The Friends of Romsey Abbey visit Downton Abbey

Of course, everyone knows that Downton Abbey is a fictional location, but in fact it was filmed at Highclere Castle near Newbury, and the Friends of Romsey Abbey enjoyed a trip there on 28th May. There were references  aplenty to the programme, with specific locations in the castle identified for visitors. In the room identified as the setting for Lord and Lady Grantham’s bedroom, it was noted that apart from the actors, about 30 crew had to be accommodated during filming: it must have been a very tight squeeze!

The Castle itself is a Victorian gothic-style mansion, based around an older house. Apart from the associations with Downton Abbey, it is also the real-life home of Lord and Lady Caernarvon. The 5th Lord Caernarvon was well-known in the early 20th Century for having funded the archaeological expeditions to Egypt conducted with Howard Carter. Together, after much frustration, they discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. The cellars of the castle hold a fascinating exhibition about the expeditions and the final success, with many artifacts discovered in the tombs and a mock-up of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The whole exhibition was extremely well presented.

The grounds of the castle include a walled garden, a rosary, and some sweeping lawns. It was a real delight to see that much of the lower lawn had been left as a flower meadow, encouraging the wild plants and associated wildlife to thrive.

A splendid day out enjoyed by everyone.

Take a look at Ken Gibson’s Photos 

New play equipment for Children and Families

The childen and families ministry and youth ministries at Romsey Abbey have recently expanded.  New groups have been added like the Oasis group for children who prefer a quieter play environment, Little Angels Bible Group for pre-school children, and Seekers Sunday school to complement our popular Singing Story Time and Abbey Toddler programs. There also have events for older children lined up, such as ‘The Big Night In’ sleepover in the Abbey and the launch of a new Youth Group in June.

The goal is to create a spirit of generosity and ensure all families feel truly welcomed and valued.  The Friends made a donation of £2,500 allowing investment in high-quality equipment like soft play, beanbags, rugs, and sensory toys. This equipment will enhance our diverse range of children’s groups and outreach efforts.  The new equipment will be a lasting asset, allowing  the group to better serve the community and share God’s love.

March Coffee Morning – with a buzz!

There was a real buzz at the Coffee Morning on Frwithiday 15 March when the Friends ‘Coffee Shop’ was full to the brim with clearly a great deal of enjoyment.

As ever, the kitchen team did us proud and it was really good to see so many people, including a couple of new members, enjoying the good company as well as the coffee and home-made biscuits.

Town Crier Terry helped with the raffle as well as having carried out his role in the town centre to make the general public aware of their opportunity to join us for what is undoubtedly, the best value coffee in town!

More photos, courtesy of Ken Gibson can be found here Photos 

Friends enjoy Cole Porter’s High Society at The Mill at Sonning Theatre

‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ – just one of the songs in a stunning performance of Cole Porter’s musical ‘High Society’, which was enjoyed by 49 Friends, who travelled on a luxury coach to The Mill at Sonning on Saturday 2nd December 2023.  This is now a traditional and very popular annual FRA trip.

On arrival Friends enjoyed coffee in the Waterwheel Bar, followed by a delicious 2 course buffet lunch with mince pies and coffee in the elegant Restaurant.  A chance to meet new Friends and chat over lunch.  High Society was performed in the intimate theatre, which seats 217 in the semi-round and allows the audience to feel involved in the performance.

A brilliant day out for the Friends, a super show and lunch, very well done to Colin and Rosemary Davis for organising another successful trip.

Take a look at the photos by Ken Gibson here Photos 


There was no doubt about the popularity of the Bottle Tombola at the Abbey Christmas Fair on 25 November.  The queue was almost relentless with those keen to see if they would win a bottle – or several!  It was all in the luck of the draw.  243 bottles were on display with a great variety of contents and all were good humoured whether they won or not!  The stall raised the princely sum of £608.50 for the Abbey funds out of the total raised by the Fair of £7,022.23.  Well done to Colin and Rosemary Davis who put in the heavy work and put the stall together (can you imagine moving all those bottles!) as well as all who helped on it during the day, donated bottles or came and tried to win some back.  A great result on a lively and enjoyable day.

Last Coffee Morning of 2023

17 November saw the last and busy Coffee Morning of the year.  It was a busy morning with the bonus of not only the great attendance and fun, but also some generous donations of bottles for the Bottle Tombola for the Christmas Fair on 25 November.

As ever, the coffee flowed, the chat was busy and the home-made biscuits disappeared.  The raffle was generously supported by both donations and participation and the morning rounded off a year of Coffee Mornings in good heart and enjoyment.

As ever, Town Crier Terry supported by ensuring all within earshot were aware of the event and was brilliant at shouting out the raffle prize winners.  None could miss their chance!

Romsey Abbey Friends enjoy their Annual Dinner

Members of the ‘Friends’ were warmly greeted at the White Horse Hotel in Romsey for their annual dinner on Tuesday 10 October.  They were pleased to be joined by Vicar, Revd. Canon Thomas Wharton together with his wife Vessi as well as Revd Sally Womersley.

A three course dinner was served and enjoyed by all and this was followed by entertainment provided by Tim Rogerson who played the keyboard whilst Dick Hewett sang and led with a series of entertaining pieces some of which certainly required audience participation which they received in good heart and with enthusiasm.

The evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The Friends of Romsey Abbey support the Abbey by enhancing the visitor experience, as well as running an Events Programme and those interested in joining can do so by picking up an invitation leaflet from the Abbey, Church Rooms and by the History section in the Library.  The form for completion can also be found on the website  For those who may be uncertain, all can be assured of a warm welcome for the bi-monthly Coffee Mornings, open to Members and Non-Members alike, held in the Town Hall at a cost of only £2 for coffee and home made biscuits as well as some great company.  The next Coffee Morning will take place from 10.00 am to 11.30 am on Friday 17 November.

Take a look at the photos by Ken Gibson here Photos 

Head Verger Chris Harpham’s new Top Gown from the Friends


Our new Head Verger, Chris Harpham, has been presented with a beautiful new Top Gown, worn over his Black Cassock.  The Friends of Romsey Abbey was delighted to fund this gown and Chris was presented with it by the Chair, Jill Hall, at the Harvest Festival Service on Sunday 1 October.

The Meaning of the Blue Markings and tassels on Chris’s Top Gown mark the two Saints in Romsey, Our Lady Virgin Mary and St Ethelflaeda, so the colour of the markings is Marian Blue in honour of Mary.  The Top Gown is worn by Chris when on Duty for Services, Weddings and Funerals.

All Vergers wear a Top Gown, which has a great connection with the work of both Churches and Cathedrals. The Office of Verger goes back to early days of the Church, but here in Romsey the first person we know who had the title of Verger was in about 1835; the Verger was also called the Parish Beadle.

Ken Gibson, The Friends of Romsey Abbey

Supporting the Gift Shop with a new cashless payment device

The Friends of Romsey Abbey have had a really busy summer funding projects in our Abbey.

They have been delighted to support the Book and Gift Shop by funding a new cashless Payment Station.  With ‘Tap and Go’ becoming ever more popular, especially with younger visitors, the new payment station makes it far more convenient, easier, and quicker to pay for purchases.  For those occasions when the Shop is unstaffed, this innovation greatly benefits the Abbey, giving an increased turnover.

The initial equipment cost was circa £1,000 and in the first few weeks, the new payment station has taken over £750, a sound financial investment for both the Abbey and Friends.

This photo was taken by Ken Gibson ably assisted by Stephanie James-Brown, who was on duty at the time greeting the many visitors to the Abbey.  Stephanie has written a lovely book, on sale in the Shop, ‘The Light Shines – Poems of Grief and Loss, Faith and Hope’ priced at £10.

