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Winchester

"Then they departed, and within five days' journey they came to Camelot, that is called in English, Winchester. And when Sir Lancelot was come among them, the King and all the knights made great joy of"
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur

Winchester, the ancient capital of England, lies in Hampshire County of which it is the administrative capital. Sometimes known as the legendary Camelot, this pretty, country market-town should be at the top of your list if you're interested in history and culture. Most visitors are attracted here by the magnificent Winchester Cathedral which is one of the most remarkable, extant examples of the Gothic Perpendicular style. To arrive here is to seemingly take a step back in time, it is well-preserved and has also retained some ancient traditions. The town has retained its reputation for its scholars and continues in its ancient tradition of providing alms and shelter for senior citizens.

A beautiful city, Winchester was one of the locations for the filming of the Da Vinci Code. Attractions abound. As well as the Winchester Cathedral, there's the magnificent Great Hall and its pride of joy, the Round Table. Cultural enthusiasts will delight in Wolvesey Palace, the Old Bishop's Palace and Winchester College, one of the oldest public schools in England. Your trip may also include paying your respects at the graves of some of England's greatest Kings and Queens, Bishops, Saints and literary giants such as Jane Austen. Alternatively, there's the Peninsula Barracks where you can fire a Baker Rifle or find out more about the history of various regiments of the British Army. If all that's not energetic enough for you, Winchester also lies on the route of some historic trails and you can walk in the ancient steps of pilgrims on routes that vary from a few hours or could take you all the way to France. Bon Voyage!

Short History of Winchester
The Iron Age saw two major centres of settlement at Winchester. St Catharine's Hill, a hill-fort, lies to the south of Winchester and Oram's Arbour which lies to the west of the River Itchen. Excavations have produced numerous remains of coinage(Gaulish/Ptolemaic) and regional pottery showing extensive economic links which would have stretched as far as the Continent by the Late Iron Age.

Winchester was amongst the first Roman settlements and evidence shows their presence here just seven years after the invasion in AD43. They named Winchester, Venta Belgarum meaning 'market place of the Belgae' and by the 1st century, it had been established as a civitas or walled town. The Romans improved the valley now known as Winchester by the use of drainage canals and built six roads emanating from the town which further established it as a centre.

Winchester started to grow in prominence and went on to become a Saxon settlement called 'Wintanceaster' the name from which Winchester is derived. 'Ceastar' in Old English would have referred to a Roman walled site of 'dark earth'. The name suggests an interconnection between the Romans and the Saxons which is further supported by findings of both types of graves dating to this period. By 519AD Winchester had become the capital of the ancient kingdom, Wessex but is was not until the arrival of a Christian missionary, Birinius in 635 AD that the West Saxons converted to Christianity. Old Minster was founded shortly after during the reign of Cewalh and so were laid the foundations for one of the England's greatest cathedrals.

Winchester was established as the capital of King Alfred's Kingdom in 827. The most loved and esteemed of all England's kings, King Alfred encouraged the revival of learning and monastic life. Alfred also created fortified centres of which Winchester, the largest was the capital. In so doing, King Alfred led the foundation for a single kingdom of England. His influence on Winchester was made clear in 1901 with the unveiling of the great statue of Hamo Thornycroft which looks down over Winchester city. Incidentally, legend has it that if a young maiden circles the statue three times, Alfred's sword will fall. King Alfred's son, Edward the Elder, enhanced the royal status of Winchester with the foundation of New Minster, a religious house and a burial ground for West Saxon Kings. Alfred was reinterred here along his wife Ealhswith and was thereby forever linked with the capital of Wessex.

After 900AD, the addition of Nunnaminster, a cloister for holy women and New Minster brought to Winchester a strong religious foundation. As the power of the church grew, Christendom underwent a Reformation in 950AD. In Winchester this made itself evident with the replacement of monks instead of clerks in Old and New Minster. This was a good investment, monks were more cost effective, more pleasing to God and would subsequently also get more cash from beneficiaries. Reforms also saw the recognition of St Swithun (albeit some 100 years after his death). A popular hero, legend has it that a short-sighted monk was strolling merrily along when he bumped into a farmer's wife. Swithun broke all the eggs she was to sell at the market but her dismay would soon turn to relief. Instead of chastising her for putting her all her eggs in the one basket, the kind bishop had simply made them whole again.

