ROMSEY, a market town and municipal borough in the New Forest parliamentary division of Hampshire, England, 7 m. N.W. of Southampton by the London & South-Western railway. Pop. (1901) 4365. It is pleasantly situated in the rich valley of the Test. The abbey church of SS. Mary and Elfleda is one of the finest examples in England of a great Norman church little altered by later builders. Its history is not clear, but a house was founded here by Edward the elder (c. 910), and became a Benedictine nunnery. The church, which is the only important relic of the foundation, is cruciform, with a low central tower. Building evidently began in the first half of the 12th century, and continued through it,. as the western part of the nave shows the transition to the Early English style, which appears very finely in the west front. Decorated windows occur in the east cnd, beyond which a chapel in this style formerly extended. Perpendicular insertions are insignificant. The nave and choir have aisles, triforium and clerestory. The transepts have eastern apsidal chapels, as have the choir aisles, though the walls of these last. are square without. Foundations of the apse of a large preNorman church have been discovered below the present building. In Romsey there are tanyards, ironworks and works of the Berthon Boat Company. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 533 acres.
Romsey (Romesyg, Romeseie) probably owed its origin, as it. did its early importance, to the abbey. At the time of the Domesday Survey it was owned by the abbey, which continued to be the overlord until the dissolution. There is no evidence to show that Romsey was a borough before the charter of incorporation granted by James I. in 1608. This was confirmed by William III. in 1692, and the corporation was reformed in 1835. Romsey has never been represented in parliament. The right to hold a fair was granted to the abbey by Henry III.
in 1271, and fairs were held on Easter Monday, on August 26 and November 8. The market now held on Thursday, formerly on Saturday, dates from 1272. Every alternate Thursday is a great market. In medieval times Romsey had a considerable share of the woollen trade of Hampshire, but by the end of the 17th century this manufacture began to decline, and the introduction of machinery and the adoption of steam led to its subsequent transference to the northern coal centres. The clothing trade was replaced by the manufacture of paper, an industry which still exists.
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