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Petersfield

PETERSFIELD (Hampshire)

 

So very English, Petersfield.  Hard to imagine much excitement there.

 

Created by the Earl of Gloucester in the 13th century, probably to maximise the profits from his estates, the town became a centre for wool and the tanning of sheepskin.

 

…Until the wool trade declined in the early 18th century.  What was left of it went north, or out of the country altogether1.  And Petersfield was described by Defoe in 1726 as “a town eminent for little but being full of good inns”2.  But in 1735 a demonstration of what David Cameron called ‘The Big Society’ changed everything… 

 

Petersfield Heath, a large area to the east of the town where beasts grazed, was so boggy that the animals often drowned in the mud.  So the citizens got together & drained it, and the area became   Petersfield Pond and the (well-drained) grass around it.  The town already had two annual fairs, but in 1820 a third was added on the Heath, the Taro Fair…

 

...And this is the nub of the article, because Taro is derived, apparently, from the Welsh for ‘bull’, tarw.  I don’t know whether to believe this or not.  I cannot find any mention of Taro Fair or the Welsh in local 19C papers, whereas plenty of drovers crop up in articles about Lewes, Portsmouth and Winchester3.  And Petersfield is so very English.  But, I admit, there are pine trees...(#1)

 

Send me some evidence, please, citizens of Petersfield.

 

1 Interesting fact: a hundred sheep enclosed in a field for one summer could fertilise 8 acres of land for 6 years…

2 There were nine in 1697: White Hart, Anchor, Lion, Half Moon, Crown, Swan, Dragon, Ship, George.

3 It’s utterly believable: the route would have been Bristol – Winchester – Petersfield, then Portsmouth for the navy, Romney Marsh for grazing or London for slaughter.

Petersfield image 1
Pines on the Heath
Petersfield image 2
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