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Awesome Winchester – Chapter 3

Winchester; a delightful combination of historical significance; ancient structures, fortified city walls, bishops’ palace/castle, and iconic 1000-year-old Cathedral. Within minutes from the center;  hills, rare chalk-based rivers, streams,  moors, and a variety of beautiful trees greet a walker.

In the centre, where King Alfred the Great’s statue projects both strength and unity, there are immaculate public gardens resplendent with beautiful colorful flower beds, a stream, and‎  weeping willows; their reflections gracing rippling water.

There are many ancient ruins; King William the Conqueror’s castle (some remains are to be found) and his grandson, Bishop Henry de Blois, who ‘commissioned’ the now 900-year olf Winchester Bible, lived in a fortified palace.

Many formally beautiful castles, grand palaces; some dating back to William the Conqueror, where gifts to Norman noblemen were manifested in large estates ‎in recognition of their loyalty and support to William of Normandy.  A number of individuals still have Norman-French surnames.

Winchester Cathedral was ‘commissioned by William the Conqueror and took 25 years to build. Some of the round pillars high up on the triforium are Roman but lifted up there as they were the right size and made of one piece. The stonework for the Cathedral was transported from the Isle of White. Similarities with Stone Henge? Transporting stones?

Winchester Castle was built in 1067; a year after the Battle of Hastings where William the Conqueror won and became king. In those days, Winchester was the seat ‎of kings, later to be moved to London. All that remains is the Great Hall and ruins of the castle, with passageways leading to a dry moat that surrounded the castle.

The Westgate is an example of the longevity of such structures and the view from the top is awesome, overlooking the city itself.   Rumour has it that when it was destroyed, many residents of Winchester gathered the square stones that had fallen to the ground, incorporating them in house walls and other buildings. These can be still seen dotted around many ancient buildings mixed with old brick and half-timbered structures.

During the Danish era, between circa 800 AD and 900 ‎AD, the Danish capital was York. Current place-name derivations include Tenby, Grimsby, and other towns ending in ‘by’. ‘BY’ is Danish for ‘town’ and is pronounced ‘boo’: ‘Tenboo’  and Grimsboo’ in Danish.

The Roman era ended around AD400‎, but they left quite a legacy. For example, Roman roads; straight highways for miles, typically leading to areas from London. Although now surfaced with tarmac, they are as clear and straight as over 1600 years ago. The Romans certainly had incredible building skills, including creating large round pillars. There are fine examples to be seen in the Inner Close of the Cathedral.

Wolvesey Castle

Just a few minutes walk from King Alfred’s statue and Winchester College (and the house where Jane Austin passed away) are the dramatic ruins of  Wolvesey Castle. Once luxurious palace for Winchester’s bishops was also a castle; a giant of a structure. Erected in AD970, Wolvesey Castle ‎must have been the most amazing palace/castle located on Winchester’s doorstep.

From the castle and over the city’s fortified walls, St. Giles’ Hill is clearly visible, a lush green canopy of trees in contrast to the dark grey walls and structures of Wolvesey Castle. Walking around the ruins there is an almost tactile feel about them. So high and expansive, walking through areas where you are in close proximity to walls on either side, it certainly does present an awesome presence.

There is indeed a higher level of consciousness that can embrace those who have a natural sensitivity or awareness of times past. The ability to ‘log-in’; typically without having to think of tuning in, but a natural phenomenon.

Perhaps ‘ daydreaming’ manifesting; something we wanted but too remote to gather in our hearts, but walking around contrasting ancient structures and at the same time absorbing the most amazing countryside does elevate you to another level. Daydreaming; wondering what life would have been like in those days.‎ Then during a quiet moment’s reflection, imagination and a sixth sense absorb you in a fantasy of historic reality.

I can’t help but love everything about friendly and historic Winchester. From many cafés and brasseries providing a tangible Continental atmosphere to the glorious countryside, literally minutes from the center.

There is a feeling of tranquility. Visitors to Winchester Cathedral always describe a feeling of serenity, peace, and tranquility. And indeed an all-encompassing and genuine friendliness.

Thank you for reading this account which literally came from my heart.