The Friends of Romsey Abbey is a registered charity set up to support the Abbey with the range of projects as well as having a social programme for all Friends to enjoy whilst offering this support.   If you haven’t already joined, do think about it as anyone interested in joining can be assured of a warm welcome.  It’s always a good idea to join one of our bi-monthly Coffee Mornings in Romsey Town Hall to experience the friendship and humour of the group.

Invitations to join the Friends can be found in the Library, Abbey and Church Rooms, as well as on the website –

Friends visit Raimes Family Vineyard and Hinton Ampner NT

On the 12 September a party of Romsey Abbey Friends visited Raimes Family Vineyard at Hinton Ampner where the Raimes family have been running the 720 hectares farm for five generations.  They diversified into the vineyard when a French company asked to purchase a field from them to grow vines, so the family sensibly decided that what was good for the French was good for them too.

The group walked from the tasting barn up to the mature vines where Lauren the guide, gave a comprehensive chat about the growing and care of the grapes and massively increased the knowledge for all about not only the grapes but also about wine making.  They are expecting a good harvest this year and the group saw some of the staff stripping leaves from around the bunches of grapes to allow air and sun to finish off the ripening process in time for the harvesting by hand in October.

Returning to the tasting barn, a little more was learned about the wine making process followed by the opportunity to try two of the Raimes sparkling white wines, made by the same process as champagne.

We then travelled to Hinton Ampner House NT and estate of the late Ralph Dutton, set in beautiful countryside.  Visits were made to the House and grounds although it was disappointing the upper floor was not open but the opulence of the ground floor had to be admired and stunning views out to the grounds.  Restoration of the house had taken place following a fire in the 1960’s and the work had been done with care and skill to restore the damaged parts to their former glory.

The gardens are lovely and their method of growing runner beans in an arch is fascinating, as well as the beauty of the flowers many of which were dahlias and gorgeous, sweet peas.  The small Saxon Church of All Saints in the grounds has lovely, slim stained-glass windows, probably modern replacements and very beautiful.  After a busy day, it was time to return to Romsey, the Friends had certainly enjoyed a varied day out.

You can find the photos here: Photos

‘Friends’ visit to Churches in the Avon Valley

On a fine, sunny morning – Tuesday 15th August, a party of the ’Friends of Romsey Abbey’, departed by minibus, for a tour of four churches in the Avon/Woodford Valley, lead by Brian Woodruffe, a University tutor and long time friend of Dick Hewett (Event Organiser).

Our first stop was at St Andrew’s, Great Durnford, and the second St Nicholas, Wilsford.  Excellent lunches followed in a marquee adjacent to the river at The Bridge Inn in Upper Woodford.  In the afternoon, we visited All Saints, Middle Woodford, ending our tour at St Lawrence, Stratford-Sub-Castle.

We were given a warm welcome at all these still active churches with much appreciated refreshments at the first and the last.  Whilst there have been subsequent developments, each is steeped in history from around 1100 AD and our Guide, Brian and a member of the particular church, highlighted significant features of which there are many including stained glass windows and memorials.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and informative day which passed all too quickly and it is to be hoped that similar visits to churches of historical interest can be included in future programmes.

Grateful thanks were given to Brian for much background information and as always, Dick Hewett, organiser and driver who got us back safely to Romsey just after 5pm.

Romsey Abbey Friends enjoy their long-awaited visit to Dorchester Abbey

On a warm day in July, the Friends visited Dorchester Abbey which is situated in the quintessential picturesque English village of Dorchester in Oxfordshire – a village where Midsomer Murders is regularly filmed.  We made it at last as the visit was postponed at least twice due to Covid.  After a delicious lunch in the White Hart and a chance to wonder round the village, we went to the Abbey for our fascinating guided tour.

