[win-ches-ter, -chuh-ster]
Winchester, town (1991 pop. 34,127) and district, county seat of Hampshire, S central England. Winchester was called Caer Gwent by the Britons, Venta Belgarum by the Romans, and Wintanceastre by the Saxons. The town was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Even after the Norman Conquest, when London gradually gained political ascendancy, Winchester remained England's center of learning and attracted many religious scholars. At the time it was also a wool center. Winchester has long held a position of ecclesiastical influence, reflected in its magnificent cathedral; the Norman structure, which replaced a Saxon church, was consecrated in 1093. In the 14th cent. it was enlarged and transformed into the present Gothic cathedral. It is the burial place of Saxon kings and queens and of William of Wykeham, Samuel Wilberforce, Izaak Walton, and Jane Austen. In Winchester are remains of Wolvesey Castle, where Queen Mary I lived in 1554. St. Cross Hospital, founded in the 12th cent., is the setting for Anthony Trollope's The Warden. The Norman castle, where several parliaments met, was damaged by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers; a round table, supposedly of King Arthur, hangs in the Great Hall. Winchester is still a historic cathedral town, virtually untouched by modern industry and construction. Winchester College, a famed English public school, was founded (1382; opened 1394) by William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, and is still partly housed in 14th-century buildings.
Winchester. 1 Town (1990 pop. 11,524), Litchfield co., NW Conn., in the Litchfield Hills; settled 1732, inc. 1771. It includes Winsted (1990 pop. 8,254), an industrial center where ball bearings, paper and metal products, building materials, electrical equipment, and pet supplies are manufactured. Many early 18th-century mansions are in Winsted. Of interest are the little red schoolhouse (1815) and the Winchester Historical Society, located in the Rockwell House (1813). Winchester lies at the gateway to the Berkshire Hills, in a lake region.

2 City (1990 pop. 15,799), seat of Clark co., N central Ky.; inc. 1793. The center of a tobacco, dairying, and livestock area on the edge of the bluegrass country, it has food processing and plants making a variety of manufactures including steel, pharmaceuticals, mining equipment, furniture, paper products, apparel, and feeds. Henry Clay made his last speech in Kentucky in the old courthouse there. Winchester is the headquarters of Cumberland National Forest.

3 Town (1990 pop. 20,267), Middlesex co., E Mass., a suburb of Boston; settled 1640, inc. 1850. It is chiefly residential with some light industry.

4 City (1990 pop. 23,365), seat of Frederick co., N Va., in the Shenandoah valley; settled 1732 near a Native American village in Lord Fairfax's domain, inc. as a city 1874. It is the trade, processing, and shipping center for an apple-growing, grain, livestock, and dairying district. Its products include motor vehicle parts, furniture, plastics, building materials, foods and beverages, lumber, flour, crushed limestone, and clothing.

George Washington began his career as a surveyor there in 1748. During the French and Indian Wars, Winchester was a center for defense against Native American raids, and Washington, who commanded the Virginia troops, had his headquarters there. Gen. Daniel Morgan lived in Winchester and is buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery. During the Civil War, the city suffered severely, changing hands many times. Stonewall Jackson headquartered there during the winter of 1861-62, and Gen. Philip Sheridan during the winter of 1864-65. Of interest are the old Presbyterian Church (1790) and the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Shenandoah Univ. (1875) is there. The city is the birthplace of Willa Cather and Richard E. Byrd.

Winchester or Winton (archaic) is a historic city in southern England, with a population of around 40,000 within a radius of its centre. It is the seat of the City of Winchester local government district, which covers a much larger area, and is also the administrative capital and county town of Hampshire.The city is at the western end of the South Downs with the scenic River Itchen running through it. Winchester railway station is served by trains running from London Waterloo, Weymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and the North.

