Winchester, which began life as Roman Venta Belgarum, has a strong claim to being Britain's ancient capital city. In the chaos that followed the collapse of the Roman empire in the West, Winchester was associated with Arthurian legends, most famously by Malory who identifies the city as Camelot. This was an idea which embraced by kings thereafter, including Edward I who may have made the great Round Table still seen in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. The city’s greatest claim to fame however comes from another king, Alfred, who placed Winchester at the heart of his Kingdom, reorganising its defences and giving it a gridded street plan which can still be seen today. The lustre of Winchester meant that the city remained central to English history, hosting William the Conqueror’s second coronation, as well as witnessing the truce between Stephen and Matilda. This tour will explore Winchester’s rich past, walking the streets that Alfred laid out, visiting the site of his final resting place, as well as those of other kings, including Canute and William Rufus. We will review its Arthurian heritage in the Great Hall and explore the church and medieval hospital of St Cross which catered to the pilgrims coming to revere the bones of St Swithun. We will see the foundations of the two rival Saxon Minister churches and visit the shrine itself in the Cathedral built by the Normans to replace it, just one of many treasures to be found there.
We join the tour at our hotel in Winchester. Prior to dinner our expert Guide Lecturer will give a lecture on Arthur and Alfred.
The day begins with the 12th century Hospital of St Cross, built by the brother of King Stephen, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester. In what has often been described as the most perfect almshouse in Britain, we will explore the kitchen, brew house and Brethren Hall of this superbly preserved alms house, as well as the imposing church associated with it. After lunch, we will explore the Kings and Scribes Exhibition in Winchester Cathedral, where you will learn about the production of the Winchester Bible, England’s finest 12th century bible, as well as the importance of the city to Early English history, before having an in depth tour of this most splendid of cathedrals.
Our tour of Winchester continues to Hyde Abbey, a former Benedictine abbey suppressed in 1538 and made famous by being the first resting place for King Alfred. We proceed to St Bartholomew’s Church nearby, built in order to service the abbey, whose tower was built in the 16th century with spolia from the abbey after its destruction. The tour then continues with an exploration of a section of the city walls and, after lunch, Winchester Cathedral and Great Hall built by Henry III and immortalized by the medieval Round Table still to be found in it. The tour ends with a visit to the Winchester City Museum which houses artefacts which recount the rich history of the city.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Andante Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Field Notes
- Hotels - Accommodation in hand-picked hotels.