A Brief History of Winchester

By: Keith Barrett

Winchester is located in Hampshire, to the south of London. Today, this is a relatively small and unassuming place. Yet, with every step that you take around the city centre, you are aware of the depth of history that is still associated with the city.

The earliest settlement on the existing site of the city dates back to 150BC but it was once the Romans arrived in Britain that Winchester really began to grow.

The street layout in the city centre still remains based on the original Roman plan and there are a number of references to Winchester's original Roman name, Venta Belgarum.

After the Romans left Britain, the social fabric of Winchester (and many other parts of the country) began to break down. The Saxons of the 7th century were to begin to resurrect the city, building the first Christian church in 648AD.

It is with the Saxon king Alfred that Winchester is possibly most famously associated.

Alfred The Great made Winchester his capital and is still remembered by the grand statue of him that stands at the bottom of the Broadway.

The Norman Conquest of the 11th century was to keep the city at the heart of Britain's political situation, with William the Conqueror choosing to erect a castle and have the city as one of his two capitals (the other being London).

This period also saw the building of Winchester's most famous building: Winchester Cathedral. The cathedral still stands, a monument to the architectural prowess of Britain's Norman conquerors.

During the Middle Ages Winchester, like much of the country, suffered greatly due to the Great Death - more than 50% of the city's population died as a result of the disease.

Winchester was again to rise to prominence during the Restoration, becoming a favourite city for King Henry VIII. In the end, the city's ties with the monarchy were to prove part of its undoing, when Oliver Cromwell ordered the destruction of its once great castle.

Today, much of Winchester's past is still visible in the city. Visitors can enjoy the cathedral, castle ruins, Great Hall, and the surviving city wallsFeature Articles, including the Westgate and Kingsgate.

This remains an engaging place for visitors of all ages - a chance to step back in time.

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