Winchester is an historic city, once the capital of Wessex, and of England, was the seat of King of King Alfred (the Great) after his coronation in 871. His Bishop and advisor Swuthun (or Swithun), had died in 861 and it is said that when his grave was opened in 971 so that his remains could be moved to the Old Minster, forty days of rain ensued. Saint Swithin’s Day (or Swuthun’s Day) is on the 15th of July and we still have the superstition that if it rains on this date, there will be forty days of rain. It only applies if it rains in Winchester, but these days we tend to believe that if it rains anywhere in Britain on this day there will be forty days of rain and another wet summer! You can now visit the ruins of Winchester’s mediaeval Bishop’s Palace, Wolvesey Castle.
William the Conqueror extended the Saxon royal palace in Winchester and also built the castle there. The Great Hall with its mediaeval round table is the only part of the castle still standing, but it is well worth a visit.
The cathedral in Winchester was founded in the 7th century AD. It was begun by Cenwalh the son of Cynegils who was one of the first kings to be become a Christian in Britain. The small church, built in the shape of a cross was known as the Old Minster and this became a cathedral. The cathedral you can see today in Winchester has been added to over the centuries and is a magnificent example of church architecture.
In August 2013 permission was finally given for the remains from an unmarked grave to be examined to find out if they are those of King Alfred.
Today visitors to Winchester can visit the Great Hall of the Castle and the Cathedral, and wander around the picturesque streets. It is close to the New Forest and is a good base for exploring Hampshire and its environs. There is an annual Festival of the Arts in Winchester in July, and you might be lucky to see some Morris dancing if you visit this city.
Jane Austen the novelist died in Winchester and was buried in the north aisle of the Cathedral. Winchester also has links with Thomas Hardy who made a reference to St. Thomas’ Church in his novel, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” which was first published in 1891.
Beaulieu is not far from Winchester and this is ideal of vintage car enthusiasts and there is an abbey there too. The Whitchurch silk mill, (also close to Winchester) is still a working mill and has been producing silk since 1825 and there is the City Mill on the River Itchen which has regular milling demonstrations and an interactive exhibition along with quizzes for children.
Winchester has many restaurants, pubs and hotels and there is something for all members of the family to do there.