The Full Wiki

Winchester: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 51°03′48″N 1°18′31″W / 51.0632°N 1.3085°W / 51.0632; -1.3085

Winchester 12.JPG
A view over Winchester
Winchester is located in Hampshire

 Winchester shown within Hampshire
Population 41,420 [1]
OS grid reference SU485295
District Winchester
Shire county Hampshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SO22, SO23
Dialling code 01962
Police Hampshire
Fire Hampshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Winchester
List of places: UK • England • Hampshire

Winchester is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. It 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.[2] At the time of the 2001 Census, Winchester had a population of 41,420.[1]

Archaically known as Winton, Winchester is a historic cathedral city and the ancient capital of Wessex and the Kingdom of England. It developed from the Roman town of Venta Belgarum.

Winchester's major landmark is Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in England, with the distinction of having the longest nave and overall length of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

Winchester railway station is served by trains running from London Waterloo, Weymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and the North.



Early history

Settlement in the area dates back to pre-Roman times, with an Iron Age enclosure or valley fort, Oram's Arbour, on the western side of the present-day city. After the Roman conquest of Britain the civitas, then named Venta Belgarum or "Market of the Belgae", was of considerable importance.[3]

The city may have been the Caergwinntguic or Caergwintwg (literally meaning "White Fortress") as recorded by Nennius after the Roman occupation. This name was corrupted into Wintanceastre following the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the area in 519.

In 493 English scholars decided that it would be plausible to send mercenaries to the area to gather what iron and other valuables they could acquire from the area.

Anglo-Saxon times

Hamo Thornycroft's statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester.

The city has historic importance as it replaced Dorchester-on-Thames as 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. The Saxon street plan laid out by Alfred the Great is still evident today: a cross shaped street system which conformed to the standard town planning system of the day – overlaying the pre-existing Roman street 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 Conquest when the capital was moved to London. The Domesday Book was compiled in the city early in the reign of William the Conqueror.

Medieval and later times

Winchester High Street in the mid 19th century.

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 Winchester he was responsible for much of the current structure of the cathedral, and he founded the still extant public school Winchester College. During the Middle Ages, the city was an important centre of the wool trade, before going into a slow decline. The curfew bell in 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

In 1770, Thomas Dummer purchased the City Cross (also known as 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"[4] 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.[5] The Buttercross still stands in the High Street.

The famous novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. The Romantic poet John Keats stayed in Winchester from mid August through 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.

Further learning

The City Museum located on the corner of Great Minster Street and The Square contains much information on the history of Winchester. Early examples of Winchester measures of standard capacity are on display.


Winchester is currently represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom through the Winchester Parliamentary Constituency by Mark Oaten, a Liberal Democrat. Mr Oaten won the seat during the 1997 general election in which he defeated the former Conservative Health Minister Gerry Malone from John Major's then ousted Government.

Elections to the city council take place in three out of every four years, with one third of the councillors elected in each election. Since winning a majority in the 2006 election the council has been controlled by the Conservatives.[6]



View of 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,[7] as well as Jane Austen. It was once an important pilgrimage centre and housed the shrine of Saint Swithun. The ancient Pilgrims' Way travelling 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[7]) once stood beside it. It has a girls choir and a boys choir, which sing on a regular basis at the cathedral. It also known for appearing in the popular film The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks and based on the book by author Dan Brown. The interior was used for a scene inside a London church.

Cathedral Close

The Cathedral Close contains a number of historic buildings from the time when the cathedral was also a priory. Of particular note are 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 Pilgrims' 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.

Wolvesey Castle and Palace

Wolvesey Castle was the Norman bishop's palace, dating from 1110, but standing on the site of an earlier Saxon structure. It was enhanced by Henry de Blois during the Anarchy of his brother King Stephen's reign. He was besieged there for some days. In the 16th century, Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain were guests just prior to their wedding in the Cathedral. The building is now a ruin (maintained by English Heritage), but the chapel was incorporated into the new palace built in the 1680s, only one wing of which survives.

Winchester Castle

The "Winchester Round Table" in the Great Hall, dendrochronology dating has placed it at 1275.

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' '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 amongst the modern Law Courts. The buildings were supplanted by the King's House, now incorporated into the Peninsula Barracks where there are several military museums. Winchester is also home to the Army Training Regiment Winchester, otherwise known as Sir John Moore Barracks, where Army recruits undergo their phase one training.

