Quaint and quirky. Timeless yet on trend. Romsey is a curious mix. This traditional market town is where country types in gilets and chinos rub shoulders with eco-warriors and creatives. How interesting.

The town’s historic and picturesque backdrop includes the magnificent bulk of 12th century Romsey Abbey brooding above Market Place and narrow streets lined with an attractive hotch potch of period properties, including coaching inns, cottages and townhouses, mostly from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.

Regular markets with stalls selling artisan breads, cheese, olives and such like (Suzi Shilling of Romsey Town Council says a new fishmonger’s stall will be visiting on Fridays) are held in The Cornmarket. This is a space in front Bradbeers, a really good ‘old school’ department store - particularly notable when so many towns have lost theirs.

Great British Life: The statue of Lord Palmerston, the 19th-century British prime minister (c) Kevin StokesThe statue of Lord Palmerston, the 19th-century British prime minister (c) Kevin Stokes

Romsey has a thriving independent scene which encompasses traditional butcher’s, greengrocer with a colourful display of fruit and veg, smart delis stuffed with cheeses, charcuterie and fine wines, and new generation bakers. Liz Trueman, the sourdough specialist behind The 108 Bakery started baking bread in her home kitchen before moving to a workshop within an out-of-town industrial park in 2019. Demand was so great that she moved her popular bakery into premises on Latimer Walk, just down from Waitrose, in 2022.

Romsey is a great destination for foodies with so many excellent bars, cafes, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants that you are tripping over them. Some, such as microbrewery Cocky Anchor, No5 on Bell Street, and Josie’s, are relatively new additions. Others, among them The Three Tuns and La Parisienne, are established institutions.

Otherwise, those in search of individual style for their homes and wardrobes will appreciate Romsey’s browsable lifestyle boutiques. These include Cult antiques, Consortium vintage-style homeware, Greenhill for patchwork, classic Cavendish, and free-spirited Kit and Caboodle. It is these independents and a supportive community that help to make Romsey a one-off.

Great British Life: Lemon & Jinja (c) Natasha SchofieldLemon & Jinja (c) Natasha Schofield

Romsey Goes Eco

In the industrial parks on the outskirts of Romsey are some surprising destination stores and venues. The assortment includes Flacks brewery with tap room and Golden Gecko Climbing activity centre, both found on Romsey Industrial Estate. There’s Flourish Pottery Painting and Little Bee Bakery, both in Abbey Park Industrial Estate, and Lemon & Jinja sustainable lifestyle and refill store with plant-based café on Belbins Industrial Estate. These generous warehouse-style premises take the pressure of Romsey’s historic town centre while providing interesting and inventive entertainment and outlets.

Lemon & Jinja moved to its current location only last year and is now the largest independent refill store in the UK. Jesse Dugdale originally established Lemon & Jinja in 2018. Since then, the eco-enterprise has expanded in response to demand and the shop has quadrupled in size. The inspiration for this sustainable lifestyle store came from the years Jesse lived in Uganda as a teenager, where living close to African wildlife opened her eyes to both the brilliance of nature and the emergency facing the planet. Following her return to England, Jesse wated to do something that would make a difference.

She explains: ‘Seeing the huge and devastating impact we, as humans, have on the planet, I wanted to help change that. And change starts in your own home. When the initial idea came about, a lot of people said it wouldn’t work, and that our local area wasn’t the obvious place to set up Lemon & Jinja. But that pushed me to start the business even more!’

Lemon & Jinja is on a mission to provide education and support to help significantly reduce household waste by offering refill and reuse options and environmentally sustainable products.

Manager Sophie Roe continues: ‘With 2,500 products in store you can refill just about anything with us. We strive to work with our local community, educating on sustainability and our impact on the environment. We host local litter picks, second hand clothes swaps, natural cleaning workshops, talks at schools and much, much more.’

Last year their efforts were recognised when Lemon & Jinja collected a trio of accolades including Best Sustainable Business in Hampshire, Best Sustainable Lifestyle Business in England and ISO 14001 Best Business for the Southern Sustainability Partnership. The ISO 14001 sets the standard for environmental management systems, demonstrating their commitment to protecting the environment as a business.

