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Romsey in 1838

Romsey is a corporate town, locally situated in the hundred of King’s Sombourn, upon the left bank of the Anton or Test, over which is a bridge, and close to the Andover Canal. It is 73 miles from London, on a road leading by Winchester to Ringwood and Poole. The whole parish is very extensive, comprehending 9,310 acres, with a population of 5,432, about one-fourth agricultural ; but the borough comprehends only that part of the parish known as ‘Romsey Infra,’ having an extent of 380 acres, and a population of 2,046. The church formerly belonged to an abbey founded in the reign of Edward the Elder, and occupied by Benedictine nuns : the abbey was valued at the dissolution at £528, 8 shillings and 10 pence per annum gross, or £393, 10 shillings and 10 pence clear. The church is a cross church, having its exterior for the most part of Norman architecture, much enriched in some portions with zigzag and other ornaments ; the central portion of the interior, the transepts, and the sides of the chancel, are also Norman : the west end of the church is in the early English style, very plain outside, but rich within. There are various windows of later date inserted, especially some fine ones at the east end. On the roof of the church grows an apple-tree, which for many years has borne fruit.

There are dissenting meeting-houses, a town-hall, and an ‘audit-house’ supported on piers, with an open space below for the market people, a small borough gaol, and some almshouses. There were formerly considerable manufactures carried on at Romsey of sacking and shalloon, but these have much declined : there are in or about the town several paper and flour-mills and tan-yards. The market is on Thursday, formerly on Saturday, and there are three yearly fairs. By the Municipal Reform Act, the council of the borough consists of a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors.

The living is a vicarage, in the diocese and archdeaconry of Winchester, of the yearly value of £365. There were in the parish in 1833 twelve infant or dame-schools with 136 children, twenty day-schools with about 650 children, and seven Sunday-schools with about 700 children. Of the day-schools, one is a free-school, another is a national-school, united with an old endowed free-school, and a third is wholly supported by Lord Palmerston and family. Sir William Petty was a native of Romsey, and lies buried in the church.