Swithun was renowned for his generosity and piety, his enthusiasm for building new churches and restoring old ones. He also gave himself a reputation for throwing banquets to which the rich were not invited. St. Swithun specifically requested to be buried outdoors so that the “sweet rain of heaven” would fall on his final resting place. When his remains were reinterred in Old Minster a new legend was born. Contemporary writers reported miracles preceding and following the move. Wulfstan Cantor, an eye-witness, reported that it rained throughout the ceremony. It seems that this is the event behind the saying which tells that rain on St. Swithun's Day, 15 July foretells rain for 40 days and nights after. “St Swithun's day if thou dost rain/For forty days it will remain/St Swithun's day if thou be fair/For forty days 'twill rain na mair.”

For the next couple of hundred years, Winchester stood in equal importance to London. William the Conqueror received his coronation in both cities and confirmed Winchester's importance by his important commission of the local monks to prepare the Domesday Book. He also ordered the construction of a castle in the south-west corner of the walled city and rebuilt and enlarged the royal palace in front of the Old and New Minsters. In the run up to the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, Bishop Henry du Blois fortified both the Bishop's Palace at Wolvesey and the former royal palace by the cathedral, giving Winchester a total of three castles by 1141. Decline now started and a serious fire in 1141 further set the old capital en route to becoming a provincial town past its heyday.

Short History of the See of Winchester
During the 7th century, England was divided into a number of separate kingdoms. At this time Winchester was in Wessex, the tribal kingdom of the West Saxons. In 635, King Cynigils gave permission for Birinius, a missionary, to preach Christianity to his people. Birinius became the first Bishop of Wessex and established an episcopal centre at Dorchester upon Thames. This moved to Winchester in 662 with the building of the first cathedral church.

Winchester became the natural centre of an episcopal see which covered the whole of Wessex and for much of the time the West Country. This naturally reduced in size as new bishoprics were created but by the 12th century, it still covered Surrey, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The bishop's extensive estates were administered from eight main locations including Farnham Castle and the palaces at Bishop's Waltham, Wolvesey and Southwark in London. Quite a lot is known about their estates as the information was recorded in the Pipe Rolls. These unique manuscripts are financial accounts and give a detailed picture of the main events on the bishop's estates. Wolvesey Palace acted as a centre for these estates and all their accounts were sent to Winchester. The bishop's palace at Wolvesey acted both as an administrative and economic centre. Originally it had a second courtyard which contained buildings associated with the economic activities on the bishop's estates, such as barns, stables and a large wool house. Several mills belonging to the bishop were also located nearby.




  1. Attractions
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Winchester : Sightseeing and Attractions

Winchester Castle
A year after the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror built a castle at Winchester to protect the the government's seat and the most important stronghold at the time. Originally built in 1067, Winchester Castle defended the south west corner of the Roman town walls which surrounded Winchester. .. more
Admission: Free entry
Address: Winchester Great Hall, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8PJ Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 846476

Wolvesey Castle
The bishop's palace was developed in Winchester in the 10th century. Before this the bishops had lived as part of the Winchester community of monks who ran the Winchester Cathedral Church. However, the increasingly public role of the bishop made it necessary for him to have his apartments outside the monastery... more
Admission: Free entry
Address: College Street, Winchester, Hampshire
Contact: PH 01962 854766

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral is a fabulous sight situated on a site which has housed a Christian church ever since the 7th century. Outside Winchester Cathedral, you'll see lines in the ground which mark the spot where Old Minster once stood. Old Minster contained the shrine of St. Swithun, a bishop of Winchester who died in 863... more
Admission: £3.50 (donation) Adults
Address: Winchester Cathedral Office, 1, The Close, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9LS Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 857200

Winchester's Great Hall
Winchester's Great Hall was built by Henry the Third. Born at Winchester Castle in 1207, he loved to return to Winchester but a siege in the 13th century had left Winchester Castle in ruins. Henry the Third set about revamping Winchester Castle building its Great Hall and transforming the castle into a fortress and a palace... more
Admission: Free entry
Address: Winchester Castle, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8PJ Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 846476

Winchester College
Winchester College is one of the oldest and most prominent public schools in Britain. William Wykeham, the Bishop of Winchester, founded Winchester College in 1382 and thereby provided a model on which other prestigious schools like Harrow and Eton would be built. .. more
Address: College Street, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9NA Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 621 100

