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Overton, Hampshire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Overton is a large village and parish in Hampshire, England located west of the town of Basingstoke, and east of Andover and Whitchurch. The village contains smaller hamlets of Southington, Northington, Ashe, Polhampton and Quidhampton the latter two lying to the north of the village. The River Test has its source 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east in Ashe.

There is evidence of habitation since the Stone and Bronze Ages with finds and barrows located nearby.[2][3]

The area has a history of banknote paper manufacture starting in the 18th century, and Overton Mill still[when?] produces the paper for pound sterling banknotes for the Bank of England.


Earliest origins

The Harrow Way – surviving present track north east of Overton, Hampshire
The Harrow Way – surviving present track north east of Overton, Hampshire

The area around Overton has been inhabited for millennia with evidence of Stone Age, Bronze Age and Celtic occupation scattered across the parish and surrounding countryside, including tumuli at Popham Beacons at the southern tip of the parish; Abra Barrow on the boundary south west of Overton; a long barrow to the west of Willesley Warren Farm in the north of the parish; strip lynchets on Rotten Hill and the Harrow Way, an ancient track which runs across the parish north of the village.[3]

Roman occupation in the area is shown by the discovery of Roman pottery shards in Little Meadow and the Port Way Roman Road marks the northern boundary of the parish.[4]

10th to 15th century

The development of the village began in earnest during the 10th century when Frithstan, the Bishop of Winchester, in a chartership dated 909, was granted "Uferantun" by King Edward the Elder.[3][5] Overton developed over the next century and by the time of the Doomsday Book the settlement included a large number of dwellings, the Church of St Mary and several corn mills primarily due to its location on the River Test. By the 12th century Overton was a significant location with a royal residence, Tidgrove Kings House, being developed just north of Overton. The residence was built for Henry II for use on journeys between Windsor and either Winchester or Hamwych (Southampton) which was the customary port for travel to and from his French possessions [6]. The importance and expansion continued throughout the 12th and 13th centuries facilitated in 1218 by Henry III providing a royal grant to the Bishop of Winchester for a market in "his manor of Overton" when burgage tenure was introduced. By this period Overton was becoming a major settlement on the north–south route to and from Winchester.[5][7]

In 1246 Henry III granted a fair on the "eve, feast and morrow of the Translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury" which can be considered as the first "official" sheep fair[5] and by the late 13th century Overton had grown to such a size that in 1295 two representatives were sent to Parliament and by the early 14th century the town was providing a rent of £12 0s 9½d to the bishopric (equivalent to £2.75 million in 2015).[8]

Overton was significantly impacted by the Black Death, rents fell by over a half, parliamentary representatives were withdrawn to save costs, the tourns (medieval courts) were not held and the population stagnated. Despite this stagnation Overton survived by consolidating farms and by support from the bishopric though the effects lasted until the end of the 14th century.

By the 15th century trade began to increase enough to support an inn and the White Hart, the oldest inn in Overton, was first recorded in 1442.[9] In this period a new fulling mill was built and there was a large increase in population.[5] It was in this period that Thomas Wolsey, Bishop of Winchester, obtained licence in 1519 to hold an additional fair at Overton on the "eve, the feast and the morrow of the Feast of St. George the Marty".

Tudor to Georgian expansion

By the start of the 16th century a period of growth was established with expansion westward along the River Test. The economy in the area was still primarily agricultural based around sheep and corn; with the sheep fair recording 30,000 average sheep penned. The economy was also being bolstered by the increase of mills along the River Test including corn mills, fulling mills and silk mills.

With the increase in prosperity came a desire for greater power, the freeholders began to choose their own officers; port reeve, constable, bailiffs, beer-tasters and leather sealers at the court leet of the borough.[5]

Despite this in 1587 the Court of Chancery deemed that Overton should lose its charter as a town 'through neglect' and it reverted to being a village.[5]

A significant impact on Overton was the development of papermaking within the area by Henry Portal a French Huguenot who took the lease on Bere Mill on the River Test, between Overton and Whitchurch, in 1712.

By this time the focus of the village was the west–east route from London to the West Country and in 1754 the road was turnpiked and what is now the High Street had a large number of inns to service the Stagecoach Passengers.[10]

In 1805 Overton was one of the changes of horses for the post chaise of Lieutenant Lapenotiere, HMS Pickle who carried the historic dispatches of Lord Nelson's victory and death in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. This event is commemorated by the Trafalgar Way, the plaque being located on the village library.

Victorian Age

The major impact on the village in the Victorian era was the arrival of the railways with the London and South Western Railway opening the West of England Main Line and Overton railway station in 1854. The railway caused problems for the local inns and the New Inn, which had only been built in 1770 was sold and demolished in 1860.

