A locals Guide to Romsey

PUBLISHED: 15:28 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:39 28 July 2020

War Memorial Park is edged by two channels of the River Test credit Emma Caulton

War Memorial Park is edged by two channels of the River Test credit Emma Caulton

Photograph by Emma Caulton

Residents share tales of life on the Test’s riverbank

Romsey’s Market Place has been recreated as a public open space with trees and seats, watched over by Lord Palmerston, erstwhile local resident credit Emma CaultonRomsey’s Market Place has been recreated as a public open space with trees and seats, watched over by Lord Palmerston, erstwhile local resident credit Emma Caulton

Unlike others, the statue of past PM and Broadlands’ resident Lord Palmerston, standing in Romsey’s Market Place, does not court controversy. He has, however, recently shifted his viewpoint. Where once he presided over a busy little roundabout, he now overlooks a broad loop of paving - complete with trees and seats. This new public space was the last phase in a £3million investment by Hampshire County Council and Test Valley Borough Council to make Romsey’s town centre more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. Planned long before COVID-19, the redesign of the Market Place along with Church Street and Bell Street (considered Romsey’s stylish shopping quarter with the likes of Kit & Caboodle, Cavendish and Consortium) helps to make this traditional market town a comfortable shopping destination.

Mark Edgerley, Town Centre Manager (retired)

Mark Edgerley retired from his role as Romsey Town Centre Manager at the end of July. He held this position for just over six years, fulfilling a wide-ranging role that included developing Romsey’s markets and running town centre events.

Mark’s Local Life

“The best thing about Romsey has to be its amazing community spirit - in normal times directed into amazing street events and performances by our very talented choirs and ensembles.”

Something quirky: “Romsey once had nearly 50 pubs; there is alleged to have been a saying that ‘if he is drunk, he must be from Romsey’!”

Favourite pub: “The Tudor Rose is our smallest and likely our oldest pub, run in a very traditional way by the wonderful Lisa Moor. It is located in the Cornmarket, home of our regular markets and once home for our Council. Another is The Goat at Timsbury which is a lunchtime favourite - the food is amazing and service quality is hard to beat.”

Café: “Such a great choice! Morning coffee at No 5 – owner Kay bakes her own pasties and cakes. Lunch time sandwich or baked potato from Café Fresh - served by Zena and team. On a day off, breakfast at Josie’s is a treat.”

Shop: “I am a sucker for Bradbeers’ kitchen department buying gadgets for one of my hobbies, home cooking.”

Evening out: “A performance at the Plaza Theatre, volunteer run and offering a range of productions, including really challenging performances; a recent one covered the aftermath of the Aberfan tragedy.”

Overnight stay: “The Palmerston Rooms is a boutique B&B serving amazing breakfasts.”

Local event: “Has to be the Beggars Fair held in July at various venues across Romsey and offering an eclectic mix of music. We think it’s one of the largest town-based music festivals in the South and it’s all free to attend.”

Local attraction: “King John’s House with its tranquil garden and fabulous traditional tea rooms. Combine with visits to Romsey Abbey and Romsey Signal Box and you cover 900 years of our history.”

Angela Sheppard, Romsey Woodburners

Angela Sheppard is an ex-PE teacher who established Romsey Woodburners in 2013 with husband Ray, having identified a need for this type of business in the area. Angela manages the showroom while Ray, surveyor and installer, draws on 30 plus years in the building industry. Having lived in Romsey for 35 years, Angela suggests she could almost call herself a Romsonian!

Angela’s local life

“Romsey still feels like a small market town with independent shopkeepers, local events and friendly faces.”

Favourite walk: “Tilly the spaniel and I love to walk through Romsey’s War Memorial park and watch the River Test flowing towards Broadlands.”

Shop: “Long’s the greengrocer; they are always so friendly and chatty, and their warm beetroot is to die for!”

Café: “Kimbridge Barn for delicious cream teas, coffee and ever-changing menu. There’s plenty of outside seating when the weather is warm; when the weather is inclement it is lovely inside next to the stove.”

Day out: “National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey - very peaceful with the river running through and a beautiful walled rose garden.”

Nigel Welsh, Managing Director, Flack Manor Brewery

After being regaled with stories past by Henry Slater, the last Managing Director of Strong’s Brewery of Romsey, Nigel Welsh, Ann Stantiford and Terry Baker, who had previously worked together for another successful brewery, set out to establish a brewery in Romsey. Flack Manor Brewery was born in December 2009 with the Flack brand evolving out of the area’s special history. This started with the creation of the Flak Shack brewery shop adorned with relics from wartime. Beer brands include Double Drop using the almost unique method of Double Drop brewing, one of the traditional methods for producing real ale.

Nigel’s local life

“Romsey offers something for everyone: Paultons Park for children, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens for the green-fingered, and the beautiful Test Way.”

Something special: “During World War II, Stanbridge Earls became the first ’Flak Shack’, a rest home for American Air Force Officers. Roke Manor served a similar function; together the bases were known as Station 503.”

Favourite pub: “It is difficult to single one out: The Three Tuns who work so hard to provide a community focal point, The Old House at Home and The Wheatsheaf at Braishfield, to name just a very few!”

Café: “Dish Deli. Dine in on freshly cooked breakfast and lunches, shop at the deli counter for quality local cheeses, bread, eggs and more, or have a takeaway.”

Barber: “The Business for men and kids with pool table and coffee shop.”

Overnight stay: “We have an affection for the Cromwell Arms as it was one of our first customers. It has beautiful rooms, is close to the Test and easy walking distance to the town centre.”

Favourite walk: “Romsey’s War Memorial Park is home to the War Horse Memorial, part of Romsey’s rich history. We brewed a bottled beer named after the War Horse with part of the proceeds going towards the Trust.”

Local event: “It has to be The Romsey Show!”

Mark Cooper, Chairman, Romsey & District Society

The Romsey and District Society was founded in 1974 as a response to the threat to demolish some of the town’s fine old houses to make way for wider roads. Today the Society focuses on local planning, the natural environment and countryside issues, and aims to promote high standards of planning and architecture in the area and secure the preservation, protection and development of features of historical interest.

Mark’s local life

“Best things about Romsey are its location, history and ‘soul’. Romsey’s Norman Abbey and the River Test provide the setting for the town and form the focus for the community which has preserved many traditions and local events, all of which engender a strong civic pride and sense of belonging.”

Restaurant: “Without doubt La Parisienne in Bell Street - genuinely French in ownership, style and cuisine. And le Patron supports the Society when we do our twice-yearly Stream Clean and Litter Pick, serving delicious free coffee to the volunteers.”

Shop: “Bradbeers - a traditional family-owned department store. They ought to make a TV programme about it! And Peppercorns, a specialist health food shop that does excellent herbs and spices.”

Fitness classes: “Stephani Pasquali of Romsey Pilates Studio & Clinic. Her classes are a must: caring, professional and effective!”

Hair salons: “Kutz in Latimer Street, because Fran is lovely and cuts hair so well.”

Local event: “Romsey Arts Festival: events and music of the highest quality. The ancient Abbey makes a superb music venue. It’s rumoured the acoustics are so good for female singing voices because it was built for Romsey’s nuns.”

Local attraction: “Romsey Abbey and the surrounding streets, aligned on their original medieval layout, with beautiful houses and gardens.”

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