Saint Birinus, the first Bishop of Dorchester, built a Cathedral in 634 AD.  After the Norman Conquest it became an Augustinian Abbey and after the dissolution of the monasteries the Abbey was purchased by Richard Beauforest and given to the villagers in 1554.  The Abbey is packed with interesting artefacts including several effigies, one being the cross-legged knight in chainmail which is an outstanding example of thirteenth century sculpture.  Not to be missed is the Cloister Gallery, an award winning display of mediaeval carved stone from the Abbey and Monastic Buildings.  The Jesse Window combines 14th century stonework and glass to show Jesus’s family connection with King David.  After the tour and a visit to the Museum we were treated to a delicious tea with cake and scones provided by the Abbey volunteers.

The Friends support projects to enhance the visitor attraction to the Abbey, and enjoy regular coffee mornings, events and outings including the theatre at Sonning, River trips and an Annual Dinner.  Our next visit is to Raines Vineyard and Hinton Ampner.  If you would like to join us our membership fee is £10 per annum per person, please contact: or find an invitation leaflet to join in the Abbey, Church Rooms or Romsey Library.


An enjoyable visit to the Brush Factory and Stourhead – June 2023

On the 26th June, 25 of the Friends of Romsey Abbey gathered for a trip to the National Trust house and gardens at Stourhead, stopping en-route at the fascinating exhibition centre that houses what used to be known as the Brush Factory – everything that you could ever want to know about brushes of all types is found there as well as a very welcome, award-winning cafe.

It was indeed a good day out, with the bonus of wonderful weather, hopefully the smiling faces say it all!

Visit to Arundel Castle, May 2023

On a warm sunny day in May thirty Friends of Romsey Abbey, visited the historic Castle in Arundel. There are 1,000 years of history in this great castle, situated in magnificent grounds overlooking the River Arun in West Sussex and built at the end of the 11th century.  There was also an opportunity to stroll round the picturesque market town of Arundel.

It is possible to wander through the state rooms full of fine art, fabulous furniture and intricately carved statures. In the gardens, the Fitzalan Chapel, which was damaged in the Civil War in 1643 has been restored.  The more intrepid Friends climbed to the top of the Keep enjoying the magnificent views from the top of the walls.   Take a look on the Photos page to see some of the stunning views.  Photos courtesy of Ken Gibson. You can find the photos here: Photos

The Friends support projects to enhance the visitor attraction to the Abbey, and enjoy regular coffee mornings, events and outings including the theatre, river trips and an annual dinner.  If you would like to join us our membership fee is £10 per annum per person, please contact: or look at our website:

Coffee Morning Friday 19 May – 10.00 – 11.30, Town Hall

The next Coffee Morning is scheduled for Friday 19 May so we hope to see a good turnout of members and perhaps even, non-members there again.  Always a chance for a good coffee and catch up on news.  Always a raffle as well as a selection of biscuits to go with your coffee.

Vineyard Trip – Tuesday 12 September

Unfortunately, the Watercress Line will not be running trains on this day so we will visit the National Trust property at Hinton Ampner in the afternoon.  You can now book for this trip at a cost of £30 – great value for a day out!

Events for the remainder of the year – don’t forget you can find the full programme on the website and there will still be places on some of the trips.

Friends Cruise the Thames

Since 2015 members of the Friends of Romsey Abbey (FRA) have been taking trips on the water.   Some trips have been on a canal and the last three have been on the River Thames.

2023’s cruise took place on 17 April, when 48 members travelled by luxury coach from Romsey to Walton on Thames for a cruise on the Walton Lady, enjoying the sights of beautiful riverine scenery, a range of waterside properties and spring birdlife.

The cruise was blessed by warm, sunny weather and a delicious luncheon prepared by the boat’s caterers.   It was a very happy day and much enjoyed by FRA members.

Details of other events organised by FRA may be seen on their website or on the notice board in the north aisle.

Membership of FRA is open to all:  please complete one of the membership forms from the notice board, Library, Church Rooms or contact the Membership Secretary on 01794 522113.

