Where to Stay, Where to Visit, Where to Shop and Where to Eat
Where is Stockbridge?
The pretty town of Stockbridge is situated in the county of Hampshire, in the South East of England and lies midway between Andover and Romsey in the stunning Test Valley.
This small town, covering approximately 250 square miles of western Hampshire, is predominantly a rural area and is one of the smallest towns in the United Kingdom, with an estimated population of 756, according to 2019 data. Within its perimeters it encompasses the River Test and the North Wessex Downs – an Area of Outstanding Beauty and therefore a place designated for conservation due to its significant landscape.
In 2012 Test Valley was ranked the 14th best UK rural location, by the then known Halifax Building Society, to live based on factors such as employment and income levels, the weather, health and life expectancy, quality of education, crime, broadband access and more…
A History of Stockbridge
According to Wikipedia the place-name ‘Stockbridge’ was first referred to in administrative records in 1239, where it appeared as Stocbrigge. Some twenty years later it appeared as Stokbregg. The name means ‘stock bridge’, referring to a bridge constructed from stocks or ‘tree trunks’. The current “Stock Bridge” is a stone structure spanning the Water of Leith.
During the 12th century, Stockbridge ‘town’ (actually little more than a single row of buildings on each side of the main street) consisted of one long wide street that crossed the River Test at the junction of the parishes of Stockbridge and Longstock. It grew in importance when Welsh drovers rested there with their flocks on their way to various sheep fairs and markets in the South East. A thatched cottage known as ‘Drovers House’ has a message in Welsh painted on the wall: ‘Seasoned hay, tasty pastures, good beer, comfortable beds’.
Other historical records, referenced by British History Online, note:
- It was the scene of the capture of Robert of Gloucester by William of Ypres in 1141
- Edward I stayed in Stockbridge August 1294
- James II, on his way to Salisbury to meet the forces of the Prince of Orange, dined at the Swan Inn in November 1688.
- Warner in 1795 described Stockbridge as a ‘noted thoroughfare with some good inns…but a declining place.’
- The Stockbridge Races, discontinued since 1898, were held every June on Danebury Hill, about three miles north-west of the town.
- The Prince of Wales, Edward VII, used to nip down to Stockbridge for the races bringing his mistress, Lillie Langtry, with him.
- The original Mrs. Doubtfire ran a rag and bone shop in Stockbridge. The novelist Anne Fine who also lived in the area was influenced by the name which remained faded above her shop (now a solicitors) many years after Madame Doubtfire’s death. In turn, her novel was the inspiration for the film Mrs Doubtfire, although Robin William’s character bears little similarity to the ‘real’ Madame Doubtfire.
Landmarks and Place of Interest in Stockbridge
Stockbridge’s long and varied history inspired many poets over the years and there is a trail of 10 poems, set in stone, metal plaques and etched glass, for visitors to follow as they wander through the town centre.
The River Test
The River Test is a picturesque chalk stream, flows through and around the town and much pleasure can be had from sighting well-fed trout bathing in the shallow waters or feeding the ducks whilst strolling the high street.
The Grosvenor Hotel
The Grosvenor Hotel was built from 1822 – 1825 and has therefore long been a prominent member of Stockbridge High Street. Still easily identified by its iconic ‘porte-cochère’, the distinctive porch was built to protect well-to-do visitors from the elements. The neighbouring market-hall has since been incorporated into the hotel but still still remains easy to identify. The establishment was named after Lord Grosvenor and it’s remained a very popular resting place ever since. There’s more about The Grosvenor Hotel further down the page.
Old St Peters Church
At the eastern end of the town lies the 12th century church of Old St Peters. Only the chancel still stands, with an oak doorway of 1354 and some wall paintings of the 16th century. The church also displays a Royal Coat of Arms from 1726. In its timeless setting amidst a churchyard strewn with flowers, Old Saint Peters adds to the vintage charm of Stockbridge and is normally open to visitors during daylight hours.
The High Street
Along Stockbridge’s wide Georgian High Street is an abundance of independent specialist shops including tea rooms, pubs and restaurants, many serving local produce – as well as art galleries, craft and gift shops, clothing specialists, a delicatessen and a traditional butchers. Since opening my shop in Stockbridge I have got to know it well and love all the independent shops and eateries. Below is a list of my personal favourites although there are of course many more than I can list here.
Places to Eat in Stockbridge
If you are hungry after your walk and fancy a coffee, brunch or a light lunch then this is the perfect place. The deli and fish monger are incredible and there is a gorgeous open area out the back for sunny days. By the way their homemade sourdough bread is first class. I buy a loaf every Friday for the weekend and the whole family devours it!
Feeling hungry? This charming cafe is a lovely, airy pizzeria & Italian restaurant that delights all those that visit it. I often use it when meeting girlfriends for lunch as the food is delicious and great value for money.
If you fancy something more upmarket or you have a special occasion to celebrate, then this gastro pub is the place to meet for lunch or supper. They also have 10 stylish hotel rooms – quirky 16th century character meets contemporary chic with walk-in, drenching US-style showers and charming baths. There’s an honesty bar on the landing too, stocked with favourite tipples, snacks and extras.
With roaring fires in the winter and a picturesque riverside garden in the summer, The Greyhound is a great year-round choice.
Places to Shop in Stockbridge
This wonderful little shop is owned and operated by Ian Newman, one of Britain’s most highly regarded keepers of the ‘old skills’.
Along with his team, Ian has produced truly outstanding feature pieces for homes across the UK and beyond. His Stockbridge shop sells a full range of beautiful, unique and handcrafted ‘feature pieces’ that take centre stage. I think it’s impossible to walk past their window without feeling inspired to pop in and buy something!
This gorgeous shop sells contemporary and traditional interior accessories, including beautiful lamps and shades, ceramics, materials and wallpapers, and an abundance of affordable gifts. Another shop I find it impossible to go into without buying something! They also make the best curtains ever.
This shop is one of my favourites. Opened in November 2004 by Jane Campsie, lifestyle writer and stylist for a range of magazines including Marie Claire, Elle Decoration and Red, she used her creative flare and passion for sourcing desirable objects to set up the shop. Full of flowers, homewares, gifts and much more, I frequently pop in when I need a little something to say thank you. It’s also where I buy the most beautiful bouquets.
Nestled behind the alleyway next to Beccys the Greengrocers – you will be surprised to find a gem of a shop. Davina opened at the same time as Cleverly Wrapped. She stocks a few cool independent jewellery brands and will do bespoke commissions of anything you like. A great place if you are looking for special birthday presents or having something made for an occasion.
Last but by no means least, we have my shop – Cleverly Wrapped – which was opened on the high street in May 2018.
Having initially starting out as an online scarf boutique, with some kaftans and cashmere too, my business has gradually evolved into a fashion boutique, curating designer collections from lesser known brands. I hand pick the best of clothing, scarves and accessories from interesting and unusual designers around the world and try to source a mixture of textures, fabrics, colours and price points. Some of my favourite designers have been with me since I started, but I also ensure that every season I update with new, up and coming small brands.
As a small and personal business we pride ourselves on our customer service. Whether you’re buying a gift for a loved one, or choosing items for yourself, everything we dispatch comes in luxurious tissue paper, folded into beautiful charcoal grey boxes and hand-tied with Cleverly Wrapped orange grosgrain ribbon, at no extra cost.
Places To Visit & Things to Do in Stockbridge
This gallery is one of the country’s leading contemporary art galleries, exhibiting paintings of all media as well as an extensive selection of bronze sculptures, ceramics and glass, by many established artists, both British and International. The gallery has an enviable reputation for offering a vibrant programme of solo and group exhibitions throughout the year.
Going a bit off-piste now, as this isn’t on the high street, but if you fancy a little detour this stunning gallery is in a beautiful, converted barn one mile outside Stockbridge in the village of Longstock. The gallery has built up a loyal following that grows year by year. Josie’s art advisory services are frequently sought by private collectors who are expanding or rehanging collections and by many who are starting a contemporary collection. She also frequently works closely with interior designers.
Walk Along the River Test and Surrounding Areas
Any trip to Stockbridge should start with a walk along the banks of the Test and surrounding countryside, much of which belongs to the National Trust. Stockbridge marsh is a marvellous place for wildlife and the banks of the Test are home to swans, coot, moorhens, heron, kingfishers, marsh harriers and little grebe.
For the eagle-eyed and patient, water voles can sometimes be seen along the edges of the river reeds and butterfly species such as tortoiseshell, small copper and marbled whites can be found basking among the vegetation. You may also notice yellow meadow ant hills, especially to the southern end of the site, which are an important indicator of ancient grasslands.
Here is a link to suggested walks in the area.
Interestingly the River Test is a chalk stream of supreme relevance. Physically, it is the longest: 39 miles from source to estuary and historically, it is regarded by many as the birthplace of modern fly fishing. Today it is globally renowned for its excellent salmon and trout fishing and is still home to the Houghton Fishing Club, founded in 1822, which continues to meet in the Grosvenor Hotel on the High Street.
