Owslebury village was first founded in the reign of Edgar the Peaceable by a grant of land to the Bishopric of Winchester. The Domesday Book records the Manor of Owslebury as still being held by the bishop in 1086. St Andrews Church (shown left) was built some time in the 14th century. Vincent Van Gogh visited in 1876.
In the 16th century, the Bishop of Winchester granted manor (demesne) lands at Owslebury to his college of Corpus Christi at Oxford.
The Manor of Marwell passed to the crown in 1551 and was granted to Sir Henry Seymour the same year. Marwell Manor witnessed the courtship of Henry VIII and Lady Jane Seymour. The Manor was restored to the Seymour family by 1577 having been confiscated by the Catholic Queen Mary.
The Bishop of Winchester ‘s hunting park at Marwell was later converted into Marwell Zoo.
During the 'swinging' taxation of the Napoleonic wars, Swing Riots, protesting at the mechanisation of farms, struck Owslebury.
One of the leaders of the riots, local farmer John Boyes was transported as a convict in February of the next year together with other machine breakers. Several other rioters were executed. He was alleged to have accompanied the mob demanding that farmers and landlords sign an undertaking reading: “We, the undersigned, are willing to give 2s. per day to our married labourers, and 9s. per week to single men, in consideration of having our rent and tithes abated in proportion”.
His case was heard three times, after the Attorney General recommended that he be re-tried in London after twice being acquitted in Winchester. The trials were reported in The Times in December 1830 and January 1831.
John Boyes was eventually pardoned three years later and returned to farm in Owslebury, where he would have frequented the Ship Inn (as a local hero?).
In more recent times, Marwell was used as a secret flight test base for Spitfires produced in the aircraft factory in Swaythling during the Second World War - situated just outside the Southampton balloon barrage.
Initially, to comply with the Geneva Convention, any of the ferry pilots were female, including the famous Mary Ellis. From 1943 the female pilots received equal pay to their male co-workers - a first for the British government.