Members Login: Remember Me Need your login details?

A Short Tour of Historic Winchester

Winchester has such a long and varied history, it would be difficult to mention it all in one short article. I would like to lead you on a walk round this ancient city, that during its history has been the capital of Wessex, the capital of England, and the seat of Parliament.

We begin at the City Mill, one of my favourite places. Built in 1744 on the site of a medieval mill, its fabulous architecture strikes the senses; you could stand for ages absorbing the sense of time this building conveys.

Alongside the mill, the River Itchen flows peacefully by – the Romans, in recognition of its potential as a natural defence, built a wall here. As we stroll on, we can only imagine the appearance of the impressive East Gate that once stood along from the mill.

Walking towards the city centre you will see the commemorative statue of Alfred, King of Wessex, who used the city as his capital.

Further up the High Street we come to the City Cross. Built in the 15th century, and restored in 1865, the majestically masoned cross stands before a fine timbered house. Adjacent to the Cross is the Pentice  –  a row of shops sheltered by overhanging storeys. William the Conqueror`s Palace once stood here; he used the city as a capital, shared jointly with London. Looking back at the Pentice we see the Street Art. Its depiction of the trade emblems, like an old Boot hanging above a shop, or the municipal heraldry, is testament to Winchesters’ fine history.

The stunning West Gate is at the far end of the High Street. Whilst there has been a gate here since Roman times, the present gate is only around 600 years old!

After a  short walk, we arrive at The Great Hall. Built between 1222 and 1236 for Henry III, an 18ft diameter round table hangs high on the inside of the west wall. Some say this was King Arthur’s legendary round table; it was repainted in 1522 for the meeting and visit to Winchester of Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII.

Proceeding down Southgate and turning left into St Swithun Street, you come to King’s Gate, one of the surviving medieval gateways. It is believed to have been added around 1148 for the convenience of the Bishops, citizens and monks of St Swithun’s Priory.

Winchester - St. Swithun upon Kingsgate
Winchester – St. Swithun upon Kingsgate. Photograph supplied by John Perry (Member 12927).

Nearby is College Street; No 8 is the house where Jane Austen died in 1817, at the age of 42. She moved here from Chawton following ill health, to be closer to her doctor.

Winchester College is a short distance away. It was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham to train scholars for the Church. The college is still a seat of learning, and students are often seen hurrying from one building to another.

Back through King’s Gate, we pass the Deanery. Winchester’s first cathedral was begun in 642 by King Cenwealh of Wessex, the present cathedral was begun in 1079. Amongst others, Jane Austen, King Cnut and Alfred’s grandfather King Egbert, are buried here.

Winchester - Cathedral
Winchester – Cathedral. Photograph supplied by Jeff Saunders.

By 1900 the cathedral was sinking under its own weight, as the Norman foundations consisted of logs which were laid on bogland. The structure had to be underpinned with concrete. In preparation William Walker, an underwater diver, worked under the foundations for five years to remove peat and decayed timber.

There are a whole host of interesting sights that I have not mentioned. If you get a chance, visit this beautiful city and you will be able to discover for yourself the pleasures that it has to offer.

By Linda Evans

Acknowledgements:
  • A walk-round guide Winchester
  • A Brief History of Winchester

both obtained from the Tourist Information Centre.

Town Tours in Britian by the Readers Digest.

Latest News

Old Alresford village booklet now available

Old Alresford, (VB100) is located midway between Alton and Winchester just north of New Alresford which is on the A31. Alresford Pond is a large lake created in the 12th Century at the head of the River Arle, a tributary of the River Itchen. Several water mills have existed along the river with the restored […]


Knowle War Memorial

Knowle Hospital was open in 1852 as the Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum. The asylum was renamed Knowle Mental Hospital in c.1923 and following the 1948 introduction of the National Health Service Act, became Knowle Hospital. At the beginning of the 20th century, Knowle Hospital was home to over 1000 patients and staff and was a self […]


Free Data in the Members’ Area

For some time HGS has had the intention of making some of its large collection of Family History data available to members in the Members’ Area of our website. With the development of our website we have now been able to begin this process and the first set to be introduced is of various ‘small churchyards’ […]


RIP Private Herbert Frank French

Herbert Frank FRENCH was born on 21st April 1884 at 11 Hyde Close in Winchester, the illegitimate son of Emily. On 18th January 1908 he married Sarah Ann (Annie) BIGNELL in Meonstoke and then settled in the village to raise their daughters Emily and Ivy. Herbert was initially in the Territorial Army then when WWI […]


Can you help

 We have recently been passed a copy of a photograph with a request for more information, maybe the location or the purpose. A comment with the photo says that the men were in training but didn’t say what for. 


All News...


Archives: