Petersfield is a market town and civil parish in the East Hampshire District of Hampshire. It is 17 miles (27 km) north of Portsmouth, via the A3 road. The town has its own railway station on the Portsmouth Direct Line, the mainline rail link connecting Portsmouth and London. Situated on the northern slopes of the South Downs, Petersfield lies wholly within the South Downs National Park.
The town is on the crossroads of well-used north–south (formerly the A3 road which now bypasses the town) and east–west routes (today the A272 road) and it grew as a coach stop on the Portsmouth to London route. The population in the 2011 UK census was almost 15,000.
The town was founded during the 12th century by William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, later chartered by his widow, Hawise de Beaumont, and confirmed by charter in 1198 from "John, Count of Mortain" (later to be King John). In 1415 King Henry V granted the burgesses of Petersfield freedom from toll, stallage, picage, pannage, murage, and pontage throughout the realm of England. All charters are preserved in the archive files at Petersfield Town Council.
The town grew in prosperity due to its position on frequently travelled routes, local sheep farming, and cottage industries including leather and cloth. There were weekly markets in the town square for sheep, horse and cattle trading, and two annual fairs, in June (on the feast of St Peter and St Paul) and November (on the feast of St Andrew). An autumn fair which began in the early 19th century was held in October on The Heath, called "The Taro Fair".
Petersfield was originally a chapelry in the ancient parish of Buriton, but outgrew its mother parish during the 19th century. It was made an urban district in 1894. In 1932 it absorbed part of the neighbouring parish of Sheet which was abolished at that time.