Bursting with local historical attractions, the ancient town of Romsey, known as the ‘Jewel of Hampshire’, also boasts delightful shops and markets.
‘I’d definitely describe Romsey as a vibrant market town,’ says Nick Hatchley, junior vice-chairman of the Romsey Show. A traditional and extremely popular event, the annual show regularly attracts 24,000 visitors every
year. The show, held this year on Saturday, September 9,
is organised by the Romsey Agricultural and Horse
Mr Hatchley told Hampshire Style: ‘It’s one of the oldest one-day agricultural shows in the country. It’s always been an important part of the town and has been held on the Broadlands Park estate for 98 years.
‘It also celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. Not bad for a single-day show.’
He adds: ‘The importance of the show to the town is rather large. We are a market town with a good market town history and an agricultural show of this type goes alongside that.
‘There is always something going on in the town –
it certainly doesn’t stand still for the rest of the
year!’ Standing still it certainly doesn’t – especially on market days.
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.
Hampshire Farmers’ Markets continues this tradition
by holding a market in the town on the first Sunday of
The Cornmarket also holds regular weekly street markets on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
And it’s not just the markets that create a buzz in and around the town. Beggars Fair is a lively one-day festival which has been running since 1993. The town comes alive as folk, jazz, blues and world music, dance displays, and children’s entertainment are performed on streets and venues across the town.
As well as the markets, there are plenty of good quality independents if shopping is right up your street. Make sure you head to The Hundred, Church Street and Bell Street areas of the town.
Anya is a designer retailer not to be missed with its luxurious brands including Kate Spade, Sam Edelman
and Alpe. Missoni scarves and handbags by Coccinella and
Star Mela will make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Regatta stocks Sportsmax and Cavendish is a must for menswear collections. Delightful teashops sit side by side the famous chains, including That Little Teashop, Teacups and Asante.
One of the oldest businesses in the town is Bradbeers – a family-run department and furniture store, which also has branches in New Milton and Hedge End. It has been operating in Hampshire for over 175 years.
Romsey’s town centre manager Mark Edgerley was keen to point out that the town is always busy with people and rather encouragingly that it is proving popular with shoppers from further afield.
He said: ‘High streets are now places of sociability. They’re places for people to meet up for coffee and to top up their main shopping.
‘We get a lot of people from across the county come to Romsey. Lots of people come the New Forest and we’ve noticed a lot of people coming from Salisbury.
‘I suspect what’s happening is that as they’re finding that their local high streets aren’t exciting places they tend to look elsewhere and are exploring the area. We’re lucky at the moment that people are exploring us.’
After all that shopping, what better way to relax than with a drink at the Three Tuns pub? Just five minute’s walk from Market Square, the Grade II listed building is full of character with its oak beams and open fireplaces. There’s bound to be something to tempt the tastebuds, with its large selection of real ales and extensive wine list.
The town is not short of country pubs. The Cromwell Arms also has rooms and is perched at the edge of the picturesque town, with a stunning refurbishment
having been carried out recently. It has an extensive collection of international lagers and a choice of four real ales, including one ever-changing seasonal brew.
There is also a private dining room ideal for intimate family occasions – and a marquee in the garden that can host up to 200 guests.
For those looking for accommodation, then the White Horse in Market Place must tick all
the boxes. A historic coaching inn dating back
to Tudor times, each of the 29 bedrooms and
suites are named after a racehorse. Holder of two AA Rosettes, the hotel’s popular restaurant has
a varied menu using the finest local and
For traditional British fare, then head to Bertie’s Restaurant – named after the P.G. Woodhouse character Bertie Wooster. However, if your favourite dishes come from across the Channel, then La Parisienne might just fit the bill. Possessing a successful lunch trade as well as evening dining, La Parisienne has become a part of the Romsey community. Not only does it serve freshly-baked baguettes, but this delightful French restaurant offers mouth-watering food.
Children will love making a splash at the Rapids Sports Complex with flumes, bubbleseats, pirate galleon, sprays and currents. There’s also a steam room, sauna and beauty treatments if you are after something a little more relaxing.
Paulton’s Family Theme Park is also nearby, which will delight the younger members of the family. For within the theme park is Peppa Pig World.
Romsey lies on the River Test, which is known for its fly-fishing. It has also had its share of notable past residents – the 19th-century British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and the 17th century philosopher and economist William Petty.
Many people come to see Romsey and its surrounding attractions all-year-round.
Romsey Abbey dominates the centre of the town and is the largest parish church in Hampshire. It was founded in Saxon times as a nunnery by Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great but after it was rebuilt years later, it now boasts some of the best examples of Norman architecture in Europe and hosts a number of popular events, activities, concerts and services throughout the year.
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.
Just south east of the chapel is the Threadgold Treasury, where several of the Abbey treasures are on display. Among these is the so-called Romsey Rose, and the deed of sale, signed by Henry VIII, granting the Abbey church to the townspeople of Romsey.
Other attractions include King John’s House, which was built in 1256 and its 14th century graffiti and impressive bone floor. As one of England’s oldest surviving dwellings, it houses three historic buildings on one site that span 750 years of history.
As well as the House, there is also a Tudor cottage complete with traditional tearoom and Victorian Heritage Centre with recreated shop and parlour. It is open Monday-Saturday 10am to 4pm.
If you have a day free to explore, then look no further than the award-winning Sir Harold Hillier Gardens.
A spectacular collection of more than 42,000 plants from temperate regions around the world, spread over 180 acres will not disappoint. In 1977 the distinguished plantsman, Sir Harold, left the Gardens under the sole trusteeship of Hampshire County Council and t is now run as a charity.
The gardens offer 11 National Plant Collections, more than 250 champion trees and the largest winter garden
Romsey has plenty to offer visitors of all ages. A real jewel in the crown for Hampshire. ■