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Travel / Tours / England / Winchester
Visit Winchester
  City Mill
  Riverside walk
  Wolvesey Castle
  Winchester College
  Jane Austen's house
  Winchester Cathedral
  Westgate / Great Hall
  Military museums
  Further information


Winchester (population: 96,000) is an attractive, historic city in Hampshire. It was been an important town since Roman times (the same is true for other places in Britain whose names end in -cester or -chester, from the Latin word for "camp").

Close to the bus station (in the road called Broadway) is one of its most famous symbols: the bronze statue of King Alfred. King Alfred the Great was the king of Wessex from 871-899. He succeeded in fighting off the Danes (Vikings), who at that time had taken over much of the north. Winchester was Alfred's capital, and he did a lot to develop the town and to keep it safe from attack. The statue was put up in 1901.

King Alfred's statue

Near to the statue is the Tourist Information Centre. Ask for a free copy of The Winchester Walk, a leaflet which includes a map and suggested routes for walks around the city. The photos shown on this page follow a route which combines two of these walks: "The Heart of the Ancient Capital" and "The Upper City", starting and ending at King Alfred's statue.

A-Z Winchester Street Atlas
(street map)
Publisher: Geographers' A-Z Map Company
Date: July 2002
Winchester, New Alresford and East Meon
(walking map of the area)
Publisher: Ordnance Survey
Date: July 2004

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From King Alfred's statue, walk away from the town centre towards the river. On the left hand side before a bridge you can see the entrance to City Mill. This is a water-powered mill, used for making flour from corn. There has been a mill on this site since the 1100s; the mill that you can see dates from 1743. The mill was closed at the start of the 1900s, but in 1928 it was donated to the National Trust, who have restored it to working order. Part of the building is now used as a youth hostel. For a small entrance fee you can visit a museum explaining the history and working of the mill, see the water wheel and visit a small garden in the middle of the river.

Mill water wheel

The River Itchen flows fast, turning the wheel

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Return to the river and turn right. You can follow an attractive walk along the river, known locally as the Weirs Walk. On your right you can see part of the old town walls (parts of this date from Roman times): the walls were built next to the river for defensive reasons.

[ If you have time, you can continue the walk up to St Giles Hill, from where there are attractive views of the city. You can also follow a footpath across the water meadows to the Hospital of St Cross. This is England's oldest almshouse (a place where food and assistance is given to poor and hungry travellers): even today, if you ask for wayfarer's dole at the Porter's Lodge, you will be given some bread and a drink ]

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Turn right into College Street, where you can see the entrance to Wolvesey Castle. The castle was built in 1137 but was destroyed in 1645, during the English Civil War. Parts of the castle were rebuilt and became the home of the Bishop of Winchester. The ruins are managed by English Heritage: there is a small entrance charge.

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If you continue along College Street you will see the main entrance to Winchester College on your left. This is the oldest public school in England. It was founded in 1382 by William Wykeham, the Bishop of Winchester. Although the school grounds are private, it is possible to join a guided tour.

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The famous English writer Jane Austen spent the last six weeks of her life in Winchester. You can see the house where she lived shortly after the entrance to Winchester College, marked with a blue plaque above the entrance. She was writing her novel Persuasion at this time: this was published after her death. Note that the house is private: it is not possible to visit it. Pass through the arch of Kingsgate , one of the city's medieval gates, to enter the grounds of Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen's body is buried.

Persuasion (book)
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Penguin Books
Date: April 1994
audio book
Persuasion (DVD)
Author: Jane Austen
Studio: BBC Worldwide Publishing
Date: November 1999
video version

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As you enter the grounds of the cathedral you can see the Pilgrims School, used to educate the boys of the Cathedral choir.

Follow the path around to the main entrance of the cathedral. Pick up a leaflet at the information desk, and ask about the times of guided tours if you want to join one of these. Winchester Cathedral is the longest medieval church in Europe. Construction was started in 1079, during the reign of William the Conqueror. Many enhancements to the original building were made during the Middle Ages. The oldest part is the North Transept. The nave, created in the 14th century, is built in a style called Perpendicular, with many vertical lines. If you walk along the left wall of the nave, you can see Jane Austen's grave. You can also find a shrine to St Swithun, a 9th century Bishop of Winchester. 15th July is known in Britain as St Swithun's Day: it is said that if it rains on this day then it will continue to rain for another 40 days and nights.

After leaving the cathedral, cross the green to the City Museum. This free museum explains the history of Winchester. Walk through an archway to enter the High Street.

