Some of the best things to see and do in Hamble
PUBLISHED: 10:52 18 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:52 18 December 2018
A mecca for sailing enthusiasts, this waterside village has been likened to Devon or Cornwall by Pevsner himself. Here we unearth more interesting facts
Situated on a peninsula between the Hamble River and Southampton Water, Hamble-le-Rice is served by one access road, the B3397 Hamble Lane. It’s got its own station, Hamble Halt, which links to Portsmouth and Southampton. The Number 6 bus will take you to and from the village from Southampton city centre, but perhaps the best trip of all is to be had on the ‘Little Pink Ferry’ which has been taking foot passengers across the river to Warsash since 1493!
Praised by Pevsner
Architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner took a shine to Hamble, describing it in his Buildings of England series as an ‘intricate, engaging place, surprisingly unselfconscious’ and felt it best approached by water. Its church certainly caught his eye but that’s understandable, when you consider it was built in 1128. He also highlighted a house, Sydney Lodge, designed by Sir John Soane, the man who designed the Bank of England.
Scouting for boys
Thanks to the training ship Mercury, run by C B Fry, the classical scholar and cricketer, a new youth movement was born. Sir Robert Baden Powell, a friend of Fry and founder of the Scouting movement registered the first Sea Scout troop at Hamble in 1910. Billed as the original Sea Scouts, the Hamble troop now has around 200 members.
On the map
For somewhere that didn’t appear on the map until 1725, Hamble, as it’s generally known, has done very well for itself, once rivalling Portsmouth as a naval dockyard. One of England’s most famous ships, the Grace Dieu, was built here for Henry V. The men of Hamble also built Nelson’s Elephant and King George II commissioned a number of warships from the yard. In later years the industry turned to leisure craft and Hamble became a magnet for the yachting community, which in turn lead it to becoming familiar via the BBC programme, Howards Way featuring Kate O’Mara, Nigel Davenport and a theme tune that many can still hum today…
For somewhere so associated with sailing, it’s a surprise to learn how important Hamble was to Britain’s aircraft industry. In 1912 a prototype seaplane was produced at Hamble Point and three years later, Fairey Aviation established a factory to build. Civil and military plots were trained at Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, who established the Air Service Training (AST) and Hamble’s airfield played a proud part in World War II. Spitfires were repaired at the facility and Amy Johnson, who flew solo from England to Australia, joined a flying course at the airfield in 1932.
What’s going on
Well sailing, obviously! There’s the Hamble River Sailing Club, the Royal Southern Yacht Club, and the Royal Air Force Yacht Club as well as the Speedbird Offshore Yacht Club. The sports complex at Hamble School has a large swimming pool and a number of fitness classes. Hamble Football Club celebrates its 50th birthday in 2019 and Folland Cricket Club always welcomes new members. Hamble Village Market is held every Friday from 9.30-10.45am in Hamble Memorial Hall and there is a village social club open every evening until 11pm.
Food and drink
Hamble’s four pubs, The Bugle, Victory Inn, King and Queen and Ye Olde Whyte Harte, are just waiting to serve up splendid Sunday lunches, pub grub and a host of well-chosen ales. For modern British and European cuisine check out the River Rat - their tapas and gin menus are recommended. Banana Wharf is bang on the water at Port Hamble Marina, serving dishes such as salt and pepper squid, and The Ketch Rigger at Hamble Point will serve you a 5oz minute steak with garlic and chive butter; or for Indian food, consider the Royal Bengal.
Hard to imagine it now as genteel yachties cram Hamble’s High Street. But this very same area was, it’s rumoured, a hangout for notorious London gangsters, the Kray Twins. They were understood to have owned or rented a property in the village after becoming fond of the area following their evacuation in World War II. The Bugle pub, near the village’s waterfront, was said to have been a favourite haunt. Far-fetched? Possibly! But two of their family members were documented as having been treated in the hospital at nearby Netley.
The original fuel terminal at Hamble was opened by Shell in 1924. During World War II it took part in the ambitious Operation PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean) to secretly transport fuel under the Solent and Channel to the Allies for use in the D-Day landings. The pipeline didn’t quite live up to expectations although it’s said that markers of its position can still be found in the area. And many of the buildings used to disguise it are still going today, including several at Browns Golf Course, Sandown, on the Isle of Wight.
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