Our final stop in Hampshire for 2015 was the town of Fareham, close to where we were staying at the Solent Breezes Holiday Park…
Status: Fareham District, Hampshire, Town, England
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Old Market Hall, Portland Chambers, Henry Cort Sculpture Trail, United Reform Church, Crown Inn, Fareham Shopping Centre etc
We had stopped at the local Sainsbury’s Superstore on our way through, so whilst the others were busy getting in the essentials, I ran up to the main street for a quick five minute wander.
I started at the Eastern end of “West Street” where it becomes pedestrianised, and I was immediately struck by just how much public artwork there was on what was a reasonably short street.
Marking the entrance at either end of the pedestrianised street is an Iron sculpture called “The Smith Tree of Life”, created by Edward Fokin from Russia. It is intended to symbolise both the hard working Blacksmith, as well as the tree which is seen to represent life.
On the South side of the street lies the “Crown Inn Public House”, an old brick pub built circa 1800.
Outside the Crown sits another stunning piece of artwork, called the “Horn of Plenty”, designed by Igor Andrukhin, again from Russia. It is said to be representative of fruit you could buy from a local market, and features a number of large stones spilling from an Iron shell. I am guessing the idea was the fruit was falling from the Iron tree and being constantly renewed to form new fruits.
West Street was historically the most important street in Fareham, as much of the original town grew up around it. Indeed West Street was once part of the A27 when it was designated in 1922, running from Wiltshire to Southampton, then through Fareham to Portsmouth. Although it has been re-routed around the edge of the town today, it made this area the very heart of the town, with all the major shops. It also included Fareham Market Hall, shown above to the left, which is currently inhabited by a branch of the Natwest. It was also used as the Parish Hall for the Church of St Peter & St Paul, which you’ll find over on Civic Way next to the Borough Council Offices.
Much of the North side of West Street is taken up by the enormous Fareham Shopping Centre, which has three different entrances along the street.
The Centre itself was built in two halves, starting in 1975. The original entrance to this section is shown above, with the rest of the centre following by 1981.
Outside the entrance in the previous picture stands perhaps the most well known sculpture in the town, called the “Anvil Man”, created by Stephen Lunn, a blacksmith from Northumberland.
The sculptures are all part of the “Henry Cort Sculpture Project”, a series of 13 Iron Sculptures which represent the towns history. Henry Cort (1740 – 1899, Iron Master from Lancaster), opened an Iron foundry in Fareham in 1784. He created a new process for creating cheaper Wrought Iron, called “Puddling”, which was adopted all over the country, and England began to export vast quantities of Iron, instead of relying on Europe to import it from. Much of this Iron was also used by the Royal Navy, which stipulated all Iron it used had to be up to the high standards set by Cort.
To mark the Millennium, artists across Europe were invited to submit drawings for a sculpture trail to commemorate Henry Cort. They were designed by artists from all over Europe, from Russia to England, and used only techniques that Cort would have used back in the 18th century.
Next up was “Still Moves”, another English entry by Chris Brammall. I find this particular piece to be quite symbolic of iron production in the town. It shows how we as a species have exercised our own creativity, taking random pieces of Iron and turning them into meaningful shapes, in this instance into a chain.
Getting towards the West end of the street where the pedestrianised section ends, stands “Portland Chambers”, one of Farehams most famous, and important buildings. Completed in 1835, it was used by the “Society for Literary & Philosophical Objects”, although by 1858 it had been sold on to the town council and became the Town Hall.
Throughout the next 150 years it changed hands various times, from Corn Exchange to Post Office, Bank to Estate Agent. It is one of the most impressive buildings on West Street, built at a time when the old village high street was redeveloped, widened and made fit for Fareham’s new status as a large town.
To the left of Portland Chambers is the “United Reform Church”, opened as a Congregational Chapel in 1836. Today it is occupied by a restaurant called the “Slug & Lettuce”, preserving this charming building.
The next piece of artwork is split into at least two separate figures that form part of the same work, known as the “Figurines”, created by a Polish Blacksmith called Ryszard Mazur.
Aside from the two figures above, there is another figure elsewhere on the street which is broadly in the form of a lady holding two shopping bags.
The final sculpture I spotted was the “Ship of Peace”, by another Russia named Vladimir Sokhonevitch. It was inspired by another, existing statue created in the 1990’s for a song by John Lennon, called “Give Peace a Chance”.
You can see the peace symbol at the top of the sculpture, harking back to Lennon.
Fareham is an interesting little town, and although I only had time for a quick run up and down the High Street, I got to experience a lot of the towns major moments in history. Fareham was also the first town in England to completely replace Gas Lamps with Electric ones, in the 1890’s.
Fareham lies just off the M27 Motorway between Southampton – Portsmouth, which also becomes the A27 heading into Sussex. Local rail lines run out to both cities as well as London, Cardiff and Brighton.
It was the end of our holiday for 2015, although we had two more stops on the way home, starting with Hungerford in Berkshire…