Oct 292013

Historic Winchester

Winchester is a historic city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester,

a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of the River Itchen. At the time of the 2001 Census, Winchester had a population of 41,420.

Winchester developed from the Roman town of Venta Belgarum, which developed from an Iron Age oppidum. Winchester’s major landmark is Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the distinction of having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

The town is also home to the University of Winchester and the famous public school, Winchester Collage. The city’s architectural and historic interest, and its fast links to other towns and cities have led Winchester to become one of the most expensive and desirable areas of the country. A person who is from or resides in Winchester is sometimes locally known as a Wintonian.

This Historic City has so much to see, it is ideal for Ramblers and Walkers.

(Governor’s Guard (Please Play Me)

Early History

Settlement in the area dates back to prehistoric times, with three Iron Age hillforts, Oram`s Arbour, St Cathrine`s Hilland Worthy Down all in the near vicinity. In the Late Iron Age a more urban settlement-type developed, known as an oppidum, although the archaeology of this phase remains obscure.

After the Roman conquest of Britain, this town became the capital of the local tribe or civitas, known as the Belgae, a confederation of Gaulish tribes who conquered large parts of the southern Britain beginning around 100 BCE. The city was known as Venta Belgarum, which may mean “Market” or “Meeting-Place of the Belgae”. Although in the early years of the Roman province it was of subsidiary importance to Silchester and Chichester, over time it came to eclipse them both.

At the beginning of the third century Winchester was given protective stone walls.At around this time the city covered an area of 144 acres (58.3 ha), making it the fifth largest town in Roman Britain by surface area. There was also a limited suburban area outside the walls.Like many other Roman towns however, Winchester began to decline in the later fourth century.

Anglo Saxon Time

The city has historic importance as it replaced Dorchester-on-Thamesas the de facto capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex in about 686 after King Caedwalla of Wessex defeated King Atwald of Wight. Although it was not the only town to have been the capital, it was established by King Egbert as the main city in his kingdom in 827. Saint Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the mid 9th century. It was sacked by the Danes in 860.

The Saxon street plan laid out by Alfed the Greatis still evident today: a cross shaped street system which conformed to the standard town planning system of the day – overlaying the pre existing Romanstreet plan (incorporating the ecclesiastical quarter in the south-east; the judicial quarter in the south-west; the tradesmen in the north-east). The town was part of a series of fortifications along the south coast. Built by Alfred to protect the Kingdom, they were known as ‘burhs’. The medieval city walls, built on the old Roman walls, are visible in places.

Only one section of the original Roman walls remains. Four main gates were positioned in the north, south, east and west plus the additional Durngate and King’s Gate. Winchester remained the capital of Wessex, and then England, until some time after the Norman Conquestwhen the capital was moved to London.The Domesday Bookwas compiled in the city late in the reign of William the Conqueror, but did not cover the city itself

Medieval and later times

A serious fire in the city in 1141 accelerated its decline. However, William of Wykeham(1320–1404) played an important role in the city’s restoration. As Bishop of Winchesterhe was responsible for much of the current structure of the cathedral, and he founded the still extant public school Winchester Collage. During the Middle Ages, the city was an important centre of the wool trade, before going into a slow decline. The curfew bellin the bell tower (near the clock in the picture), still sounds at 8.00pm each evening. The curfew was the time to extinguish all home fires until the morning.

The City Cross (also known as the Buttercross) has been dated to the 15th century, and features 12 statues of the Virgin Mary, saints and various historical figures. Several statues appear to have been added throughout the structure’s history. In 1770, Thomas Dummer purchased the Buttercross from the Corporation of Winchester, intending to have it re-erected at Cranbury Park, near Otterbourne. When his workmen arrived to dismantle the cross, they were prevented from doing so by the people of the city, who “organised a small riot” and they were forced to abandon their task.

The agreement with the city was cancelled and Dummer erected a lath and plaster facsimile, which stood in the park for about sixty years before it was destroyed by the weather. The Buttercross itself was restored by G. G. Scott in 1865, and still stands in the High Street. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The novelist Jane Austendied in Winchester on 18th July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. The Romantic poet John Keatsstayed in Winchester from mid-August to October 1819. It was in Winchester that Keats wrote “Isabella”, “St. Agnes’ Eve”, “To Autumn” and “Lamia”. Parts of “Hyperion” and the five-act poetic tragedy “Otho The Great” were also written in Winchester.

