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Revisiting the City of Winchester pre-pilgrimage 19.08.2018.

I’ve been to Winchester many times, the first in 2003 not long after I arrived in the UK. It is quite one of my favourite cities and a revisit is never hard to do. Besides London it is the city I have visited most often in the 16 years I have lived in the UK. Since the Pilgrim’s Way starts in Winchester, it was imperative that I spent a day revisiting favourite places and especially following the King Alfred Walk, before starting on my walk the next week.

There’s so much I could tell you about Winchester, but that would require a very long blog…so instead I’ll stick with the more pertinent and juicy bits….

The area around Winchester had been inhabited since pre-historic times and there are 3 iron-age sites nearby.

Winchester, built around 70AD, was known as Venta Belgarum, “Venta of the Belgae” during Roman times and there are small remnants of Roman wall near the East Gate bridge. The 5th largest town in Roman Britain.

Winchester became known as Wintan-ceastre (“Fort Venta”) in Old English. In 648, King Cenwalh of Wessex erected the Church of St Peter and St Paul which was later known as the Old Minster. There are remnants of this that you can see in the grounds of the cathedral.

Winchester was once the capital of England, ruled by Alfred the Great, King of Wessex from 871 to 899.

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Winchester Coat of Arms

Starting at the cathedral I’ll take you on a circular tour of the city….

The fabulous medieval Winchester Cathedral, originally built in 1079; is one of the largest in Europe, and distinguished by having the longest nave and overall length of all the Gothic cathedrals in Europe. It’s architecture spans the 11th – 16th centuries.

The cathedral houses the Shrine of St Swithun (born in Winchester – died 863 AD); an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester, he became the 19th bishop in 852 and subsequently patron saint of Winchester Cathedral.

Winchester is the start of St Swithun’s Way and The Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury.

Take a look at the ruins of the Old Minster to the left of the west door, and be sure to visit Queen Eleanor’s garden , accessed through the cathedral.

Pilgrim’s Hall – situated in the Cathedral Close, and known as the Pilgrim’s Hall as it was used to accommodate pilgrims who visited St Swithun’s shrine. It’s the earliest hammer-beamed building still standing in England.

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The Pilgrim’s Hall

Two of the 5 city gates are still standing: Kings Gate and the West Gate.

Just before Priors Gate is the mid-15th century timber-framed Cheyney Court; once the Bishops Court House is a mid fifteenth-century timber-framed house.

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Cheyney Court, Winchester

Still within the precincts of the cathedral is the Priors Gate

St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate; located above the medieval Kings Gate, one of the principal entrances to the city. Built in the Middle Ages in the Early English style, the church is unusual in that it forms a part of the fabric of the old city walls, and first appears in 13th century records – mentioned in 1264. It is mentioned in Anthony Trollope’s novel The Warden under the fictional name of St Cuthberts.

Jane Austen lived in a house near the cathedral and died in Winchester on 18 July 1817. She is buried in the cathedral.

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the house where Jane Austen lived in Winchester – I was fortunate enough to visit her house in Chawton during my walk

Wolvesey Castle – these stunning ruins, standing on the site of an earlier Saxon structure, were once the Norman bishop’s palace, dating from 1110. 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 c, Queen Mary Tudor and King Philip II of Spain were guests just prior to their wedding in the Cathedral. The building now a ruin and maintained by English Heritage, its free to explore, the chapel was incorporated into the new palace built in the 1680s, only one wing of which survives today.

Roman city walls – a small section of the old Roman city walls can be seen opposite the The Weirs alongside the river near the bridge.

The River Itchen; flowing through the mill and beneath the old Eastgate bridge, is noted as one of the world’s premier chalk streams. Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, it supports a range of protected species as well as watercress beds (I saw the watercress beds near Alresford on Day 1 of my walk). The settlement of Itchen Abbas on the river is given as Icene in the Domesday Book of 1086.