Winchester College

The buildings of Winchester College, a public school founded by William of Wykeham, still largely date from their first erection in 1382. There are two courtyards, a gatehouse, cloister, hall, a magnificent college chapel and it also owns "The Water Meadows" through which runs a part of the River Itchen. It was planned to educate poor boys before they moved on to New College, Oxford and often a life in the church.

Hospital of St Cross

The almshouses and vast Norman chapel of Hospital of St Cross were founded just outside the city centre by Henry de Blois in the 1130s. Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a 'wayfarer's dole' of ale and bread has been handed out there. It was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their route through to Canterbury.

Winchester Guildhall 1871.

Other buildings

Other important historic buildings include the Guildhall dating from 1871 in the Gothic revival style,[8] the Royal Hampshire County Hospital designed by William Butterfield and one of the city's several water mills driven by the various channels of the River Itchen that run through the city centre. Winchester City Mill, has recently been restored, and is again milling corn by water power. The mill is owned by the National Trust.

Although Winchester City survived World War II intact, about thirty percent of the Old Town was demolished to make way for buildings more suited to modern office day requirements (in particular for Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council). Since the late 1980s the city has seen a gradual replacement of these post war brutalist structures for contemporary developments more sympathetic to the medieval urban fabric of the Old Town.


Winchester College War Cloister

There are numerous educational institutions in Winchester.

There are three state secondary schools: Kings' School Winchester, The Westgate School, and The Henry Beaufort School, all of which have excellent reputations. The sixth form Peter Symonds College is the main college that serves Winchester; it is rated amongst the top and the largest sixth form colleges in the UK.

Among privately owned preparatory schools, there are The Pilgrims' School Winchester, Twyford School, Prince's Mead School etc. Winchester College, which accepts students from ages 13 to 18, is one of the best-known public schools in Britain and many of its pupils leave for well-respected universities. St Swithun's is a public school for girls which frequently appears on the league tables for GCSE and A-level results.

The University of Winchester (formerly King Alfred's College) is Winchester's university, beginning life as a teacher training college. It is located on a purpose built campus near the city centre. The Winchester School of Art is part of the University of Southampton.


Winchester has an association football league and two recognised clubs, Winchester City F.C., the 2004 FA Vase winners who were founded in 1884 and has the motto "Many in Men, One in Spirit", currently play in the Southern League, Division 1 S&E after a highly successful spell in the Wessex League and Winchester Castle F.C., who have played in the Hampshire League since 1971. Reading midfielder Brian Howard was born in Winchester, as was Doncaster Rovers and Wales international midfielder Brian Stock.

Winchester women also have successful sports teams with Winchester City Women FC currently playing in the Hampshire County League Division 1 and recently went through a league campaign unbeaten. The club caters for players of all ability and ages. [1]

Winchester also has a rugby union team named Winchester RFC and a thriving athletics club called Winchester and District AC.

Winchester has a thriving successful Hockey Club <>, with ten men's and three ladies' teams catering to all ages and abilities.

The city has a growing roller hockey team which trains at River Park Leisure Centre.

Lawn bowls is played at several greens (the oldest being Hyde Abbey dating from 1812) during the summer months and at Riverside Indoor Bowling Club during the winter.

Winchester College invented, and lent its name to Winchester College Football, played exclusively at the College and in some small African/South American communities.

Media and culture

Since 1974 Winchester has hosted the annual Hat Fair, a celebration of street theatre that includes performances, workshops, and gatherings at several venues around the city.

Winchester hosts one of the UK's largest and most successful farmers' markets, with close to – or over – 100 stalls, and is certified by FARMA. The farmers' market takes place on the second and last Sunday monthly in the town centre.

On Channel 4 UK's Television Programme "The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK" 2006, which was broadcast on Channel 4 UK on 26 October 2006, it was branded as the Best Place In The UK To Live In: 2006.[9] In the 2007 edition of the same programme, Winchester had dropped to second best place to live, behind Edinburgh.

In 2003, Winchester was ranked 5th in a league of 50 'crap towns' in the UK nominated by readers of Idler magazine.[10]

The singer-song writer Frank Turner comes from Winchester. The TV presenter/model Alexa Chung went to sixth form in Winchester.

Winchester in fiction

12th century Winchester is one of the locations described in Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth.

Winchester is the main location of Samuel Youd's post-apocalyptic science fiction series, Sword of the Spirits. The books were published under the pen name John Christopher.

In the movie Merlin, King Uther's first conquest of Britain begins with Winchester, which Merlin foresaw would fall.

A fictionalised Winchester appears as Wintoncester in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles and is in part the model for Barchester in the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope, who attended Winchester College; The Warden is said to be based on a scandal at the Hospital of St Cross.

