It gives its name to the borough comprising the town and the surrounding area. To the south of the town lies Gosport, itself a separate borough, to the east Portchester, to the north the M27 motorway and Wickham, part of the City of Winchester. Westwards lie Titchfield; Catisfield, Locks Heath, Warsash and Whiteley, which is also shared with the City of Winchester.
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 any one 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, when a part of William's army marched up from Fareham Creek before continuing to the Saxon capital of England, Winchester. 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 open space. Additionally the local shopping area has become more of a local destination since the arrival of a regular market and additional store openings in recent times.
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 also features the extensive Solent Business Park.
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. The park was installed in 2001 to celebrate the work of influential Lancastrian iron pioneer, Henry Cort, who lived in neighbouring Gosport but who had an iron rolling mill in Funtley (or Fontley), on the outskirts of Fareham. There is also a school named after Henry Cort, the Henry Cort Community College.