History of Odiham and North Warnborough

Celtic remains have been found locally as well as the remains of a Roman villa at Lodge Farm but the roots of Odiham’s history are in Saxon Wessex. The name comes from Anglo Saxon Wudiham or settlement on the edge of wooded land. North Warnborough takes its name from the river originally called the Weargaburna or ‘felons’ stream’ where malefactors were drowned. In the Domesday Book of 1086 Odiham, as a large royal manor, was the first entry in the Hampshire folio. At least two churches are recorded suggesting Odiham was a former minster serving a large area. The core of the settlement would have been the Bury.

As Odiham was half way between Winchester and Windsor it was a frequent stopping point for Norman kings. King John built the castle here about 1200 on the site of an earlier residence. In the twelfth century a large deer park was created to cater for the royal love of hunting. The park stretched from the northern boundary of Odiham High Street to the line of the M3 and its western boundary still defines the eastern limit of North Warnborough. Although the deer park has been used for agriculture for at least 400 years its outline is still of vital importance in influencing the layout of settlement today.

During the medieval period Odiham became a market town serving the surrounding villages. The wide High Street, with narrow burgage plots facing the road, was created as the market centre about 1200, taking the focus away from the Bury. A map of 1739 shows a market hall in the centre of the High Street near the junction with King Street.

All the medieval houses were timber framed structures and many have been tree-ring dated. The oldest is Monk’s Cottage, 111 High Street, dating from 1300. Odiham was sufficiently important to be invited to send men to parliament but the offer was declined. This was often the prelude to gaining borough status and so Odiham remained as an unincorporated small market town.

Medieval Odiham’s relative local importance is reflected in the size of its church. About 1115 King Henry I, as Lord of the Manor, granted the Great Tithes to the Chancellors of Salisbury Cathedral who became Rectors of Odiham and for the next 700 years one tenth of the main crops of Odiham were used to support that cathedral.

They built the medieval hall, pictured, as a residence in Odiham. It would have been a useful place to stay when en route to London. It was erroneously renamed ‘The Priory’ in the 1860’s. They appointed deputies, the vicars, to serve Odiham and live in the vicarage, now ‘The Old Vicarage’.

Farming was the main occupation with several Open Field Systems located on the chalk lands until their enclosure in the eighteenth century. Medieval industrial activity was centred near the river in North Warnborough where there were mills of milling and fulling and where textiles were woven. It was also a small centre for spinning and weaving and there were tan yards for curing leather. These activities were declining by 1780. The short-lived Odiham Agricultural Society met at the George and in 1784 took the first steps to establish the veterinary profession in England.

The almshouses built about 1625 show a very early use of brick in Odiham. In the prosperous eighteenth century many High Street houses were re-fronted in brick. Local brickworks survived on Odiham Common until the early years of the twentieth century.