National Gazetteer (1868) - Winchester


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"WINCHESTER, comprises the parishes of St. Bartholomew Hyde, St. Lawrence, St. Peter Cheeshill, St. Swithin, St. John, St. Mary Kalendar, and St. Thomas; it is an ancient city and market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, having separate jurisdiction, but locally situated in the hundred of Buddlesgate, county Hants, of which it is the county town, 12 miles N.E. of Southampton, and 62 S.W. of London by road, or 66½ by the London and South-Western railway, on which it is a station. Before the Roman time it was successively occupied by the Iberians, Britons, and Belgæ. On the conquest of the island by the Romans, the city was taken by Ostorius Scapula, and called Yenta Belgaruan. Carausius and Alectus, who assumed the imperial purple in Britain, are asserted to have fixed their residence in this city, and here their coins have been discovered in greater numbers than in any other part of the island.

After the departure of the Romans it again became the seat of government till the year 516, when the West Saxons made themselves masters of the city, which then became the capital of Wessex, and received the name of Wintanceaster. During Cerdic's reign the church and monastery, which had been founded here shortly after the establishment of Christianity in the island, were converted into a pagan temple. In the following century, St. Birnus, whom Pope Honorius had sent into Britain, succeeded, through the influence of Oswald, King of Northumbria, in converting the West Saxons to Christianity, and their king, Cenwahl, in 648 erected a church, which he dedicated to SS. Birinus, Peter, and Paul, near the site of the primitive British church, and which, in 660, King Kenewalch made it the head of a see.

It continued to be the capital of Wessex till 827, when Egbert was here crowned king of all Angleland, or England. Although several times assaulted by the Danes, the city continued to flourish as the capital of England, and was made a guild under royal protection in the 9th century, thus enjoying municipal liberties at least one hundred years earlier than any other town in England. Athelstan established here his treasury and mint, and deposited the standard Winchester bushel, which is still preserved, together with the standard yard of Henry I. In 1013 it was devastated by Sweyn, the Dane, in retaliation for the "Hocktide massacre" of his countrymen in 1002, and remained the seat of the Danish government till the death of that monarch, when Edmund Ironside recovered the western part of the island, with Winchester for his capital, and Cnut reigned in London; but on the death of the former in 1016, Cnut became sole king. In 1042 Edward the Confessor was crowned here, and in 1044 his mother, Queen Emma, is said to have passed through the ordeal of red-hot ploughshares, in the cathedral, unscathed.

After the Norman Conquest, Winchester continued for above a century to divide with London the honours of the capital, and William I. built a strong castle at the S.W. extremity of the city. In 1079, Walkelyn, a relative of the Conqueror, having been made bishop of this see, commenced the rebuilding of the cathedral, retaining the Saxon crypt, with such portions of the walls and pillars of the previous edifice erected;by St. Ethelwald in the 10th century, as remained uninjured by the Danes. Having completed the present tower, and repaired the nave and transepts, Walkelyn dedicated the church to SS. Peter, Paul, and Swithin; the reliques of which last saint he disinterred from his tomb in the churchyard, and placed with the bones of Saxon kings in the mortuary chests, which now surmount the choir screen. On the death of Walkelyn, in 1098, William Rufus, who had been crowned here, seized upon the bishopric and held it till the year 1100, when, having been shot in the New Forest, his corpse was brought here in a charcoal burner's cart and buried in the centre of the choir. On the death of Rufus, his younger brother Henry I. seized upon the Treasury, then kept at Winchester, and caused himself to be crowned, in disparagement of his elder brother Robert, and the better to secure his title, the same year married in the cathedral the Princess Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III., king of Scotland.

In the same year a destructive fire broke out, which consumed the royal palace, the mints, the guildhall, a considerable portion of the city, and many of the public records. Under the protection of Henry I. it attained its highest pitch of prosperity. At this time it contained two royal palaces or castles, an episcopal palace, a cathedral, three monasteries of royal foundation, and 90 churches-most of which, however, were of wood; its buildings, exceeding their present limits, extended as far as Worthy on the N., St. Cross on the S., Wyke on the W., and St. Magdalen's Hill on the E. During the civil war between Stephen and the Empress Matilda, a fierce struggle was carried on for several weeks in the streets of Winchester, in which the royal palace, the abbey of St. Mary, Hyde Abbey, and about 40 churches were burnt or laid in ruins.

