Next year is a big one for Waterlooville as the town celebrates its 200th birthday. Jeff Travis finds out more about what is being planned
Two hundred years ago there were more animals than there were people.
Waterlooville did not exist.
There were the rolling hills of the Forest of Bere, dotted with farmsteads and a few quaint cottages along the road to London.
If a Victorian resident had a time machine, they might well faint from shock when they stepped out into the Waterlooville of today.
In 2014, Waterlooville is a bustling town with a population across its wider expanse of more than 65,000 – a figure that is only set to rise in the coming decades.
Perhaps more than any other patch in The News area, Waterlooville has changed the most in a short space of time and is continually evolving as more people move in.
And after 200 years of existence, the people of the town have decided it’s time to make a fuss and celebrate.
Residents, community leaders and historians have banded together to plan a Waterlooville 200 celebration next year to mark the start of the town.
An application has been made for Heritage Lottery Funding to help support a programme of events and exhibitions.
Sarah Flamson, economic development officer at Havant Borough Council, says: ‘There’s a lot of enthusiasm from people round the table.
‘This will hopefully be a legacy for Waterlooville.
‘Everybody will remember where the town grew from and it’s something that future generations can build upon.
‘It’s good to have a sense of place and perhaps people don’t know why Waterlooville is called Waterlooville.
‘There are interesting facts about the Havant borough we live in – we have a good sense of history here.’
The Waterlooville of today is a mixture of sprawling housing development, retail parks, parkland, and like most towns, the ever-struggling high street.
Queen’s Inclosure is the last remnant of the forest that once covered the land.
Elaine Shimbart, a councillor for the Wecock area, has fond memories of growing up in Ashley Cottage, where the Asda supermarket is now.
‘I was here as a child in the late 50s,’ she says.
‘I went to school here and it’s changed beyond all recognition.
‘It was a small village back then surrounded by countryside and you had the bluebell woods in Hulbert Road.’
With 3,000 houses being built to the west of Waterlooville and around 700 homes likely to be built at Woodcroft Farm – north of the Wecock Farm development that was built by Portsmouth City Council in the 1970s – this is a town on the road to expansion.
‘It’s certainly growing to be a large town,’ says Elaine.
‘It’s growing fast.
‘It’s a good place to live – you have everything that you need.
‘St George’s Church is a very friendly church and there’s always a lot on. It’s quite a good community.
‘So far as retail I wish we had a few more shops – it’s nearly all estate agents, coffee shops and lots of charity shops.’
But it’s clear big businesses see the attraction of a growing town, with Sainsbury’s opening at the end of the year, and M&S already doing a busy trade.
‘Next year will be a good opportunity to make us put it on the map,’ adds Elaine.
Rosemary Wilson, 70, from Waterlooville, remembers when the London Road precinct was bustling with traffic and people.
‘I worked in Woolworths when it first opened in 1960,’ she says.
‘The A3 went through back in the early 60s. All of the shops were privately owned. I think Woolworths was the first shop that came into town.’
She said the changes had been ‘dramatic’ but one of her favourite places remains the quiet tranquillity of Jubilee Park.
James Alderson, 39, a comedian from Denmead, has been taking a keen interest in the plans for Waterlooville 200 and hopes that organisers are thinking big.
He says: ‘Pembroke Docks celebrated its 200th anniversary earlier this year and the Queen went down to recognise its importance to the nation.
‘When you look at its origins based on these soldiers in 1815 and how massive the Waterlooville area was during the Second World War with most of the army going off to D-Day, maybe the Queen should come down?’
Resident Richard Newnham has been busy making a three-dimensional diorama of the Battle of Waterloo, which will form the centrepiece of an exhibition at the library.
It is hoped more businesses, schools and residents will get on board as the project gathers momentum.
Kate Saunders, who works at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant and is chairing the Waterlooville 200 committee, is excited about what’s to come.
She says: ‘We are supporting it as the local museum and we will be putting on an exhibition. They have applied for Heritage Lottery Funding and we are waiting to hear back.
‘This is a really good opportunity for Waterlooville to celebrate its history and celebrate its name.’
Quick facts about Waterlooville
In 1812 there were just five houses in the area of the crossroads, at Nat West.
In 1818 St George’s Church was started, which marked the beginnings of the town.
On the southern fringe of the Forest of Bere was a stream called Purbrook. Its name is a corruption of Pucan brook, which means the brook of the water spirit.
In the 13th century there was another village called Stakes. It may have got its name because it was surrounded by a stockade of wooden stakes.
In the mid 19th century Waterlooville was still a very small village with less than 200 people but it had a butcher and a baker by the 1830s.
In 1820 the Hulbert family bought an estate at Stakes. In 1881 one of the Hulberts had Hulbert Road made up at his own expense.
Gas street lighting came to Waterlooville in 1904.
During the Second World War many people from Portsmouth came to Waterlooville and Horndean each night to escape the bombing. They slept in sheds and garages and in temporary shacks.
In 1936 Waterlooville gained a cinema, the Curzon.
In the 1970s Portsmouth City Council built two council house estates - one at Crookhorn and the other at Wecock Farm.
London Road shopping centre was made a precinct in 1985.
Waterlooville is twinned with Maurepas, Yvelines in France and Henstedt-Ulzburg in Germany.
What’s in the name?
The story of Waterlooville is an interesting one indeed – because it appears to have been named after a pub.
The town did not exist until the beginning of the 19th century and is therefore much newer than its neighbours Purbrook and Horndean.
As the story goes, one day a band of weary soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 marched through Portsmouth and onwards.
The weary warriors were desperate for a drink, and came across an inn at the crossroads of Wait End Lane.They stopped at the Inn, which had no name and celebrated their victory over the French.
The troop’s corporal was so pleased with the friendly atmosphere in the pub that he suggested to the innkeeper that it be named after the battle he and his men had just fought in - hence it became known as The Heroes of Waterloo.
Ten years later the small town that had grown up around the pub was a hub of activity as it became a regular stopping place for the 16 daily coaches that travelled between London and Portsmouth. The current name of Waterlooville was confirmed in the 1851 census.
It was not listed as a town or a parish but a ‘ville’, a popular French term during the Victorian period. Today there still stands a Heroes pub, at the top of the Waterlooville precinct.
However, this is not the original pub the heroic soldiers once drank in.
The original Heroes Pub was demolished in 1965 and the current one built in remembrance.
What is being planned so far
- To involve all schools in a timeline, banner making and dressing up in 1800s style.
- To have a Waterlooville flag and a flagpost put up to fly this.
- To have something put into the precinct flagstones to commemorate this event.
- Last Night of The Proms in the town centre, free of charge.
- Market Place Music on June 13.
- Flower festivals in the three main churches.
- A re-enactment in the town centre.
- Roundabouts suitably decorated.
- A literary competition.
- Yarn bombing.
- History display in The Spring, Havant.
- Old Waterlooville photos.
- A diorama of the Battle of Waterloo in the library featuring more than 2,000 soldiers.
The scheduled events at present are:
- June 6 – The History and Literary Festival starts.
- June 13– Market Place Music, in the town centre, free to all, trying to get some star names to be present for this day.
- June 20– Parades of standards, flags etc, a re-enactment, Last night of the Proms, in the town centre.
Volunteers are needed to help with the events. To get involved see waterlooville200.org and fill in the online form.