St. Cross Hospital and St. Cross Church
St Cross Hospital is the oldest almshouse in England. It was founded by the William the Conqueror's grandson, Henri du Blois in 1132. His intention was to provide for "thirteen poor men, feeble and so reduced in strength that they can scarcely or not at all support themselves without other aid". .. more
Address: St Cross Road, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9SD Street Map
Contact: PH (01962) 878218

Abbey House
Abbey House stands on the site of St. Mary's Abbey. It was built about 1750 and originally faced the gardens to the rear. The present castellated front was added after the widening of the Broadway in 1771... more
Address: Abbey House, The Broadway, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9BE Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 848259

Winchester City Mill
A working water mill, the Winchester City Mill was reconstructed here in 1744. A mill was first recorded here in the Domesday Book in 1086... more
Admission: £3.20 Adults £1.60 Children
Address: Winchester City Mill, Bridge Street, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8EJ Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 870057

Westgate Museum
Lying close to Winchester's Great Hall, the Westgate Museum is one of the surviving gateways in Winchester. First constructed in the 12th century, Westgate was developed in the 13th and 14th centuries. You'll see the portcullis, two gun ports and the famous painted ceiling of 1554. A work by Winchester College, it was designed to commemorate the marriage of Queen Mary I and Philip of Spain in Winchester. On display are a rare set of pre-imperial weights and measures. In the upper chamber, you'll also notice graffiti on the walls. This spans some two hundred years between the 16th and 18th centuries when Westgate was used as a prison. You can also access the roof.
Admission: Free entry
Address: High Street, WInchester, Hampshire
Postcode: S023 9JX Street Map
Contact: PH (01962) 86306

Intech
Intech is an award-winning science and technology museum with over 100 hands-on exhibits. Intech focuses largely on interactive displays which engage and educate. On your visit, you can create a tornado or a vortex or find out how Newton's Cradle works and watch a super-size one in action!
Admission: £5.95 Adults
Address: Telegraph Way, Morn Hill, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO1 1HX Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 863791
Website: http://intech.virtualschools.net

The Gurkha Museum
The Gurkha Museum at Winchester details the history of the Gurkha's military service. Ever since 1815, the Gurkha's who originally hail from Nepal, have volunteered to join the British cause. The Gurkha Museum brings this dramatic history to life in a celebration of both their service and their courage.
Admission: £1.50 Adults
Address: Peninsula Barracks, Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8TS Street Map

Light Infantry Museum
A modern regiment, the Light Infantry was only formed in 1968 although its roots date to 1685. The Light Infantry is one of the most advanced operational units in the British army which has been at the forefront of the action in Northern Ireland and Iraq.
Admission: Free entry
Address: Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8TS Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 828530

The Royal Green Jackets Museum
The Royal Green Jackets Museum was one of the first regimental museums to open in Britain. Attractions include firing a replica Baker Rifle on the electronic range and Andy McNab's prisoner of war uniform. Captured during active service in the Gulf War, Sergeant Andy McNab was the most highly decorated in service of the British Army when he left in 1993. Also on display is a diorama of Waterloo, medals, swords and other related memorabilia.
Admission: £2.00 Adults
Address: Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8TS Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 828 549

The Adjutant General's Corps Museum
This museum presents a different insight into the army and how it operates. The Adjutant General's Corps Museum focuses on issues such as corrective training, military policing and the more urbane tasks of pay and administration. On your visit, you can also expect to find out more about the role of women, law and education in Britain's army.
Admission: Free entry
Address: Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 8TS Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 877 826

The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum
The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum has four exhibition rooms detailing the adventures of the regiment's active service in Afghanistan, China, India, the World Wars and plenty more. On display are life-size models in complete uniform, medals, decorations and a collection of photographs.
Admission: Free entry
Address: Southgate Street, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9EG Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 863 658

Info CentreWinchester Tourist Information Centre
Winner of three tourism awards, the Winchester Tourism Information Centre is the place to book your sightseeing, attractions or accommodation.
Address: Winchester Guildhall, Broadway, High Street, Winchester, Hampshire
Postcode: SO23 9GH Street Map
Contact: PH 01962 840 500


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  Population: 37282
  District: Winchester
  County: Hampshire






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