Romsey Town Centre
|Population||19,441 (2011 Census. parish)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Romsey Town Council|
Romsey (// ROM-zee) is a market town in the county of Hampshire, England. Romsey was home to the 19th-century British prime minister Lord Palmerston, whose statue has stood in the town centre since 1857. The town was also the home of the 17th-century philosopher and economist William Petty and the 20th-century soldier and statesman Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Notable buildings are the Corn Exchange, built in 1864, and the town hall, which was built in 1866.
It is 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Southampton, 11 miles (18 km) southwest of Winchester and 17 miles (27 km) southeast of Salisbury. Nearby is the village of North Baddesley. Just over 19,000 people live in Romsey, which has an area of about 1.90 sq mi (4.93 km2). The town's population is expected to increase to 20,549 by 2020, as a result of substantial housebuilding in the Abbotswood development. This represents a 5.6% increase since 2015.
Romsey is one of the principal towns in the Test Valley Borough and lies on the River Test, which is known for fly fishing, predominantly trout. Romsey Abbey, the largest parish church in Hampshire, dominates the centre of the town. As of 2019, the town centre is undergoing substantial remodelling, with the stated aim of improving access for pedestrians and cyclists. Hampshire County Council expect the work to be complete in the summer of 2019.
- 1 History
- 2 Governance
- 3 Places of interest
- 4 Events
- 5 Notable people
- 6 Education
- 7 Transport
- 8 Sport and leisure
- 9 Media
- 10 Media appearances
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Middle Ages to the Civil War
The name Romsey is believed to have originated from the term Rūm's Eg, meaning "Rūm's area surrounded by marsh". Rūm is probably an abbreviated form of a personal name, like Rūmwald (glorious leader).
The first abbey at Romsey was founded by the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Elder in 907 for his daughter, Princess Aelflaed, a nun who became the first Abbess of Romsey. King Edgar the Peaceful re-founded the abbey under the Rule of Benedict in 967, appointing as abbess a noblewoman named Merewenna. Merewanna was given charge of King Edgar's step-daughter, Aethelflaed, who later served as abbess herself. Both Merewenna and Aethelflaed are revered as saints.
The village swelled alongside the religious community. The Vikings sacked Romsey in 994, 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 body of King William II "Rufus" was carried through Bell Street in Romsey on its way to Winchester, after he had been killed whilst hunting in the New Forest.
King Henry I granted Romsey its first charter. This allowed a market to be held every Sunday, and a four-day long 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 1,000. 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, during which time many religious buildings were destroyed. The abbey itself was saved from demolition ostensibly because a section of it was dedicated to St Lawrence and used as the parish church, so the town purchased the abbey from The Crown for £100 in 1544. The section of the abbey used as the church was subsequently demolished, while the remainder still stands, now as the parish church.
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 position of High Steward, the first of whom was the Earl of Southampton.
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.
18th to 20th centuries
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 sackmaking, all reliant upon water from the Test.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries Romsey became notable for making collapsible boats, 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.
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, lived at Broadlands, a large country estate on the outskirts of the town. His statue, by sculptor Matthew Noble, stands in the Market Place outside the Town Hall.
Broadlands later became the home of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, known locally as "Lord Louis". In 1947, Mountbatten was given his earldom and the lesser title "Baron Romsey, of Romsey in the County of Southampton". Queen Elizabeth II's husband, Prince Philip, was his nephew and upon Philip's marriage to Elizabeth in 1947 they departed London for their honeymoon at Broadlands.
Mountbatten was buried in Romsey Abbey after being killed in an IRA bomb explosion in Ireland on 27 August 1979. After his death his titles passed to his elder daughter, Lady Brabourne, who thus became Countess Mountbatten of Burma. Her eldest son was styled by the courtesy title "Lord Romsey" until he inherited the title of Lord Brabourne in 2005, and then the earldom in 2017.
Embley Park, a country estate located on the outskirts of Romsey was the home of Florence Nightingale, known for her pioneering work as a nurse and sanitary reform during the Crimean war and for laying the foundation of modern nursing. Nightingale is said to have had her calling from God whilst sitting under a giant cedar tree in the grounds of Embley Park on 7 February 1837. The site is now home to a private school.
