In June 2015 we undertook the Queen Mary 2 a transatlantic voyage leading from New York to Hamburg. The ship made a stopover in Southampton. We first explored the center of Southampton; after that we visited Winchester.
Useful information about Winchester
We drove to Winchester on a bus from the National Express long-distance bus company. The comfortable National Express buses run several times a day between London and Southampton. They stop in Winchester. The distance between Southampton and Winchester is 13 miles and the journey takes little more than half an hour. Southampton's bus station is a maximum of two kilometers from the cruise ship terminals. You can walk for 20 to 25 minutes or take one of the free shuttle buses to central Southampton. From the bus stop you walk 300 to 400 meters to the National Express bus station.
Southampton Coach Station: Harbor Parade
In Winchester, buses stop on Broadway near the tourist office. It is located on the first floor of the Winchester Guildhall.
National Express Bus
Winchester is different from Southampton
The city with a population of almost 50.000 offers visitors a contrast to Southampton. Winchester stands for a breathtaking Norman cathedral, Winchester Castle, the Hospital at St. Cross and a world-famous college. The main sights are in the city center and can be easily visited on foot.
Our first destination - Winchester Cathedral
We started our tour of Winchester at the Guildhall, which was built in the neo-Gothic style and opened in 1873. In the beginning it was a place of court, police and fire station. The greater part of the complex was and is still used for civil purposes, such as weddings, meetings and events.
Next to the Guildhall is the Welcome Gospel Hall. The soldiers stationed in the garrison town of Winchester were originally cared for in their rooms. Today it is a charitable institution.
Welcome Gospel Hall
Back to Broadway: there is the monument of King Alfred the Great. He is described as a scientist, soldier and statesman. In fact, he made Winchester his capital. During our visit, the huge bronze statue of the king was being restored.
King Alfred the Great Memorial
We were particularly interested in Winchester Cathedral. It rises above the foundations of a previous church from AD 648. Walkelin, Winchester's first Norman bishop, laid the foundation stone for today's cathedral in 1079. The church was consecrated in 1093.
It was originally 164 meters in length and was the longest church in England at the time. However, the towers on the western front, which were built on unsafe ground, had to be torn down due to the risk of collapse. Since then the cathedral measures 151 meters. Over the years, the church has been redesigned a number of times.
Winchester Cathedral - main nave
Also in 2015 scaffolding and tarpaulins surrounded the church; the maintenance work has been estimated at £ 20,5 million.
Winchester Cathedral - at the heart of the crossing tower
Many kings of England found their final resting place in the cathedral. Saints, bishops, and commoners of high rank, including the English writer Jane Austen, were also buried at Winchester Cathedral. Because of the “Cascade Flower Festival” taking place in the cathedral, we were unable to view the building in peace. We renounced and limited ourselves to the exterior, the surrounding green spaces, the deanery, the episcopal administration and the Pilgrims' School, where the cathedral's choir members are taught.
Winchester's historic legacy
On the trail of Winchester's historical heritage, we went to the Abbey House. It was built around 1750 on the foundations of St. Mary's Abbey. The imposing brick building is the official residence of the Mayor of Winchester. Behind the building is the spacious Abbey Garden with neat plant beds, lawns and the River Cottage Canteen.
Winchester - Abbey House
Abbey House & Garden are on the Itchen River.
Winchester - the Itchen
The Itchen River powers the Winchester City Mill. The mill originally attached to the eastern city gate has existed for almost 1.000 years. It cannot be ruled out that a watermill originally built by the Romans stood at its location.
The City Mill
Our next destination was the east gate, built in the Middle Ages, one of the five city gates of Winchester. St. Mary's Abbey nuns were permitted to collect tolls on all goods passing the gate at the nearby bridge.
Winchester - East Gate
A promenade follows the course of the Itchen River. In wider areas it looks like a park. On either side of the river are gardens with lavish blooms. There are especially ornamental roses in abundance there.
One notable place is Wolvesey Castle. In the Middle Ages the castle was one of the largest buildings in Britain. Winchester's powerful and wealthy bishops used Wolvesey Castle as their residence. The bishops determined church affairs and had considerable influence on politics. They obtained their immense prosperity from extensive lands that stretched from Somerset in the west to east London. - The term castle is misleading; the construction was a luxurious palace. It was built in the 12th century. An associated baroque building from around 1680 serves as the residence of the bishops of Winchester. The original Winchester city walls run to the right of the sprawling property.
Winchester College followed Wolvesey Castle. It was founded in 1382 by Bishop William of Wykeham. The college is England's oldest continuously operating school. Those interested are offered guided tours to visit the college.
Westgate - our next destination
We went back to the cathedral and over to the square. The City Museum is located here. It is dedicated to Winchester's history, starting in the Iron Age and continuing into our century. On display are: Roman mosaics, Anglo-Saxon jewelry, city models, shop models from different eras and personal belongings of the writer Jane Austen, who is buried in the cathedral.
Winchester City Museum
In the square is the small, more than 900 year old Church of St. Lawrence. A chapel belonging to the palace of William the Conqueror previously stood in its place.
The Square leads into the High Street, there is the High Cross. The holy cross that locals call Winchester's Butter Cross was created in the mid-15th century. At its location, farmers sold agricultural products, from which the name Butter Cross is derived. The huge monument consists of five pillars and 12 figures. They first depicted the Virgin Mary and seven saints. Later, four other statues, including that of King Alfred, were assigned to them.
If you follow the High Street in a westerly direction you come to the Westgate. The fortified gatehouse, now used as a museum, was built in the Middle Ages. It served as a guilty prison for over 150 years. Graffiti by the inmates has been preserved over time.
The Great Hall - another highlight
The Great Hall is on a hill. It once belonged to Winchester Castle and is the only structure in the castle that has stood the test of time. The Great Hall was built in the 13th century. Originally it served as a court and administrative building. The “Domesday Book”, the imperial land register from 1086, was also kept there.
Winchester - Great Hall
King Arthur's Round Table has been hanging on the front wall of the hall since 1463. The idea behind the round table was that nobody should feel disadvantaged at the table. History shows that the king never sat at this table. Nevertheless, the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table fits well with the great hall. The Wedding Gates are on the opposite side. Behind these massive iron gates, the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Frances Spencer married in July 1981.
To the side, below the round table, there is a 4,30 meter high bronze statue of Queen Victoria.
Bronze statue of Queen Victoria - detail
Our way led through Queen Eleanor's Garden to the Peninsula Barracks and the five military museums. The complex is a huge outdoor area lined with barracks buildings. In the middle is a large water basin with a fountain.
A notable brick building is Serle's House on Southgate Street. The spacious building was built around 1730. Today Serle's House is called "The Royal Hampshire Regiment Memorial Garden & Museum". As expected, memorabilia from the regimental history between 1702 and 1905 are displayed in a room. In a second room exhibits from the time between Dunkirk and the British operations in Afghanistan are shown. The other rooms are used by the military administration. The gardens belonging to Serle's House are open to visitors.
The Royal Hampshire Regiment Memorial Garden & Museum
The area between the military complex and the cathedral suggests an upscale residential area. We especially enjoyed the low brick and half-timbered buildings framed by climbing plants and bushes, verandas, lovely and small shops and restaurants. Winchester is a medium-sized English city that couldn't be more beautiful. From our point of view, Winchester is one of the must-see travel destinations in England.
Update November 2020