Overton, Hampshire

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Crossroads in the centre of Overton - geograph.org.uk - 220033.jpg
Crossroads in the centre of Overton
Grid reference: SU516496
Location: 51°14’38"N, 1°15’41"W
Population: 4,315  (2011

post town=Basingstoke)

Postcode: RG25
Dialling code: 01256
Local Government
Council: Basingstoke and Deane
North West Hampshire

Overton is a large village in Hampshire, located west of the town of Basingstoke, and east of Andover and Whitchurch.

The village is accompanied by smaller hamlets, inckuding Southington, Northington, Ashe, Polhampton and Quidhampton, the latter two standing to the north of the village. The River Test has its source a mile to the east in Ashe, whence it flows down through the heart of Hampshire to the sea at Southampton.

Historically the mills of the Test were employed in the manufacture of paper for banknotes, starting in the 18th century. Overton Mill is still produces sterling banknotes for the Bank of England and banknotes in numerous currencies for countries across the world.

The name of the village is from the Old English Ufera tun, meaning "riverbank village".


Earliest origins

The Harrow Way north-east of Overton

There is evidence of habitation since the Stone and Bronze Ages with finds and barrows located nearby.[1][2] There are 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[2][4]

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 King 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 [5]. The importance and expansion continued throughout the 12th and 13th centuries facilitated in 1218 Henry III provided 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.[4][6]

In 1246, King 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[4] 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.

Overton was significantly impacted by the Black Death, rents fell by over a half, parliamentary representatives were withdrawn to save costs, the Tourns, mediæval 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. [6] In this period a new fulling mill was built and there was a large increase in population.[4] 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[6]

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.[6]


The River Test at Overton

The River Test is here a fine exmple of a Hampshire a chalk stream, and famed for its trout fishing. It 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.[3]

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.[3]


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 cotton paper as the 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 the Second World War.

Papermaking is still undertaken within the village at the Overton Mill, however the Portals business is no more as in 1995 the firm was sold to De La Rue.[7] Overton Mill now produces high-security paper for over 150 national currencies.[8] The Portals Laverstoke Mill is now used by Bombay Sapphire with a visitors centre.

It has been suggested that the nickname for a pound, a "quid" is because of the Portals Mill at Quidhampton. 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.[9]

Church of St Mary

St Mary's Church

Overton church, dedicated to St Mary, has mediæval 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.[10]

The churchyard is noted for having a large and long-established colony of glow worms (Lampyris noctiluca), which are becoming increasingly rare in Britain.[11]

The village today

Bombay Sapphire

The current population of the village is 4,315, rising to 4,935 including the hamlets of Laverstoke and Steventon; the village expanded following developments at Foxdown and Overton Hill, and it is reputed to be the largest village in Hampshire not to claim the status of a town.

The village has local industry with the De La Rue 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.

Transport links

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 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 Lordshill and has many societies ranging from Art to Zumba.[12]


  • Football:
    • Overton United F.C., who play at Bridge Street
    • Tron FC, who play at Berrydown Sports Ground[13]
  • Athletics: Overton Harriers & AC
  • Cricket: Overton Cricket Club
  • Archery: Overton Black Arrows, founded in 1962[14]


The Sheep Fair is a quadrennial event in Overton. Farmers leading sheep through the village for fairs is recorded as early as 1246. The modern fair was first held in 2000.

The Overton Mummers perform frequently over the Yuletide period outside some of the public houses in the village.

Carfest is a 'Children in Need' fundraising event 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.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Overton, Hampshire)


  1. Hampshire Treasures
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 History of Overton
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Overton Village
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 British History OnlineA History of the County of Hampshire - Volume 4 pp2010-219: {{{2}}} (Victoria County History)
  5. "Gateway Online". http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/4342.html. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Deveson, Alison: 'Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History' (Alison M. Deveson, 2000) ISBN 0-953333515
  7. Deveson, Alison (2000). Overton, Hampshire A thousand Years of History. Whitchurch: Alison M. Deveson. ISBN 0-953333515 
  8. "About us". delarue.com. http://www.delarue.com/AboutUs/. Retrieved 28 March 2015. 
  9. "Business Slang Website". http://www.businessballs.com/clichesorigins.htm#quid. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  10. Church of St Mary, Overton, British Listed Buildings
  11. Overton Biodiversity Action Plan, Basingstoke and Deane council, p.42
  12. OCR
  13. Tron FC
  14. Overton Black Arrows