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Winchester city centre from St Giles's Hill
Winchester shown within Hampshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||68 miles|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SO22, SO23|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Winchester city centre from St Giles's Hill
Winchester shown within Hampshire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||68 miles|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SO22, SO23|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Winchester is a city and the county town of Hampshire, 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 National Park, along the course of the River Itchen. It is situated 68 miles (109 km) south-west of London and 13.6 miles (21.9 km) from Southampton, its other closest city. 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 city is also home to the University of Winchester and Winchester College, the oldest public school in the United Kingdom. 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. Its Old English name was Wintan-ceastre.
The area around Winchester has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with three Iron Age hillforts, Oram's Arbour, St. Catherine's Hill and Worthy Down all in the nearby 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 during that latter half of the second century.
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 ha), making it among the largest towns 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.
Urban life collapsed around 450, but an administrative centre may have continued on the site of the later royal palace. Cemeteries dating to the sixth and seventh centuries suggest a revival of settlement, and in 648 King Cenwalh of Wessex constructed the Church of St Peter and St Paul, which later became known as the Old Minster. This became a cathedral when the West Saxon bishopric was transferred from Dorchester-on-Thames to Winchester in the 660s. The present form of the city dates to reconstruction in the late ninth century on a grid plan by King Alfred the Great to provide defence against the Vikings, which obliterated the Roman street plan. The city's first mint appears to date from this period.
In the early tenth century there were two new ecclesiastical establishments, the convent of Nunnaminster, founded by Alfred's widow Ealhswith, and the New Minster. Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester was a leading figure in the monastic reform movement of the later tenth century. He expelled the secular canons of both minsters and replaced them with monks. He also created the drainage system, the 'Lockburn', which served as the town drain until 1875, and still survives. Also in the late tenth century, the Old Minster was enlarged as a centre of the cult of the ninth century Bishop of Winchester, Saint Swithun. The three minsters were the home of what architectural historian John Crook describes as "the supreme artistic achievements" of the Winchester School.
Although the consensus among historians of Anglo-Saxon England is that the court was mobile in this period and there was no fixed capital, Winchester is commonly described as the ancient capital of Wessex.
A serious fire in the city in 1141, during the Rout of Winchester, accelerated its decline. However, William of Wykeham 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.
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 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 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.
Winchester is situated on a bed of cretaceous lower chalk with small areas of clayey and loamy soil, inset with combined clay and rich sources of fullers earth. The nearest Met Office station is in Martyr Worthy, just outside of the city.
|Climate data for Martyr Worthy, Winchester (1981-2010)|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||1.3|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||77|
|Avg. rainy days||12||9||10||9||9||8||9||8||9||11||12||12||118|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||58||81||108||165||195||190||199||191||142||110||71||53||1,563|
|Source: Met Office |
Winchester is currently represented in the House of Commons through the Winchester Parliamentary Constituency by Steve Brine of the Conservatives who in the General Election of 2010 beat Martin Tod, the Liberal Democrat candidate, by 3048 votes (a margin of 5.4%). Mark Oaten had previously won the seat for the Liberal Democrats during the 1997 general election in which he defeated Gerry Malone, a Health Minister in John Major's Conservative Government who had held the seat since 1992.
Winchester local elections take place in three out of every four years, with one third of the councillors elected in each election. From the 2006 election until the 2010 election the council was led by Conservatives. In 2010 briefly by the Liberal Democrats again and since 2011 by the Conservatives.
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 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) 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 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 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 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 five military museums. (The training which used to be carried out at the barracks is now done by the Army Training Regiment Winchester, otherwise known as Sir John Moore Barracks, two miles outside the city.)
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 way to Canterbury.
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. The museum was one of the first purpose-built museums to be constructed outside London. Local items featured include the Roman 'Venta' gallery, and some genuine period shop interiors taken from the nearby High Street. Other places of cultural interest include the Westgate Museum (which showcases various items of weaponry), and the Historic Resources Centre, which holds many records related to the history of the city.
Other important historic buildings include the Guildhall dating from 1871 in the Gothic revival style, the Royal Hampshire County Hospital designed by William Butterfield and Winchester City Mill, one of the city's several water mills driven by the River Itchen that run through the city centre. The mill has recently been restored, and is again milling corn by water power. It 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 day office 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 by contemporary developments more sympathetic to the medieval urban fabric of the Old Town.
