First posted November 2013
Winchester in Hampshire is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the country, having had settlements of one sort or another there since the iron age.
The Romans later made it one of their most important towns, extending it until it was the fifth largest town in Roman Britain.
After the fall of the empire however Winchester, like many other English towns of the day, fell into decline.
King Alfred. Great, apparently.
The Anglo Saxons rebuilt much of the town, (Alfred the Great himself laid out the street plan) making it the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex and much of their architecture remains, including this ancient defensive feature, the Westgate. It is one of two remaining gateways, the other being Kingsgate.
Partially rebuilt in the twelfth century, this magnificent fortified gateway (featuring the earliest examples in Britain of inverted archers’ slits, designed specially for hand-held cannon) was still in use as late as 1959, when the High Street was diverted round it.
Next I went on to the Great Hall, which is all that remains on the site of the old castle that once stood here.
Originally built around 1225, the imposing hall looms over the large open courtyard that leads to the main entrance, the intricate stonework forming almost geometric patterns on the walls.
Inside, the cavernous space is surprisingly light, the weak wintery sunlight filtering in through beautifully crafted stained-glass windows.
On one giant wall there hangs the 12th century recreation of King Arthur’s Round Table…
.. and opposite, on the far wall, HRH Prince Charles’s “Wedding Gates”, made to commemorate the 1981 royal wedding.
Queens Victoria and Elizabeth are both immortalised in wooden sculpture, Liz getting a more restrained make-over than poor old Vicky, who looks like a teak Davros.
Finally a stroll down to the cathedral.
Winchester Cathedral was originally built in 1079, but was added to right up until the 16th century, giving it many differing architectural styles.
Then it was time to meander back to the car to continue my journey homewards, via a café for a much-needed coffee, taking a last chance to snap a few interesting shots.
We bid farewell to Winchester as King Alfred saluted the setting sun…
..and what better to play us on our way than The New Vaudeville Band with “Winchester Cathedral”. (after “Peek-a-boo”)
Take it away boys…