Hampshire Treasures

Volume 6 ( East Hampshire)

Page 231 - Petersfield

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The parish of Petersfield was enlarged in 1894 by the inclusion of parts of Buriton and Sheet parishes. Petersfield is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Book as it was probably included with Mapledurham.

The town received a charter in the reign of Henry II whereby William, Earl of Gloucester, granted the burgesses of Petersfield all the liberties and customs enjoyed by the citizens of Winchester, including the right to have a merchant guild. Petersfield prospered as a market town and first sent members to Parliament in 1306-7 when two members were returned. The representation lapsed, however, but was restored in 1552-3: the Reform Act of 1832 reduced the number of members to one and in 1885 the representation of Petersfield was merged in that of the county.

The cattle market at Petersfield gave rise to industries such as cloth manufacture and leather working in Tudor times. The town became prosperous and in 1428 at least one corn-grinding mill had been converted to a fulling-mill for the preparation of cloth. Tanning and other leather industries also flourished but the manufacture of cloth was the principal occupation in the Stuart period, employing over 1000 people in the reign of James I. Both industries gradually waned towards the end of the seventeenth century, but Petersfield was still important as a market town and administrative centre. Situated strategically at the junction of the London to Portsmouth and Winchester to Midhurst roads, Petersfield enjoyed a brisk trade in the coaching days: no fewer than nine inns are listed in a rent roll of 1696-7, namely the White Hart, the Anchor, the Lion, the Half Moon, the Crown, the Swan, the Dragon, the Ship and the George. The importance of Petersfield was enhanced with the building of the railway in the nineteenth century, and today the town is the principal shopping and administrative centre for the surrounding countryside.

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