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.
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
But the 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.
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 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 liners.
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 in 2005.
The Prince and Princess
of Wales spent the first night of their honeymoon
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 and estate.
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 controversy
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
Whilst 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.
The 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.
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 four) mills.
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
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 of Romsey.
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
Romsey Rapids - Leisure
pool and gym
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 winning duck
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
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
occurs every 3 years, showcasing
talent from in and around the local area.
is a charity event that
has been running on Boxing Day since 2002, attracting
hundreds of pre-1976 vehicles to the town centre