Notable buildings


Winchester Cathedral, the longest cathedral in Europe, was originally built in 1079. It contains much fine architecture spanning the 11th to the 16th century and is the place of interment of numerous Bishops of Winchester (such as William of Wykeham), Anglo-Saxon monarchs (such as Egbert of Wessex) and later monarchs such as King Canute and William Rufus, as well as Jane Austen. It was once an important pilgrimage centre and housed the shrine of Saint Swithun. The ancient Pilgrims' Way travelling to Canterbury begins at Winchester. The plan of the earlier Old Minster is laid out in the grass adjoining the cathedral. The New Minster (original burial place of Alfred the Great and Edward the Elder) once stood beside it. It has a girls choir and a boys choir, which sing on a regular basis at the cathedral.

Cathedral Close

The Cathedral Close contains a number of historic buildings from the time when the cathedral was also a priory. Of particular note are the Deanery which dates back to the 13th century. It was originally the Prior's House, and was the birthplace of Arthur, Prince of Wales in 1486. Not far away is Cheyney Court, a mid 15th century timber framed house incorporating the Porter's Lodge for the Priory Gate. It was the Bishop's court house.

The earliest hammer-beamed building still standing in England is also situated in the Cathedral Close, next to the Dean's garden. It is known as the Pilgrims' Hall, as it was part of the hostelry used to accommodate the many pilgrims to Saint Swithun's shrine. Left-overs from the lavish banquets of the Dean would be given to the pilgrims who were welcome to spend the night in the hall. It is thought by Winchester City Council to have been built in 1308. The Pilgrims' School is planning to organise some events in the year 2008. Now, the hall is used by the school for assemblies in the morning, drama lessons, plays, orchestral practices, Cathedral Waynflete rehearsals, the school's Senior Commoners' Choir rehearsals and so forth.

Wolvesey Castle and Palace

Wolvesey Castle was the Norman bishop's palace, dating from 1110, but standing on the site of an earlier Saxon structure. It was enhanced by Henry de Blois during the Anarchy of his brother King Stephen's reign. He was besieged there for some days. In the 16th century, Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain were guests just prior to their wedding in the Cathedral. The building is now a ruin (maintained by English Heritage), but the chapel was incorporated into the new palace built in the 1680s, only one wing of which survives.

Winchester Castle

Winchester is well known for the Great Hall of its castle, which was built in the 12th century. The Great Hall was rebuilt, sometime between 1222-1235, and still exists in this form. It is famous for King Arthur's Round Table, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. The table actually dates from the 13th century, and as such is not contemporary to Arthur. Despite this it is still of considerable historical interest and attracts many tourists. The table was originally unpainted, but was painted for King Henry VIII in 1522. The names of the legendary Knights of the Round Table are written around the edge of the table surmounted by King Arthur on his throne. Opposite the table are Prince Charles' 'Wedding Gates'. In the grounds of the Great Hall is a recreation of a medieval garden. Apart from the hall, only a few excavated remains of the stronghold survive amongst the modern Law Courts. The buildings were supplanted by the King's House, now incorporated into the Peninsula Barracks where there are several military museums. Winchester is also home to the Army Training Regiment Winchester, otherwise known as Sir John Moore Barracks, where Army recruits undergo their phase one training.

Winchester College

The buildings of Winchester College, a public school founded by William of Wykeham, still largely date from their first erection in 1382. There are two courtyards, a gatehouse, cloister, hall,a magnificent college chapel and it also owns "The Water Meadows" which have a part of the River Itchen through it. It was planned to educate poor boys before they moved on to New College, Oxford and a life in the church.

Hospital of St Cross

The almshouses and vast Norman chapel of Hospital of St Cross were founded just outside the city centre by Henry de Blois in the 1130s. Since at least the 14th century, and still available today, a 'wayfarer's dole' of ale and bread has been handed out there. It was supposedly instigated to aid pilgrims on their route through to Canterbury.

