Winchester is an historic city in southern England, with a population of around 40,000 within a 3 mile 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. Winchester was formerly the capital of England, during the 10th and early 11th centuries, and the capital of Wessex before that.

Population: 40,000
Ordnance Survey
OS grid reference: SU485295
District: City of Winchester
Shire county: Hampshire
Region: South East England
Country: England
Ceremonial county: Hampshire
Historic county: Hampshire
Police force: Hampshire Constabulary
Post office and telephone
Postal district: SO22, SO23
Dialling code: 01962
UK Parliament: Winchester
European Parliament: South East England

Important buildings

Winchester is best known for the Great Hall, which was built in the 12th century and is the only surviving portion of Winchester Castle. The Great Hall was rebuilt, sometime between 1222-1235, and still exists in this form. It is most well known for "King Arthur's" Round Table, which has hung in the hall from at least 1463. The table actually dates from the 14th 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.

In the grounds of the Great Hall are a recreation of a medieval garden along with the Wedding Gates and Law Courts.

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

Other important historic buildings include Winchester Cathedral, Royal Hampshire County Hospital and Winchester College, a public school founded in 1382 and home to the largest state sixth form college in the country, Peter Symonds College. The University of Winchester (formerly University College Winchester and before that King Alfred's College) is situated within the city, as is the Winchester School of Art, part of the University of Southampton.

It is also worth knowing that the first hammer-beamed building in the whole of England is situated in the Cathedral Close, next to the Dean's garden. It is known as The Pilgrims' Hall, as many pilgrims who travelled along The Pilgrims' Way from Winchester to Canterbury used to travel there. Left-overs from the lavish banquets of the Dean would be given to the pilgrims who would spend the night in the hall as well. 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 etc.

Historically, Winchester possessed several water mills driven by the various channels of the River Itchen that penetrate the city centre. One of these, Winchester City Mill, has recently been restored, and is again milling corn by water power. The mill is owned by the National Trust.


Hamo Thornycroft's statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester.
Hamo Thornycroft's statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester.
Winchester High Street in the mid 19th century.
Winchester High Street in the mid 19th century.

Settlement in the area dates back to pre-Roman times, and there is evidence of Iron Age hill forts around the city. Under the Romans the town, then named Venta Belgarum, was of considerable importance.

The town has historic importance as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex from 519. 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. The Saxon street plan laid out by Alfred 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. A serious fire in the city in 1141 accelerated its decline.

William of Wykeham (1320-1404) played an important role in the history of the town; as Bishop of Winchester he was responsible for much of the current structure of the cathedral. The Bishop 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. St. Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the mid ninth century.

The famous novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 and is buried in the cathedral.


Winchester's association football (soccer) club, called Winchester City F.C., was founded in 1884 and has the motto "Many in Men, One in Spirit", and currently play in the Sydenhams Wessex League Division 1.

Winchester also have a rugby team named Winchester RFC and a thriving athletic club called Winchester and District AC.

Schools in Winchester

There are numerous educational institutes in Winchester.

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.

There are three state secondary schools; Kings' School Winchester, The Westgate School and Henry Beaufort, 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 sixth form colleges in the UK.

Other information

The City Museum located on the corner of Minster St. and The Square contains more information on the history of Winchester.

The ancient Pilgrims' Way begins at Winchester, and runs to Canterbury.

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.

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.

Winchester is home to the Army Training Regiment Winchester, otherwise known as Sir John Moore Barracks, where Army recruits undergo their phase one training.

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.

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