By Tim Lambert
A Roman road from Chichester to Clausentum (Southampton) went through the site of Purbrook. However the modern village of Widley was founded by the Saxons. A settlement at Purbrook grew up in the 18th century. Until the 19th century a great forest stretched across Southeast Hampshire. On the southern fringe of the forest was a stream called Purbrook. Its name is a corruption of the Saxon words Pucan broc, which means the brook of the water spirit. Widley was widen leah, which meant wide clearing in a forest. The original settlement of Widley was about 1 mile west of the present place. A track led through the forest from Horndean to Portsmouth but it was only usable in summer. In winter coaches had to make a detour to Havant. This changed in 1711 when a much better road was built from London to Portsmouth which went from Horndean to Cosham along what is now London Road.
In 1715 Widley was granted an annual fair to be held in July. In those days fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year and they attracted buyers and sellers from far and wide. It is surprising that Widley was allowed a fair as it was only a small village. However Widley fair ended in 1862. At the time of the first census in 1801 the population of Widely was 277. By 1851 it was 565. However in the late 19th century it grew rapidly. By 1901 it was 1,619.
In the late 19th century the village of Widley moved from its old location to a new spot by the main road from Portsmouth to Horndean. There was a church at Widely as early as the 12th century. The Church of St Mary Magdalene was rebuilt at Widley in 1849. However it was demolished in 1953. Christ Church Widley was built in 1874 by J Colson. In 1869 Purbrook industrial school opened in Stakes Road. At it vagrant boys learned trades such as shoemaking. St Michael's convent was built in 1885. Early in the 19th century a windmill was built in Purbrook. Purbrook church (St Johns) was built in the years 1843-1858. Purbrook Park House was built in 1770. It was rebuilt in 1837. In the 1920s the house became a grammar school and later a primary school. Today Purbrook has a population of 9,200.
A history of Denmead
A history of Cosham
A history of Waterlooville
A history of Horndean
A history of Catherington