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Romsey, historic market town

  • 22 January, 2015

Romsey is known for being one of the oldest market towns in Hampshire, as well as having one of the best examples of Norman architecture in history: Romsey Abbey.

The market town of Romsey is surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in England.
Romsey lies on the River Test, the pure chalk stream that’s famous for its abundance of brown trout. The Test Way is a 44-mile trail that allows you to walk along the banks of the river and enjoy its profusion of wildlife.

As the river flows by the town it passes Romsey Abbey, one of the best examples of Norman architecture in Europe. Founded in the 10th-century by Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, it was a Benedictine monastery for nuns that had many royal connections.

Opposite the Abbey is King John’s House, the main building of a medieval complex dating back to 1240 – it’s one of England’s oldest surviving dwellings. Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, built most of the Abbey you see today between 1120 and 1130 though traces of an earlier Saxon church can still be seen.

Nowadays, the Abbey acts as a parish church for the town with a lively calendar of events, activities, concerts and services held throughout the year. The Abbey is also the last resting place of Lord Louis Mountbatten. As you walk south from Romsey you can see Broadlands, the grand Palladian-style mansion that was once the home of Lord Mountbatten and is now open to the public during summer months.

Markets past and present

As well as these historical attractions, Romsey is also known for being one of the oldest market towns in Hampshire. King Henry I granted Romsey its first charter. This allowed a market to be held every Sunday and a four-day annual fair each year in May.

Today, Hampshire Farmers’ Markets continues this tradition by holding a market in the town on the first Sunday of each month. Romsey’s Alma Road Car Park is transformed on these days as over thirty stallholders take their places to sell an enticing assortment of produce. Visitor numbers can exceed 3500 on a busy day as people flock to buy meat, fish, cheese, bread, cakes, cider and wine.

As well as the popular Sunday Farmers’ Market, the Cornmarket holds regular weekly street markets on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. And once a year, the Cornmarket also plays host to the Beggars Fair – a lively one-day festival that has been running since 1993. With the aim of showcasing the best of local talent, Romsey comes alive as folk, jazz, blues and world music, dance displays, and children’s entertainment are performed on streets and venues across the town.

It’s a delight to stroll through these streets with their charming shops, restaurants and cafés. The Abbey, King John’s House and the Town Hall are all within five minutes walk of each other. The surrounding charms of the nearby Test River and the New Forest go to make Romsey one of the most attractive towns in Hampshire.

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