The Great Portsmouth Road

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The old A3 was one of the most important routes in British history. But it was once so dangerous that people called it the Road of Assassination.

Brave travellers of the 1700s wrote their wills before setting out on the Portsmouth Road. Coach passengers faced accident, robbery or even murder by highwaymen roaming the forest south of Petersfield.

Despite these dangers, lots of people used the Portsmouth Road. It was a major route, connecting London with the home of the Royal Navy.

Such a busy road was expensive to maintain. In 1711, the Portsmouth and Sheet Turnpike Trust began charging people to travel the road south of Petersfield, making it one of the first turnpikes in the country. Not everyone was happy with the charges. One traveller, armed with a sword, attacked the toll collector.

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Inns and Breweries


Wooden beer crate marked ‘Luker Petersfield’ and Luker beer bottles

Towering over College Street in 1880 was the W&R Luker steam-powered brewery. It served eight pubs, from the Red Lion next door to the Harrow Inn in Steep. In 1934 a huge fire destroyed the building.


Large stoneware flagon marked ‘T. AMEY Borough Brewery Petersfield’

Thomas Amey was a dairy farmer who branched out into brewing in 1883. When he died in 1896 his daughter Elizabeth took over the business. Amey’s sent beer to London from their brewery next to the railway. 

Trade tokens: issued by local businesses as an alternative to coins

03 – 04

Quarter pennies, 1649 – 1672

Issued by Thomas Jacques of the White Hart Inn, Petersfield and John Jones of Petersfield


Quarter penny, around 1666

Issued by John Whitcombe of the Angel Inn, East Meon

06 – 07 

Petersfield half pennies, 1793 and 1795


Petersfield Coffee Tavern, 1879 – 1907

‘Good for one pennyworth of refreshment at the Petersfield Coffee Tavern’


The Great Portsmouth Road

Coach travel


Keyhole horseshoe, 1600 – 1750

With increased coach travel on rugged, uneven roads, horses hooves saw more wear through the 1600s. For extra protection, draught horses wore heavy keyhole-shaped horseshoes, like this one found in Harting.  


Pottery flask, 1680 – 1800 

Likely to have been made in Surrey

Many who travelled the old roads of England did so with a pottery flask, known as a costrel, full of water or wine tied to their saddle. This one was found in East Meon. We imagine it belonged to a traveller who passed through the area centuries ago.


Horse and carriage yoke

Before cars and steering wheels, drivers used yokes to steer, stop and reverse their coaches. The yoke was attached to the collars of a pair of horses, which the driver directed using a pole attached to the centre of the yoke.