Whitchurch, Hampshire

Coordinates: 51°14′N 1°20′W / 51.23°N 1.34°W / 51.23; -1.34
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Whitchurch 1.jpg
Town Centre of Whitchurch
Whitchurch is located in Hampshire
Location within Hampshire
Population7,198 (2018 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSU465480
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtRG28
Dialling code01256
PoliceHampshire and Isle of Wight
FireHampshire and Isle of Wight
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
List of places
51°14′N 1°20′W / 51.23°N 1.34°W / 51.23; -1.34

Whitchurch is a town in the borough of Basingstoke and Deane in Hampshire, England. It is on the River Test, 13 miles (21 km) south of Newbury, Berkshire, 12 miles (19 km) north of Winchester, 8 miles (13 km) east of Andover and 12 miles (19 km) west of Basingstoke. Much of the town is a Conservation Area. Because of the amount of wildlife in and near the River Test, its course and banks are designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest.[2] Whitchurch is the Gateway to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); the third largest of Britain's 46 AONBs.[3]

The West of England Main Line links the town's railway station to London, and two main roads bypass the town (the A34, a major north–south route, and the A303, a major east–west route.


Earliest origins[edit]

The name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means 'white church', although there is evidence of occupation from the Iron Age,[citation needed] archaeological excavations having uncovered Roman and Iron Age pottery, tools and skeletal remains. In October 1987, members of the Andover Metal Detecting Club discovered a hoard of Late Iron Age coins, the Whitchurch Hoard, comprising 34 Gallo-Belgic E gold staters, and 108 British B (or, Chute,) gold staters.[4] The earliest written record of Whitchurch dates from 909 AD in a charter by which King Edward the Elder confirmed the manor of Whitchurch to the monks of Winchester as England recovered from the Viking onslaught of the previous fifty years. It next appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. This records the name as 'Witcerce', occupying 6,100 acres (25 km2) in the 'Hundred of Evingar' and also records that Witcerce was 'owned' by the monks at Winchester.[citation needed] Another theory on the origin of the name is that it means "Place of Proclamation". In parts of the north of England we see it reflected in Whit Walks, with Roman Catholics and Protestants choosing different days over the Whit Period for their Whit Walks. Whitchurch is well placed, being at the crossroads for north–south, east–west travellers.

13th century[edit]

Looking from the town along the River Test towards the Whitchurch Silk Mill

By 1241, it was known as Witcherche and was becoming prosperous, holding a market on Mondays in the market place. This was a vital feature of medieval society, and produce such as butter, eggs, fruit and livestock were brought in for sale from the outlying farms and villages.

Witcherche received a royal charter in 1285, having become a borough in 1284. The land ownership had by now passed to a form of tenure known as a burgage. As a borough, it was governed by a Court Leet. Meetings were held in the village hall each year, in October, to elect a mayor and burgesses. Witcherche's prosperity was again on the rise due to its widespread sheep farming, the wool being a valuable commodity at the time.

The River Test provided the power for at least four watermills, located every half-mile along the river through the town. The Town Mill was the source of power for milling corn, and other mills were used for finishing wool, weaving silk and dressing cloth. Only Whitchurch Silk Mill survives, the others having been converted into residential dwellings. The Silk Mill is a popular visitor attraction where silk is still produced after a very small interruption in 2012.

16th century[edit]

When Henry VIII died in 1547 his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, inherited the throne. Under Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Edward Seymour the Lord Protector, England became more Protestant, and the people of Whitchurch were persecuted for their religious beliefs for six years until the death of Edward and the succession of Mary.[citation needed]

Also during the 16th century, under the reign of Elizabeth the town had become large and prosperous enough to send its first two members to Parliament in 1586. Until 1832, it was known as a Rotten Borough, as the members were nominated by an absent landlord.

18th century[edit]

In 1712, Henri de Portal, a Huguenot refugee from France, established a paper mill at Bere Mill in Whitchurch, producing exceptionally hard and close-textured paper. The quality of the paper was considered so high that within twelve years, Portal was supplying the Bank of England, a tradition that still continues. Portal eventually naturalised to English nationality, and established a second mill at Laverstoke; in more recent times the business moved to neighbouring Overton, where it is still based today. He died in 1747, and is buried at All Hallows, Whitchurch. Whitchurch Town Hall was completed in 1791.[5]

19th century[edit]

Plaque in The Square, commemorating liberty at Whitchurch won by The Salvation Army in 1890.

