diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day out: Winchester
Long before London was the nation's capital, the seat of kings lay in deepest Hampshire. Winchester was established as the capital of Wessex about 1200 years ago, surrendering its superiority to London only following the Norman Conquest. Its most famous ruler was the legendary King Alfred, the only English monarch ever to be officially deemed 'Great'. His statue now stands at the foot of the High Street [photo], conveniently located for the tourist information office, and looking down over a row of Park and Ride bus stops. Winchester's a bit like that, marvellously old but with a twist of new, and it made for a splendid spring day out.
  » Visit Winchester

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral naveWhere else to start but the cathedral? [photo] It's the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe, 170 metres in length, and a mighty imposing sight visible across the city [photo]. There used to be an Old Minster nextdoor, dating all the way back to 648AD, but that's now visible only in outline on the grass. Five quid will get you inside its replacement, and then you can gawp in wonder at the scale and spectacle of medieval architecture. The nave is most impressive [photo], with a high vaulted ceiling above tall Norman arches, and you may either choose to sit here in quite contemplation or whip your camera out and attempt to take arty shots [photo]. Jane Austen is buried beneath a plaque in the northern aisle, and the house in which she spent her last days is only a few yards round the corner in College Street [photo]. Beyond the low altar is the medieval quire [photo], packed with ornate carvings and (if you pick your time right) angelic voices in cassocks. Look up on top of the screens in front of the high altar and you'll see six painted mortuary chests containing the relics of several Saxon and Danish kings. Canute's up there, and Ethelwulf, and the odd important bishop too. Alas there's no trace of the most famous bishop of all, 9th century St Swithun. His shrine has been plundered, shifted and destroyed over the years, but you can still see the tiny arch through which pilgrims used to crawl to pay their respects [photo]. The glazed floor tiles here are some of the oldest surviving in the country, and it's a joy to step across their delicately crafted heraldic and geometric patterns [photo][photo]. Take the stairs in the south transept and you can climb up to view the Winchester Bible, an exquisite document inked by generations of monks with perfect handwriting, and illustrated by vivid gold-leaf drawings. As the building's creators once hoped, this space is still heavenly.

Winchester Round TableGreat Hall: Only the 13th century Great Hall survived Cromwell's demolition of Winchester Castle. The beam-roofed building's impressive enough, but completely upstaged by the Round Table hanging on the west wall [photo]. It's not the genuine Round Table of legend, alas, just an 18-foot oak reconstruction ordered by one of the Plantagenet King Edwards. And that's not Arthur in the centre, that's King Henry VIII who had the table repainted to impress a visiting European monarch.

City Mill: Recently restored by the National Trust, this 18th century watermill squats over the River Itchen at the foot of the High Street [photo]. There are some beams and wheels and ropes to gawp at, and maybe some otters too if you time your visit right. The best bit, almost but not quite worth the £3.50 entrance fee, is the opportunity to stand in a confined space downstairs and watch the river thundering through the millrace.
Buttercross: A many-pinnacled monument halfway down the High Street, once the centrepiece of medieval market trading, and now just somewhere to sit and nibble something unhealthy from one of the two neighbouring pasty shops [photo].
St Giles' Hill: The perfect city viewpoint [photo], just a short climb beyond the Itchen, whose grassy slopes are promoted as the best place in town to watch the sunset.

City Museum: This town has 2000 years of history, so there's a lot to cram in. Top floor Roman (with some impressively large chunks of tiled mosaic), middle floor Alfred's kingdom (and a canter through the subsequent millennium), and on the ground floor Winchester's more recent tourist and commercial heritage (including an evocative recreation of a 1960s corner shop).
Westgate: Another museum, this time accessed by climbing up to rooms above the old city gate. It's not a thriller (ooh look, a complete set of Winchester's historic weights and measures), but the view from the roof almost makes up for it [photo].
Military Museums: If you're the type who loves pottering around museums depicting army life, Winchester has a cluster of six. There's one devoted to the Gurkhas, another to the horseback Hussars, another for the Royal Greenjackets, etc. They're all housed in the former Peninsula Barracks, built on the site of Winchester Castle. Me, I gave them a miss and enjoyed the central formal gardens instead [photo].

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards