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Look at Romsey

A town design statement for Romsey

Project Overview


Purpose of Look at Romsey

The Romsey and District Society (R&DS) undertook to prepare a Town Design Statement at the suggestion of Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC). The objective was to analyse the appearance of the town of Romsey and determine what gives Romsey its unique appearance and to identify the visual features that are important in the townscape. The work has also identified some areas where improvements would be desirable.

The project has encompassed the whole of the urban part of Romsey both the historic core and the surrounding residential areas, including those within the town and the built-up part of Romsey Extra. A project as comprehensive as this is rare for a community the size of Romsey.

This document (the Overview) contains some Design Recommendations but only as relate to more than one area of Romsey. In general specific Design Recommendations have been made in the individual area Statements. (See map at back. In the final version there will be a colour map giving details of areas.)

The results have been presented to the TVBC with the aim of their becoming a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). If accepted, the findings will be consulted when planning applications are made and as far as possible will set guidelines for what is visually acceptable in part of the town and for Romsey as a whole.


Romsey was divided into twelve neighbourhood areas. No attempt was made to make them even in acreage or number of households. Each area produced its own design statement.

A working party of residents was established in each area. In two areas the project was managed jointly with Romsey Extra Parish Council and in another a partnership was formed with Great Woodley Residents Association.

Residents were encouraged to participate in the preparation of their local Design Statements. Activities included public meetings, exhibitions, guided walks, and a questionnaire to every household. The overall response rate to the questionnaires was 15% (1268 replies). The highest was 31% and the lowest was 12%.

Following the initial programme of consultation, each area produced its own Design Statement. TVBC was consulted about content but the documents that were submitted were based on the decisions of the relevant working party. Every household was invited to comment on the draft statement, as were other interested parties.


The project has been organised by Phoebe Merrick on behalf of R&DS, with support and guidance from TVBC.

The project has been funded by TVBC, Romsey Town Council, Romsey Extra Parish Council, Hampshire County Council and R&DS. It has the support of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Romsey in its context

Romsey is a small market town with a population of about 17,000. It lies in the Hampshire basin, in the lower Test valley. On either side hills, parallel to the river, rise up to plateaux before falling away again as the river valley is left behind.

Test Valley from Carisbrooke Court
Test Valley from Carisbrooke Court
The original settlement was built on shingle banks on the valley floor. Subsequently building has taken place on both peat and clay seams and the town has extended northwards in the river valley and eastwards up the hillsides to the level land beyond. The town is constrained on the west by the River Test, on the south by Broadlands, an historic house and park, and on the north by the wetlands of the river valley floor.


Bridge over the canal
Bridge over the canal

The main part of the River Test flows from north to south on the western side of the town with many braids and streams leaving and joining it on its way southwards. These include the remains of a canal. There is also a small stream called Tadburn Lake that cuts a substantial valley into the eastern hill above Romsey.

Romsey Abbey as seen from the Test
Romsey Abbey as seen from the Test


The Sun Arch railway bridge, Winchester Road
The Sun Arch railway bridge, Winchester Road
The town is served by two railway lines and the M27 is nearby. The railway lines pass over low bridges which obstruct the movement of high vehicles. There is a bypass that runs to the south of the town centre and gives some relief to it.


Romsey is close to the New Forest, and to Southampton, with Salisbury and Winchester being within easy reach. Romsey By-pass with its characteristic poplar trees
Romsey By-pass with its characteristic poplar trees

Setting and Landscape

The Horsefair and former brewery building
The Horsefair and former brewery building
People have lived and worked in the heart of the town since Roman times and in the tenth century a Benedictine nunnery was established here. The many water channels that run through the town once had industrial uses such as milling and brewing.


The River Test provides some splendid views, although little of the main river is open to the public. The views of Broadlands house and park to the south of Middlebridge and of Sadlers Mill to the north of the bridge are particularly valued. Sadlers Mill by Salmon Leap
Sadlers Mill by Salmon Leap


The Victorian cemetery in Botley Road
The Victorian cemetery in Botley Road
Both to east and west the trees along the hilltops that are parallel to the river provide a framework for the view. A treasured view of Romsey is found at the top of Green Hill in an informal lay-by on the A27. The eastern skyline is less dramatic but the trees in Botley Road cemetery and the two little chapels there form part of the skyline for much of the town


Within the town itself, the abbey church is the prime focus in the landscape. This substantial church can be seen from many places, both close to and from afar. The town centre is further enhanced by glimpses of turrets on the United Reformed Church and on Lloyds TSB bank and the tower of the old brewery malt house.


Tunnel under the railway embankment near the station
Tunnel under the railway embankment near the station
There was little or no expansion of the town after the sixteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. Railway lines were built in 1847 and 1865, the second line rising to join the embankment created for the first. The embankment created a physical barrier to the north and east of the town. It acted as an outer edge of the town until after the Second World War. The railway to Andover has closed, but there are still train connections to Southampton, Salisbury, Eastleigh and beyond.

The town's commercial activities take place in or close to the historic core where communal services such as the library, clubs and doctors' surgeries are mostly to be found in addition to shops. There are two industrial estates to the north of the town and one to the south-east as well as some other scattered smaller sites.

After 1918, pressure for more housing brought development to the lands beyond the railway embankment, with some ribbon development in the inter-War years and substantial building in the years after 1960.

Inter-war house in Halterworth Lane
Inter-war house in Halterworth Lane
Estate housing from the 1970s
Estate housing from the 1970s - Fairview Drive

Design Recommendations

Arrow Ensure that the views of interesting roof features are not obscured
Arrow Consider improving the surface of the viewpoint at the top of Green Hill
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Look at Romsey Overview