In 1888, Charles Denning and Clara Thomas set up home in Whitchurch, where Clara's father had purchased two houses for them in Newbury Street. Here Charles established a drapery business. It was also here that one of their children, Alfred Thompson or "Tom", grew up. He later became a renowned judge Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls. The house in Newbury Street is today marked with a commemorative plaque.[6]

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Salvation Army and its open-air services were the dominant talking point. They maintained that they had a right to hold these services but were prosecuted for obstructing the highways and causing a disturbance. The conviction in 1889 of one group, and their subsequent treatment by the authorities, led to demonstrations. In October 1889, 1000 Salvationists demonstrated in the Town Square at Whitchurch. They were charged with riot, unlawful assembly and rout, and the Salvationists applied for the case to be heard in the High Court of Justice. The court found in their favour and set down laws granting the public the right to hold orderly public demonstrations.[7]

21st century[edit]

During the night of 7 February 2018, Henri de Portal's former paper mill, Bere Mill, which had been converted into a family home, was largely destroyed by a major fire.[8] The mill house was fully restored in 2020.

All Hallows' Church[edit]

All Hallows' Church

The Saxon church was the original "white church", because it was built of limestone or chalk. The church and all its property were given by Henry de Blois in 1132 to St Cross Hospital in Winchester and the gift was confirmed by Richard I in 1189.

Little is known about the earlier Saxon structure because its Norman lords built a more imposing successor which is the basis of the present parish church of All Hallows. One Saxon remnant is the grave cover of Frithburga.[9] The first stage was completed in about 1190 when the three western bays on the south side of the nave were added. A north aisle was added in the 15th century. The tower was re-built in 1716 but still features the original oak stair turret. The whole church was largely re-built in 1866 and the square Norman tower was capped by a Gothic Revival spire.[10]

It is a Grade 2* Listed Building and the oldest remaining structure in the town. All Hallows is also widely known for its 3-manual pipe organ with 41 stops dating from 1935, and a peal of 10 bells in the tower. The earliest of the six bells in the tower is of 15th-century origin and the others were gifts made in the 17th and 18th centuries. The bells were cast in a field belonging to a farm in Wood Street, now called Bell Street. The spire of All Hallows weighs 500 tons and is held in place by its own weight.


The B3400 road (Basingstoke to Andover) runs through the town. Bus services include Stagecoach routes 76 (Andover-Whitchurch-Overton-Basingstoke) and 86 (Winchester-South wonston-Sutton Scotney and Whitchurch town centre).[11] The railway station is at the north end of the town. The station is service by South Western Railway going to London Waterloo (eastbound) and Exeter St Davids (westbound). The former Whitchurch Town railway station (closed 1960) was closer to the town centre.


Testbourne Community School is a foundation school and was rated as "outstanding" in November 2010 by Ofsted.[12] It has had performing arts specialist status since 2005 and educates around 1000 students aged 11–16.

Whitchurch Church of England Primary School serves the younger students in the town and its surrounding areas. It was rated in January 2011 as "good" with a number of "outstanding" features, by OFSTED.[13] The headteacher, Sarah Peters, started in April 2008, and left in 2014. Zoe Newton, the deputy headteacher, acted as headmistress until September 2015. The current headteacher is Kate Steven.

The nearest third-level educational institution is the University of Winchester, 12.5 miles (20.1 km) to the south.

Leisure and sport[edit]

Whitchurch has a Non-League football club Whitchurch United F.C., which plays at Longmeadow. Also at the Longmeadow sports facility is a Bowls club with indoor and outdoor pitches, and a Squash club with 2 squash courts.[14] Whitchurch also has two Cricket teams playing at the local Cricket Ground (Parsonage Meadow) where skipper Simon Ralph and his band of merry little cricketing men try to avoid relegation for the second year in a row.

As well as the thriving amateur theatre group called WADS, which was established in 1958,[15] there is also an annual beer festival held at the Longmeadow Sports and Social Club, this is run by the North Hampshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.[16] Being positioned on the Southern edge of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as at the junction of several river valleys, Whitchurch has many opportunities for cycling, both strenuous and sedate, on-road and off. Popular cycle routes include over to the Bourne Valley, the Hampshire County Council Off-Road Mountainbike loop,[17] and down the Test Valley to Longparish.

