THE ORIGINS OF BISHOP’S WALTHAM – Exploring the Unexplored

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A very well attended meeting of the History Society was entertained by Tony Kippenburger to a talk which explored facts and theories about the history of Bishop’s Waltham from Roman times through to the present day.

The factual and sometimes amusing presentation explored the way the town had developed from an early settlement in the upper reaches of the Beaulieu River to its present day position as a thriving town.

The origins of the settlements were mainly due to its proximity to Winchester and the coast, and the meeting of two Roman roads.  A church was built around 6C.  Tony had researched the origins of the name and its associations with Royal estates. There had been a castle (the location of which is unknown) situated within the area, this was however demolished fairly soon after it was built and Henry le Bois, a Bishop of Winchester and part of the royal lineage at the time developed the palace on the Southern side of the town.  This palace was a very impressive complex and had been visited by most of the reigning monarchs up until the 18C.  The church to the North of the village had originally been built in 7C but was demolished with the present church having Norman origins. The town developed in the area between the church and the palace and was set out as burbage plots, some of which can still be identified today.

 It is known that in 1001 the Vikings burnt and pillaged the town, and we wonder what it was that they felt it worth them travelling specifically to Bishops Waltham to carry this out.  However the town was soon rebuilt.

Tony went on to explain that although very good records of the village are accessible, from Norman times onwards there is little of no information for the Saxon period.  The Domesday book however indicates that the town was the 10thlargest settlement in Hampshire implying that there had been an established population in this area for many years.  

Tony who is chairman of the Bishops Waltham society went on to say that as a result of this lack of knowledge of the very early history of the town, a project has been started to carryout detailed investigations and assessments of any evidence that would provide evidence of an earlier history.  This will include finding and inspecting small pottery finds.


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