From this period it declined, although frequently the temporary residence of the sovereign, and on various occasions the seat of the parliaments-one of which, in the reign of Edward I., passed the famous statutes of Winchester, and another, in that of Edward II., condemned the Earl of Kent. It experienced a partial gleam of prosperity in the reign of Edward III., who made it the staple for wool, and for about a century it was an important seat of the woollen manufacture. In the reign of Henry VI. a petition was presented to the king, which stated that 997 houses were uninhabited and 17 churches shut up. Henry VIII. entertained here the Emperor Charles V., but brought great desolation on the town by the suppression of its numerous religious establishments.

In the civil war of Charles I. the city was taken and retaken several times-first, by Waller, for the parliament, in 1642; second, by Ogle, for the king, in 1643; again the same year by Waller, when the cathedral was much damaged by the Commonwealth soldiers, who destroyed or defaced the stained-glass windows, the monuments, and other relics; and finally by Cromwell in 1645, after the battle of Naseby, when, after a week's siege, he undermined and blew up Winchester castle, and laid Wolvesey castle in ruins, besides many churches and the city walls. St. Mary's College escaped uninjured, it is said, through the advocacy of one of the parliamentary officers, who had been educated in the college. In 1666 the city was so ravaged by the plague that the country people dared not approach the town with provisions, but left them at a spot beyond the Westgate, now marked by an obelisk.

The city was a favourite place of Charles II., who frequently visited it, and employed Sir Christopher Wren to design and erect a palace, which he intended for a summer residence, on the site of the ancient castle, but which was shortly after interrupted by the king's death, and not resumed till the reign of Anne, when Prince George of Denmark recommenced the works, but he dying before it was finished, the Government assigned it as a place of confinement for French prisoners in the last century; it has subsequently been converted into barracks for infantry, and a large building, recently erected in the adjoining grounds, as a chapel for the garrison.

The older portion of the town is occupied by narrow streets, branching off at right angles from the High-street, a thoroughfare of about three-quarters of a mile in length, running nearly due E. and W. through the centre of the city. The streets are well paved and lighted, and the drainage, formerly defective, is now under-going a thorough revision. Among the recent improvements are the extensive waterworks and the extramural cemetery of 7 acres, situated to the S.W. of the town. Nearly in the middle of the High-street, on the S. side, is an ancient piazza, called the Pent House, with the butter cross in front, supposed to have been built in the reign of Henry VI. by one of the city guilds, tradition says with the money paid for a dispensation to eat butter in Lent-whence the name-and restored in 1865 by Mr. G. G. Scott, under William Budden, mayor. The cross, which is in the later English style, consists of 3 stories, 43 feet high, on a base of 5 steps, ornamented with pinnacles and niches containing figures of Alfred the Great, St. Lawrence, William of Wickham, and Florence de Lunn.

A little higher up the street, on the same side of the way, is the townhall, rebuilt in 1713, with a figure of Queen Anne in front; and at the top of the street is the western gate of the city, containing the muniment room, where the archives of the city and the standard weights and measures are kept. A little to the left of the gateway is the chapel or hall of the royal castle built by William the Conqueror, and now used as the county hall. This last is 110 feet long by 45 wide, the roof being supported by Gothic arches springing from marble pillars, and at the E. end is suspended the so-called round table of King Arthur.

Other public buildings are the county gaol and bridewell, recently erected on West Hill, in place of the old gaol, which stood in Jewry-street, and the bridewell, which stood on the site of Hyde Abbey, N. of the town; the new corn-exchange in Jewry-street, built in 1839, with a Tuscan portico and front of 120 feet; market-house, erected in 1772, and rebuilt in 1857; county hospital, on the summit of a hill to the S.W. of the town, intended to supersede the present edifice, erected in 1736; a museum, assembly rooms, race stand, union workhouse, general post-office, mechanics' institution, subscription library, stone bridge of one arch across the Itchen, a savings-bank, and four commercial banks.

