Friendly village in the Test Valley, Hampshire, on the edge of the New Forest

Local History

The name Awbridge

One of the earliest references to Awbridge (pronounced “Aybridge”), can be found in the Domesday Book. This register of assets was commissioned in December 1085 by William The Conqueror, to assess the extent of the land and resources in England. In the first draft completed in 1086, Awbridge was listed as “Abedric”. By 1207 the name had changed to “Abberugge”, “Abbederugge” in 1218 and “Abbederigge” by 1238. This transition reflected the Norman influence on the original Celtic name. Much later in 1849 the name was spelt “Awebridge”, as can still be seen on the inscription within the northerly wall of the original chapel near Stanbridge Earls.

Originally, land in the vicinity of the hamlet of Awbridge, belonged to St Peter’s Abbey, Winchester. Awbridge lies on a ridge as viewed from Michelmersh, so it is thought that its original name was “Abbodhrycg” meaning the “Ridge of the Abbot”.

Awbridge through history

The earliest artefacts in the parish, suggest the area was occupied by the Romans. Tiles, pottery and coins were found at Awbridge House dating from AD 307.

The names Danes Road and Awbridge Danes do of course suggest a Danish presence. One source claims that there may have been a battle between the Danes and Saxons fought on Awbridge Common. (Awbridge Common was originally an area extending from the Village School and running alongside what is now Danes Road. Most of it has now of course been built on).

Stanbridge Manor (now Stanbridge Earls School), in the adjacent Romsey Extra parish, is reputed to have been the site of the home of Saxon King Ethelwulf (806-858AD), who was the father of King Alfred. It is thought that King Ethelwulf was initially buried there but his remains were later transferred to Winchester Cathedral where they lie to this day.

The Domesday Book stated that before 1066, Earl Godwin, the Earl of Wessex and Kent, ‘held’ Awbridge as one manor. Earl Godwin died in 1053 of apoplexy, while dining in Winchester with his son-in-law King Edward the Confessor. His wife, the Countess Gytha, was the sister of the most powerful Danish Earl Ulf. Their daughter Eadgith (Edith) married King Edward the Confessor. Their son Harold became King in 1066 and was promptly defeated and killed by the Normans at the Battle of Hastings.

In 1086 Abdric (Awbridge) was listed as being ‘held’ by Bernard Pancevolt one of William the Conqueror’s knights who sailed from Normandy during the invasion in 1066. There was also another reference made to a Heldered who ‘held’ another manor in part of Awbridge.

Up to about the early 1600s the village was still a small settlement and only a handful of substantial houses were constructed, four of them are still in existence today but by the 1800s there was about 40 houses and the population had risen to 400. Next to Church Lane were two small hamlets known as Upper and Lower Ratley.

Much later during the English Civil Wars, there was evidence that Cromwell’s armies camped on Awbridge Common, possibly at the time of their assault on Romsey Abbey. A Cromwellian pike-head was apparently found there during World War 2 and at least one other was discovered in farmland towards Stanbridge Earls.

The Awbridge we know today is essentially a collection of hamlets. A map of Awbridge in the mid 1800s, shows that the hamlet of Awbridge was based around the chapel and the old smithy down towards Stanbridge Earls. There was a Post Office on the opposite side of the road to where the village hall is today and the area opposite the village school was marked as Kent’s Oak. In the area of Church Lane were two small hamlets marked Upper and Lower Ratley.

The parish itself was carved out of other parishes in the 1870s. The church was built in 1876 at a cost of £2,800 and the village school dates from 1877. At this time, the village boasted its own shoemaker, blacksmith, baker and brewer.

The lake at Awbridge Danes was dug in the 1920s to provide work for the unemployed. Each man received one shilling a day and a loaf of bread.

In 1939, electricity first reached the village with mains water arriving in 1951. Prior to that water was drawn from wells, which still exist throughout the area.