Romsey Abbey - A Potted History
The church: The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Ethelflaeda (more commonly known as Romsey Abbey), Romsey, Hampshire, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: In AD 907 King Edward the Elder settled some nuns on this spot under the charge of his daughter. Ethelflaeda, the nunnery's second abbess, was a saintly woman to whom several miracles were attributed, and whose acts of sanctity reputedly included chanting psalms whilst standing naked in the River Test at night. The present building dates from about 1120 and is a fine medieval building with large windows and a well lit interior reminiscent of larger cathedrals across England. Classic Norman arches in the hard, cream coloured, freshwater limestone known as Binstead stone tower above the large nave.The rood is particularly famous, and the building attracts all kinds of visitors eager, I suppose, to see a quintessentially English church building. They are not disappointed. A recent survey by the Daily Telegraph named Romsey Abbey as among the 100 best loved places of worship in England.
The church: At its height the nunnery housed about 100 women, but the Black Death reduced their number to 19. The Abbey entered a period of shared use as the local parish church and was thus spared demolition during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. By the time of the Puritans the nunnery had been suppressed and the building's fabric had undergone major changes. Today the Abbey remains the largest parish church in Hampshire and is affiliated with the Greater Churches group. The parish sponsors numerous societies and its congregation numbers many of the local great and good. Lord Mountbatten (who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979) is buried inside the church.
The neighbourhood: The Abbey is the heart of the small market town of Romsey, a very middle class town to the southwest of Winchester. Romsey enjoyed a prosperous wool trade in earlier times, followed by a thriving brewing and papermaking industry. During the 19th and early 20th centuries Romsey was famous for the manufacture of collapsible boats, including lifeboats used on the Titanic, among other vessels.