Its sheltered position between the Solent and the open sea, and the natural facilities for making salt, meant that Keyhaven was much more important than might be expected today. It was a port by 1206. Until the early years of the 19th century Keyhaven was part of the prime salt producing centre based around Lymington but there was a rapid decline following competition from Cheshire rock salt combined with rapidly rising coal prices and high duties.
In the 12th century some of the land at Keyhaven was owned by the Priory of Bath. A gentleman called Nigel held one virgate (30 acres) of land, six salt pans, a well and half a furlong of land for a rent of two horse loads of salt, three shillings and a pound of cumin a year.
Wild fowling was a profitable pursuit for men of all levels of society. 16th century records note complaints about men setting nets to trap birds. Farmers objected to the activity as it interfered with regular work on the land.
Some key features in the conservation area:
The Gun Inn - a Grade II listed building - has been an important focal point of the hamlet since at least the middle of the 19th century. The slate roof is hipped at one end and gabled at the other. The sash windows have vertical glazing bars only. Generations of innkeepers have provided food and drink for local fishermen and farmers.
The coast guard cottages are now private houses since coast guard duties were transferred to Calshot. The attractive detailing in red and blue bricks and the anchor symbol have been taken up in the new houses built alongside. It is very important when dealing with prominent buildings to consider details carefully. Every effort should be made to retain original windows and their glass. Modern glass is so smooth that its mirror effect can radically alter the appearance of a building.
The groups of trees at Old Saltgrass and Aubrey House give shelter to the area and form a significant landmark.
Hawker's Cottage was the Keyhaven home of Colonel Peter Hawker of the Royal Dragoons who served under Wellington and was invalided out of the army during the Peninsular War. He kept a diary for more than 50 years which records many of his wild fowling exploits in this area. The original low lattice windows were replaced by the more imposing stuccoed bays towards the end of the 19th century.
Against the backdrop of the Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle dominates the view from the southern edge of the area. The castle was built in the 1540s as part of Henry VIII's coastal defence. Much of the stone came from Beaulieu Abbey. During the Civil War Charles I was imprisoned there. In the 19th century extensive rebuilding was undertaken and it maintained its strategic importance through both World Wars. Many buildings have come and gone and today tourists visit it either on foot along the shingle bank or by ferry from Keyhaven
These are some of the things that make Keyhaven special - they need to be looked after:
The pattern of roads and boundaries.
The late 19th and early 20th century cottages such as West Cottages and Coventry Cottage.
Hawkers Cottage - a smart late 19th century frontage on an earlier house.
The Coast guard Cottages with their brick detailing and sash windows.
The impressive residences of Keyhaven House, Sedge End and Long Range facing the water on Saltgrass Lane.
The 18th century houses - Fisher's Mead. Aubrey Farmhouse and the 3 parts of Saltgrass.
The area from the green along Keyhaven Road to Saltgrass Lane is of high archaeological potential being the presumed centre of the historic settlement.
The rural feel to the road frontages of the narrow lanes.
The substantial trees in the grounds of Aubrey House and behind the end of Saltgrass Lane are important for the character they give the area as well as their windbreak qualities.
The view from Saltgrass Lane across to Hurst and the Isle of Wight.
The view from the coastal footpath towards the village.