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Bishop's Waltham
Market town
Bishop's Waltham.jpg
Bishop's Waltham High Street
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Population 6,723 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference SU554174
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Southampton
Postcode district SO32
Dialling code 01489
Police Hampshire
Fire Hampshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Meon Valley
List of places
50°57′13″N 1°12′42″W / 50.9536°N 1.2118°W / 50.9536; -1.2118

Bishop's Waltham is a medieval market town situated at the source of the River Hamble in Hampshire, England. It has a foot in the South Downs National Park and is located at the midpoint of a long-established route between Winchester and Portsmouth. It is home to the ruins of Bishop's Waltham Palace, a Scheduled Ancient Monument under English Heritage management, and a well-preserved high street with many listed buildings which now house independent shops.

Bishop's Waltham's long history includes a roll call of Medieval and Tudor kings and queens who visited the town to stay at the palace. The name of the town is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words: "wald" (forest) and "ham" (settlement).

Modern day Bishop's Waltham has a population of over 6,723 and is the largest settlement in the Winchester district outside the city itself. It is home to an infant and junior school.


The town's name comprises three parts 'walt' – forest; 'ham' – settlement'; and 'Bishop's'. It started off as an Anglo-Saxon village, and steadily grew to become one of Hampshire's largest villages, despite being burnt to the ground by Danes in 1001 AD. By the time of the Domesday book (1086 AD), it had a population of around 450. In 904, it was given by the king to the Bishop of Winchester. In 1136 Henry de Blois, a later bishop, built the now-ruined Bishop's Waltham Palace. It was destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Much of the old Palace is still in the town. Apart from the ruins, which are open to the public, material from the Palace was used as building materials in town buildings still standing to this day.

William of Wykeham died in the town, while after the Battle of Trafalgar, some French sailors including Admiral Villeneuve were imprisoned there.

There are many Georgian buildings in the town alongside the Norman parish church. The town retains a unique character, with a number of small local businesses (such as a butchers, bakery and fishmonger) including an off-licence which was established in 1617 (Bakers Wine Merchants). The famous High Street in the town is also home to a number of chain stores (such as Co-op) and a small supermarket chain (Budgens), however, the owners of these and other stores have fought to prevent larger chains from threatening their businesses and, they argue, the character of the town. Unusually for the United Kingdom, there is a vineyard nearby.

During the 19th century, Bishop's Waltham was a successful market town, being home to several agricultural suppliers, merchants and a cattle market. The town also had a large brickworks to its north, along with a gasworks that provided town gas for lighting and heating the town. The town had a large enough working population by the late 19th century to support a Working Men's Institute, which occupied an ornate brick building on Bank Street, which remained open until 2003, when it was converted into housing. Bishop's Waltham was home to Gunner and Company, which was the last provincial private bank in the United Kingdom.

Culture and attractions

Bishop's Waltham is twinned with Saint-Bonnet-le-Château in France. The town has a number of privately owned shops. The Palace grounds are frequently used to hold festivals and other events. The town has a small museum.

The Bishop Waltham Youth Theatre takes place on Mondays during term time and is split into two groups, the drama group for ages 7–12 and runs from 4pm-5:15 pm and the youth theatre for 12- to 17-year-olds and runs 5:15 pm–6:30 pm, both groups are run by local emerging theatre directors associated with the Theatre Royal, Winchester. Over the last few years the groups have performed numerous performances in professional theatres and in a variety of genres. They are very successful and everyone is welcome.

The Moors

The Moors SSSI, at Bishops Waltham, is a nationally (if not a European) significant tract of alkaline wetland and open waters located south of the Chalk outcrop in southern Hampshire at the head of River Hamble displaying a good diversity of habitat types, plant and animal communities and rare species. As a result, not only is the majority of the site designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act, but also as a Nature Conservation Review (NCR) site, in recognition of its special national interest.