In religious, educational, and charitable foundations, Winchester stands unrivalled: the first place being due to the Cathedral, both on account of its high antiquity and the magnificence of its design. Few churches in Europe exhibit finer specimens of Gothic architecture than are displayed by the carved roof of the choir, erected by Bishop Fox, and the delicate lace work of the stone altar screen. The proportions of the edifice are-from the W. entrance to the choir, 356 feet; length of choir, 135 feet; and the lady chapel at the E. end, 54 feet; making a total length of 545 feet. The nave is 87 feet wide, including the aisles, or 186 through the transepts, and 78 feet high. The tower is 48 feet by 50, and only 139 feet high. The cathedral has undergone many restorations and repairs; but that which was completed in 1828 was the most perfect, having occupied 16 years, and cost upwards of £50,000.

The most recent restoration is that of the E. window. Among the numerous monuments in the cathedral may be mentioned the tomb of William Rufus, of plain grey stone, without inscription, in the choir; the six mortuary chests, filled by Bishop Fox with the remains of Saxon kings and saints; the chantries or oratories of the bishops Wykeham, Edyngton, Courtney, and Prior Silkstede, with his rebus, a skein of silk and a steed; Fox, containing his effigy and crest; St. Swithin, Gardiner, Cardinal Beaufort, and Waynflete, lately restored; also the sepulchre chapel and the Grecian screen of Inigo Jones, with statues of James I. and Charles I.; also Prior Silkstede's pulpit, Bishop Walkelyn's old square font, sculptured with basso-relievos of St. Nicholas and his chapter, supported on four pillars; Bishop Trelawney's throne, the effigies of De Foix the Crusader, and a bronze of Lord Portland, besides an altar-piece by West, representing "Christ raising Lazarus," and the chair in which Queen Mary sat during her marriage with Philip of Spain. There are, too, the holy hole, where bones were formerly collected; the doomsday vault in the N. aisle, where the Rotulus Wintoniæ was kept before its removal to London, and many frescoes, wall paintings, punning rebuses, and tombs of bishops. Within the cathedral precincts are a passage 90 feet long, formerly connected with Bishop de Lucy's cloisters; the site of the old chapter-house close to the dean's garden; the refectory, an ancient stone structure, 41 feet by 23, with two large kitchens below; the prior's hall, now the deanery, and Bishop Morley's palace, with a chapel of the time of Henry VII.

Second only to the cathedral is St. Mary's College, the foundation of William of Wykeham, situated outside the city boundary, on the S.E. It was erected in 1382-93 on the site of the old grammar-school, in which he had been educated, and which is known to have been founded before 1136. It consists of two quadrangles built of hewn stone, and entered through an antique gateway, which leads, by another gateway under a tower, to the inner court. Over the latter gateway are statues of St. Michael and the founder, raying on either side, and the Virgin in the centre. Tying inner quadrangle is the more elegant, having in the S. side the hall and chapel: the former 63 feet by 33, with a good timber roof; and the latter one of the most beautiful specimens of Gothic architecture extant, covered with a vaulted roof, and enriched with stained windows, the eastern one representing the genealogy of Christ; also antique stalls, six brasses of priests, and an altar reredos lately restored by Mr. Butterfield at the expense of Chief Justice Sir W. Erle. The cloisters adjoining the chapel are of the fifteenth century, and form a square, each side of which is about 132 feet, with several brasses let into the wall; and in the central area is the library, built in 1430, by J. Fromond, as a chantry.

The school-room was built by a subscription among the Wykehamists, as the students are styled, in 1687, at a cost of £2,592. The residence of the head-master adjoins the college, and has been recently rebuilt at a cost of £20,000. This college numbers at present about 300 students. It was originally designed by the founder as a preparatory seminary of New College, Oxford, also founded by Wykeham, and consists of a warden, 10 fellows, and 70 foundation scholars, besides other scholars, clerks, choristers, and others. A public examination takes place annually, when the vacant scholarships at New College are filled up by the warden from among the most promising students. Amongst the eminent men educated here have been about 40 prelates, including Ken (whose name may still be seen cut upon the cloister walls), Howley, and Louth, besides Sir T. Browne, Wotton, Otway, Phillips, Young, Somerville, Collins, T. Warton, Hayley, and Sidney Smith.