In Philip Pullman's novel The Subtle Knife (part of the His Dark Materials trilogy) the main male protagonist, Will Parry, comes from Winchester. However, little of the book is set there.

In the Japanese manga Death Note, The Wammy's House, an orphanage founded by Quillsh Wammy, where the detective L's successors are raised(Near and Mello), is located in Winchester.

A fictitious estate near Winchester is the scene of a crime in the Sherlock Holmes adventure, The Problem of Thor Bridge, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, while some of the action in his The Adventure of the Copper Beeches takes place in the city.

A scene in Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray is set in the choir of Winchester cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral is featured in James Herbert's horror novel The Fog.

The Siege of Winchester in 1141, part of the English Civil War between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, is an important plot element in the detective novel An Excellent Mystery, part of the Brother Cadfael chronicles by Edith Pargeter writing as Ellis Peters.

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Winchester is twinned with:[11]

The Winchester district is twinned with

The city is also the sister city of Winchester, Virginia. The Mayor of Winchester (UK) has a standing invitation to be a part of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester (VA) each year in the Spring.

The city of Winchester gave its name to a suburb of Paris, France, called Le Kremlin-Bicêtre (23,724 inhabitants), owing to a manor built there by John of Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, at the end of the 13th century.

See also


  1. ^ a b KS01 Usual resident population: Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas, National Statistics,, retrieved 2009-04-23 
  2. ^ Landranger 185: Winchester & Basingstoke, Ordnance Survey, 2005, ISBN 9780319228845 
  3. ^ Roman Venta Belgarum
  4. ^ "The Buttercross, Winchester". City of Winchester. 1998. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Yonge, Charlotte M. (1898). "Old Otterbourne". John Keble's Parishes – Chapter 8. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 
  6. ^ "Winchester". BBC News Online. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  7. ^ a b Dodson, Aidan. The Royal Tombs of Great Britain. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. 2004.
  8. ^ History of Winchester Guildhall
  9. ^ "Winchester: Best and Worst Places to Live in the UK 2006 from". Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  10. ^ "UK's 'worst 50' towns revealed". BBC. Retrieved 2003-10-02. 
  11. ^ a b c "Twin Towns in Hampshire". Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  12. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2009-11-06. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

There's more than one place called Winchester:

United Kingdom

United States of America

This article is a disambiguation page. If you arrived here by following a link from another page you can help by correcting it, so that it points to the appropriate disambiguated page.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

="">See Winchester (disambiguation) for articles sharing the title Winchester.

WINCHESTER, a city and municipal and parliamentary borough of Hampshire, England, 662 m. S.W. by W. from London by the London & South-Western railway; served also by the Southampton branch of the Great Western railway, with a separate station. Pop. (1901) 20,929. It occupies a hilly and picturesque site in and above the valley of the Itchen, lying principally on the left bank. The surrounding hills are chalk downs, but the valley is well wooded.

