Romsey Abbey is sandwiched between Church
Street and Church Lane at the western end of the town of Romsey in
Hampshire's Test Valley district. The Abbey Church of St Mary and
St Ethelflaeda can trace its origins back to 907, the year in which
the West Saxon king, Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, first
settled some nuns here under the charge of his daughter, Elflaeda. King
Edgar refounded the nunnery about 960 under the rule of St Benedict.
The first stone church and nunnery were built
about AD 1000 and flourished as a place of education for young
nobles. Work began on the present building around 1120-1180. In
1349, the Black Death cut the number of nuns. Within the half-empty
premises, a second aisle was added to the north side for St
Laurence's Church, for the townspeople. They gained the entire
building in 1544, following the Dissolution, which probably saved
the building from destruction.
The Church of St John the Baptist, Upper
Eldon, is on the eastern side of Eldon Road, between Eldon House on
its northern flank (and in its gardens) and the farm buildings to
its south. Described as a nineteenth century cow shed, this tiny,
elegant church was built in the twelfth century. Today it stands
barn-like in the attractive grounds of the fifteenth century Eldon
House. Its unassuming and simple exterior belies its history of near
ruin and repair over the centuries.
The building was substantially restored in 1729
to save it from collapse, and then again in the 1860s and in 1975.
In the nineteenth century, it was indeed used as a cowshed. There
are traces of nine consecration crosses from its original construction,
each stone bearing a circle enclosing five holes which held
long-vanished metal crosses. The parish is one of the smallest
in Hampshire, and its single-cell church consists of just a nave 9.8
metres long, and a south door.
The Church of St Peter & St Paul,
King's Somborne, stands on the southern side of Church Road at
the junction with Romsey Road. The present nave appears to follow
the nave of an earlier twelfth century building which, at that date,
had a small chancel. In the thirteenth century a south aisle was
added, and the chancel may then have been rebuilt outside the lines
of the older chancel. In the second quarter of the fourteenth century
it seems again to have been rebuilt.
Only the west part of the chancel's south wall
escaped the rebuild, while the chancel as a whole was slightly
widened northwards, becoming out-of-centre with the nave. The
thirteenth century chancel arch remained central as before. The date
of the north aisle being added is uncertain, as the arcade is now
all modern. Such old work that remains points to the fourteenth
century. The building was extensively restored in 1886, leaving
little of the older building.
Three photos on this page kindly contributed by
Sam Weller, two by Robert Cutts, and one by JMC4 - Church Explorer,
all via the 'History Files: Churches of the British Isles' Flickr
group. Additional information by Michelle Sweed and JMC4 - Church