The Eastgate Bridge – although the gate is long gone, this pretty bridge crosses the river just before the mill. If you cross the bridge away from the city, just beyond the roundabout you’ll find…..Chesil Rectory.

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The Eastgate Bridge, Winchester

Chesil Rectory – is the oldest house in Winchester; the sign says it’s dated 1450. A link with Queen Mary I; along with the water mill, she gave the rectory to the City of Winchester as compensation for the expense of her wedding. It’s now a restaurant.

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Chesil Rectory, Winchester – built 1450

The Water Mill – this beautiful, working mill, is situated on the River Itchen in the centre of this ancient city; Winchester. Restored and now a Grade II listed building, it is managed by the National Trust. First recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was known as Eastgate Mill until 1554.

Sightings of otters passing through have been recorded by night-vision cameras.

Statue of King Alfred the Great – located just beyond the bridge, on the Broadway, this towering statue dominates the streets. He is one of only two English monarchs to be given the epithet “the Great”, the other being Cnut The Great. The statue was designed by Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., and erected in 1899 to mark one thousand years since Alfred’s death.

The fabulous Victorian Guildhall, built in the Gothic revival style, it looks very similar to St Pancras Station in London. The lovely tourist office is located at street level.

The High Street – Following his rise to power, Alfred obliterated the Roman streets and laid down the grid you can still see today; the High Street is the oldest known road in the world (this I gleaned from articles on the web).

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view of the High Street, Winchester – seen from the roof of the West Gate, looking towards the King Alfred statue on The Broadway

The City Cross aka the Buttercross, located on the High Street, and now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, has been dated to the 15th c, and features 12 statues of the Virgin Mary, saints and various other historical figures.

The West Gate – now a museum, is a must visit. One of two surviving fortified gateways in Winchester, the earliest surviving fabric is Anglo-Saxon.  Once a debtors’ prison you can see prisoners’ graffiti engraved on the inner walls. Amongst a fantastic collection of artefacts, the museum houses a unique collection of weights and measures and a Tudor ceiling from Winchester College. There are fab views of the city and the High Street from the Westgate roof. The museum is free to visit.

The Great Hall – all that remains of the 12th century castle, beyond a few underground passageways and walls, and one of my favourite buildings in Winchester, it houses the famous King Arthur’s Round Table, dating from the 13th century, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. It was painted for Henry VIII in 1522 and features the names of the legendary Knights of the Round Table around the edge and surmounted by King Arthur seated on his throne.

The Peninsula Barracks – The barracks, originally known as the Upper Barracks, Winchester, were built in the early 20th c on the site of King’s House, an unfinished palace designed by Sir Christopher Wren for Charles II which was destroyed by fire in 1894. Some parts of the barracks remain Grade II listed buildings in their own right including the Green Jackets Headquarters and the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum.

If you approach the Peninsula Barracks from St James’s Lane there is a short flight of steps leading up to the square, these mark the perimeter of the old city walls, of which there are a few remnants near the river on The Weirs.

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these steps mark the boundary of the city

and of a more quirky nature; located on Great Minster Street and The Square, there are 24 bollards – painted by The Colour Factory between 2005-2012 in the style of famous artists of the likes of David Hockney, Henri Rousseau, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Leonardo da Vinci. They are quite lovely.

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And this brings to you back to the cathedral precinct.  If you enquire at the Tourist Information Centre at the Guildhall, they will provide you with a self-guided tour of the city which pretty much covers the route I’ve taken you on, except it starts near the King Alfred statue statue and goes clockwise.

Further snippets:

The Book of Winchester was the Domesday Book compiled by officials of William the Conqueror on his orders and published c1086.

John Keats stayed in Winchester from mid-August to October 1819, and wrote “Isabella”, amongst other well-known works while there.

There is so much else to see in Winchester;

The Hospital of St Cross – somehow I missed visiting this place on my recent visit (I’ll have to go back 😉 ).  I’ve attached a link to the history of the church  http://hospitalofstcross.co.uk/history/

St Lawrence Church – probably of Norman origin, and said to have been the chapel of William the Conqueror’s palace (built 1069-70, destroyed 1141) it is now a Grade II listed building.

