Romsey is a small market town
in the county of Hampshire, England. It is 8 miles (13
km) northwest of Southampton and 11 miles (18 km) southwest
of Winchester, neighbouring the village of North Baddesley.
Just under 15,000 people live in Romsey, which has an
area of about 4.93 square kilometers. Romsey lies on
the River Test, which is famous for fly fishing, predominantly
trout. It is one of the principal towns in the Test
Valley Borough. A large Norman abbey dominates the centre
of the town. Romsey was home of the 20th-century soldier
and statesman Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the 19th-century
British prime minister Lord Palmerston, and the 17th-century
philosopher and economist William Petty. Romsey is twinned
with Paimpol in Brittany, France, and Battenberg, Germany.
The name Romsey is believed
to have originated from the term Rūm's Eg, meaning "Rum's
area surrounded by marsh". Rum is probably an abbreviated
form of a personal name, like Rumwald (glorious leader).
What was to become Romsey Abbey
was founded in 907. Nuns, led by Elflaeda daughter of
Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, founded a
community — at his direction — in what was then a small
village. Later, King Edgar refounded the nunnery, about
960, as a Benedictine house under the rule of St. Ethelflaeda
whose devotional acts included chanting psalms while
standing naked in the cold water of the River Test.
The village swelled alongside the religious community.
The Vikings ran-sacked Romsey in 993, burning down the
church. But the village recovered, and the abbey was
rebuilt in stone in about 1000. The religious community
flourished as a seat of learning, especially for the
children of the nobility. A market was established outside
the abbey gates.
The Normans built the large current
abbey that dominates the town (between c. 1120 and 1140)
on the site of the original Saxon church. By 1240, 100
nuns lived in the convent.
King Henry I granted Romsey
its first charter. This allowed a market to be held
every Sunday, and a four-day annual fair in May. In
the 13th century, Henry III permitted an additional
fair in October.
The lucrative woollen industry
appears to have powered Romsey's growth during the Middle
Ages. Wool was woven and then fulled or pounded with
wooden hammers whilst being washed. It was dyed, and
then exported from nearby Southampton.
Romsey continued to grow and
prosper until plague struck the town in 1348-9. The
Black Death is thought to have killed up to half of
the Romsey's population of 1000. The number of nuns
fell as low as 19. Prosperity never returned to the
abbey. It was finally suppressed by Henry VIII during
the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Many religious
buildings were destroyed during this time.
abbey was saved from demolition because part of it was
a parish church for the people of Romsey. The town purchased
the abbey from the Crown for £100 in 1544. Ironically,
the part of the abbey that had saved the abbey, the
church of St Lawrence, was then demolished.
By the mid-16th century Romsey's
population was about 1,500; its woollen and tanning
industries fuelled growth. On 6 April 1607 King James
I granted the town a charter making it a borough. This
gave official status to an informal local government
that had been running the affairs of the town since
the Dissolution of Romsey Abbey in 1539. Romsey could
now have a corporation comprising a mayor, six aldermen
and twelve chief burgesses, with a town clerk for 'office
work'. Furthermore, there was to be a local law court
under a Court Recorder, assisted by two sergeants-at-mace.
Over all, was the prestigious position of High Steward,
the first of whom was the Earl of Southampton. (Lord
Brabourne, grandson of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, is
the current High Steward.)
Romsey changed hands several
times during the English Civil War. Both Royalist and
Parliamentary or Roundhead troops occupied and plundered
the town. Royalists remained in control of the borough
until January 1645.
The town's woollen industry
survived until the middle of the 18th century, but was
beaten by competition from the north of England. However,
new fast-growing enterprises soon filled the gap with
brewing, papermaking and sack making, all reliant upon
the abundant waters of the Test.
By 1794 a canal
connected Romsey to Redbridge — at the mouth of the
River Test — and Andover to the north but within 50
years had largely fallen into disuse. Industry continued
to grow. Romsey was a reasonably large town for the
early 19th century: its population was 4,274 in the
first census of 1801, compared with just 8,000 for Southampton.
Despite the arrival of the railway
in 1847 the expansion slowed and whilst its population
had grown to 5,654 in 1851 it then stagnated and by
the time of the census half a century later (1901) the
population was just 5,597.
Lord Palmerston, the
19th-century British Prime Minister, was born and lived
at Broadlands, a large country estate on the outskirts
of the town. His statue stands in the Market Place outside
the Town Hall.
The Willis Fleming family of
North Stoneham Park were major landowners at Romsey
from the 17th until early 20th centuries, and were lords
of the manors of Romsey Infra and Romsey Extra.
Romsey was famous for making
collapsible boats during the 19th and early 20th centuries,
invented by the Rev. Edward Lyon Berthon in 1851. The
Berthon Boatyard in Romsey made the boats from 1870
until 1917. They were used as lifeboats on ocean-going
Broadlands later became the
home of Lord Mountbatten of Burma, known locally as "Lord
Louis". He was buried in Romsey Abbey after being
killed in an IRA bomb explosion in Ireland on 27 August
1979. In 1947, Mountbatten was given his earldom and
the lesser title "Baron Romsey, of Romsey in the
County of Southampton".