Setting aside for the present the legends which place the foundation of a great Christian church at Winchester in the 2nd century, the erection of Winchester into an episcopal see may be placed early in the second half of the 7th century, though it cannot be dated exactly. The West Saxon see was removed hither from Dorchester on the Thame, and the first bishop of Winchester was Hedda (d. 705). The modern diocese includes nearly the whole of Hampshire, part of Surrey and very small portions of Wiltshire, Dorsetshire and Sussex. St Swithin (852-862), well known through the connexion of his feast day (15th July) with the superstition that weather-conditions thereon determine those of the next forty days, is considered to have enlarged the cathedral, as are lEthelwold (963-984) and Alphege (984-1005). The history of the Saxon building, however, is very slight, and as usual, its place was taken by a Norman one, erected by Bishop Walkelin (1070-1098). The cathedral church of St Swithin lies in the lower part of the city in a wide and beautiful walled close. It is not very conspicuous from a distance, a low central tower alone rising above the general level of the roof. It consists of a nave, transepts, choir and retrochoir, all with aisles, and a lady-chapel forms the eastward termination. The work of the exterior, of whatever date, is severely plain. The cathedral, however, is the longest in England, and indeed exceeds any other church of its character in length, which is close upon 556 ft. Within, the effect of this feature is very fine. The magnificent Perpendicular nave is the work of Bishop Edington (1346-1366) and the famous William of Wykeham (1367-1404), by whom only the skeleton of Walkelin's work was retained. The massive Norman work of the original building, however, remains comparatively intact in both transepts. The central tower is Norman, but later than Walkelin's structure, which fell in 1107, a mishap which was readily attributed to divine wrath because King William II., who fell to the arrow in the neighbouring New Forest, had been buried here seven years earlier, in spite of his unchristian life. The tomb believed to be his is in the choir, but its identity has been widely disputed, and even an examination of the remains has failed to establish the truth. The choir is largely Edington's work, though the clerestory is later, and the eastern part of the cathedral shows construction of several dates. Here appears the fine Early English construction of Bishop de Lucy (1189-1204), in the retrochoir and the lady-chapel, though this was considerably altered later. Beneath the cathedral east of the choir there are three crypts, connected together. The western and the central chambers are Norman, and have apsidal terminations, while the eastern is Early English. The cathedral contains many objects of interest. The square font of black marble is a fine example of Norman art, its sides sculptured with scenes from the life of St Nicholas of Myra. The magnificent reredos behind the high altar must have been erected late in the 15th century; it consists of a lofty wall, the full width of the choir, pierced by two processional doors, and covered with tiers of rich canopied niches, the statues in which are modern. A cross of plain ashlar stone in the centre shows where an immense silver crucifix was once attached; and a plain rectangular recess above the altar once contained a massive silver-gilt retable, covered with cast and repousse statuettes and reliefs. A second stone screen, placed at the interval of one bay behind the great reredos, served to enclose the small chapel in which stood the gold shrine, studded with jewels, the gift of King Edgar, which contained the body of St Swithin. Under many of the arches of the nave and choir are a number of very elaborate chantry chapels, each containing the tomb of its founder. Some of these have fine recumbent effigies, noble examples of English medieval sculpture; the most notable are the monuments of Bishops Edington, Wykeham, Waynflete, Cardinal Beaufort, Langton and Fox. The door of iron grills, of beautiful design, now in the north nave aisle, is considered to be the oldest work of its character in England; its date is placed in the i T th or 12th century. The mortuary chests in the presbytery contain the bones of Saxon kings who were buried here. The remains were collected in this manner by Bishop Henry de Blois (1129-1171), and again after they had been scattered by the soldiers of Cromwell. The choir stalls furnish a magnificent example of Decorated woodwork, and much stained glass of the Decorated and Perpendicular periods remains in fragmentary form. The library contains a Vulgate of the 12th century, a finely ornamented MS. on vellum.

In 1905 serious signs of weakness were manifested in the fabric of the cathedral, and it was found that a large part of the foundation was insecure, being laid on piles, or tree-trunks set flat, in soft and watery soil. Extensive works of restoration, including the underpinning of the foundations with cement concrete (which necessitated the employment of divers), were undertaken under the direction of Mr T. G. Jackson.

Relics of the monastic buildings are slight, and there are Early English arches and Perpendicular work in the deanery. Other old houses in the Close are very picturesque. Here formerly stood the house which Charles II. desired of Ken for Nell Gwyn. Ken refused it, but the king bore no malice, settling Nell Gwyn in another house near by, and afterwards raising Ken to the bishopric of Bath and Wells.

King Alfred founded a minster immediately north of the present site of the cathedral, and here he and other Saxon kings were buried. The house, known as Hyde Abbey, was removed (as was Alfred's body) to a point outside the walls considerably north of the cathedral, during the reign of Henry I. Here foundations may be traced, and a gateway remains. To the east of the cathedral are ruins of Wolvesey Castle, a foundation of Henry de Blois, where the bishops resided. On the southern outskirts of the city, in a pleasant meadow by the Itchen, is the Hospital of St Cross. This also was founded by Henry de Blois, in 1136, whose wish was tO provide board and lodging for 13 poor men and a daily dinner for Too others. It was reformed by William of Wykeham, and enlarged and mostly rebuilt by Cardinal Beaufort (1405-1447). The buildings form three sides of a quadrangle, with a lawn and sun-dial in its midst; while the fourth side is partly open, and partly formed by the magnificent cruciform church. The earliest parts of this building are late or transitional Norman, but other parts are Early English or Decorated. The work throughout is very rich and massive. St Cross is a unique example of a medieval almshouse, and its picturesqueness is enhanced by the curious costume of its inmates. It is still customary to provide a dole of bread and beer to all who desire it. The parish churches of Winchester are not of special interest, but the church of St Swithin is curious as occupying the upper part of the King's Gate. This gate and the West Gate alone remain of the gates in the walls which formerly surrounded the city. The West Gate is a fine structure of the 3th century. In the High Street stands the graceful Perpendicular city cross. The county hall embodies remains of the Norman castle, and in it is preserved the so-called King Arthur's round table. This is supposed to date actually from the time of King Stephen, but the painted designs upon it are of the Tudor period.