Near the Great Hall are the fascinating old passageways from the castle/palace and the Hampshire Jubilee sculpture which is really beautiful

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the castle passageways. not always open but pop in if they are

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Hampshire Jubilee Sculpture near the Great Hall

The site of Hyde Abbey : a medieval Benedictine monastery just outside the walls of Winchester, it was dissolved and demolished in 1539.

St Bartholomew’s Church : originally the parish church of Hyde, a villages outside the walls of Winchester, the church was est 1110 and dissolved and demolished in 1539. Now a Grade II listed building, it lies directly alongside the early part of The Pilgrim’s Way.

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St Bartholomew’s Church Winchester

I had a wonderful 5 hours walking around Winchester and of course a visit to the cathedral, after which I hopped on the train back to Southampton….delighted to have spent more time in this fabulous city. I was now getting really excited for my upcoming walk on Tuesday 21st August.

Once back in Southampton I stopped off for some dinner and now its time for London Pride at the appropriately named Spitfure Pub. Its been a very humid day, started off totally overcast, then blue skies after 2pm. I do love Winchester. The King Alfred walk takes you past so many fascinating places. I met 2 ladies who were just starting the Southdowns Way to Eastbourne….so cool.

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always time for London Pride

I did try to keep it short…I promise LOL Winchester is a treasure trove of history and a must visit…you’ll need at least a full day to get the most out of your visit.

references:

https://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/things-to-do/history-heritage/

http://www.localhistories.org/winchester.html

https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/hampshire/winchester/westgate.htm

wikipedia (of course 😉 )

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I recently wrote about the upcoming and impending pilgrimage along The Pilgrim’s Way from Winchester to Canterbury that I’m planning for summer/autumn 2018.

Well, now it’s getting real 🙂 I received my Pilgrim’s Passport in the mail today!! Hoorahh! Well actually my daughter opened the envelope for me since I’m still up in the north east of Wales, and sent me photos of it. The marvels of technology….whatsapp; geniiius 🙂

the pilgrims way winchester to canterbury, walking the pilgrims way, long distance walking in the uk, the pilgrims way, walk 1000 miles, baby boomersThe Pilgrim’s Way – how gorgeous is this passport

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OMG I can’t tell you how exciting it all is. I love the planning stages; finding places to stay, reading information about the route and receiving the passport is definitely high on the scale of excitement levels …

I’m really excited about having this passport filled with stamps along the way. I remember how fantastic it was to get my Camino passport stamped at the various places I stayed, the restaurants I ate at, and the many churches I visited….thrilling.

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In fact I’m so yearning to do another long distance walk I’m seriously contemplating walking the 1st half of The Pilgrim’s Way in April and then the 2nd half before I fly to Spain for the Camino Inglés. 🙂

Can I do a happy dance? All on my own! Do you think anyone would find me certifiably insane LOL

I’ve visited Winchester Cathedral a number of times in the past and of course I’ve visited Canterbury Cathedral quite a lot too, but now that I have my pilgrim’s passport, I can’t wait to go visit again.

Winchester is a fascinating city. Besides that it was once a walled city and you can still see some of the medieval walls and gates, there’s King Alfred’s walk around the city, the 13th century Great Hall with a replica of the Round Table; from the mythological tales of King Arthur and the Knight’s of the Round Table, an old mill, a medieval pilgrim’s chapel above one of the gates and so much else besides…. I’m planning on staying for 2 nights and giving myself a whole day of exploring a city I truly love.

My very first visit to Winchester was in 2002 shortly after I first started living in the UK. My visit was in honour of the song: Winchester Cathedral, one of the popular songs from my teenage years, so if course it was high on my list of places to go.

Winchester Cathedral https://g.co/kgs/vmC4DU

But I digress…. It’s the excitement I’m afraid *big grin* I think you’ll be hearing /reading a lot more about Winchester and Canterbury

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