Brief History

Petersfield does not feature in the Domesday Book (1086), the great stock-taking event after the Norman Conquest in 1066. However, the Domesday Book does include details of Mapledrensham (also known as Mapledurham, the present day Buriton. In 1086 Mapledrensham included Sheet and Petersfield. It was from Buriton that people came to work in the fields to the north of the village, and they would very likely break off from their labours to attend prayers at a chapel of rest dedicated to St Peter in the Fields (Petersfield).

The town of Petersfield grew up on the slightly elevated land between two streams and at the point of intersection of trade and pilgrimage routes passing from Winchester to Chichester and from London to Portsmouth. At the beginning of the 12th century the word feld meant an open area of land without trees. The building of a church on this land dedicated to St Peter marked the beginning of Petersfield as it is known today.

The feld around St Peter's church became known as St Petersfeld but was then changed and founded as Petersfield in 1120 by William, Earl of Gloucester, who owned the land and much of the surrounding area. He had the idea of founding a town by the chapel in the fields. He worked out that he could add to the value of his holdings in much the same way as towns today create industrial estates to enhance their revenues.

The existence of the Earl’s original charter was in so much doubt that his widow, Hawisa, granted a renewal of the charter, which still exists. The charter granted the town’s burgesses ‘ all liberties and free customs which the citizens of Winchester who are in a Merchant Guild have in their city and let them have the same in a guild of Merchants as my husband William, Earl of Gloucester, granted them by this charter.

Hawisa’s charter was confirmed by a further grant by John, Count of Moreton (Mortain) who then lived at nearby East Meon. This 1198 confirmation was made one year before he became King John. Both charters are owned by Petersfield Town Council and held in the county record office at Winchester.
Then, as now, Petersfield had two markets per week, and two annual fairs in June and November. These additional fairs attracted merchants and village people from miles around bring external business to the already growing town.

Interested in finding out more?

Simply browse the pages in this section for more on notable people and events in Petersfield's history, or for even more why not visit Petersfield Museum in person, theres plenty of ecellent exhibts and displays bringing the history to life. For more information visit the museum's website at: