On the northern slopes of the South Downs, Petersfield is a small market town 17 miles from Portsmouth and 52 miles from London. It lies on the traditional crossroads of a North-South route (the A3 – Portsmouth Road – now bypassed) and an East-West route (A272)
The town was founded in the 12th century and has an interesting history
Deliberately founded by the Earl of Gloucester by starting a market by St Peters Church. (The town’s market is held in the same location, now called The Square, to this day.)
The town’s early prosperity was based on wool and leather. Sheep were farmed locally and the wool woven and cleaned in the town, whilst tree bark was soaked in water to release the tannins for leather tanning.
It is thought that The Spain got its name from the fact that the houses on the street had tiled roofs (most houses of the time had thatched roofs) as an old word for tile is ‘spayne’.
By the 17th Century, Petersfield was an important stop on the stagecoach route between London and Portsmouth, and in the 18th Century the Heath area was formed by draining the common to the east of the town and producing a large earthwork which became the Heath pond.
In the middle of the 19th Century the railway arrived, linking Petersfield with London and with Portsmouth in a safer and more reliable manner than the stagecoach service.
Nowadays Petersfield remains a small but vibrant town with a strong community spirit. It is twinned with Barentin in France and Warendorf in Germany. It is also home to the HQ of East Hampshire District Council and is the largest town in East Hampshire.