Visit Winchester and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Winchester, Hampshire. The story of Winchester runs like a golden thread through the country's history. Already an important town in Roman times, it became the capital under the Anglo-Saxons, and in Alfred's time (871-901) was a great centre of learning. William the Conqueror kept Winchester as his capital, though by this time London was almost of equal importance. As late as the 17th century Charles 11 planned a palace here.
Since it is closely linked with history, buildings of interest are not hard to find. The city's focal point is the High Street, ornamented by a 15th-century cross, restored in the 19th century, and a statue to King Alfred. Nearby is the 19th-century Guildhall, and not far away a Plague monument, commemorating 1666 but erected in 1759. There are many little alleyways decorated by houses of all centuries and each is worth exploration.
At one end of the High Street is Westgate which, together with Kingsgate near the cathedral, is one of the original five city gates. Mainly 13th-century, it has magnificent views from the top.
Winchester is rich in important buildings. Of William the Conqueror's castle, from which the Empress Matilda escaped hidden in a coffin in the 12th century, not much remains, since it was demolished by Parliament during the Civil War in return for declaring for the King. But at Castle Hall, near Westgate, the great Hall can still be seen. Completed in 1235, it is a magnificent example of l3th-century domestic architecture and can be visited, It is now an assize court. Walter Raleigh was condemned to death here in 1603 and the notorious Judge Jeffreys held court here in 1685. On the wall hangs what is called King Arthur's Round Table, marked out and inscribed for his knights. It was refurbished in Tudor times to honour the visiting emperor, Charles V.
Wolvesey, another castle, was originally built in 1138 by Bishop Henry de Blois, half-brother to King Stephen. Mary Tudor spent her honeymoon here, but later the castle was slighted by Cromwellian forces. However, romantic ruins have survived, and in 1684 a new palace was built, completing the west wing, which is still the bishop's palace. Nearby are parts of the old city walls.
Of the many churches, St John the Baptist's is the most interesting. Mainly in Transitional Norman style, there is a splendid geometrical Decorated window in the south wall, and some outstanding l3th-century wail paintings.
But no church can compete with the magnificence of the cathedral. One stood here in Anglo-Saxon times, but after the Conquest the new building was started in 1079 by Bishop Walkelyn and consecrated in 1093. Work from this period can still be seen in the crypt, transepts and east part of the cloister. Between 1189 and 1204 Bishop de Lucy extended the choir and built the Lady Chapel. During the 14th century William of Edington, who also built Edington Priory, started to refashion the west front and nave in Perpendicular style and this work was completed by his successor William of Wykeham.
Thus the cathedral shows architectural styles from massive Norman to graceful Perpendicular. It is the second longest in Europe. Among the cathedral treasures are a magnificent 12th-century black marble font from Tournai with vigorous carvings depicting legends from the life of St Nicholas - a boy saved from drowning and decapitated heads restored; and the great Winchester Bible also dating from the 12th century.
Many kings lie here, as do the famous, among them Jane Austen and Izaak Walton, but unfortunately St Swithun's tomb, though marked, has been destroyed. There is much else of beauty, including the paintings in the part 13th-century Lady Chapel, the Chapel of the Guardian Angels and the beautiful chantry chapels to William of Wykeham, Bishop Langton and others.
Winchester lies in a hollow so you do not see much on approach, but there are magnificent views from both St Giles Hill, east of the city and now a park, and from St Catherine's Hill to the south east There is a mizmaze, or old labyrinth, here, as at Breamore, and an ancient Iron Age fort.
Nearby cities: Salisbury, Southampton
Nearby towns: Andover, Basingstoke, Eastleigh, New Alresford, Petersfield, Romsey, Whitchurch
Nearby villages: Littleton, Northington, Sparsholt, Shawford, South Wonston, Stockbridge
Have you decided to visit Winchester or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Winchester bed and breakfast (a Winchester B&B or Winchester b and b)
- a Winchester guesthouse
- a Winchester hotel (or motel)
- a Winchester self-catering establishment, or
- other Winchester accommodation