It was Hamilton's second pole this year, after three successive second place starts, and the 28th of his career. It was also the first pole by a British driver at Silverstone since Hamilton last succeeded in 2007.
Defending triple world champion German Sebastian Vettel was third quickest for Red Bull ahead of his retirement-bound team-mate Australian Mark Webber.
Scot Paul Di Resta was fifth fastest in his Force India car, to give the British fans two drivers in the top five, ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso, pressing home his credentials for consideration as Webber's successor at Red Bull.
German Adrian Sutil was seventh in the second Force India ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean and his Lotus team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
“It's an incredible feeling,” said Hamilton. “It feels like [his previous Silverstone pole] 2007. The crowd has been great — such a great turnout — that was a lap for them,” he added.