Robert's new town

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Earl Robert of Gloucester founded Petersfield at an ancient crossroads, while supporting his sister’s claim to the throne of England.

When William I recorded his lands in the Domesday book, Petersfield wasn’t mentioned. What would become the town lay north of Buriton in the manor of Mapledurham. Here, where the Sussex Weald meets the Downs, two trackways crossed.

Mapledurham eventually passed to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who decided to enhance his lands by creating a town at the crossroads. Around 1120, he began building a church dedicated to St Peter in the ‘feld’, meaning open land.

Soon Robert was called away to fight for his sister, who was battling their cousin Stephen for the throne of England. The job of finishing St Peter’s Church passed to his son William, who granted a charter to the new Borough of Petersfield.

Did you know?

Around AD 700, this area marked the boundary between two rival Saxon kingdoms: Sussex and Wessex. Across England, the Saxons built their defences into the landscape. Could this explain the ancient banks and ditches at Froxfield?

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That famous place which the locals have always called Aet Meon

King Edgar, AD 970

This model of East Meon is on permanent display at the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in France. Long before Petersfield existed, the nearby village was an important religious settlement. William I recorded it in the Domesday book. On the book’s 900th anniversary, Hampshire County Museum Service selected East Meon as a ‘typical’ Domesday village.

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From royalty to peasants, religion dominated the lives of all medieval people.

Life could be hard, but the religious, like the monks who lived and worshipped together in East Meon, believed they would be rewarded in heaven. The wealthy gave gifts to the church to assure their fate in the afterlife. The Earl of Gloucester gave land around Petersfield to the nearby Durford Abbey. Others believed their sins would be forgiven if they touched or prayed in front of a relic, part of the body or belongings of a saint of a saint. Travelling clergymen brought relics to local villages.


Tile piece, around 1400

On Borough Road, where this tile was found, tiles were made for East Meon Court House. Built around 1396, it hosted Bishops and stands to this day.


St Peter’s Church model, 1854


Durford Abbey tile, 1100 – 1200

On loan from Harting Parish Council


Gold reliquary, 1400s

Purchased 25 June 2019 with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Museums Association Beecroft Bequest

Found near Petersfield, this cross held a religious relic and was worn around the owner’s neck.