Fleet

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Fleet is a town and civil parish in the Hart district of Hampshire, England, located 37 miles (60 km) south west of London. It is part of Hart District. The 2007 population forecast for Fleet was 31,687. In 2011, Hart, of which Fleet is the main town, was voted the best place to live in the UK by the Halifax Quality of Life study, above areas such as Elmbridge in Surrey and Wokingham in Berkshire.

The site of Fleet was originally heathland in the northern part of the Crondall Hundred. The name Fleet was probably derived from the Norman French word La Flete meaning a stream or shallow water – a reference to the Fleet Pond from which fish had been taken for the monks in Winchester in Medieval times.

In 1792 the Basingstoke Canal opened. The canal passed through the town site, but apart from a few inns to serve the passing trade it had little effect on the locality. Apart from the Farnham to Reading road, the site remained largely undeveloped until the construction of the London and South Western Railway, which opened in 1840. In that year a church – Christ Church that was to become the heart of the new ecclesiastial parish of Ewshot and Crookham was built midway between the villages of Crookham and Ewshot. This parish included the area that was to become the town of Fleet. The railway company promoted Fleet Pond for a destination for day excurisons and many people came down from London to skate on the Pond during the winter. This attracted a number of gentry, particularly retired army officers, who moved to the area bounded by Fleet Road, Elvetham Road and Reading Road North and laid the foundations of what was to become known locally as “The Blue Triangle“.

By 1860 Charles Lefroy, a local squire, commissioned All Saints Church, Fleet – in the Blue Triangle area in memory of his wife who had died in 1857. The architect was William Burges. The ecclesiastical parish of Ewshot and Crookam was split into two in 1862 with the northern section based on the All Saints church, becoming the new parish of Fleet. The development of Fleet accelerated when the land to the south east of the Blue Triangle was sold for development in 1882 which, unlike the Blue Triangle, was laid out in a grid pattern. Thus it is that there are few very old buildings in Fleet, with much of the modern town formed around Victorian buildings.

Under the Local Government Act 1894 many of the duties that had previously been shouldered by the ecclesiastical parishes were transferred to new civil parish and Crookham, Fleet and Crondall each gained an elected parish council. In 1904 the civil parish of Crookham was split into two – Crookham Village and Church Crookham with Church Crookham and Fleet Rural Parish being merged to form the Fleet and Church Crookham Urban District.

As in many parts of Britain, there was a building boom between the First and Second World Wars. Fleet also contains structures built in the 1960s such as the line of shops on the left of the picture below.

Fleet has expanded in the past few decades with new residential areas being built at Ancells Farm, Zebon Copse (in neighbouring Church Crookham) and Elvetham Heath. Completed in 2008, Elvetham Heath is one of the UK’s largest new housing developments, and will add some 5,000 inhabitants to Fleet’s population, bringing its total population up to around 36,000, a 20% increase in less than a decade.

Two earlier developments in Fleet involved the opening of a new shopping centre, the Hart Shopping Centre, which was opened officially by HRH The Duchess Of York in 1991. On the same day, she attended the opening of the Hart Leisure Centre on Hitches Lane (towards Church Crookham). The shopping centre was itself developed further in 2001-2.

Although Fleet has traditionally been a dormitory town housing commuters to London, it now has several business parks, mainly occupied by Information Technology companies.

A plan to add a new multiplex cinema was abandoned, a gym was built on the proposed site instead.

The Fleet Pond Nature Reserve is a notable beauty spot on the northern edge of the town. The ‘pond’ itself is in fact the largest freshwater lake in Hampshire. In times past, the lake has frozen over permitting skating. Fleet can be reached from London and Southampton via the M3 motorway, the nearest junction being 4A. Fleet services on the M3 lies at the edge of the town. Its main road, Fleet Road, runs through the town centre from south-west to north-east. Fleet station is on the London Waterloo station to Southampton main line. The train service is run by South West Trains (formerly Network South East). Journey time to Waterloo is about 50 minutes. Express trains do the journey in under 40 minutes. There are small airports nearby at Blackbushe Airport and Farnborough Airfield. The Basingstoke Canal, built at the end of the eighteenth century, connected Fleet to Basingstoke and, in the other direction, London via the Wey navigation. By the early twentieth century, it had fallen into disrepair, but the section between the Wey Navigation and the Blackwell Tunnel (midway between Fleet and Basingstoke) has since been restored by volunteers and is maintained as a leisure facility.

Fleet is administered by Hart District Council and Hampshire County Council. The parliamentary constituency is North East Hampshire. In 2010 some of the responsibilities of Hart District Council were devolved to three new parish councils: Fleet Town Council, Elvetham Heath Parish Council and Church Crookham Parish Council.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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