The land comprises some 34ha mainly of hydrologically sensitive fen, fen meadow and wet woodland dissected by a series of south and west flowing streams and drains totalling some 1265m in length. Some of the drains originate from one-time watercress beds fed by clear chalk water springs and feed into either the Western Stream arising off the 'Sand Boils' or the Eastern Stream arising off Alexanders Moors. Both streams flow into Waltham Mill Pond and from where the water passes to The Moors Stream, a headwater of the River Hamble. The 'Sand Boils' is an area at the head of the West Stream in which upwelling spring water creates swirling sandy patches in the gravelly streambed.

The Moors comprises the wetland area fed by springs and surface watercourses within the SSSI and adjacent land and which discharge into the Waltham Mill Pond. Water from the mill pond passes through Chase Mill and then downstream as The Moors Stream tributary to join the Northbrook Stream tributary of the River Hamble.

River Hamble

The country town and parish of Bishop's Waltham lies in the Hamble Valley at the junction of chalk downs and coastal plains which gives rise to the tributary of the River Hamble at Northbrook on the northern edge of the town. The river then flows south, through the North and South Ponds, and then out towards Botley, where the Moors Stream tributary joins the Northbrook Stream tributary on the southern edge of Bishops Waltham. The river then flows through Curdridge to the head of the tidal estuary at Fairthorne. A common misconception amongst some visitors and residents of the town and is that Bishop's Waltham is in the Meon Valley, but this lies several miles to the east of Bishop's Waltham

Sport and leisure

There is a large youth development club called Bishop's Waltham Dynamos who use the facilities at Priory Park. The Dynamos were founded in 1975 and are now one of the largest junior and youth football clubs in Hampshire, with the largest membership of any society and club within the town of Bishop's Waltham and its confines.

Bishop's Waltham Cricket Club runs three sides in the Hampshire Cricket League in addition to junior teams and non-league teams that play friendly matches. The ground is beyond the allotments at the end of Albany Road.

Bishop's Waltham has two tennis courts at Hoe Road Recreation Ground. Children's Coaching is available on Sunday mornings.

The Battle of Bunker's Hill

The Priory, a large red-brick house at Newtown, Bishop's Waltham was built in the 1860s for an infirmary, the land being given by Sir Arthur Helps, a benefactor to the neighbourhood. Prince Leopold laid the foundation stone in 1864, and Sir Frederick Perkins presented a statue of the Prince Consort. But owing to the circumstances in which Sir Arthur Helps died, the building was claimed by his creditors and sold as a private house. Sir Frederick Perkins was sent to take back the statue, but the villagers objected strongly, and a fray was fought which came to be called 'The Battle of Bunker's Hill' – The statue is now in Southampton.

The Waltham Blacks

The Waltham Blacks were a group of deer poachers operating and terrorising local people,and were famous, not only for deer stealing, but also for having an Act of Parliament passed to stop them. The Act, passed in 1772, made it a felony to "appear armed, disguised or with a blackened face, being so designed to kill deer, rob a warren or to steal fish.

Gunner and Company

Gunner and Company was an English private bank, based in Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire. Founded in 1809, it served as the primary provincial bank for Bishop's Waltham and the Meon Valley throughout much of the nineteenth century. It was the last provincial private bank in the United Kingdom, from 1921 until it was bought out by Barclays Bank in 1953. The Gunner family continued to run the legal practice of Gunner & Carpenter until 1973.

Public Houses Past and Present

The Crown Inn, the Square Bishop's Waltham – The Crown Hotel, parts of which date from the 1500s, was once a coaching inn and had two court yards at the rear with stables and brew houses, the inner yard being overlooked by an open gallery. In the 1960s the house reverted to its former and more correct designation of inn and considerable alterations have taken place since.