Winchester is famous as an educational centre, and in addition to Winchester College there are several modern preparatory schools here. The College of St Mary, lying to the south of the cathedral close, is one of the greatest of English public schools. While a monastic school was in existence here from very early times, the college was originated in 1387 by William of Wykeham, whose famous scheme of education embraced this foundation and that of New College, Oxford. The members on the foundation consisted of a warden, 10 fellows, 3 chaplains, 70 scholars and 16 choristers. The buildings were completed about 1 395. The quadrangles, with the fine chapel, tower, hall XXVIII. 23 and cloister are noteworthy, and there are extensive modern buildings.

The principal public buildings of the city are the gild-hall, public library and art school, museum, market house, mechanics' institution and barracks. The parliamentary borough returns one member and falls within the Andover division of the county. The corporation consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18' councillors. Area, 1931 acres.


The history of the earliest Winchester (Winton, Wynton) is lost in legend; tradition ascribes its foundation to Ludor Rous Hudibras and dates it ninety-nine years before the first building of Rome; earthworks and relics show that the Itchen valley was occupied by Celts, and it is certain from its position at the centre of six Roman roads and from the Roman relics found there that the Caer Gwent (White City) of the Celts was, under the name of Venta Belgarum, an important RomanoBritish country town. Hardly any traces of this survive, but mosaic pavements, coins, &c., have been discovered on the south side of High Street. The name of Winchester is indissolubly linked with that of King Arthur and his knights, but its historical greatness begins when, after the conquest of the present Hampshire by the Gewissas, it became the capital of Wessex. Its importance was increased by the introduction of Christianity, although it was not at first the seat of a bishop, because, accord-. ing to the later Winchester chronicler, King Cynegils wished for time to build a worthy church in the royal city; his son Cenwalh is said to have built the old minster. When the kings of Wessex became kings of all England, Winchester became, in a sense, the capital of England, though it always had a formidable rival in London, which was more central in position and possessed greater commercial advantages. The parallel position of the two cities in Anglo-Saxon times is illustrated by the law of Edgar, ordaining that the standard of weights and measures for the whole kingdom should be "such as is observed at London and at Winchester." Under Alfred it became a centre of learning and education, to which distinguished strangers, such as St Grimbald and Asser the Welshman, resorted. It was the seat of Canute's government; many of the kings, including Ecgberht, Alfred, Edward the Elder and Canute, were buried there, and, in 1043, Edward the Confessor was crowned in the old minster. The city was sometimes granted as part of the dowry of a queen consort, and it was the home of Emma, the wife of Æthelred the Unready and of Canute, and later of Edith, the wife of the Confessor.

Winchester was very prosperous in the years succeeding the Conquest, and its omission, together with London, from Domesday Book is probably an indication of its peculiar position and importance; its proximity to the New Forest commended it to the Norman kings, and Southampton, only 12 m. distant, was one of the chief ports for the continent. The Conqueror wore his crown in state at Winchester every Easter, as he wore it at Westminster at Whitsuntide and at Gloucester at Christmas. The royal treasure continued to be stored there as it had been in Anglo-Saxon times, and was there seized by William Rufus, who, after his father's death, "rode to Winchester and opened the Treasure House." In the reign of Stephen and again in the reign of Henry II. the Court of Exchequer was held at Winchester, and the charter of John promises that the exchequer and the mint shall ever remain in the city; the mint was an important one, and when in 1125 all the coiners of England were tried for false coining those of Winchester alone were acquitted with honour.

Under the Norman kings Winchester was of great commercial importance; it was one of the earliest seats of the woollen trade, which in its different branches was the chief industry of the town, although the evidence furnished by the Liber Winton (temp. Henry I. and Stephen) indicates also a varied industrial life. As early as the reign of Henry I. the gild of weavers is mentioned, and the millers at the same date render their account to the exchequer.

The gild merchant of Winchester claims an Anglo-Saxon origin, but the first authentic reference to it is in one of the charters granted to the city lly Henry II. The Liber Winton speaks of a "cnihts' gild," which certainly existed in the time of the Confessor. The prosperity of Winchester was increased by the St Giles's Fair, originally granted by Rufus to Bishop Walkelin. It was held on St Giles's Hill up to the 19th century, and in the middle ages was one of the chief commercial events of the year. While it lasted St Giles's Hill was covered by a busy town, and no trade was permitted to be done outside the fair within seven leagues, or at Southampton; the jurisdiction of the mayor and bailiffs of the city was in abeyance, that of the bishop's officials taking its place.