(Light Division (Please Play Me)

Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral the longest cathedral in Europe, was originally built in 1079. It contains much fine architecture spanning the 11th to the 16th century and is the place of interment of numerous Bishops of Winchester (such as William of Wykeham), Anglo-Saxon monarchs (such as Egbert of Wessex) and later monarchs such as King Canute and William Rufus, as well as Jane Austen.

It was once an important pilgrimage centre and housed the shrine of Saint Swithun. The ancient Pilgrim`s Way traveling to Canterbury begins at Winchester. The plan of the earlier Old Minster is laid out in the grass adjoining the cathedral. The New Minster (original burial place of Alfred the Great and Edward the Elder) once stood beside it. It has a girls choir and a boys choir, which sing on a regular basis at the cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral Close contains a number of historic buildings from the time when the cathedral was also a priory. Of particular note is the Deanery, which dates back to the thirteenth century. It was originally the Prior’s House, and was the birthplace of Arthur, Prince of Wales, in 1486. Not far away is Cheyney Court, a mid fifteenth-century timber-framed house incorporating the Porter’s Lodge for the Priory Gate. It was the Bishop’s court house.

The earliest hammer-beamed building still standing in England is also situated in the Cathedral Close, next to the Dean’s garden. It is known as the Pilgrims’ Hall, as it was part of the hostelry used to accommodate the many pilgrims to Saint Swithun’s shrine. Left-overs from the lavish banquets of the Dean would be given to the pilgrims who were welcome to spend the night in the hall. It is thought by Winchester City Council to have been built in 1308. Now part of The Pilgrim`s School, the hall is used by the school for assemblies in the morning, drama lessons, plays, orchestral practices, Cathedral Waynflete rehearsals, the school’s Senior Commoners’ Choir rehearsals and so forth.


Winchester is well known for the Great Hall of its castle, which was built in the 12th century. The Great Hall was rebuilt sometime between 1222 and 1235, and still exists in this form. It is famous for King Arthur`s Round Table, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. The table actually dates from the 13th century, and as such is not contemporary to Arthur.

Despite this it is still of considerable historical interest and attracts many tourists. The table was originally unpainted, but was painted for King Henry VIII in 1522. The names of the legendary Knights of the Round Table are written around the edge of the table surmounted by King Arthur on his throne.

Opposite the table are Prince Charles`s ‘Wedding Gates’. In the grounds of the Great Hall is a recreation of a medieval garden. Apart from the hall, only a few excavated remains of the stronghold survive among the modern Law Courts.

The buildings were supplanted by the adjacent King`s House, now incorporated into the Peninsula Barracks where there are now five military museums, it was once the home of the Royal Green Jackets and their antecedent regiments,

Winchester Procession

This picture is credited to the RGJ Museum Circa 1900s

Freedom of the City of Winchester

The Royal Army Pay Corps: 1970.

The Adjutant General’s Corps: 1996.

Winchester Army Training Regiment: 17th April 2004.

The Royal Hampshire Regiment: 15th September 1945.

The Kings Royal Hussars: 1946.

The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own): 1946.

The Royal Green Jackets: 1st January 1966.

The Rifles: 1st February 2007.

The King`s Royal Rifle Corps Band 

at the 

Freedom Parade of the City of Winchester, 1946  

Picture credited to RGJ Museum

Peninsula Barracks closed its doors as an active barracks and training depot in 1986.

The entrance to the former Peninsula Barracks, off the Romsey Road. The old guard room is now a cafe and museum.

The training which used to be carried out at the barracks is now done by the Army Training Regiment two miles outside the city of Winchester, otherwise known as Sir John Moore Barracks,


The Law Courts

Troops at Winchester Outside The Winchester Guildhall 11/11/18


 Troops and locals are gathered at the foot of King Alfred’s statue for the Armistice Day ceremony, The Broadway, 11/11/1931


Troops and locals are gathered at the foot of King Alfred’s statue for the Armistice Day ceremony, The Broadway, 11/11/1931

Below Queen Mary Reviews Troops



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