One uncharacteristically warm and bright Sunday, we decided to finally make a long-awaited trip to Winchester.
The town of Winchester is located in Hampshire and is arguably one of the most historically significant places in England. Winchester was known as Venta Belgarum during the Roman reign and also spent time as a fortified town during the Iron Age. As would be expected, the town’s rich history is still on display today through ruins, museums and iconic landmarks such as Winchester cathedral. We were pretty excited to take a step back in time.
We arrived with enough daylight hours remaining to be able take in the bustling Sunday market. We were greeted with fresh food and flowers in the sunshine.
Along the high street, we also came across the town’s Buttercross. The cross, which is adorned with several statues of saints such as the Virgin Mary, dates back to the fifteenth century.Famously, the cross was almost taken from the town in 1770 by MP Thomas Drummer who attempted to purchase it and relocate it. However, protests from the townspeople put a stop to that. These days, the cross is protected as a scheduled ancient monument which means it’s not going anywhere.
A walk up the high street led us to The Great Hall.
The Great Hall is one of the “finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th Century.” It’s an impressive building that has witnessed many battles and held many trials for terrorism and treason over the centuries.
It’s also home to a few secret passages and underground connections to Winchester castle.
To go into the hall, you do have to pay an admission fee (£3 – a bargain!). This gives you access to the Long Hall which aims to fill you in on its’ the rich history.
As well as that, gaining entry allows you to see one of the most iconic and magical artifacts in British mythology – the Round Table.
King Arthur’s famed Round Table was where he and his knights would gather. During the Middle Ages, festivals featuring jousting and dancing called Round Tables were celebrated throughout Europe in imitation of Arthur’s court. The Table bears the names of the various knights of Arthur’s court and it’s estimated that it dates back to 1250-1280 during the reign of King Edward. Apparently, the King was a fan of the legendary tales of Arthur and often hosted Round Table tournaments.
The Hall also features a lot of other history. In 1897, a statue of Queen Victoria was installed in the hall.
Almost a hundred years later, in 1981, the Royal Wedding Gates were installed to commemorate the royal wedding of Prince Charles and (the late) Diana Spencer. They definitely remind me of something you’d see on the set of Game of Thrones!
Made of stainless stell with transome grilles, they were apparently the first of their kind in the world. Above the gates is a family tree of sorts, documenting royal unions throughout British history.
As well as that, our most recent monarch also has a special place amongst the documented history in the hall. A bronze cast of Queen Elizabeth II is placed by the statue of Queen Victoria.
The stained glass windows were my personal favourite.
Next, we walked towards Winchester Cathedral.
It’s a piece of architecture that really takes your breath away. As one of the largest and oldest Gothic cathedrals in Europe, Winchester cathedral has an eerie beauty about it.
We didn’t get to explore much of the cathedral as we arrived close to evensong but what we did get to glimpse from the pews was pretty spectacular.
And if I’d have thought the stained glass windows in the Great Hall were impressive – I definitely had another think coming!
If you plan to visit Winchester, the cathedral is a must-visit. There’s always a lot going on, so be sure to check the website for any special events. When we visited, there was a special commemoration to Jane Austen, celebrating 200 years since her death.
It was a shame we visited at a time of the year when the days are short as we really didn’t get to see or explore as much as we wanted to. A walk through the streets of Winchester is very much a walk through history and that kind of walking can take some time! However, longer and brighter days are just around the corner so we will definitely be back.