The name Whitchurch means a White Church, probably because an early church was built of chalk. The earliest mention of the manor of Whitchurch is in a charted of 909 confirming the land to the monks of Winchester. The Domesday Survey of 1086 listed the Bishop of Winchester as holding Whitchurch, but Henry de Blois granted the manor to the Hospital of St. Cross between 1132 and 1144. Whitchurch later passed back to the Prior and Convent who held it until 1541, when it transferred to the Dean and Chapter of Winchester, with whom it then remained.
In 1241 a market at Whitchurch was granted by Henry III to Winchester Cathedral priory, and in 1247-9 the Cathedral granted Whitchurch a borough charter, with the same status and privileges as Portsmouth. This borough charter was confirmed in 1284 and again in 1285, and Whitchurch was governed by a Court Leet which met each October; in 1586 Whitchurch returned two members to Parliament.
King Charles I and his troop stopped at Whitchurch in 1644 on their way to the Battle of Newbury, and in 1649 the local people sent a complaint to Lord Fairfax concerning the considerable losses they had sustained when Colonel Martin's soldiers were stationed there. In 1696 William III granted a fair to Whitchurch, and the fortunes of the town improved again in 1712 with the arrival of a Huguenot refugee named Henri de Portal, who brought the skill of paper-making to Whitchurch. Portal opened his first mill at Bere Mill on the River Test: the clear water of the fast flowing chalk stream was eminently suitable for making crisp quality paper and the industry flourished. Whitchurch and nearby Laverstoke still produce the famous paper for the banknotes of the world. Other local industries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries included flour-milling, silk manufacture and the production of woollen cloth and associated textiles.
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