The vacant site of the New Inn was donated by George Lamb for the building of the new village school. Lamb paid for the building of the school and land for a separate infants school in Red Lion Lane. These two schools, opened in 1868 and 1871 served the town for nearly a hundred years when the junior and infants schools were combined at a new school in Court Drove.[11]


The civil parish of Overton covers 3,471 hectares – an area about seven miles north to south (from Polhampton to the A303) and two and a half miles east to west (Ashe Park Lodge to Southington Lodge at Laverstoke Park) and is located in the County of Hampshire. Most of Overton parish is entirely rural with the north of the parish being in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The River Test, a chalk stream world-famous for its trout fishing, rises about a mile east of Overton at Ashe during normal rainfall conditions though the source can migrate eastwards as far as Oakley in a period of very heavy rainfall. The river flows westwards through the village, historically powering a number of mills, towards Whitchurch before it meanders southwards through Hampshire, eventually reaching the sea at Eling near Southampton.[4]


The underlying geology – primarily chalk, with alluvial deposits adjacent to the river – results in typical chalk rolling countryside. The lowest parts of the village are about 80 meters above sea level, but the northern and southern extremities of the parish rise to between 160 and 200 meters, offering extensive views of the surrounding area.[4]


The village is a civil parish and part of the Overton, Laverstoke and Steventon ward of Basingstoke and Deane borough council.[12] The borough council is a Non-metropolitan district of Hampshire County Council.


Henry Portal founded Portals Paper Mill at Bere Mill, on the River Test between Overton and Whitchurch, in 1712, adding Laverstoke Mill to his enterprise seven years later which allowed him to win the contract to make banknote paper for the Bank of England in 1724. Portals significantly expanded in the 20th Century with the development of a new Overton Mill near Quidhampton in 1922 and the Bank of England relocated a significant number of employees to the area during World War II.

Papermaking is still undertaken within the village at the Overton Mill which produces high-security paper for over 150 national currencies.[13] In 1995 the firm was sold to De La Rue and the Portals name was lost only for it to return in 2018 when De La Rue sold its papermaking assets to Epiris who resurrected the Portals name. [14] [15] The historic Laverstoke Mill has been refurbished is now used by Bombay Sapphire with a visitors centre.

The location of the Portals Mill at Quidhampton has been referenced as the reason why £1 is known as a "Quid", however there are many disputed origins and, given the various locations for Portals Papermills around the Overton area over the last three centuries, it is probably unlikely.[16]

Church of St Mary

Overton church, dedicated to St Mary, has medieval origins though the current church building is from the late Norman period in architecture.

Although only the nave pillars remain of the original church, there is a record that in 1180 it had a nave of three bays. The old church probably had narrow aisles and a small chancel, the expansion of the church occurred in the 13C with new chancel windows, north and south, and possibly its single frame roof with tie beams. At that time the aisles of the nave were probably widened to give more room in the nave.

For many centuries the Bishop appointed a Rector of Overton church and parish, who very often did not live in it, and he in turn appointed a Vicar, who conducted services and was, in fact, 'the Parson'. The rectors and vicars since 1246 are recorded in a diptych board in the north aisle, near the door of the outer vestry.

The present aisles of the nave date from about a hundred years after the first names on that board. The great door of the main (south) entrance may similarly date from about 1350–1400. It may have been locally made, or perhaps only its lock and hinges are of local construction. The door is unusual in that it folds in the middle. The ornamented ironwork is said to be of Hampshire workmanship.

In the late 15th century the tower was rebuilt further west than an earlier one, and the nave and aisles were extended westward to meet it. The new tower had wooden board cladding at the belfry stage, and a timbered spire. The chancel was also enlarged at this time to its present length. On the inner sill of the north-west window in the chancel there is an inscription c.1400. It reads: ‘Hic jacet d°. Willms Savage quondam rector istius ecciesie’ – i.e. Here lies Dominus (Master) William Savage, formerly rector of this church. In 1609 the first two bells of the present ring were cast.

In 1853 the whole church was re-roofed and some of it rebuilt, however, the rebuilt tower did not last long. A huge crack soon appeared in it, so the spire was removed and the west wall was shored up with foot-square beams of oak at a cost of about £1500. In 1908 the tower was again rebuilt with a spire added in 1913.[17]

The churchyard is noted for having a large and long-established colony of glow worms (Lampyris noctiluca), which are becoming increasingly rare in the UK.[18]

Present day

Bombay Sapphire
Bombay Sapphire

The current population of the village is 4,315, rising to 4,935 including the hamlets of Laverstoke and Steventon,[19] with the village expanding following the developments at Foxdown, Overton Hill, Charters Hill and Seven Acres.

The village has local industry with the Portals Papermill and the recent Bombay Sapphire Development in nearby Laverstoke as well as light industrial units to the north and east of the village.

The village has a selection of shops and services and has four Public Houses; The White Hart, The Greyhound, The Red Lion and The Old House at Home.

Village School

Overton Village School (1868)
Overton Village School (1868)

The first village school was founded in 1817 as a free primary school situated in the workhouse. In 1834 a grant was made available to relocate the school to cottages on the River Test, though the building was never satisfactory and in 1858 a new school situated in the centre of the village at the crossroads was developed.

In 1968 a new school was built at the top of Court Drove to meet the needs of modern education and the school has been repeatedly upgraded in 1998, 2001 and 2014. The school has a landscaped playing field, children’s play area and formal playgrounds.[20] The school is in the latest inspection (July 2014) rated "outstanding" by Ofsted.[21]


The village is served by Overton railway station on the West of England Main Line, which lies to the north of the village and by a weekday bus service provided by Stagecoach South to Whitchurch, Basingstoke and Andover.

Sport and leisure

Overton has over 30 acres of sporting facilities that are managed by the Overton Recreation Centre including a 9-hole Golf Course, Cricket Pitches, Football Grounds, Tennis Courts as well as numerous covered venues. Overton also has an outdoor swimming pool at Lordsfield and has many societies ranging from Art to Zumba.[22]


Overton has two football teams, non-League football club Overton United F.C. who play at Bridge Street, and Tron FC play at Berrydown Sports Ground.[23]


Overton is the home of Overton Harriers & AC, a successful athletics club, based at the Bridge Street Pavilion. Overton Harriers compete in the Hampshire Road Race League and the Hampshire XC League and were the winners of the Men's Hampshire Road Race League in 2018. [24]

Overton Harriers host two races; the 'Overton 5' a road race which takes place in the village and surrounding countryside, and the Combe Gibbet race which is a 16-mile point to point race from Walbury Hill to Overton.[25]


Overton Cricket Club play at Bridge Street and Berrydown with three Saturday League teams, a Sunday Friendly team, a Mid-week Twenty20 League side and a youth set-up.[22]


Originally established in 1962, the Overton Black Arrows archery club was founded to allow members to enjoy all aspects of the sport of archery, from beginner tuition, recreational archery through to competition coaching.

Over the last 50 years, the club has established itself as a respected international archery club, with county, regional and national champions as members. Club members have coached and judged at all levels: Team GB members, British Team management, organisation of World Championships and World Games. Members currently shoot a variety of disciplines including Target, Field and Clout using Recurve, Compound and Long Bows.[26]

Sheep Fair

Overton holds a quadrennial Sheep Fair in commemoration of farmers leading sheep through the village for fairs recorded as early as 1246. The modern fair was first held in 2000 and most recently in July 2016.[citation needed]

Overton Mummers

Overton has a group of Mummers, who perform frequently over the Yuletide period outside some of the public houses in the village.


Overton is the location of the Children in Need fundraising event Carfest South which is hosted at Southley Farm during August Bank Holiday.


In Richard Adams' Watership Down, the rival rabbit warren of Efrafa was located just north of the railway above Northington Farm in Overton.


Two peacocks, nicknamed ‘Pierre’ and ‘Percy’, live in the Dellands area at the top of the village. Thought to have come from a lavender farm in nearby Whitchurch and accused by some locals of disturbing the peace with their courtship vocals; a plan was initially hatched to evict them but this was overturned by the Parish Council which has agreed that they can stay.[27]


  1. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Overton Parish (1170214335)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c History of Overton
  4. ^ a b c "Overton Village Website".
  5. ^ a b c d e f "British History Online".
  6. ^ "Gateway Online".
  7. ^ Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515.
  8. ^ "Purchasing Power Online".
  9. ^ Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515.
  10. ^ Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515.
  11. ^ Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515.
  12. ^ "Basingstoke and Deane Wards info". 2011. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  13. ^ "About us". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  14. ^ Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515.
  15. ^ "Portals Sale".
  16. ^ "Business Slang Website". Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  17. ^ Church of St Mary, Overton, British Listed Buildings
  18. ^ Overton Biodiversity Action Plan, Basingstoke and Deane council, p.42
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ "Overton School Website".
  21. ^ "Ofsted Report" (PDF).
  22. ^ a b "ORC Website".
  23. ^ "Tron FC Website".
  24. ^ "HRRL Website".
  25. ^ "Overton Harriers Website".
  26. ^ "Overton Black Arrows Website".
  27. ^ "Hampshire Life Website".

External links

Historic photographs of Overton

This page was last edited on 1 January 2020, at 17:54
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