View of Fleet Pond. The railway line is about 100 metres to the left of the picture.
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.
Early Days (to 1904)
The area that was to become Fleet had shallow and sandy soil, much of it boggy or covered in gorse and bracken which held little attraction to agriculture and, compared to the chalk lands in the west of the county, the Fleet area has yielded few archaeological finds.
Isaac Taylor's Map of Hampshire (1759) shows only three habitations in the area that was later to become Fleet.
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 ecclesiastical 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 excursions 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 – 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. On 23 June 2015 the roof of All Saints' church was destroyed by fire in a suspected arson attack.
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.
As part of the Urban District Council (1904 - 1974)
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.
As part of the Hart District Council (1974 onwards)
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, which has added some 3,500 inhabitants to Fleet's population, bringing its total population up to around 35,000, a 20% increase in less than a decade.
Two earlier developments in Fleet involved a double opening on 10 May 1991, the Hart Shopping Centre, which was opened officially by HRH The Duchess Of York and the Hart Leisure Centre on Hitches Lane (towards Church Crookham).
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.