Sophie says: ‘2023 proved to be such a huge year for us, and we are all so proud of our team and hugely thankful to our loyal customers.’

Jesse adds: ‘We are always trying to make space for new things and run as many community events and workshops as possible. Lemon & Jinja is a huge part of my life now and I’m extremely lucky to have such a great team working alongside me.’

Great British Life: Forest and Cove on Bell Street (c) Forest and CoveForest and Cove on Bell Street (c) Forest and Cove

Creative Romsey

One of Romsey’s most recent independent additions is Forest & Cove, a gorgeous gallery full of arty treasures which opened on Bell Street in August 2021.

Owner Rebecca Jackson explains: ‘Opening a gallery was something I had been passionate about for a long time, and I felt Romsey was lacking a dedicated space where people could gather and engage in creative activities, and where artists could showcase their work. Our welcoming creative hub aims to fill this void. As a goldsmith myself, I understand the value of having a space that supports local artists and makers, and we believe that such a space not only enriches the local artistic community, but also strengthens the overall cultural fabric of Romsey.

‘Since opening, Forest & Cove has received a warm and enthusiastic response from the local community. We take pride in offering a diverse range of in-house creative classes, as well as providing an affordable space where local artists can teach their own classes. As the only creative hub in the area, we have noticed a high demand for our classes. To meet this demand, we are expanding our offerings this year, introducing even more in-house classes in various mediums. Some of our most popular classes include jewellery-making, fused- and stained-glass workshops, painting, lino cutting and model-making.’

As fans of Lemon & Jinja’s ethos, Rebecca has also put a lot of focus on sustainability. All gift wrapping and packaging is FSC certified, recyclable and biodegradable - even their ribbons. Artists are also encouraged to be as sustainable as possible – for example swapping plastic print wraps to plant-based alternatives.

Rebecca concludes: ‘Being a creative person myself I find working in a space that inspires me has helped me to thrive in my own creative work, while providing a supportive space for artists and creative minds to connect, collaborate, and inspire one another is endlessly rewarding. Romsey is truly a remarkable place to work and live, thanks to its vibrant local community.’


Great British Life: Romsey in bloom will be on again this year, taking part in the RHS 60th anniversary of the community campaign. Image: CovingdmRomsey in bloom will be on again this year, taking part in the RHS 60th anniversary of the community campaign. Image: Covingdm

What else is happening?

Suzi Shilling, Business, Events & Tourism Officer with Romsey Town Council is enthusiastic about how the local community helps to make a difference. Initiatives underway include a ‘spring clean’ taking place across Romsey with litter picks, and the start of a Romsey in Bloom campaign which aims to encourage butterflies and bees into the town centre by introducing more environmentally appropriate plants and flowers.

Some of her favourite aspects of Romsey include the ‘phenomenal’ cafes in the town, with a particular mention of No 5’s carrot cake and Josie’s pancakes. She applauds Paws for Thought, a cat café on Church Street which takes in homeless cats and gives those unable to have pets at home the opportunity to enjoy some feline company.

Suzi also lists the many markets taking place in Romsey - not only Romsey’s street market, but a monthly farmers’ market, Makers’ Markets, and Country Markets held every month in the Town Hall and the Corn Exchange.

Lined up for the Easter holidays is a family-friendly Easter town trail for a little bit of fun with choccy prizes. Running for the last week of March and first week of April, it just may help families discover more about this unique town.

Great British Life: The War Horse statue by Amy GoodmanThe War Horse statue by Amy Goodman


The War Horse statue in the Memorial Park, by local sculptor Amy Goodman, is thought to be the only one in the world commemorating horses in the service of war: 120,000 horses were prepared for World War One at Romsey’s Remount Camp.


The Spring Community Market, a collaboration between local small businesses, among them food trucks, crafts, jewellery and more, on Sunday 28 April at Lemon & Jinja.


A relic of Romsey’s past is an 1860s signal box which has been rescued and restored. Enthusiasts and children can visit to pull levers, operate points and signals and ring bells.

Great British Life: 1860s signal box (c) S.J.Newman1860s signal box (c) S.J.Newman