Romsey in Hampshire is one of my ancestral places. Here lived my mother’s maternal forebears with the surnames WOOLS/WOOLLS, WITHERS/WITHARS and SINAT/SINNATT/SINNETT/SENNETT.
Many of the WOOLS/WOOLLS line were blacksmiths and pub landlords. Those who actually bothered to get married may well have been wed at Romsey Abbey, the biggest parish church in England (see more below).
I can possibly track back the WITHERS family to Goodworth Clatford in the mid 1500s and the WOOLS line maybe back to the late 1500s in Romsey.
The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Ethelflaeda in Romsey was founded in 907 AD when King Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great, created a nunnery here. The fabric of the building has undergone many changes since.
At the turn of the 15th century, the Abbey was extended to include a church, dedicated to St Lawrence, for the townspeople.
This shared use saved Romsey Abbey from demolition by Henry VIII after his final break with Rome in the late 1530s. The nuns left but the townspeople were allowed to buy the building for £100 to be used as their parish church. They later demolished the extra aisle built for them because the Abbey was already too big for them.
There were then centuries of neglect, particularly in Cromwell’s time and by 1742 at least 40 windows were bricked up.
In the 19th century, under the ministry of the Rev Edward Lyon Berthon, a renaissance of the Abbey began that has continued to this day. It is the biggest parish church in England.