Simon Lever
Prior to his retirement, Simon engaged in software and services sector search and recruitment for American companies around Europe. He has retained the enjoyment of engaging with people from other countries and cultures. His energies are now directed towards voluntary community activities, journaling, and exhibition stewardship. He is a Featured Contributor for BizCatalyst 360°. As an Exhibition Steward, at the 1000-year-old Winchester Cathedral, he is responsible for guiding visitors from the world over, around the award-winning 'Kings and Scribes Exhibition', which includes the 900-year-old Winchester Bible. The exhibition introduces visitors to Winchester's historical significance as a former capital of England. Simon's journaling activities are published on BizCatalyst 360° and accompanying posts on LinkedIn, He acknowledges the inspiration afforded him by Carol Campos of Massachusetts: Life Strategist, Writer, and Intuitive Business Leader who introduced him to writing with feeling; from the heart. Simon's forté is creative writing; the accent on the natural environment, transforming feelings, emotions, sights, sounds, and scents of Mother Nature's landscape; hills and rivers and woodland into words, transporting the reader to the locations. Essays include accounts of his life in former days. Instinctively writing in such a spontaneous manner, descriptions become life-like. His often emotionally charged writing, whether describing a surreal 'Son et Lumière' at the Grand Place in Brussels to experiences acquired during European business travel. Journaling and Exhibition Steward activities are his key sources of inspiration and creativity. Kindness is ever more important, where he is a promoter of Shelly Elsliger PPCC's 'Decide to be Kind' Campaign. Simon champions Positivity, Empathy, and Kindness and has been described as a 'Beacon of Positivity'.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The smaller picture – of I believe Wolvesey Castle? – makes one wonder how they built it. As you know, Simon, California is covered in Missions that would turn to mud if the caulking is not kept intact. Mortar, but not yet burned bricks technology, seems to be part of the Norman age architecture.
    One of the things I find so fascinating and that can be seen all over Europe, is how – compared to what the Greek and Romans built – the buildings of the middle ages is visually more “a heap of rubble”. The exception is what is built for the glory of G-d (and who knows, that may also be what mostly remains of the ancient buildings, everything else burned or washed away.)
    Another explanation is in your story and pictures here: The good stone was repurposed because cutting was so labor intensive. But ancient buildings were covered in centuries of rubbish turned to dirt and thus spared.

    I agree with Dorothy, you make me want to come visit.

    • Dear Charlotte,

      Thank you for your generous comments. The photo with the wisteria is one of the entrances to Winchester College which was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham (1324 – 1404) who became Bishop of Winchester. It has the longest continuous history of any English school. The school motto is ‘Manners Makyth Man’.

      Regarding the Roman’s building prowess was awesome and certainly added much to Britain’s heritage. However, many structures were destroyed (also Norman buildings; especially cathedrals and churches) by Oliver Cromwell, an extremely destructive puritan. At one time, his soldiers rode on horseback into Winchester Cathedral, and another time smashed an enormous stained glass window (at the front of the Cathedral see photo) which Winchester’s residents replaced every original piece of broken glass and is as it is today; a patchwork of hundreds and hundreds of pieces of broken glass. The Romans were I think perfectionists and able to create large (and small) round columns, where as the Anglo-Saxons and and Normans tended to use large stones. For a 1000 year old structure the Cathedral is indeed awesome. There are parts which pre-date the Norman era. Many buildings were destroyed. There are many locations in Britain that are historically significant. Winchester is often seen as a favorite because of its combined historical significance and artifacts/buildings to match and and proximity to the most beautiful countryside. The Kings and Scribes Exhibition literally takes you through the history from the Romans – AD400, the family of Alfred the Great (849AD – 899AD (King of Wessex).
      I agree with both yourself and Dorothy, a visit would elevate you to a level of history that is truly awesome.

    • Dear Dorothy,

      I so appreciate your comments. History can well sing in your ear. I have been to 🇮🇪 Ireland; beautiful country and indeed full of history. The Vikings also occupied some of Ireland. Winchester Cathedral is awesome everyone entering the 1000 year old icon find it hard to believe it is still standing. I am so pleased you enjoyed it.

  2. Dear Christopher,

    You always go out if your way to read, analyse, recognize the emotions and feelings that I endeavor to project. I find your comments so motivating, providing a further driving force to continue and enjoy describing my feelings regarding the natural environment and historically significant buildings.
    Thank you

  3. Simon, this certainly read as if it came from the heart. Everything you create seems to embody your heart and soul, it is written with such enthusiasm, and seems always to demonstrate your love of nature and express its value as a priceless gift to us all. This was a really delightful read, informative, educational and so descriptive, yet again a masterpiece ‘painted’ with words. It is rare these days that someone embraces their environment with such love and enthusiasm as you have done with Winchester. Thank you for this, as a bit of a history buff, I throughly enjoyed the journey you took us on. Perhaps there is a book to be written and you’ve completed the first two chapters already.

    • Dear Christopher,

      You always write such positive and analytical comments which I really appreciate. Having the inspiration to write anything takes a spark of creativity and confidence. Your constructive comments are enlightening and motivating. Thank you so much.

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