According to The Greyhound On The Test if one was to stick a pin in a map to mark the ‘Mecca’ of fly fishing it would certainly fall in the town of Stockbridge – believed by many to be one of the finest and best known fly fishing areas in the world.
Experts concur – if you want to experience and appreciate the very essence of fly fishing, you need to journey to the fabled waters of the River Test at least once in your lifetime. Amidst the picturesque countryside and quaint villages flow the rivers where fly fishing was allegedly born. To cast a fly on the Test, is to step far back in angling history to a time when it was a gentleman’s most treasured sporting pursuit.
Places to Stay in Stockbridge
There is great excitement in Stockbridge, with the hotel’s extensive and sympathetic renovation plan now close to completion.
Accommodation is plentiful, with a mix of rooms and suites, including The Tap Cottage, luxuriously and sympathetically restored.
The gardens are incredible too. Alongside the spacious main terrace, the walled garden is completely enclosed, with views of 15th Century St Peter’s Church to the west and pleached hornbeams and flint walls to the east, it’s a wonderful step back in time.
La Hutte – an alpine ski refuge in winter – is open every day from April and offers cover come rain or shine, perfect for the unpredictable English weather!
Believing that dining is one of life’s greatest pleasures, the hotel offers a wonderful and inspiring menu, whether you’re seeking a fisherman’s breakfast, a simple snack, a slap-up lunch, afternoon tea or a delightful dinner. They have something for every discerning taste.
The hotel is proud to be members of Hampshire Fare, supporting businesses serving local food and drink. They use Test Valley sourced, seasonal ingredients wherever they can, and believe that you can really taste the difference.
The hotel has been synonymous with fly fishing for over 200 years, so whether you’re a beginner to fishing and need some expert tuition or you’re an old hand, they can arrange everything you need for a wonderful fishing experience. They can also advise on pheasant, partridge and clay pigeon shooting trips too…
To discover more about Stockbridge and the wonderful collection of independent shops, places to eat and things to do visit @lovestockbridgehampshire – a great Instagram page, updated regularly and giving you the very latest intel on what we’re all up to!
Events In and Around Stockbridge
The Trout ‘n About Festival is an annually held food festival that usually takes place on the first Sunday of August. With 60+ stalls showcasing the very best of local food, produce and crafts.
Cookery demonstrations are held throughout the day and local cafes, restaurants and pubs offer taster dishes with a voucher scheme to encourage visitors to try sample their menus. Most of the shops are open and live music and street entertainers add to the family-friendly festival atmosphere which attracts thousands of visitors from all around.
Open Gardens Weekend
The National Garden Scheme gives visitors unique access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England and Wales whilst raising impressive amounts of money for nursing and health charities through admissions, teas and cake.
From extensive country gardens and small, ingenious plots as well as allotments, community gardens and many others, the variety on offer really helps to advance their goal of opening the most diverse range of quality gardens for the public to visit and enjoy.
To find out the most up-to-date information about participating gardens in and around Stockbridge click here.
The Italian Market
A traditional Italian market visits Stockbridge in April. Food stalls decorated with the ‘Tricolore’ flag sell food direct from Italian producers: delicious cheeses, cured meats, olive oils, balsamic vinegars and pastas in all shapes and sizes. You will find a wide selection of speciality breads and Italian biscuits and sweets to tempt those with a sweet tooth.
This annual event takes place on a Sunday in April. Hundreds of vintage cars gather in Stockbridge for coffee on their spring run to the New Forest. These beautiful cars are decorated with daffodils. A must for old car enthusiasts.
Places of Interest Near Stockbridge
Hampshire’s Test Valley is famed for its rolling hills and tranquil beauty and not far from Stockbridge you’ll find many picturesque English villages with their thatched houses, pretty churches and traditional country pubs as well as the spectacular Test Way.
So many people come into the shop during the summer having been to see the roses at Mottisfont a National Trust house with beautiful riverside gardens. Everyone raves about them!
Eight centuries of history are buried within Mottisfont’s walls. An Augustinian priory was founded there in 1201, laying the foundations for the 18th-century structure that’s now visible. Today, hints of Mottisfont’s medieval past live alongside the stylish redevelopment that took place in the early 20th century. Well worth a visit and only fifteen minutes away by car and its free.
Historic Winchester is just a 20 minute drive away. Once there, ensure to visit the Gothic cathedral and the life-size male figure by sculptor Antony Gormley in its eleventh-century crypt. The space floods in rainy months, so you can see the man stood alone, perfectly mirrored in the water.
Stockbridge is also within easy reach of the Cathedral City of Salisbury, historic Romsey and the delights of the ponies in the New Forest National Park.