Strategic Position

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In 1495, Henry VII established a dockyard at Portsmouth. Since then, servicemen have stopped at Petersfield on their way to the coast.

In 1795, during the French Revolutionary Wars, busy innkeepers took down their signs to avoid taking in any more soldiers. On the lead-up to D-Day in 1944, soldiers camped in fields and on the sides of roads around Petersfield. Residents remember ‘endless streams of vehicles’ passing through the town on their way to the coast.

The railway was a valuable resource, transporting tanks and supplies via Petersfield. Around D-Day, the Longmoor Military Railway between Bordon and Liss was one of the busiest railways in the world. During peacetime, it became a set for films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery.

Did you know?

Winston Churchill and his war cabinet finalised plans for the D-Day invasion of Normandy just ten miles from here, on a secluded track at Droxford Railway Station.

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Before the railway came through Petersfield, anyone wanting to travel to London faced a 12-hour round trip. Now people commute to the capital every day.

With the opening of the direct line from London to Portsmouth in 1859 came a new era of leisure travel. Day trips were now possible, with excursions offered to London and the Crystal Palace.

The Petersfield area was an attractive destination for tourists travelling by rail. Newspapers advertised ‘a pretty little town, situated in a lovely valley’ with hotel accommodation ‘of a very superior kind’.

The railway also provided opportunities for trade. Benjamin Forder established a Limeworks at Buriton, using the railway to bring in coal via Petersfield. South Eastern Farmers sent local milk to London and Portsmouth from their depot next to Petersfield station.

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Do you like to travel light? In 1906, the Atkinsons of Keswick moved an entire farm by train to cheaper land in East Meon. The locals thought it wouldn’t produce anything, but the Atkinsons are still farming there today.