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. The cost of the visit created some local political controversy. In particular, £5000 was spent on a new toilet to ensure Her Majesty had suitable facilities available during her visit, although in the event she did not need to make use of them.
Three industrial and trading estates focus mainly on service industries and small-scale manufacturing. Three scientific and high technology employers – Roke Manor Research, Southampton Science Park and IBM – have establishments nearby.
Romsey is part of the Romsey and Southampton North parliamentary constituency. Its current MP is Caroline Nokes of the Conservative Party. Elected in the general election on 6 May 2010, after boundary changes, she defeated 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 in the former Romsey seat.
The town is part of the Test Valley district council which is controlled by the Conservative Party. Norton Knatchbull, 3rd Earl Mountbatten of Burma, grandson of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, is the current High Steward, a position which dates from the 16th century (see above).
Places of interest
Romsey Abbey is a Norman abbey, originally built during the 10th century, as part of a Benedictine foundation, housing a community of Benedictine nuns. The surviving Anglican Parish church of Romsey, now the largest parish church in the county, is the town's most outstanding feature and is open daily to visitors.
King John's House
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. The house is reportedly[by whom?] haunted by at least four ghosts, including a black shrouded figure, encountered by the Hampshire Ghost Society during their investigations between 2002 and 2008. The house is a Grade I listed building.
The Plaza, in Winchester Road, is a fully equipped 230-seat art deco style theatre, originally built as a cinema in the 1930s, it became a bingo hall until the 1980s. It was converted in 1984 and is now home to local amateur dramatics group, Romsey Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (RAODS), who stage between ten and fourteen productions each year and hire the venue out for other local productions, concerts, and functions.
The existence of Sadler's Mill, the only mill to be developed on the main course of the River Test, is first recorded in the 16th century, when it functioned as a corn and grist mill. Milling ceased in 1932 and the building was left derelict for many years until it was restored by new owners in 2005.
The Swan Inn
The Swan Inn, a former public house now home to the Conservative Club, is said to be haunted by two Roundhead soldiers, who, according to local legend, were hanged from the iron sign bracket. One of the pair managed to cut himself loose and run into a nearby alleyway, where he soon died.
The White Horse Hotel
The White Horse Hotel is a Grade II* listed 18th century coaching inn which now houses a 4-star hotel and brasserie owned and operated by Silks Hotels. The assembly rooms are where Lord Palmerston is said to have first engaged in public political debate. The Mummers Gallery and Georgian Staircase are reportedly haunted by the ghost of a lady in white.
The town's memorial park which plays host to the annual Mayor's picnic, contains a Japanese World War II artillery gun, one of a pair captured by the British and brought back to Romsey by Lord Mountbatten of Burma. One was donated to the town by Lord Mountbatten, and the other was retained in the grounds of his country estate, Broadlands.
Romsey signal box
Built in 1865, the signal box controlled the freight and passenger trains running on the railway lines passing through Romsey until 1982. Rescued from demolition by Romsey and District Buildings Preservation Trust, it is now a working museum.
Other places of interest
- 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 park
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.
Romsey Carnival 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 Agricultural & Horse Show is a large agricultural show that takes place on the second Saturday of September every year 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 countryside 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 Beer Festival is organised by the local Round Table, and takes place in October or November each year, at Crosfield Hall.
Romsey Classic Car Show 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.
Romsey has two Rotary Clubs which are active, working with local business partners and schools to raise charitable funds for the community. The Rotary Clubs organise the annual Walk The Test Way which has become popular with several hundred walkers raising money for charities.
