One feature that distinguishes an archaeologist is an inability to pass a hole in the road without peering into it.

Every week, while the Market Place is being remodelled, there has been much peering into the holes that the work entails.

On one morning a hole full of roof tiles had been uncovered. They have probably lain there more or less undisturbed since they were deposited early in the 1820s.

It is thought that they had covered the roof of the audit house.

The Audit House stood in the middle of the Market Place and it was a square building standing on 12 rustic pillars with plain arches.

The space they surrounded made a suitable location for market traders where they were protected from the rain.

Above this space, there was a first floor room that was used by the town’s magistrates and also for public meetings and other gatherings.

Above that, in the roof space, was a garret where the stalls and boards used by the market traders were stored. Getting them down the stairs must have been very awkward. On the roof was a turret or bell tower topped by a plain weathercock.

The building had been provided by the first Lord Palmerston in 1744. When he became the owner of the market in 1736, there was, in the middle of the Market Place, ‘a small old house in bad repair, with a shop, or shed or two, not much better, and these surrounded with stalls of butchers, vendors of vegetables and other things, extending on all sides frequently to the annoyance of passengers.’

Lord Palmerston arranged for these structures in be demolished and paid for the Audit House to be erected in their place.

By 1820, the Audit House had run its course and was demolished, leaving the Market Place open until the statue to the third Lord Palmerston was erected there in 1868. Meanwhile the large building at the west end of Romsey Abbey was taken over as Romsey’s town hall, thereby replacing the Audit House and the former town hall which building is now occupied by the optician’s shop of David White.