Winchester has a variety of Church of England primary schools, including both state and private provision schools. St. Peters Catholic Primary School had the had the highest SATS results, after achieving a perfect score of 300 in 2011. Compton Primary School follows a close second and then Micheldever CofE, which is located just outside the city.
There are three state comprehensive secondary schools in Winchester; the Henry Beaufort School, Kings' School Winchester and The Westgate School are all situated in the city. A fourth specialist state school, the Osborne School is also located in Winchester.
Among the independent junior/preparatory schools, there are The Pilgrims' School Winchester, the Prince's Mead School and Twyford School which is situated just outside of the city. There are also two major independent senior schools in Winchester. These schools include the St Swithun's (a day and boarding school for girls from nursery to sixth form) and the Winchester College, a boys' public school founded by William of Wykeham.
Winchester College still occupies its original buildings dating from 1382; two courtyards, gatehouse, cloister, hall and a large college chapel. The college expanded considerably in Victorian and later times, and now has 10 boarding houses in addition to "College" for the scholars. It also owns "The Water Meadows", through which the River Itchen runs. The college sets its own entrance exams.
Both schools often top the examination result tables for the city and county.
The University of Winchester (formerly King Alfred's College) is a public university based in Winchester and the surrounding area. The University origins go back as far as 1840 - originally as a Diocesan teacher training centre. King Alfred's, the main campus, is located on a purpose built campus near the city centre. The newly completed West Downs is a short walk away, and houses student facilities and accommodation and the business school.
Peter Symonds College is the main college that serves Winchester and is one of the region's more highly rated sixth form colleges. It began as a Grammar School for boys in 1897, and became a co-educational Sixth-form college, now one of the largest in the country, in 1974. The original foundation goes back to a charity established by the will of a wealthy local merchant in 1607.
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 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.
Winchester has a rugby union team named Winchester RFC and a thriving athletics club called Winchester and District AC. The city also has a thriving successful Hockey Club, with ten men's and three ladies' teams catering to all ages and abilities.
Lawn bowls is played at several clubs. The oldest bowling green belongs to Friary Bowling Club (first used in 1820), whilst the oldest bowls club is Hyde Abbey Bowling Club (established in 1812). Riverside Indoor Bowling Club remains open during the winter months.
Winchester College invented and gave its name to Winchester College Football, played exclusively at the College and in some small African/South American communities.
Winchester is located near the M3 motorway and at the meeting of the A34, A31, A3090 and A272 roads. Once a major traffic bottleneck, the city still suffers from congestion at peak times. It is just to the south of the A303 and A30, which is the major gateway to the West Country.
Local, rural and Park and Ride bus services are provided by Stagecoach, who provide services to Andover, Alton, Basingstoke, Petersfield, Romsey and Fareham. Bluestar provide services run to Eastleigh and Southampton localities. Many services are subsidised by Hampshire County Council and community transport schemes are available in areas without a regular bus service. National Express coaches provide services mainly to; Bournemouth, Poole, Portsmouth and London. Megabus also provide longer distance services.
Winchester railway station is served by South West Trains trains from London Waterloo, Weymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, as well as by CrossCountry Trains between Bournemouth, and either Manchester or Newcastle via Birmingham. Historically it was also served by a line to London via Alton which partially survives as the Watercress Line. Additionally there was a second station called Winchester Chesil served by the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway, this closed in the 1960s.
Winchester Combined Court Centre consists of a Crown Court and County Court. It is administered by Her Majesty's Courts Service, an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Justice. Winchester is a first-tier court centre and is visited by High Court judges for criminal and also for civil cases (in the District Registry of the High Court). One of the most high-profile cases to be heard here was the Rose West murder trial in 1995.
Winchester also has a separate District Probate registry which is part of the High Court. This Court is separate from the main Court establishment at the top of Winchester High Street and deals only with probate matters.
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 city centre.
Three newspapers are published for Winchester. The paid-for broadsheet Hampshire Chronicle, which started out in 1772 reporting national and international news, now concentrates on Winchester and the surrounding area. There are also two free tabloid-sized papers for the city: the Winchester News Extra (also owned by 'Gannett') and the independent Mid-Hants Observer.
