Odiham is a large picturesque village in North Hampshire, forty miles south-west of London and south of the M3 motorway. As a royal manor, it was the first entry in the Hampshire section of the Domesday Book, where it was given today’s spelling of “Odiham”.
Odiham is situated on the banks of the Basingstoke Canal. It extends from Basingstoke to the River Wey in Surrey and eventually to the River Thames. It was completed in 1794 to allow boats from East London to journey to Basingstoke. It was never a commercial success and fell into disuse, but thirty-two miles of the Canal were reopened in 1991 for recreation and pleasure purposes. A canal boat, the John Pinkerton II, provides pleasure cruises for up to fifty passengers from Colt Hill Wharf at Odiham. A towpath walk links Odiham Castle with Odiham Common. The Waterwitch pub, located close to Colt Hill Bridge and Colt Hill Wharf, is a popular pub with a lovely garden on the side of the canal.
Odiham Castle, which is now a ruin, was built between 1207 and 1214 for King John. It is closely connected with the sealing of Magna Carta. King John left Odiham Castle for Windsor on 10th June 1215 and he returned to Odiham on 26th June 1215. A translation of the Magna Carta into vernacular French was attested here on 26th June 1215. King John’s son, King Henry III, gave the castle to his sister, Eleanor, in 1236. She married Simon de Montfort in 1238 and the castle became the de Montfort family home.
To the north of Odiham, a large deer park for royal hunting was created. It now stretches north of the High Street to the Basingstoke Canal.
The Bury is an interesting part of the village. This square is found off the High Street by walking down Church Street to the thirteenth century All Saints Church. It stands on the site of an earlier Saxon church, dating from the eleventh century. The oldest visible parts of the church are the chancel and base of the tower. The upper parts of the tower were completely rebuilt in the seventeenth century. Adjoining the church, is the rare Pest House, built about 1622. “Pest”, in ancient English, meant plague and the building was effectively an isolation hospital where local inhabitants or travellers suffering from plague, smallpox or other diseases, were housed.
Odiham has a wide, attractive Georgian High Street. Some medieval timber-framed houses still remain. There are Tudor cottages in King Street just off the High Street. The village cemetery contains two chapels designed by Winchester architect, J. Colson. They are listed buildings, but have not been used for many years.
RAF Odiham has been the home of the RAF Chinook helicopter fleet for many years. The distinctive twin-engined helicopters are often seen flying over the village.