While the focus of Hampshire normally goes to Southampton, or to a lesser extent Portsmouth, a visit here is not complete without exploring Winchester, the old English Capital City.
Before London became the bustling metropolis that it is today, England’s seat of power was in Winchester. It cannot be established with certainty when the first settlement was founded, but the site was developed by the Romans and was called Venta Belgarum. When the Romans withdrew from Britain in around 400 AD, Winchester began to take shape under the Anglo Saxons.
In this culture, the King’s Court was often moved around, but more often than not, it convened in this city. Winchester’s most prominent landmark is its cathedral, which is one of the largest Gothic buildings of its kind in Europe. It was completed in 1079 and while not the biggest in the continent, it does hold the record for being the longest one.
Winchester also houses the Bishop’s castle and palace from the Norman times. Its title is Wolvesey Castle and Palace and was built on the site of an earlier Saxon structure. It was completed in 1110. It is now a ruin, but it still attracts a lot of visitors.
Winchester Castle is known for its Great Hall, which was built around the year 2013. It is home to the King Arthur’s Round Table, which still hangs from the ceiling. Whether or not it is the real one remains a matter of debate, but the locals will swear blindly that it is. Other landmarks include the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester Guildhall, the City Water mill and the Westgate Museum which features items of weaponry and armor from through the ages.
Today, Winchester has a population of about 50,000 people. It has a university and a nearby equestrian college. It is one of those old British cities that you just have to walk around and enjoy, imagining the sights and sounds that you could have seen hundreds of years ago.