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Petersfield 150 celebrations - - 1346601.jpg
Petersfield 150 celebrations
Grid reference: SU748232
Location: 51°0’14"N, 0°56’4"W
Population: 13,303  (2001)
Post town: Petersfield
Postcode: GU31, GU32
Dialling code: 01730
Local Government
Council: East Hampshire
East Hampshire

Petersfield is a sizable market town in Hampshire. It is 17 miles north of Portsmouth, on the A3 road and on the northern slopes of the South Downs. The town is on the crossroads of well-used north-south and east-west routes (today the A3 and A272 roads respectively) and it grew as a coach stop on the Portsmouth to London route.

Petersfield lies wholly within the South Downs National Park.

Fairs and markets

On 6 October every year the Taro Fair is held on Petersfield Heath, a reminder of cattle fairs that were held annually until the 1950s. It is now a fun fair.[1]

The name "Taro" is said to come from the shout used by the cattle herders: "Tarw"! Tarw is Welsh for "bull".

Petersfield's market square holds regular markets throughout the week, and there are also monthly Farmers' markets. Stallholders and farmers from Petersfield's French twin town Barentin, and from across Normandy, visit Petersfield and hold a French market.


The town was founded during the 12th century by William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester, later chartered by his widow, Hawise de Beaumont[2], and confirmed by charter in 1198 from "John, Count of Mortain" (later to be King John). In 1415 King Henry V granted the burgesses of Petersfield freedom from toll, stallage, picage, pannage, murage, and pontage throughout the realm of England. All charters are preserved in the archive files at Petersfield Town Council.

The town grew in prosperity due to its position on frequently travelled routes, local sheep farming, and cottage level manufacturing industry of leather and cloth. The town had weekly markets in the town square for sheep, horse and cattle trading, and 2 annual fairs, in June (on the feast of St Peter and St Paul) and November (on the feast of St Andrew). An autumn fair which began in the early 19th century was held in October on The Heath, called "The Taro Fair".


  • Church of England: St Peter's, a Norman church in the town centre
  • Independent evangelical:
    • Evangelical fellowship
    • Life Church Petersfield
  • Methodist
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Salvation Army
  • United Reformed Church
  • Roman Catholic: St Laurence's

Sights of the town

The statue of King William III

The town's market square has a statue of King William III (of Orange) by Henry Cheere. The king is depicted sitting astride his horse, and the statue is raised up on an engraved plinth. This is one of only four statues of King William in the United Kingdom outside Northern Ireland (the others being Brixham, Hull and Bristol). As such, attracts bands of marching Orangemen in mid-July to commemorate William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne.

The town adopted a town flag in 2008. It portrays the crossed keys of St Peter and the hills of the South Downs.[3]


Petersfield has two museums, both run by the Petersfield Museum Trust. The Flora Twort Gallery, based in her old studio, displays the Bedales Historic costume collection, which consists of over 1,000 pieces dating from 1720. The gallery exhibits a small part of this collection, which is changed annually, along with examples of art by Flora Twort. Petersfield Museum exhibits social-history collections made up from maps, photographs, archives, oral history and artefacts related to the history of the town and is situated in the town's old courthouse. Exhibitions are sometimes also held at the Festival Hall, St Peter's Church, and the Physic Garden.

Petersfield was once home to the world's first Teddy Bear Museum, which opened in 1984. It closed at the end of 2006, and is now a private house.


In the High Street is the physic garden, which is a recreation of a 17th-century herb garden. It is open to the public nearly every day of the year.


Petersfield's Festival Hall shows many plays and concerts during the year.

Petersfield Youth Theatre was formed in 1990 and performs annually at the Festival Hall as well as delivering projects throughout the year.

Local media

  • Newspapers: The Petersfield Messenger, Petersfield Post and Petersfield Herald
  • Community magazine: Life in Petersfield


Petersfield is situated in the valley of the Western Rother, on the Lower Greensand at the northern edge of the South Downs. The town lies at the western end of the Greensand Ridge, a sandstone ridge running through Hampshire, Surrey and Kent.

The town is surrounded on all sides by farmed countryside, with the South Downs south of the town, the Hampshire Downs to the west, and forested hills (Durford Wood) to the north east.

The town is now a main centre for exploring the South Downs National Park.

Close to the town and situated on the South Downs is Queen Elizabeth Country Park, which incorporates Butser Hill, and has a wide variety of scenery including chalk hills, beech woodland and pine forest. The Hangers Way footpath starts from the country park, goes to Buriton, through Petersfield and on to Alton.

On the south east side of the town is Petersfield Heath, 95 acres of heathland including woodland, grassland, a pond, and a picnic and recreation area suitable for children.[4] Petersfield Heath is registered as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (a SINC). It also contains 21 Bronze Age barrows which together provide the site with Scheduled Ancient Monument status.

Heathland is very rare throughout Europe and the Petersfield Heath is a typical heathland mosaic of many micro habitats. Across the site are sandy heath and acid heath areas, grassland and scrub which gives the area many diverse zones for insects, reptiles, birds and small mammals.

As a prime location for habitation the heath (and Petersfield area in general) has always been occupied with frequent finds of flint axe and tool remnants from the Mesolithic period (up to 10,000 years ago). The burial mounds may be up to 4,000 years old, their distribution is mainly to the east and south east of the heath. These are considered to be one of the most important lowland barrow groups in this country. The barrows indicate that the area of the Heath was occupied by people who may have come to regard this area as sacred to their religion. As yet no trace has been confirmed for the dwellings of these people as the structures would have been wooden.[5]

Petersfield Heath is one end and starting point of "The Serpent Trail", a 65-mile walk though heath and downland of Hampshire and Sussex to Haslemere in Surrey.[6]

John Small

John Small was shopkeeper, cobbler, and Hambledon cricketer, whose shop sign read:

Here lives John Small
Makes bat and ball
Pitch a wicket, play at cricket
With any man in England.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Petersfield)