Botley is an historic village and civil parish in the Eastleigh District of Hampshire with an estimated 2011 parish population of 5,100. Between 1806 and 1820 it was the home of the famous journalist and radical politician William Cobbett, who described the village as the most delightful in the world. There is a memorial stone to William Cobbett in the village square.
When the Romans built a road from Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester) to Clausentum (Southampton), it crossed the River Hamble at a natural crossing point located to the south of present-day Botley. The crossing later became the site of Botley's first settlement, which existed at least as far back as the 10th century. Known in Saxon times as "Bottaleah" ("Botta" was probably a person, while "Leah" was the Saxon word for a woodland clearing). Some time prior to the Norman conquest of 1066, a gradual rise in sea level meant that travellers found the river easier to ford further north of the original Roman crossing, this new crossing place provided a new focal point for the village, which in 1086 was listed in the Domesday book as "Botelie". The village included two mills and had a population of less than 100.
In 1267 John of Botley, Lord of the Manor, obtained a royal charter from Henry III for holding an annual fair and weekly market in the town. The village did not, however, grow significantly and in 1665 the village still had a population of only 350.
During the eighteenth century, Botley functioned as a small inland port with barges transporting coal, grain, timber and flour along the river. The first bridge over the tidal part of the river was built in 1797 and by the time of the 1801 census 614 people were residing in the village. A corn market was opened in 1829 and a cattle market in 1836, while Botley Market Hall – today a Grade II listed building – was built in 1848. A new parish church dedicated to All Saints was built nearer the village centre in 1836. The National School opened in 1855 and the Recreation Ground was purchased in 1888.
In the mid-nineteenth century the climate made south Hampshire ideal for growing strawberries and Botley became the centre for a thriving trade in this branch of horticulture. In 1841 Botley railway station was opened by the London and Southampton Railway Company. It became a major loading point for the seasonal strawberry traffic, as Botley formed the start of what is now known as the Strawberry Trail.