Brief history of Eastleigh

Page last updated at 26 October 2015 at 11:23

There has been a settlement at Eastleigh since Roman times. Late in Saxon times it was known as Eastlea and later Eastley, which means ‘a glade in a wood’. When the Domesday Book was written in 1086, it is recorded as ‘Eastleie’.

Eastleigh was a farmstead on the road between Southampton and Alresford. It is situated on the River Itchen and at the end of the 12th Century the Bishop of Winchester restored the navigable section of the river to allow barges to transport goods from Alresford to Southampton. By the early part of the 18th Century locks and new bridges were built to improve the Navigation. But the area remained unimportant until the coming of the railways in 1839. Around this time a railway station was built to serve the Winchester to Southampton line, and later other lines linking Portsmouth and Salisbury. It was then known as Bishopstoke Junction because Bishopstoke was much larger than Eastleigh. 



The Railway Works in the 1930's

Eastleigh did not grow slowly as many towns did.  It was one of the first planned towns, and was laid out on the American ‘grid iron’ system, with north-south roads and crossroads set at right angles. The planning of the town was overseen by a local board, and it was built to house the many railway workers who moved to Eastleigh when the London and South Western Railway transferred their Wagon and Carriage Works from London in 1889. Development was rapid and by 1892 the new town was virtually completed. From being a village with about 300 houses, Eastleigh became a town with a population of about 6,000.

However, although the town’s streets had been planned, the services for the people had not. There was no sewage disposal or refuse collection, no highway supervision or fire fighting control. As a result, the town quickly became filthy. It was not a very healthy place to live. Because of their problems, the local people asked the Local Government Board in London to form the Eastleigh Local Board in 1893 to cope mainly with the sanitation of the town. Later, in 1895, the Local Board became the Urban District Council of Eastleigh and dealt with the other problems too. In 1899 the Urban District Council joined with the Parish of Bishopstoke to form the Urban District of Eastleigh and Bishopstoke.


Eastleigh town centre c.1900

 Looking along Leigh Road from Eastleigh Station 1900

The town continued to grow and between 1908 and 1910, 1,500 staff moved to the town with the transfer of the LSWR locomotive works from London.  The works were responsible for the production of many famous steam locomotives including ‘King Arthur’, ‘Schools’ and ‘Merchant Navy’ classes.  In 1921, the Pirelli Cable Works opened. In 1934 the town was allowed to have a coat of arms, and in 1936 Edward VIII, the king who was never crowned, granted Borough status to Eastleigh. But the heavy industries have now declined and the town has had to build a new identity based on high tech manufacturing.


Vue cinema

Part of the new £25m leisure development

There is much regeneration planned for the town centre and the development of a major employment site stretching from the town to the Airport. Work has already started in the town with new cinema, bowling centre and restaurants opening recently.

To find out more about Eastleigh's Civic History and view many old photographs please visit  

Follow the Mayor's Trail here on Google Maps