From the time of the Conqueror until their expulsion by Edward I., Winchester was the home of a large colony of Jews, whose quarter in the city is marked to the present day by Jewry Street; Winchester is called by Richard of Devizes "the Jerusalem of England" on account of its kind treatment of its Jews, and there alone no anti-Jewish riots broke out after the coronation of Richard I. The corporation of Winchester claims to be one of the oldest in England, but the earliest existing charters are two given by Henry II., one merely granting to "my citizens of Winchester, who are of the gild merchant with their goods, freedom from toll, passage and custom," the other confirming to them all liberties and customs which they enjoyed in the time of Henry I.; further charters, amplified and confirmed by succeeding sovereigns, were granted by Richard I. and John. The governing charter till 1835 was that of 1587, incorporating the city under the title of the "Mayor, Bailiffs and Commonalty of the City of Winchester"; this is the first charter which mentions a mayor, but it says that such an officer had existed "time out of mind," and as early as 897 the town was governed by a wicgerefa, by name Beornwulf, whose death is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. There is a doubtful reference to a mayor in 1194, and the office certainly existed early in the 13th century. Until 1832 the liberty of the soke encompassing the city on almost every side was outside the jurisdiction of the city magistrates, being under the seignioralty of the bishop of Winchester.

Winchester seems to have reached its zenith of prosperity at the beginning of the 12th century; the first check was given during the civil wars of Stephen's reign, when the city was burned. However, the last entry concerning it in the AngloSaxon Chronicle says that Henry Plantagenet, after the treaty of Wallingford, was received with "great worship" in Winchester and London, thus recognizing the equality of the two cities; but the latter was rising at Winchester's expense, and at the second coronation of Richard I. (1294) the citizens of Winchester had the significant mortification of seeing in their own city the citizens of London take their place as cupbearers to the king. The loss of Normandy further favoured the rise of London by depriving Winchester of the advantages it had enjoyed from its convenient position with regard to the continent. Moreover, it suffered severely at the hands of Simon de Montfort the Younger (1265), although it still continued to be an occasional royal residence, and the Statute of Winchester (1285) was passed in a council held there. Meanwhile the woollen trade had drifted in great measure to the east of England; and an attempt made to revive the prosperity of Winchester in the 14th century by making it one of the staple towns proved unsuccessful. The wine trade, which had been considerable, was ruined by the sack of Southampton (1338); a few years later the city was devastated by the black death, and the charter of Elizabeth speaks of "our city of Winchester now fallen into great ruin, decay and poverty." During the Civil War the city suffered much for its loyalty to Charles I. and lost its ancient castle founded by William I. After the Restoration a scheme was started to restore trade by making the Itchen navigable to Southampton, but neither then nor when revived in the 19th century was it successful. Charles II., intending to make Winchester again a royal residence, began a palace there, which being unfinished at his death was used eventually as barracks. It was burnt down in 1894 and rebuilt in 1901. Northgate and Southgate were pulled down in 1781, Eastgate ten years later.

Westgate still stands at the top of the High Street. The guardroom was formerly used as a debtors' prison, now as a museum. The two weekly markets, still held in the Corn Exchange of Wednesday and Saturday, were confirmed by Elizabeth's charter; the latter dates from a grant of Henry VI. abolishing the Sunday market, which had existed from early times. The same grant established three fairs - one on October 13 (the day of the translation of St Edward, king and confessor), one on the Monday and Tuesday of the first week in Lent, and another on St Swithin's day; the former two are still held. Winchester sent two members to parliament from 1295 to 1885, when the representation was reduced to one.

<< Earls and marquesses of Winchester

Winchester, Kentucky >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has articles on:





From the Old English Wintanceastre.

Proper noun




  1. The county town of Hampshire, England; or any of the towns named after it.
  2. A habitational surname.
  3. Usual shortened form for Winchester rifle, typically a lever-action repeater.
  4. A bottle holding a Winchester quart.


Derived terms

  • Winchester gallon
  • Winchester game
  • Winchester goose

Simple English

Winchester is a city in the county of Hampshire, England. It was the capital of Saxon England. It is the home of Winchester College which is the oldest continually living public school in England. Winchester was made the capital city of Wessex by King Egbert in 827, and later made the capital of England. It is around 10 miles from neighbouring city, Southampton.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address