Pilgrims School, where the choir is educated

View towards the main entrance of the cathedral

Jane Austen's grave

Exit from the cathedral towards the High Street

Winchester Cathedral (Pitkin Guides)
(picture guidebook for visitors)
Author: Norman Sykes
Publisher: Pitkin Guides
Date: December 1990
Winchester Cathedral, 1079-1979
(history of the cathedral)
Author: Frederick Bussby
Publisher: Paul Cave Publications Ltd
Date: November 1987

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The main shops and restaurants are located on or near the High Street. The Brooks Shopping Centre is a convenient indoor centre located in the pedestrian area.

The High Street has been a road for about 2,500 years. It was an important route, because it leads to a point where the River Itchen can be crossed. A popular meeting point is the City Cross (known locally as the Butter Cross). This is a 15th century monument (restored in 1865) which marks the centre of the city.

City Cross (Butter Cross)

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Walk uphill along the High Street and you will see Westgate. This is the second of Winchester's medieval gateways, dating from the 13th century. For many years it was used as a local prison. There is a small museum above the archway, with attractive views across the city centre.

Follow signs to reach the Great Hall. This is the remaining part of Winchester Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1067 (shortly after he invaded England in 1066). William used Winchester as his capital . On the wall of the Great Hall you can see the Round Table. This was made in about 1250. According to ancient legends, King Arthur sat around a round table like this with his 24 knights. In 1520 King Henry the Eighth had this table painted. Each of the 24 segments represents one of Arthur's knights. In the centre Henry put a rose, the symbol of his family (the Tudors), and above this is a picture of King Arthur, based on his own image as a young man.


King Arthur's Round Table (in the Great Hall)

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
(legends of King Arthur)
Author: Roger Lancelyn Green
Publisher: Puffin Books
Date: June 1994
King Arthur - The Truth Behind The Legend (DVD)
(documentary film)
Studio: Delta Music Plc
Date: September 2004

Instead of leaving by the main entrance, exit through the small door on the north side of the hall (opposite the Round Table). You will enter Queen Eleanor's Garden. The steps leading out of the garden will take you to Peninsula Barracks.

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The King's House was designed as a palace for King Charles the Second by Sir Christopher Wren (the architect who was responsible for St Paul's Cathedral and many other fine English buildings). However, the palace was never finished and was taken over by the army, who used it as barracks (an area where soldiers lived). Recently the building has been converted into luxury houses and flats.

There are several military museums in this part of Winchester. Inside these you can see old uniforms and weapons, and can learn about the history of the army units and the wars in which they fought. The main subjects of each of the museums are as follows:
King Royal Hussar's Museum: cavalry; battles in Africa, India and the Crimea
Gurkha's Museum: the history of soldiers from Nepal, who for many years have fought as part of the British army
Royal Green Jackets Museum: the Battle of Waterloo
Light Infantry Museum: recent conflicts (after World War Two)
Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum: the two world wars

The King's House

An old British tank, outside one of the museums

After visiting the museums, cross Southgate Street, walk down the 13th century St Thomas Passage, and turn left down St Thomas Street. This will take you back to the High Street. Walk downhill to return to King Alfred's statue.

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* Visitor information
Winchester tourist information:

Winchester Cathedral:
The Great Hall & King Arthur's Round Table:
The City Mill:
Military museums:

* Transportation
On fast train services, Winchester is between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 minutes from London. Travel from Waterloo station. For train timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/TheTrainline.
It takes about 2 hours to travel by coach from Victoria Coach Station in London to Winchester. For timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/NationalExpress.

* Weather forecast for Winchester

* More photos
360 degree panoramic pictures:
360 degree panoramic picture of Winchester Cathedral:

Lonely Planet verdict: Winchester
"Hampshire's biggest attraction is the beautiful cathedral city of Winchester, a prosperous market centre in the valley of the River Itchen. Its rich history is in evidence throughout, none more so than in the magnificent church that dominates the historical centre ... Winchester's main attraction is one of the world's great buildings, a magnificent testament to English architecture over 900 years and one of the finest examples of the Gothic Perpendicular style to be found anywhere"
(extracts from "Lonely Planet Great Britain - 2003 edition", used with permission)
Lonely Planet Great Britain
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: May 2009
Lonely Planet England
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: March 2009
Other Lonely Planet publications

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Places in this region:
Stonehenge & Salisbury: Travel/Tours/England/Stonehenge
Isle of Wight: Travel/Tours/England/IsleOfWight

Cathedral cities:
Canterbury: Travel/Tours/England/Canterbury
Durham: Travel/Tours/England/Durham
Lincoln: Travel/Tours/England/Lincoln
York: Travel/Tours/England/York

Other topics related to this page:
British history: Britain/History

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