Other buildings

Other important historic buildings include the Guildhall dating from 1871, the Royal Hampshire County Hospital and one of the city's several water mills driven by the various channels of the River Itchen that run through the city centre. Winchester City Mill, has recently been restored, and is again milling corn by water power. The mill is owned by the National Trust.

Although Winchester City survived World War II intact, about thirty percent of the Old Town was demolished by Winchester City Council in the 1950s to make way for modern concrete brutalist structures.


Early history

Settlement in the area dates back to pre-Roman times, with an Iron Age enclosure or valley fort, Oram's Arbour, on the western side of the present-day city. After the Roman conquest of Britain the civitas, then named Venta Belgarum or "Market of the Belgae", was of considerable importance.

The city may have been the Caergwinntguic or Caergwintwg (literally meaning "White Fortress") as recorded by Nennius after the Roman occupation. This name was corrupted into Wintanceastre following the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the area in 519.

Anglo-Saxon times

The city has historic importance as it replaced Dorchester-on-Thames as the de facto capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex in about 686 after King Caedwalla of Wessex defeated King Atwald of Wight. Although it was not the only town to have been the capital, it was established by King Egbert as the main city in his kingdom in 827. Saint Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the mid 9th century. The Saxon street plan laid out by Alfred the Great is still evident today: a cross shaped street system which conformed to the standard town planning system of the day - overlaying the pre-existing Roman street plan (incorporating the ecclesiastical quarter in the south-east; the judicial quarter in the south-west; the tradesmen in the north-east). The town was part of a series of fortifications along the south coast. Built by Alfred to protect the Kingdom, they were known as 'burhs'. The boundary of the old town is visible in places (a wooden barricade surrounded by ditches in Saxon times) now a stone wall. Four main gates were positioned in the north, south, east and west plus the additional Durngate and King's Gate. Winchester remained the capital of Wessex, and then England, until some time after the Norman Conquest when the capital was moved to London.

Medieval and later times

A serious fire in the city in 1141 accelerated its decline. However, William of Wykeham (1320-1404) played an important role in the city's restoration. As Bishop of Winchester he was responsible for much of the current structure of the cathedral, and he founded Winchester College as well as New College, Oxford. During the Middle Ages, the city was an important centre of the wool trade, before going into a slow decline. The curfew bell in the bell tower (near the clock in the picture), still sounds at 8.00pm each evening. The curfew was the time to extinguish all home fires until the morning

The famous novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral. The Romantic poet John Keats stayed in Winchester from mid August through to October 1819. It was in Winchester that Keats wrote "Isabella", "St. Agnes' Eve", "To Autumn" and "Lamia". Parts of "Hyperion" and the five-act poetic tragedy "Otho The Great" were also written in Winchester.

Further learning

The City Museum located on the corner of Minster Street and The Square contains much information on the history of Winchester. Early examples of Winchester measures of standard capacity are on display.


Winchester has an association football league and two recognised clubs, Winchester City F.C., the 2004 FA Vase winners who were founded in 1884 and has the motto "Many in Men, One in Spirit", currently play in the Southern League, Division 1 S&E after a highly successful spell in the Wessex League and Winchester Castle F.C., who have played in the Hampshire League since 1971. Barnsley midfielder Brian Howard was born in Winchester.

Winchester women also have successful sports teams with Winchester City Women FC currently playing in the Hampshire County League Division 1 and recently went through a league campaign unbeaten. The club caters for players of all ability and ages.

Winchester also has a rugby union team named Winchester RFC and a thriving athletics club called Winchester and District AC.

Winchester has a thriving successful Hockey Club (, with ten men's and three ladies' teams catering to all ages and abilities.

The city has a growing roller hockey team which trains at River Park Leisure Centre.

Lawn bowls is played at several greens (the oldest being Hyde Abbey dating from 1812)during the summer months and at Riverside Indoor Bowling Club during the winter.

Education in Winchester

There are numerous educational institutions in Winchester.

