Today we headed to Winchester the birthplace of Anthony George Capper (Tony!) We started our exploration of Tony’s home town at King Alfred’s statue our guide being a walk from the 1001 Great British Walks. We decided we would do the walk first before visiting any of the historic places within the town. Of course there was also an opportunity for Tony to tell tales about his old haunts although surprisingly there was one part of our walk through the water meadows when he said he had never walked there before!
Winchester had an illustrious history. In Roman times, then called Venta Belgarum, it was the 5th largest town in Britain. Alfred the Great in the 9th Century made Winchester the capital of his Wessex kingdom. In the following centuries Winchester ranked alongside London with enormous ecclesiastical and political influence. It was only after the Battle of Naseby in 1645 when Oliver Cromwell took the city that the influence of Winchester started to decline.
Our walk took us first past the striking neo-Gothic Guildhall, then by the cathedral and through the cloisters to Winchester College the oldest public school in England. We then walked through the water meadows of the River Itchen and passed the Hospital of St Cross which was founded in 1136 as a hostel for poor brethren. On our return back to the centre of Winchester we climbed St Catherine’s Hill a definite old haunt of Tony’s which had great views of the city.
On return to the town we visited the ruins of Wolvesey Castle the former 12th century palace of the Bishop of Winchester built by Christopher Wren (St Paul’s Cathedral fame) before Heather visited the impressive Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral was begun in 1079 and was completed three hundred years later. It is the longest medieval church in Europe with a 556 foot nave. The cathedral original foundations were dug in marshy ground and a major underpinning was undertaken in the 1990s to prevent the cathedral falling down! There was a very unassuming tomb stone for the author Jane Austin, who died in Winchester which did not mention her literacy skills. It turns out that her brother placed the stone before her novels became popular. A more informative plaque is now on the wall.
Our final two stops were the Great Hall and the City Mill. The Great Hall is the only remaining part of Winchester Castle. The hall can tell quite a few tales if walls could talk such as Sir Walter Raleigh hearing his death sentence in 1603, Oliver Cromwell destroying the castle and the holding of the Bloody Assizes after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. High on the wall is supposedly King Arthur’s Round Table although the woodwork is believed to be 14th century and the experts reckon the figure of King Arthur looks a lot like Henry VIII! An early reproduction!
The City Mill now restored was built in 1744 but even before that there was a mill on the site. The mill is again operative producing flour although in very small quantities.
It had been an excellent day in Tony’s hometown finished with a final view from St Giles Hill.