To view the photos, click on the link – Photos

The next Coffee Morning is scheduled for Friday 19 May so we hope to see a good turnout of members there again.  Always a chance for a good coffee and catch up on news.

Coffee Morning January 20th 

The January day saw a very busy and lively event at the Town Hall.  This first event of the year was enjoyed by all with the raffle and the group was joined by Terry, the Town Crier who helped draw the raffle tickets.  He certainly has the voice to ensure that all who  are in no doubt when they hear their number. 

A number of new members joined on the day and were warmly welcomed.  We look forward to seeing them at future events.

 A great result for the Friends Bottle Tombola at the Abbey Christmas Fair

Saturday 26 November saw the return of the Friends of Romsey Abbey Bottle Tombola as an integral attraction within the Abbey Christmas Fair.  The magnificent number of 229 bottles, all donated, made a superb display and ensured a continuous line of hopefuls for one of those with a ‘0’ or a ‘5’.  The generosity of the Friends’ donations ensured that the Bottle Tombola raised a brilliant £604.15 out of the overall total for the Fair of £6040.17.  Despite the current difficult economic situation, the Bottle Tombola income rose over last year by nearly 14%.

The venue for the Fair this year was changed from the Crosfield Hall to the Abbey itself and this proved to be a popular change giving more space for both stalls and visitors and certainly there were plenty of visitors for all the treats on offer.

A great way to round off a year of Friends of Romsey Abbey Events.  Look out for the programme for 2023!




The last Coffee Morning of the Year!

Friday 18 November saw the Town Hall packed for the final Coffee Morning in this year’s programme of events.  A happy and chatty atmosphere gave a great ambience to the event.  Terry, the Town Crier once again ensured Romsey was aware of this enjoyable gathering and was extremely helpful when it came to drawing the raffle tickets and announcing the numbers.  We’re all looking forward to the Abbey Christmas Fair where the Friends run and bottle tombola stall, the Fair taking place this year in the Abbey itself.

Annual Dinner – 11 October

61 Friends gathered at the White Horse Hotel in Romsey to enjoy the Annual Dinner.  They were met with a welcome drink and the Stables looking decorative.  A delicious meal followed topped by excellent entertainment from Tim and Dick.  We look forward to the 2023 Dinner when we hope that more Friends will be able to join in.

Coffee Morning
An enjoyable Coffee Morning took place on Friday 16 September, heralded by the Town Crier – his bell was muffled as a mark of respect to our late Queen.  A happy group enjoyed a range of biscuits and as many cups of coffee (or tea) as they could drink.  The Town Crier joined the group to draw the raffle prize tickets and a fun morning was had by all.

Friends of Romsey Abbey – Trip to Watts Callery and Hatchlands Park – August 2022

Gathering on the first day of rain since the drought was announced, a group of the Friends set out to visit two attractions in Surrey – the Watts Gallery and the National Trust Hatchlands Park. The outing was arranged by Dick Hewett and our minibus was driven by Rob Gower: our first stop, the Watts Gallery was built to display the works of the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement artist, George Frederick Watts. It contains a very large collection of his paintings and sculptures showing how his style evolved over his long artistic career. None of us will forget his huge sculpture of Tennyson!

We walked to the Watts’ house, Limnerslease House which was their peaceful retreat from their official London residence and where Mary Watts lived permanently after her husband’s death. Our visit ended with a stop at the Watts chapel, a unique Grade 1 listed Arts and Crafts masterpiece, designed by Mary Watts. A truly unique and beautiful building.


We then drove through the Surrey countryside to arrive at Hatchlands in time for lunch. Our guide explained that the house is still privately occupied and the main point of interest for visitors is the fantastic collection of historic keyboard instruments. Many of these were owned or played by famous composers such as Chopin, Beethoven and Elgar. Interestingly, they also had a Walker organ! There was plenty of time in which to enjoy the extensive grounds for which Hatchlands is renowned.