Weekly City Spotlight: Winchester


Alfred the Great

Former capital city of ancient England, Winchester is located in the county of Hampshire in the South of England by the River Itchen.  Once the Seat of King Alfred the Great, Winchester offers historical buildings, monuments and museums galore. Rich in heritage from the Great Hall to its medieval Westgate there is much to explore and plenty of attractions to choose from.  2014 is a great time to visit with this year marking 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War, and various events set to take place in Winchester and throughout the surrounding areas to commemorate this historic event.

Historic Winchester
The town of Venta Belgarum was one of the biggest in Roman Britain, later known as Wintanceastre it became the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex in 686 and King Egbert declared it as the main city of his established Kingdom in 827.

Alfred the Great (pictured above) developed the cross shaped street system that remains in place today, and built a series of fortifications known as Burghs to protect the city and other areas of the South Coast.  Evidence of the city walls remains in place today, with gateways including Durngate and Kings Gate allowing access to the then Capital of England.  London would later be named capital taking the title from Winchester following the Norman Conquest.

William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester was responsible for the construction of Winchester Cathedral located in the ecclesiastical quarter of the city as well as Winchester College.  The cathedral is one of the largest ever built in England and one of the longest in Europe measuring over 170 metres in length.  It is the final resting place of numerous monarchs including Egbert of Wessex and was the original burial place of King Alfred and Edward the Elder, with the grave of Jane Austen also located within the cathedral.

Winchester Castle was founded in 1067 and today houses one of Winchester’s many museums where more can be explored about this historically significant city.  The Great Hall houses the Winchester Round Table which dates back to 1275 and features the names of the Knights of King Arthur and is a popular tourist attraction.

Popular Culture
Winchester is an historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Elizabeth The Golden Age (2007) starred Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush and reflects on the latter part of Elizabeth’s reign and the ensuing court intrigue.  Shot on location throughout the UK, scenes were filmed at Winchester Cathedral.

The Da Vinci Code (2006) was directed by Ron Howard and based on the Dan Brown novel, Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno starred in this mystery thriller with Winchester Cathedral again featuring in a number of shots.

Pride and Prejudice (2005), Joe Wright directed this screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starring in the classic love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Winchester was used as a filming location for this romantic tale.

Social Media
Additional information on Winchester can be found on its official website Visit Winchester as well as its Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest accounts.

Famous Faces
Jack Dee moved to the city of Winchester when he was a small boy and attended The Pilgrim’s School, Montgomery of Alamein School and Peter Symonds’ College all within Winchester. Dee is famously known for his stand-up comedy delivered in a deadpan style, but is also an accomplished actor and writer and has fronted The Jack Dee Show and Jack Dee’s Happy Hour as well as appearing on many other TV shows.  Dee is also a Director of Open Mike Productions which he co-founded.

Award winning actor Colin Firth moved to Winchester as a child with both of his parents working as lecturers at King Alfred’s College.  Probably best known for playing Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice other works starring Firth have included Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually and Shakespere in Love.

Philippa Forester was born in Winchester on 20th September 1968 and also studied at Peter Symonds’ College and went on to present and produce in both television and radio.  Forester is also a successful author and together with husband Charlie Hamilton James has made a series of wildlife programmes.

King Alfred
The famous statue of King Alfred was designed by Hamo Thornycroft and can be found on the eastern end of Winchester’s Broadway.  The statue marks 1000 years since the death of King Alfred, having been placed in the city in 1899.


Winchester College

Winchester College
Winchester College is renowned as the oldest continuously running school in the country and one of Winchester’s oldest landmarks.  Dating back to 1382 when it was founded by the Bishop of Winchester William of Wykeham, the college buildings comprise of a 14th century Gothic Chapel, and in the 17th century the cloisters, chamber court and redbrick schoolrooms were added.  Today the college is attended by over 700 boys with an age range of 13 to 18 years old.

The Buttercross
Dating back to the 15th century the City Cross or Buttercross as it is also known can be found in the High Street, with the intricate carvings featuring 12 statues including the Virgin Mary and other historical and religious figures.  The purpose of a Buttercross was to indicate the market place of a town with fresh produce laid out for neighbouring villages to purchase.  In 1770 the people of Winchester organised a small riot in order to prevent the Buttercross being removed after Thomas Drummer had tried to buy the cross and relocate it to Cranbury Park.

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