There are three state secondary schools: Kings' School Winchester, The Westgate School, and The Henry Beaufort School, all of which have excellent reputations. The sixth form Peter Symonds College is the main college that serves Winchester; it is rated amongst the top and the largest sixth form colleges in the UK.

Among privately owned preparatory schools, there are The Pilgrims' School Winchester, Twyford, Prince's Mead etc. Winchester College, which accepts students from ages 13 to 18, is one of the most well-known public schools in Britain and many of its pupils leave for well-respected universities. St Swithuns is a public school for girls which frequently appears on the league tables for GCSE and A-level results.

The University of Winchester (formerly King Alfred's College) is Winchester's university, beginning life as a teacher training college. It is located on a purpose built campus near the city centre. The Winchester School of Art is part of the University of Southampton.

Winchester abroad

The city of Winchester is twinned with Laon in France and the Winchester district is twinned with Gießen in Germany.

The city of Winchester gave its name to a suburb of Paris, France, called Le Kremlin-Bicêtre (23,724 inhabitants), due to a manor built there by John of Pontoise, Bishop of Winchester, in the end of the 13th century.

The city is also the sister city of Winchester, Virginia. The Mayor of Winchester (UK) has a standing invitation to be a part of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester (VA) each year in the Spring.

Media and culture

Winchester is home to Winchester Live, a live music festival set up in 2008 as a special event organised by Placid Piranha Promotions aimed at promoting the area of Winchester and Hampshire to the music industry and local music scene. Happening across three venues and boasting 11 gigs in 7 nights, it will be an opportunity to showcase Winchester as a thriving music town with big names in rock ‘n’ roll performing with a wealth of talent that Hampshire has to offer.

Since 1974 Winchester has hosted the annual Hat Fair, a celebration of street theatre that includes performances, workshops, and gatherings at several venues around the city.

Winchester hosts one of the UK's largest and most successful farmers' markets, with close to - or over - 100 stalls, and is certified by FARMA. The farmers' market takes place on the second and last Sunday monthly in the town centre.

On Channel 4 UK's Television Programme "The Best And Worst Places To Live In The UK" 2006, which was broadcast on Channel 4 UK on 26 October 2006, it was officially branded as the Best Place In The UK To Live In: 2006. In the 2007 edition of the same programme, Winchester had dropped to second best place to live, behind Edinburgh.


Winchester is currently represented in the U.K. House of Commons through the Winchester Parliamentary Constituency by Hon. Mark Oaten, M.P., a Liberal Democrat. Mr. Oaten won the seat during the 1997 general election in which he defeated the former Conservative Health Minister Rt. Hon. Gerry Malone M.P. from John Major's then ousted Government.

Winchester in fiction

12th century Winchester is one of the locations described in Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth.

Winchester is the main location of Samuel Youd's post-apocalyptic science fiction series, Sword of the Spirits. The books were published under the pen name John Christopher.

In the movie Merlin, King Uther's first conquest of Britain begins with Winchester, which Merlin foresaw would fall.

A fictionalised Winchester appears as Wintoncester in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles and is in part the model for Barchester in the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope, who attended Winchester College; The Warden is said to be based on a scandal at the Hospital of St Cross.

In The TV show, Supernatural, Winchester is used as the last name for the main sibling brother, Sam and Dean Winchester. This show consists of the brothers hunting down demons and evil spirits.

In Philip Pullman's novel The Subtle Knife (part of the His Dark Materials trilogy) the main male protagonist, Will Parry, comes from Winchester. However, little of the book is set there.

In the Japanese manga Death Note, The Wammy's House, an orphanage founded by Quillsh Wammy, where the detective L's successors are raised, is located in Winchester.

A fictitious estate near Winchester is the scene of a crime in the Sherlock Holmes's adventure, The Problem of Thor Bridge, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, while some of the action in his The Adventure of the Copper Beeches takes place in the city.

The novel Kit and the Mystery Man by Mollie Chappell is set in Winchester.

See also

List of people from Winchester


External links

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