The nearest railway station is southeast of the village at Rowlands Castle.
The village has a population of c.12,600. It shares the semi-rural character of other settlements in the district.
The village was probably best known as the home of Gales Brewery, which existed in the village from 1850. Privately owned until November 2005, when it was bought by Fuller, Smith and Turner, it was closed in April 2006. It was the largest local employer until the opening of the Safeway, now Morrisons, supermarket in 1994.
Horndean grew up in the early Middle Ages due to its convenient position as a staging post on the road from Portsmouth to London (now the A3). In 1836 it became home to the Hon. Sir Charles Napier Senior, father to the more famous Sir Charles Napier, who purchased a property in the village called The Grove but subsequently changed its name to Merchistoun Hall (named after his former home in Falkirk, Scotland). Merchistoun Hall is now a Grade II listed building and serves as the village's major community centre. Horndean was bypassed by main line railways but was served by trams of the Portsdown and Horndean Light Railway until 1935 and thereafter by buses.
A three-storey workhouse was built during Victorian times to home the local poor. This stood on a site opposite the Good Intent public house (currently named The Colonial). This building had served a number of purposes including a local swimming pool. This was its primary function during the 1970s, provided by the use of a large polythene lined 'tank' on its ground floor. Using the pool was a fairly unpleasant experience by today's standards due to its small size, lack of poolside space and most of all - daylight. The first and second floors were used in latter years as a small lampshade factory. Defunct and dangerous, the entire building was demolished in spring 1982.
The village experienced significant expansion in the 20th century, particularly with the building of the Hazleton estate on the former grounds of Merchistoun Hall in the early 1960s, and the building of the A3(M) motorway in the 1970s, which passes under a bridge adjacent to the village centre. The easy access to the motorway has encouraged an influx of light industry to the village, most of it concentrated in three major estates, the most recent of which is Hazelton Interchange, built in the early 1990s. The centre of the village has a 1960s built small shopping precinct which is home to specialist businesses, as well as a cafe, fast food and newsagent.
Meaning of name
Dean refers to the old English word "denu" meaning valley, and the name Horndean most likely means "valley by a horn-shaped hill" (the horn-shaped hill probably being Horndean Down). Alternatively "Harne" is the old English word for Dormouse making it "valley of the Dormouse". The second part of the name, Dean, can also mean forest, giving rise to further connotations.
Although less widely accepted, another explanation is that the first part of the name, Horn, relates to a time when the Queen would travel to Portsmouth and often stay in Horndean, where a "Horn" was blown to signal her arrival.