Winchester had its own radio station, Win FM, from October 1999 to October 2007.
In 2003 Winchester was ranked 5th in a league of 50 'crap towns' in the UK nominated by readers of The Idler magazine. In the 2006, however, the Channel 4 television programme The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK, broadcast on 26 October, the city was celebrated as the "Best Place in the UK to Live in: 2006". In the 2007 edition of the same programme, Winchester had slipped to second place, behind Edinburgh.
A number of public figures and celebrities were students at Peter Symonds College in Winchester, including TV presenter and model Alexa Chung, singer-songwriter and drummer Andy Burrows, glamour model Lucy Pinder, comedian Jack Dee, and singer/actress Gina Beck, heavy metal drummer and teacher Joe Butterworth. Electronic musician Luke Trudgett. Actor Colin Firth is from Winchester and was educated at Montgomery of Alamein School (now Kings' School). The singer-songwriter Frank Turner hails from Winchester, a fact that he often mentions at concerts as well as in his songs. The band Polly and the Billets Doux formed in Winchester, and are still based in the city. 2011 saw Winchester's first ever Oxjam Takeover music festival, held on 22 October.
In the medieval narrative poem, Sir Orfeo, the main character Sir Orfeo is King of Winchester, which is said to be the modern name of Thrace. The final combat of the romance hero Guy of Warwick against the giant Colbrand takes place outside the walls of Winchester.
A scene in Henry Esmond (1852) by William Makepeace Thackeray is set in the choir of Winchester cathedral. Winchester is in part the model for Barchester in the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope, who attended Winchester College; The Warden (1855) is said to be based on a scandal at the Hospital of St Cross. A fictionalised Winchester appears as Wintoncester in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891). Some of the action in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Adventure of the Copper Beeches (1892) takes place in the city.
In Charles Kingsley's romantic history Hereward the Wake (1866), Hereward smashes his ash lance against the doors of the Westgate, Winchester showing by the strength of his arm that it is he. William the Conqueror is so impressed that he pardons him.
In Gerry Anderson's 1967 and 1968 programme Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, background material published by, or with the approval of, Anderson identifies Winchester as the birthplace of the main character, Captain Scarlet, real name Paul Metcalfe.
Winchester is the main location of John Christopher's post-apocalyptic science fiction series, Sword of the Spirits. Winchester Cathedral is featured in James Herbert's horror novel The Fog. The Siege of Winchester in 1141, part of The Anarchy (a 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. 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 movie Merlin, King Uther's first conquest of Britain begins with Winchester, which Merlin foresaw would fall.
In the novel The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, which traces English historical events from 1123 C.E. to 1174 C.E., Winchester and its cathedral figure prominently in several chapters. The fictional town of Kingsbridge in the novel is based on Winchester, as Follet explained in the first episode of his Channel 4 2013 documentary series Ken Follett's Journey into the Dark Ages. Accounts of wool merchants and their trading with sheep farmers in Winchester are related to the reader. The reign of Stephen is described and his military actions are recounted, including first-person "reporting" of the Battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141.
In the Japanese manga Death Note, The Wammy's House, an orphanage founded by Quillish Wammy, where the detective L's successors (Mello, Near, and Matt) are raised, is located in Winchester.
In the novel One Day by David Nicholls, the male protagonist Dexter Mayhew went to the public school Winchester College. This is frequently referred to throughout the book, as well as mentioning St. Swithin's Day and the St. Swithin's weather myth.
Patrick Gale's 2009 book The Whole Day Through is set in Winchester. In S. M. Stirling's 2007 novel, The Sunrise Lands, it is revealed that the British capital has been moved to Winchester. Winchester is an important setting in The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell.
The Winchester district is twinned with
Winchester, Virginia, is named after the English city, whose Mayor has a standing invitation to be a part of the American city's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. Winchester also gave its name (Frenchified to Bicêtre) to a suburb of Paris, from a manor built there by John of Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, at the end of the 13th century. It is now the commune of Le Kremlin-Bicêtre.
|Littleton and Harestock||Abbotts Barton|
|Compton and Shawford||Owslebury|
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Winchester.|