Lymington is a port on the west bank of the Lymington River on the Solent, in the New Forest district of Hampshire, England. It is to the east of the South East Dorset conurbation, and faces Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight which is connected to it by a car ferry, operated by Wightlink. The town has a large tourist industry, based on proximity to the New Forest and the harbour. It is a major yachting centre with three marinas. According to the 2001 census the Lymington urban area had a population of about 14,000.
The earliest settlement in the Lymington area was around the Iron Age hill fort known today as Buckland Rings. The hill and ditches of this fort still remain, and an archaeological excavation of part of the Walls was carried out there in 1935. It has been dated to around the sixth century BC. There is also another supposed Iron Age site at nearby Ampress Hole. Evidence for later settlement (as opposed to occupation) however is sparse before Domesday. Lymington itself began as an Anglo-Saxon village. The Jutes arrived in what is now South West Hampshire from the Isle of Wight in the 6th century and founded a settlement called limentun . The Old English word tun means a farm or hamlet whilst limen is derived from the Ancient British word *lemanos meaning elm-tree.
The town is recorded in the Domesday book of 1086 as "Lentune". About 1200 the lord of the manor, William de Redvers created the borough of New Lymington around the present quay and High Street whilst Old Lymington comprised the rest of the parish. He gave the town its first charter and the right to hold a market. The town became a Parliamentary Borough in 1585 returning two MPs until 1832 when its electoral base was expanded. Lymington continued to return two MPs until the Second Reform Act of 1867 when its representation was reduced to one. On the passage of the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 Lymington's parliamentary representation was merged with the New Forest Division.
From the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century Lymington was famous for making salt. Saltworks comprised almost a continuous belt along the coast toward Hurst Spit.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Lymington possessed a military depot that included a number of foreign troops - mostly artillery but including several militia regiments. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars the King's German Legion-Artillery was based near Portchester Castle and sent sick soldiers to Lymington or Eling Hospital. As well as Germans and Dutch, there were French émigrés and French regiments were raised to take part in the ill fated Quiberon Invasion of France (1795), from which few returned (contrast the Battle of Quiberon Bay, or Bataille des Cardinaux, a 1759 victory).
From the early nineteenth century it had a thriving shipbuilding industry, particularly associated with Thomas Inman the builder of the schooner Alarm, which famously raced the American yacht America in 1851. Much of the town centre is Victorian and Georgian, with narrow cobbled streets, giving an air of quaintness. The wealth of the town at the time is represented in its architecture.
Lymington particularly promotes stories about its smuggling history; there are unproven stories that under the High Street are smugglers' tunnels that run from the old inns to the town quay.
Lymington was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. In addition to the original town, 1932 saw a major expansion of the borough, to add Milton (previously an urban district) and the parishes of Milford on Sea and Pennington, and parts of other parishes, from Lymington Rural District - this extended the borough west along the coast to the border with Christchurch.
Under the Local Government Act 1972 the borough of Lymington was abolished on April 1, 1974, becoming an unparished area in the district of New Forest, with Charter Trustees. The area was subsequently parished as the four parishes of New Milton, Lymington and Pennington, Milford-on-Sea and Hordle.