, who grew up in Bishop’s Waltham, film star Colin Firth, who was born in Grayshott and educated in Winchester and Eastleigh, wildlife presenter Chris Packham, born in Southampton, the late Benny Hill, who lived in Eastleigh, and TV presenter Esther Rantzen, who has a home in the New Forest.