- Reverend W. Awdry – clergyman, railway enthusiast and author of The Railway Series of books in which the character Thomas the Tank Engine originated
- Robert Brydges – Quiz-show contestant who became the third winner of the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
- Charles Butler – author of children's books
- Martin Butler – composer
- Laura Carmichael – actress, Downton Abbey
- Andy Cook – footballer
- Harry Dennis – footballer
- Charlie Dimmock – TV gardening expert and presenter, brought up in Romsey
- David Gower – retired cricketer and television personality
- Anthony Hayward – journalist and author
- Ollie Locke – TV Personality – Appeared in Made in Chelsea and Celebrity Big Brother 2014 and was raised in Romsey
- Ben Mansfield – actor
- Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma lived at Broadlands
- Florence Nightingale – nursing pioneer
- William Petty – economist, scientist, and philosopher
- John Russell Reynolds – neurologist
- Richard Sharp (politician)
- Tim Sills – footballer
- Nigel Spackman – footballer
- Kerrie Taylor – actress
- Braishfield School
- Cupernham Infant School
- Cupernham Junior School
- Halterworth Primary School
- Romsey Primary School
- Romsey Abbey C of E Primary School
Romsey is within 10 miles (16 km) of both the M27 and M3 motorways, providing fast links along the south coast and to London, and to the Midlands and the North via the A34. The A36 runs a few miles west of the town, providing a direct but not particularly quick route to the West of England and South Wales. There are cycle links to Southampton and Salisbury via route 24 of the National Cycle Network.
In 2004, an hourly South West Trains local service was introduced, running to Chandler's Ford and Eastleigh and then down to Southampton and Totton. The noise from these new services attracted complaints from local residents, who demanded their withdrawal, and there were also suggestions that some of the journeys regularly carried no passengers. However, its future is assured under the new South West Trains franchise, which saw the service altered from December 2007 to run from Romsey to Southampton via Eastleigh as currently, then back to Romsey via Millbrook and Redbridge and on to Salisbury. The result is more train services for Romsey than at any other time in its history, with particular improvements for passengers travelling to Southampton or Salisbury.
Sport and leisure
One of the cricket clubs is Old Tauntonians and Romsey Cricket Club
Romsey Rugby Football Club is based at Romsey Sports Centre. It fields teams of all ages each weekend of the playing season.
The town has a swimming pool, the Romsey Rapids.
Published every Friday, The Romsey Advertiser is the town's newspaper printed at Redbridge, Southampton.
In the 1980 and 1990s, Romsey was used as the location of fictional Sussex town 'Kingsmarkham' in the television series The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. Romsey locations appear throughout the series concerning Inspector Wexford played by George Baker. The location used for the fictional police station was the former Romsey Magistrates Court in Church Street.
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- Hampshire County Council.Romsey Archived 6 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 3 November 2007
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- Environment Agency (2006).Fact file on the River Test Archived 8 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 3 November 2007
- "Town Centre Improvements". www.hants.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
- Romseynet.Romsey twinning Archived 9 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 1 November 2007
- "Romsey Abbey: Saxon History and Archaeology". www.britannia.com. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
- Liveing, Henry George Downing (1906). Records of Romsey Abbey: An Account of the Benedictine House of Nuns with Notes on the Parish Church and Town (A.D. 907-1558) : Compiled from Manuscript and Printed Records. Warren and Son. pp. 26–27.
- "Romsey Estates". willisfleming.org.uk.
- BBC News (2005).Death on the Nile producer dies Retrieved 1 November 2007
- Florence Nightingale's home at Embley Park near Romsey BBC News, 5 May 2010
- "Florence Nightingale: Her Funeral". Countryjoe.com. 20 August 1920. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- BBC News (2007).Queen marks charter anniversary Retrieved 1 November 2007
- BBC News (2007).Town left with royal toilet bill Retrieved 3 November 2007
- Caroline Nokes is MP for Romsey and Southampton North Romsey Advertiser, 7 May 2010
- Scanlan, David (2009). Paranormal Hampshire. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1848682573.
- Historic England. "KING JOHN'S HOUSE (1231745)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
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- "Romsey Signal Box". Friends of Romsey Signal Box.
- Charles Butler. "Romsey". Charlesbutler.co.uk. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- "Charlie Dimmock profile: news, photos, style, videos and more". Hellomagazine.com. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- "Test Valley Borough Council". Testvalley.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
- Campaign to save bus defeated Romsey Advertiser, 9 November 2007
- Angelini, Sergio. "Ruth Rendell Mysteries, The (1987-2000)". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- http://www.marerico.com/moviedatabase/absolutely_fabulous_series_3123.htm http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=absolutely-fabulous-1992&episode=s03e02
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