If you Google ‘Hampshire history’ the first hit is a Wikipedia entry, a short piece with ‘multiple issues’, according to its editors. The next is www.hampshire-history.com
, a beautiful site full of delightful pictures and hundreds of stories about interesting people and places in the county.
And one of the most amazing aspects of the site is that it has been produced by a very small team and is believed to be the only county-specific history site of its kind.
It is arranged in a way that few historians would question – there’s a map, with links to items for particular places. There are sections for various periods and surnames, as well as a gallery of pictures and a blog. Visitors are invited to make contact, with queries or contributions for posting.
It is, in short, a site that any organisation would be proud to own. It is run by three lifelong friends, ‘with families and day jobs’ and none a historian – they have a background in science and design. Helen Banham taught physics, Amanda Moore is an IT consultant and her brother David Moore is a digital graphic designer.
It all started from an exercise plotting historical data on maps, according to Helen, who said: ‘Amanda and I are both Hampshire born and bred and we love history. About 12 years ago I was putting dots on maps to cluster disparate date and Amanda said: “I can do that digitally”. It all started from there, with our Hampshire site and a much larger, nation-wide one, www.intriguing-history.com
‘The Hampshire history project is an attempt to share with others the wonderful history of our county. We try and help as many people with their own research in Hampshire, be it family history or otherwise and get about two or three contacts a day from people all over the world. We are also compiling surname data from many sources which we hope will also help people to connect.
Anyone with an interest in history will recognise that the site covers a huge number of the stories that weave the fabric of the county. There are entries on the agricultural machine builders Taskers of Andover, ‘Mad’ Dick Norton of Southwick, Whitchurch Silk Mill, the Virgin Crowns of Abbots Ann, Hythe Railway Pier, Bramdean Church in the woods – and many, many more. For anyone who wants topographical information at any period and in any part of the county, this site cannot be bettered. For family historians there is information on ‘thousands of surnames’.
That said, there are caveats. Helen, who writes all the material, is well aware that it lacks sources. She said: ‘We don’t do that – we do it for fun! I take all the photos and do the research. We like to do it all on own and steer clear of “organisations”. We are keen to network with local history groups and others and share the good work they do. There is a huge constancy in our visitors, who come back and engage – I am really surprised!’
This is a great product, literally ‘home-made’. As Helen commented when she was last in touch: ‘Amanda spent her day yesterday in a hotel room in Manchester working on the site whilst I went out with the dog to explore some new stories.’
One of the essential dictums of the site is that there is no paywall – it an open source. In fact, it has been produced with nothing more than enthusiasm and many, many hours of work. The Hampshire Archives Trust is trying with this website to provide a one-stop source for archive-related activities, and as such welcomes Hampshire History as a worthy cousin.