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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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 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".
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
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
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 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
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.
There is concern about the decline of local
independent shops due to the high business rates,
and threat from large supermarkets.
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 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 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
Broadlands - Stately
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
- Gardens and arboretum
Mottisfont Abbey - National
Trust property with nationally renowned rose
Paultons Park - Children's
Romsey Rapids - Leisure
pool and gym
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
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
takes place during
a week in July with the highlight being the
procession through the streets of Romsey on
the final Sunday afternoon.
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.
takes places each year
when Romsey's Christmas lights are switched
occurs every 3 years,
showcasing talent from in and around the local
of Events ran from 21 March to 30 September
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.