In this modern age of the new and shiny, it can be a wonderful journey to visit the past. After all, Doc Brown and Marty McFly, Captain Janeway and of course The Doctor (Who?) all had a marvellous time! So, we thought, why not take a leaf out of their books?
The summer brings with it lots of change, from the weather to the school year ending (and trying to plan a fun filled summer holiday), keeping up with modern pace and so on! Something rather comforting about history, is that it never changes! So, it’s time to take a step back, discover and wander at your own pace to uncover the beautiful history that Winchester has to offer.
While we take you on a tour of some of the most excitingly historic places to visit, we also want to assure you that our beautiful city also offers a plethora of modern activities, dining, attractions, and shops. (Many of which are listed and handpicked on our website) We may be tempted to humbly suggest that we do, in fact, have the best of both worlds.
So, fasten your seatbelts, embrace all anachronisms as you jump back in time and immerse yourself in a rich tapestry we affectionately call, the past…
Five interesting facts about Winchesters history – Did you know…
By the 3rd century AD, Winchester, or Venta Belgarum (capital of the local tribe which later became the city we know and love today), was the fifth largest city in Roman Britain. Pretty cool, right? Today you can see the city walls, originally built by the Romans in defence of the city.
Winchester was home to King Alfred the Great (who incidentally instigated and maintained peace with the Vikings) (c 849-899). Winchesters heroine of her own books, Jane Austen (1775-1817) also made history here and is buried in the Cathedral’s north nave aisle. Winchester is also full of modern history in the making. Did you know that The Da Vinci Code, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Les Miserables, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries and The Antiques Roadshow were all filmed here?
Are you a fan of rabbits…or are they hares? Did you know that the open countryside between Winchester and Newbury actually inspired Richard Adams’ book Watership Down? Indeed, rabbits are a fairly common sight in Winchester today and can be spotted throughout the National Parks and countryside. These rabbits were indigenous to Spain and introduced to this country in the 12th century as source of food and fur – told you we had lots of facts!
In the 6th century Winchester was settled by Saxons. At this time, they called Winchester ‘Wintancaester’. In the 200 years that followed, Roman Monks settled in the area and converted many locals to Christianity. Amen!
Are you an avid reader? Winchester is home to many libraries all bursting with books. In fact, Winchester opened the UK’s first public library! If we may be so bold, you can visit it in all its glory during your next stay with us!
We could go on, but just a few facts to put you in mind of how long Winchester has been standing, now here are a few places you might like to visit!
Five top historic attractions:
Winchester Cathedral – perhaps THE most impressive part of history in this city. More heritage than you can swing a cat at, beautiful architecture and still firmly standing! You can visit at your leisure, peruse the halls, wander the corridors or even book a tour guide to fill your experience with lesser-known facts and tales from the past. Today, you can even climb the cathedral tower, offering stunning birds eye views as far as the eye can see. The Cathedral hosts concerts, markets and various art exhibitions so there is always something for everyone here.
The Great Hall of Winchester (13th century) is worth a visit. It is home to the infamous Round Table where many a sieges and battle were planned, selfie worthy? We think so! The hall itself is full of artwork, stained glass windows and columns so high they will make your neck ache. There is an opportunity to don the historic costumes and even place your head on the executioners’ block for fun! There are trails, quests, and stunning gardens to meander through, where the plants are reminiscent of those from the era.
Winchester College – founded in 1382 by William of Wykenham and still open and educating today. Its beautiful halls have played host to the camera crews for The Crown, Van Wilder 2, The riot Club, The Real Jane Austen, Purgation and many more! Here you can walk in the footsteps of scholars as well as a few modern-day actors and actresses. Afterwards you can visit the Wykeham Arms right next to the cathedral, one of the most romantic pubs positively steeped in history known for their culinary excellence with local ingredients. We told you we have the best of both worlds!
Winchester City Mill is an ancient watermill and must-see wildlife spot right in the centre of Winchester. It’s on the River Itchen which is full of King fishers, otters, and a veritable cornucopia of wildlife such as damselflies, water voles and even crayfish! The mill itself has references in the Domesday Book of 1086 and records of milling corn much earlier than that in the cathedral records. You can take in the scenery, enjoy the history, and wander the banks of the river before visiting the City Mill café and shop.
Jane Austen’s House – Austen is studied at school, for pleasure and in higher education. Afterall, ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged’ that this Hampshire cottage was the setting and inspiration for her 6 wonderful novels. You can visit her house, which has been turned into museum where you can feast your eyes on her works, her jewellery and her letters. You can pre-book tickets for tours, walks and even dress in the stunning costumes of old and truly embrace a part of history for their annual dress up day!
We hope we have opened a small window into the wonderful history of Winchester. We’d love for you to experience it all first-hand. In addition to the few places we have mentioned there are also guided tours, walks, festivals, museums, restaurant, and glorious art exhibitions to stand back and admire or be a part of. If you have any questions, please use our contact page on our website.
Book here for your chance to experience the old and the new all in one beautiful city!