Other ancient foundations are St. John's hospital, part of which is now used as a public banqueting-room and assembly room; Symonds's college, or Christ's hospital, founded in 1607 by Peter Symonds; Morley's hospital, or the Matrons' college, founded in 1672 by Bishop Morley, for the support of 10 clergymen's widows, on the site of St. Grimbald's new mynster, founded by Alfred the Great in 808, and whose inscription was picked up here; the Abbey house, built on the site of St. Mary's abbey, originally founded by Alfred's wife, Alswitha, and rebuilt by Henry II.; and the hospital of St. Cross, which has lately been restored by Mr. Butterfield, about 1 mile S. of the town. The hospital was originally built and endowed by Henry de Blois, the brother of King Stephen, in 1136, but was much enlarged by Cardinal Beaufort, who added the "Almshouses of Noble Poverty." The church and other buildings belonging to the hospital are in Norman architecture, erected chiefly during the prelacy of Cardinal Beaufort. At present this ancient institution consists of a master and 13 brethren of Bishop de Blois' original foundation, with a porter, cook, and 25 out-pensioners; but when its revenues, which are managed under a provisional scheme of the Court of Chancery, will permit, it is in contemplation to revive Cardinal Beaufort's larger design.

The churches of Winchester are 12 in number, and are mostly ancient. St. Lawrence is the bishop's or mother church; St. Swithin's was built by King John over the old postern of the king's gate, and is much admired; St. Bartholomew's, once belonging to Hyde Abbey; St. Maurice's, once collegiate; St. Thomas, recently rebuilt; St. John's, part Norman; St. Peter Cheeshill, built in the 11th century; St. John the Baptist's chapel; the old church of St. Cross, mentioned above; the Holy Trinity Church, on the N. walls, recently erected by the Messrs. Govers; and Christ Church, S.W. of the town. The city comprises the eight parishes of St. Bartholomew Hyde, St. Lawrence, St. Peter Cheeshill, St. Swithin, St. John, St. Maurice with St. Mary Kalendar and St. Peter Colebrook annexed, St. Thomas with St. Clement's, besides the extra-parochial districts of the Close, St. Mary's College, and the hospital of St. Cross. The see of Winchester is in the province of Canterbury, and includes the archdeaconries of Surrey and Winchester, with the islands of Wight, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark. The bishop is sub-dean of the province of Canterbury, and prelate of the Order of the Garter, ranking next after London and Durham. The chapter comprises a dean, 5 canons, 5 minor canons, a chancellor, and 2 archdeacons. The income of the bishop is fixed at £10,500, and his residences are Farnham Castle, in Surrey, Winchester House, and St. James's-square, London.

Winchester has a high steward and recorder, and is a borough by prescription. Under the late Municipal Act it is divided into 3 wards, and is governed by a mayor, who is returning officer, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, with the style of mayor, bailiffs, and commonalty of the city of Winchester. The municipal revenue is about £2,700, its area is 850 acres, and its assessment £41,453. It has returned two members to parliament since the reign of Edward I., and is the polling town for the northern division of the county. The spring and midsummer assizes and quarter sessions for the county are held in the county hall; and the mayor and corporation hold quarterly sessions for the trial of all offences not capital. A county court is held monthly, and the Bishop's court, called Cheyney court, from the French word chene, "an oak," under which it was formerly held, has also jurisdiction for debt and damage within the liberties of the see or convent of St. Swithin. It is the head of an excise district, and the seat of a superintendent registry.

The Poor-law Union comprises 34 parishes and townships. Since the decay of the woollen trade no manufactures of, importance have been introduced, but considerable business is done in the general trade and in agricultural produce, also in brewing, malting, and brick-making. The principal seats in the vicinity are Ampfield, Avington Park, Cranbury, Crawley, Hursley Lodge, Shawford, Twyford House, Worthy Park, and Hong Kong, in the Chinese style of architecture, where R. Andrews, Esq., as mayor of Southampton, received Kossuth, the Hungarian, on his arrival in England in 1854. Winchester gives title of Marquis to the Paulets of Amport. The Kingsworthy hounds hunt in the vicinity. One newspaper, the Hampshire Chronicle, is published in the town. Here is a Roman Catholic church, built in 1792 by Carter, which has several stained windows, and the ancient Norman porch of St. Mary Magdalene's hospital. The Wesleyans, Independents, Baptists, and other dissenting congregations have chapels. The educational establishments include Winchester College, above described, the diocesan training school, several private academies, and numerous National, infant, and Sunday schools in connection with the several places of worship. Races take place annually on the downs, about 3 miles N.W. of the town, on a two-mile course. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs are held on the first Monday in Lent; on the 2nd August, at St. Mary Magdalene's hill; and on the 23rd and 24th October for sheep, horses, &c."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]