There is a BMX cycle track and a 'Sk8' board area in Daniel Park, which together with its adjoining open space next to the primary school, has been put forward as a Queen Elizabeth II field in the hope of protecting it forever.[18]

The Whitchurch Town Council maintains a couple of children's playgrounds: one in Kingsley Park, and the other at the bottom of Alliston Way between the schools. Other play areas are at Caesar's Way and Park View.


The River Test throughout the town, including its various branches and banks, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Much of the land to the south of the town centre is old water meadow. One site is administered by Whitchurch Millennium Green Trust, a registered charity. This has an old dam used for flooding the meadow in the past and a sluice and wooden sheep dip hundreds of years old. Its ponds have viewing platforms. The old maps show how it was fed by springs. One key spring still exists at Ninesprings Nursery on The Weir. It originally fed what is now thought to be some of the oldest watercress beds in Britain. They are shown on the 1810 map and the 1872 and 1876 maps show them clearly also the history of how the River Test was diverted. The site now grows aquatic plants that are distributed nationally.

Whitchurch is the Gateway to the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); a rich mosaic of rolling chalk hills, woodland and pasture.[3] An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a designated exceptional landscape whose distinctive character and natural beauty are precious enough to be safeguarded in the national interest. The North Wessex Downs make up the third largest of Britain's 46 AONBs.

First Place Winner in BT Competition[edit]

Whitchurch was ranked first in the BT "Race to Infinity" competition that finished on 31 December 2010.[19][20] The win meant that the residents served from the exchange (01256-89 prefix) would be one of the first ten rural areas in Britain to be upgraded to fibre-optic technology. The hope was that this would bring faster Internet speeds sooner to residences, businesses, schools and doctors both in the town itself and to its surrounding villages and the rural communities in-between.

Town website[edit]

The town website is administered by the Whitchurch Association on behalf of the town residents. Any resident is able to contribute, and the site's ethos is non-political, following that of the Whitchurch Association.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Town Population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre". 23 November 2015: HBIC Ref: 5930. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b "Home - North Wessex Downs AONB". www.northwessexdowns.org.uk.
  4. ^ Burnett, A.M.; Cowell, M.R. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), British Numismatic Journal, 1988, Vol.58, p.6ff. Retrieved 21 November 2013
  5. ^ "A Brief History of Whitchurch Town Hall" (PDF). Whitchurch Town Council. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Plaque, Lord Denning's birthplace, Newbury Street, Whitchurch". Beautiful England. 22 September 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  7. ^ "About The Household Troops Band". The Household Troops Band. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  8. ^ "Historic Whitchurch water mill destroyed by fire". BBC News. 8 February 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Hampshire History - Anglo Saxon Women - Frithburga". Hampshire History. 22 May 2013. Archived from the original on 15 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Detailed Record". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Ofsted Communications Team (5 November 2010). "Find an inspection report". www.ofsted.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  13. ^ Ofsted Communications Team (5 November 2010). "Find an inspection report". www.ofsted.gov.uk. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Whitchurch Longmeadow Sports Club". Whitchurchsport.co.uk. Archived from the original on 30 August 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Dramatic meeting". WADS. Archived from the original on 3 July 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  16. ^ "Whitchurch (Hampshire) Beer Festival". North Hampshire Campaign for Real Ale. Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Whitchurch (Hampshire) Off-Road Cycle trail" (PDF). Hampshire County Council. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  18. ^ "Vote for Daniel Park as Queen Elizabeth II Field". Whitchurch Town Website. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Broadband race winners announced". BBC News. 24 April 2018. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  20. ^ "WE WON! Top in the UK for Rural Broadband!". whitchurch.org.uk. Archived from the original on 7 January 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  21. ^ Flood, Alison (4 January 2015). "Watership Down author Richard Adams: I just can't do humans". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Watership Down". Travel About Britain. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Parishes: Whitchurch Pages 299-305". British History Online. Retrieved 28 August 2019. {{cite web}}: External link in |ref= (help)
  24. ^ Bennett, Kate (2004). "Wycherley, William (bap. 1641, d. 1716)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30120. Retrieved 4 August 2015. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Further reading[edit]

  • Anon, photographs by John Crook A brief guide to the parish church of All Hallows Whitchurch Hampshire 2002, Parochial Church Council of Whitchurch with Tufton with Litchfield, Hampshire (£1.00, available from church)
  • Fox, John The Whitchurch Town Guide
  • Pitcher, Anne A History of Whitchurch

External links[edit]