It gives its name to the borough comprising the town and the surrounding area. To the south lies Gosport, to the east Portchester, to the north the M27 motorway and Wickham. Westwards lie Titchfield; Catisfield and the Southampton area.
The 2001 Census found Fareham to have lower than average unemployment and crime with house prices higher than average. The population of the borough was estimated at about 111,000 with an average age of 40.3 years.
Fareham traditionally relied on its clay soil for industry, producing bricks, tiles and chimney pots. This past is commemorated through place names such as Kiln Road. The most famous example of a building constructed of "Fareham red bricks" is probably the Royal Albert Hall, London. The main economic activity in Fareham is now retail, employing 15% of the local population. Fareham has also become a popular choice for the location of business call centres; several of the UK's major banks have offices in Fareham and Adecco, the recruitment agency, claims Fareham as the second best call centre location in the UK.
Fareham is situated at the north-west tip of Portsmouth Harbour where the River Wallington joins. Small industries still operate, reflecting Fareham's maritime past. HM Royal Navy operate in Fareham with the Maritime Warfare School, HMS Collingwood, training well over 2,000 British and foreign sailors at a time.
Archaeological excavations around the old High street area, and the church of St Peter & Paul, on high ground over the Wallington Estuary, have yielded evidence of settlement on the site contemporary with the Roman occupation. However, no extensive programme of investigation has been possible, due to the historic nature of the buildings in this area.
The town has a recognised and documented history dating back to the Norman era. Originally known by the name of Ferneham (hence the name of the town's entertainment venue, Ferneham Hall ), Fareham's location was determined by the ford of Fareham Creek at the top of Portsmouth Harbour. The ford was also the location of the Bishop of Winchester's mills; the foundations of these mills were subsumed in the A27 near the railway viaduct. Commercial activity continued at the port until the 1970s, and continues to this day on a smaller scale. By the beginning of the 20th century, Fareham had developed into a major market town.
In the 1960s, Fareham experienced a huge amount of development, as it was one of the areas highlighted for major expansion in the South Hampshire Plan. The idea was to create many thousands of homes to serve as a base for the many people who were looking to move away from the traditional urban centres of Portsmouth and Southampton. It was during this era that the large housing areas of Hill Park, Miller Drive, and much of Portchester grew until eventually one could drive through a continuous urban conurbation from Portsmouth City Centre to Southampton. By this time Fareham had expanded to almost encompass the surrounding villages of Funtley, Titchfield, Catisfield and Portchester.
Fareham is now at a stage of maturity as a town. As a place to live, it is increasingly popular, with plentiful housing, and more open space than can be found in the neighbouring cities.
In the late 1990s, a settlement called Whiteley, straddling the boundaries of Fareham Borough and the City of Winchester, was developed to the north of Junction 9 of the M27 motorway. The new development is predominantly residential, however it features the extensive Solent Business Park and a modern shopping centre, Whiteley Village The latter comprises a range of outlet shops, and aims to draw customers from a wide catchment area across South Hampshire.
An urban renewal initiative began in 1999, renovating the town centre and historic buildings to include a new entertainment and shopping complex. It featured a major iron sculpture park , , claimed to be the largest in Europe,which was installed in 2001, to celebrate the work of iron pioneer and Fareham native, Henry Cort.
There is a School named after "Henry Cort" which is Called "The Henry Cort Community College"
In July 2007, implementation of the nation-wide public smoking ban in England was delayed by 10 days in Fareham because of an apparent "council blunder". The enforcement of the ban must undergo a formal approval by the full council, rather than by the executive alone, as previously thought. The only other council not to effect the ban in time was Stoke-on-Trent.
The A27 was the original route along the south coast before the building of the M27, and runs from Brighton to Southampton, passing through the centre of Fareham. The A32 runs north from Fareham to Wickham, and then through the Meon Valley to Alton. and the A31 This is traditionally the scenic, yet not particularly slower route to London.
Fareham railway station is on the West Coastway Line, with regular fast services to Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, Cardiff and London. Until 1953, passenger services also ran south to Gosport. The remaining trackbed for the Gosport line was proposed for the development of the Light Rapid Transit system but the project has been abandoned because of the costs involved.
Public transport in the town is provided by First Bus, who run nearly all bus routes in the area. Services run as far as Winchester. The main bus station is adjacent to the Market Quay development, and replaced an older station that was demolished in the late 1980s.
Taxis are plentiful, and can generally be found outside the shopping centre, or at the railway station.
In the surrounding area, there are several attractions of national interest: