The exact origins of the name Solent are lost in the mists of time, but it is thought that it may be a bird place-name reflecting the congregations of the Northern Gannet or Solan Goose around the coast. The first recorded use of the name Soluente appears on a goatskin document in the early 8th century AD, scribed by a Northumbrian monk. The next reference is in the use of the name Solentan in a Saxon document. The word Solent is not recorded in the Domesday Book.
The Solent's historical and archaeological sites are one of its most important assets, and represent a nationally significant resource of buildings, landscapes and artefacts on land and underwater.
There are three particular aspects which are of interest:
- Historic buildings and structures associated with the maritime history of the region. The Solent contains the most important concentration of coastal defence heritage features in the UK, important sites associated with the history of commercial activity and coastal settlement, and a large number of shipwreck sites below high water mark;
- Submerged archaeological evidence of past landscapes and land uses at times of lower sea level;
- Archaeological remains and historic structures under particular threat, including those put at risk by coastal erosion.
The archaeological resource has a continuity that takes it from land through the intertidal zone and out to sea. This is shown by relic prehistoric landscapes, where contemporary features survive on both dry land and the sea bed. It can also be seen in the maritime cultural landscape where ship wrecks, their ports and associated industries may be represented by archaeological remains and historic buildings.