After Lord Mountbatten
of Burma died, his titles passed to his elder daughter,
Lady Brabourne, who thus became Lady Mountbatten of
Burma. Her eldest son was styled by the courtesy title "Lord
Romsey" until he inherited the title of Lord Brabourne
The Prince and Princess of Wales
spent the first night of their honeymoon at Broadlands.
Embley Park, a country estate located on the outskirts
of Romsey was the home of Florence Nightingale, most
famous for her pioneering work as a nurse and sanitary
reform during the Crimean war and for laying the foundation
of modern nursing. Florence is said to have had her
calling from God whilst being sat under a giant cedar
tree in the grounds of Embley Park on 7 February 1837.
The site is now home to a private school, reminders
of Florence's formative years are all around the house
Nightingale is buried in the family vault
at St. Margaret Church in East Wellow, located on the
outskirts of Romsey. Her coffin was taken by train from
London to Romsey Station where a horse drawn carriage
completed the journey to the church for a simple funeral
at the request of Florence.
During 2007 Romsey celebrated
the 400th Anniversary of the granting of its Charter
by King James I with a programme of events from
March through September, including a visit on 8 June
from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Subsequently.
the cost of the visit has created some local political
Romsey today appears to be in
sound economic health. Whilst there is significant commuting
out of the town for work - particularly to Southampton
and Winchester, and also, to some extent, London - it
could not be described as a dormitory town.
heavy industry in the town has long since declined,
three industrial and trading estates focus mainly on
service industries and small-scale manufacturing. Three
major scientific and high technology employers — Roke
Manor Research, Southampton Science Park and IBM — have
large establishments in the nearby countryside.
recently renovated town centre contains a Waitrose,
and Aldi supermarkets, a small department store, and
over 100 other retail outlets of various kinds, including
both high street chains and local independent shops.
There is concern about the decline of local independent
shops due to the high business rates, and threat from
Watermills have played an important
part in Romsey's history as an industrial town. The
Doomsday Book of 1086 provides the earliest record of
watermills in Romsey, which identifies three (possibly
Sadler's Mill is probably the best known
of Romsey's surviving mills and is apparently the only
mill to be developed on the main course of the River
Test. The existence of Sadler's Mill is first recorded
in the 16th century, when it was owned by the manor
of Great and Little Spursholt. Functioning as a corn
and grist mill, it has passed through a succession of
owners including Lord Palmerston who rebuilt it in 1747
and sold it in 1777 to one Benjamin Dawkins. Following
another succession of owners it returned to the Broadlands
estate in 1889. Milling ceased in 1932, when the mill
building became redundant. The Broadlands estate sold
the building in 2003, at which point it was close to
collapse having been derelict for many years. The new
owners, Anthony and Sarah de Sigley, restored the building
in 2005, rebuilding much of the original structure.
During the restoration evidence of an earlier structure
was found; carbon 14 dating established the age of this
to be circa 1650.
Romsey has its own parliamentary
constituency. Its current MP is Caroline Nokes of the
Conservative Party. Elected in the general election
on 6 May 2010, she ousted the Liberal Democrat MP Sandra
Gidley with a 4.5% swing to Conservative from Liberal
Democrat and a majority of 4,156 votes. Gidley had held
the seat since a by-election in 2000.
Romsey Abbey is a Norman abbey,
originally built as a Benedictine foundation, housing
a community of Benedictine nuns. The abbey is open daily
to visitors as well as being the Anglican Parish church
King John's House & Tudor
Cottage was allegedly a hunting lodge used by King John
of England whilst hunting in the New Forest. However,
the existing building dates from much later. It does
contain a number of extremely unusual and exciting historical
features, including medieval wall decorations and graffiti,
as well as a floor made of animal bones.
Broadlands - Stately home
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens -
Gardens and arboretum
Mottisfont Abbey - National
Trust property with nationally renowned rose collection
Paultons Park - Children's theme
Romsey Rapids - Leisure pool
The Mayor's Picnic
takes place in early-mid summer
and is held in Romsey's Memorial Park. There is music
performed by local schools, a variety of stalls, and
the popular Duck Race, in which numbered plastic ducks
'race' each other along the river Test, to be scrupulously
retrieved before awarding a prize to whoever chose the
The Beggars Fair
is held in the streets and
pubs of Romsey on the second Saturday in July. It is
a free festival featuring all types of music, together
with dance and other street entertainment.
takes place during a week in
July with the highlight being the procession through
the streets of Romsey on the final Sunday afternoon.
The Romsey Show
is a large agricultural show
that takes place every September at Broadlands. The
show is one of the oldest in England, held annually
since 1842. In addition, Broadlands has twice hosted
the CLA Game Fair, the largest agricultural show in
the world, most recently in July 2006.
The Winter Carnival
takes places each year when
Romsey's Christmas lights are switched on.
The Romsey Arts Festival
occurs every 3 years, showcasing
talent from in and around the local area.
Romsey Classic Car
is a charity event that has
been running on Boxing Day since 2002, attracting hundreds
of pre-1976 vehicles to the town centre car parks.
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