Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Jane Austen`s Corner of Winchester

In this house, not far from Winchester  Cathedral, the novelist Jane Austen died.
She had been ill for some time and had been growing weaker. It is thought that she may have had Addison`s Disease or maybe a cancer of the lymphatic system. She had come to stay in rented rooms, under the care of her sister Cassandra, to be treated by the city`s best doctors. Sadly, her illness was incurable.

A view down College Street, showing the house where Jane died on the right and the buildings of the fee paying public school, Winchester College, beyond it.

Opposite the house are the walled gardens of grand buildings. This magnolia tree was in full, glorious blossom on the March afternoon of our visit.

Around the corner from College Street. In the wall of the former post office on the left, there is an interesting red Victorian letter box.

Gateways in the city wall that lead to the Cathedral. This may have been the route taken on Jane Austen`s final journey to her burial place in Winchester Cathedral.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

An Hour in Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral stands in a green and tree lined close just a few minutes walk away from the High Street. I have loved visiting the cathedral since childhood days. Although Winchester does not have the magnificent towers of Lincoln or the tall spire of Salisbury, it is a fine and inspiring building with its beautiful nave and so many other features of architectural and historical importance.

Flash photography is not permitted inside the building , so the few inside images are from a mobile phone camera.

The main door beneath the West window.

The first cathedral church, now called the Old Minster, was built on this site by the Anglo Saxons, who completed their building in the 7th Century. After the Norman Conquest (1066) the cathedral was rebuilt ( completed in 1093) on its present large footprint, using many of the materials from the Saxon Minster. Below, the paved areas in front of the Norman North end show the site of the foundations of the Saxon Minster.

There have been changes and additions in subsequent centuries, but the interior of the cathedral is an awe inspiring and timeless space.

A drawing of the Old Minster.

The Nave of Winchester Cathedral, showing fan vaulting above the Choir.

Reflections of a stained glass window on a pillar in the Nave.

A statue of the early 20th century Naval diver William Walker, who saved the cathedral from subsidence by replacing rotting timbers in the foundations with concrete.

These medieval floor tiles are said to be the oldest still being walked upon in England.

Winchester was the Saxon capital of Wessex and of England. Raised above the Choir, are a series of Mortuary Chests which contain the bones of many of the Saxon Kings and early Bishops. I remember, as a young girl, being amazed and thrilled by being in the presence of the Kings and Queens we had learned about in school history lessons. That sense of wonder has never left me. So many centuries have passed since their time, yet still they here are!

This is one of a series of beautiful stained glass windows designed by the Pre Raphaelite painter William Morris.

The Font which has been used to baptise Winchester babies since the 1100s.

The early 19th century novelist Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. She was brought to Winchester to seek medical care, but died in a house not far from the Cathedral, in the care of her beloved sister Cassandra. She did not achieve literary fame in her lifetime, so the words on her tomb tell of the loss of a much loved daughter, sister and aunt. The brass memorial plaque in the nearby wall was placed there at a much later date, to acknowledge her greatness as a writer. It was touching to see that someone had left a simple bunch of daffodils below her memorial.

The Cathedral is a treasure house of history. The Cathedral website explores its history in great detail and describes the part still played by the cathedral in the life of Winchester.

Outside in the Cathedral Close.......

The War Memorial and new nests in a nearby tree. Life goes on......

A Norman arched, leaded window.

The tower , shorter than that of many English cathedrals, seen from the south side of the close.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Winchester - Down the High Street on a Mild March Day

On a bright March day, we drove up through the chalk downland of Northern Hampshire, to spend a day in Winchester. We parked at the top of the hill and walked down the old, familiar High Street into the city.

Winchester is the county town of Hampshire and has been an important settlement since the Iron Age. The Romans built their market town here, named Venta Belgarum, on the banks of the River Itchen. Saxon settlers named the town Winton, and they built the first fine church on the site of the present cathedral. Winchester has been the capital of England and the capital of Wessex, so the city has a long and distinguished history. A walk along the present day High Street shows so many glimpses of life in past centuries, yet the oldest of buildings are often standing alongside the most modern.

We set off downhill, with the medieval city gate behind us.

The bronze sculpture of Horse and Rider, by Elizabeth Frink, stands on the hill overlooking the city. A symbol of the travellers and invaders who have ridden these southern hills over thousands of years and found , in a sheltered valley, a place to settle and to thrive.

Georgian shop fronts..........

.....some still displaying the visual shop signs of past years. Here, a quill pen and fountain pen signify the stationer`s shop beneath.

Down towards the bustling market square, where buildings of so many centuries stand together.

The town clock

Old and new.....

Down the side of the medieval Godbegot building in the market square.........

....is a narrow alleyway. In one of these buildings is the oldest public bar in England.

Looking back towards the city gate.

The medieval Buttercross has been a meeting place for townspeople for centuries. A wealthy landowner once tried to buy and remove the Buttercross as an ornament for his landscaped park. The people of Winchester threatened to riot and the Buttercross stayed where it was!
It is still the focal point for people to gather.

An accordian player serenaded congregating students on the Buttercross steps as the High Street grew busier and people came out to walk among shops and market stalls.

Boots the Chemist has occupied these fine old buildings for many years.

More bow fronted buildings....

.......Spring flowers on a market stall..........

The Guildhall on the right and a first sight of King Alfred.

This Georgian coaching inn is now renamed "Alf`s", in honour of the Saxon King........

.......who stands overlooking his fine city as twenty first century motor traffic passes by.
Winchester is one of the few English cities where you can stand in the middle of town and see green hills and trees around you. If I ever had to live in a city again, this would be the one.