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Hampshire Rose Emblem

WINCHESTER

by Linda Evans

With Winchester's long and varied history, it would be difficult to put everything in this short article on the County Town of Hampshire. However, in this piece I would like to lead you around a city that has been both the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex, the capital of England and the seat of parliament during its flavoured history. Let us take a walk and breathe in the atmosphere of this ancient city.

We begin at one of my favourite places, The City Mill. Built in 1744 and standing on the site of a medieval mill. Its fabulous architecture strikes the senses. You can stand for ages just absorbing the sense of time that the building conveys. The River Itchen following peacefully by belies its use as a natural defence. The Romans, seeing this, built a wall here and as we wander along we can imagine the impressive Eastgate that once stood just along from the mill.

As we walk towards the city centre you will see the commemorative statue of Alfred, King of Wessex, who utilised the city as his capital. Strolling straight 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 joint capital 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 for example, or the municipal heraldry is testament to Winchesters' fine history.

At the far end of the High Street is the stunning Westgate. Whilst there has been a gate here since Roman times the present gate is only around 600 years old! A very short walk on and we come to The Great Hall. Built between 1222 and 1236 for Henry III, inside high on the West wall hangs an 18ft diameter round table. Some saying that this was Arthur's legendary round table, the table was repainted for the visit to Winchester and the meeting of Emperor Charles V and Henry VIII in 1522.

If you proceed down Southgate and turn left into St. Swithun Street, named after a former, and possibly the cities most famous Bishop, you will come to Kingsgate. This is believed to have been added around 1148 for the convenience of the Bishops, citizens and monks of the Priory of St. Swithun.

Nearby in College Street is a house once occupied by Jane Austen. The famous writer moved here from Chawton following ill health and in order to be closer to her doctor. She died at the age of 42 in 1817.

Close by is Winchester College founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham to train scholars for the Church. The college is still a seat of teaching and you can often see young scholars busily rushing from one building to another.

Going back through Kingsgate we pass the Deanery. It is a statement of the importance that the church has had in shaping this cities destiny. The first cathedral was begun in 642 by King Cenwealh of Wessex, the present was begun in 1079. Within these solemn walls Jane Austen, Saxon Kings such as King Canute and Alfred's grandfather King Egbert, and others are buried. The Norman foundations consisted of logs laid on bogland but by 1900 the cathedral was sinking under its own weight. William Walker, an underwater diver, worked for five years under the foundations removing the peat and decayed timber, so the structure could be underpinned with concrete.

It is here that I leave you to wander at your leisure, knowing that there is a whole host of interesting sights that I have not mentioned. When you get a chance to visit this beautiful city you will be able to discover for yourself, as I have, the pleasures that this city offers.

Acknowledgements: A walk-round guide Winchester and A Brief History of Winchester both obtained from the Tourist Information Centre, and Town Tours in Britian by the Readers Digest.
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