The White Swan – Bank Street Bishop's Waltham closed October 2006

The Mafeking Hero Bank Street, Bishop's Waltham Now Closed This was a 17th-century coaching inn that was initially known as The White Hart, however was renamed after the 217-day siege of Mafeking, in South Africa, had been relieved in 1900. the pub name honoured men from the village who survived the siege. A Whitbread Ales pub at time of closure, but earlier was Blakes Ales of Gosport. It is now used as the Bishop's Waltham Tandoori restaurant.

The White Horse Beeches Hill, Bishop's Waltham – Closed in 2010. Formally a very popular country pub with open fires run for many years by Arthur & Carol Noot and before them Len Broom

The Priory Inn, Winchester Road Bishop's Waltham. Formally The Railway Inn due to the links with the station and railway line that used to run through Bishop's Waltham

The Barleycorn, Basingwell Street, Bishop's Waltham The Barleycorn Inn is a 17th-century oak beamed building. At one time it was understood to be a brewery and before that a paupers' house, with the paupers living upstairs and what is now the saloon bar being used as a pigsty

The Bunch of Grapes, St Peters Street, Bishop's Waltham Dating from the 16th Century set in one of Bishop's Waltham's most picturesque streets.

The Kings Head St Georges Square, This pub closed c.1914 and became Franck Stubbs estate agents and is now a Chinese restaurant

The Brewery Tap was situated on Brook Street. This pub was present in 1911 and is now partly used as a betting shop

The Brewery Arms was situated on Bank Street. This pub was present in 1911.

The Crows Nest was situated on the High Street. This pub was present in 1911 and is now used as a pharmacy

The Dolphin was situated on the High Street. This pub was present by 1859 however had become a tailors shop by 1897. Now used as a greengrocers shop.

The Red Lion was situated on Red Lions Street (now part of the car park). This pub was present in 1859.

The Wheatsheaf , Free Street, Bishops Waltham. This pub closed c.1912. It was situated on the corner of Free Street and is now called Old Wheatsheaf Cottage

Abbey Mill

Abbey Mill, Station Road, Bishops Waltham was built in 1862 Trade directories for Abbey Mill show that millers John Hague (1867) John Edwards (1871) Henry Hurley and several others ran the mill around the turn of the century before James Duke took it over in 1902 and subsequently run by the Duke Family until the business closed with the milling operation having been transferred to the old Edwards Brewery site in Lower Lane, Bishop’s Waltham. Abbey Mill was then used for offices until sold for redevelopment in circa 2005 to the supermarket chain Sainsburys

Destinations from Bishop's Waltham


Bishop's Waltham Junior School was established in 1969. Following the July 2010 Ofsted inspection, the school was rated as Grade 1 'Outstanding', Under the most recent Ofsted Inspection in 2017, the school was rated as Grade 2 'Good'. It is a two form entry school for children aged 7–11 years old. Its feeder school is Bishops Waltham Infant School. Its pupils are in the catchment for Swanmore College senior school.

Bishop's Waltham Infant School was rated as Grade 1 'Outstanding' by Ofsted in 2011. It is a two form entry infant school for children who are 4–7 years old.

On the same site, Lilypad Pre-School operates. Bishop's Waltham Montessori is also located in the town, and was rated Grade 1 'Outstanding' by Ofsted in 2016.

Notable people

  • Henry of Blois (1098/9 – 8 August 1171), Norman Bishop of Winchester often known as Henry of Winchester – younger brother of Stephen King of England and grandson of William the Conqueror
  • Amanda Holden, actress and presenter.
  • Sir William Jenner, Physician to Queen Victoria.
  • Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope
  • Dr Samuel Ward, one of the translators of the authorised version of the Bible, was buried at Bishop's Waltham in 1629.
  • Admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757). Vernon Hill House, which stands on the hill of the same name to the north-east of Bishop's Waltham, was built by Admiral Vernon just after the capture of Porto Bello.
  • Sir William Parry (19 December 1790 – 8 or 9 July 1855): Northbrook House was the residence of the Arctic explorer Parry, and here Lieutenant Cresswell brought him the news of the finding of the north-west passage.

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