Winchester Guildhall stands on part of the site of an estate granted by Alfred the Great to his wife Ealswith probably as a coronation gift in 871 AD. After his death she retired there and founded a nunnery known as Nunnaminster. Known in the later medieval ages as St Mary’s Abbey, it was one of the foremost nunneries in England. In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved the abbey and the site passed to the crown. The land came into the City’s hands to help cover its costs for hosting the wedding of Mary Tudor and Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral in 1554.
Winchester’s earliest guildhall was located next to the Butter Cross in a small chamber above the passageway leading from the High Street to the cathedral. In 1712 the guildhall occupied the upper chamber of the Old Market House on the High Street, while the ground floor served as a covered market. This remained the site of the guildhall until late Victorian period and the building is now occupied by Lloyds Bank. The expansion of civic responsibilities following the Local Reform Act of 1835 markedly changed the role of guildhalls and Winchester needed a newer and larger building.
The New Guildhall
The Hastings architectural firm Jeffrey and Skiller submitted a design in the Gothic revival style and on 22nd December 1871 Viscount Eversley laid the foundation stone. Nearly a year and a half later in May 1873 the new Guildhall was opened by Lord Selborne. The Guildhall was part of a larger complex, housing the law courts, police station and fire brigade but the greater part was given over to civic roles. Events for large public audiences occurred on the Broadway where the Guildhall grand façade formed a backdrop to the podium on the staircase. These included the victory celebrations following World War I and royal visit of George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the 17th May 1946.
For a building of Gothic revival design, the Guildhall façade is relatively uncluttered. Its decoration includes four statues of kings and bishops with Winchester connections. Placed in the arches above the principle windows are sculpted panels showing events reflecting the ancient dignity of the mayor and major events in the city’s history. In pride of place is the central panel below the clock tower that shows the mythical 1st mayor of Winchester Florence de Lunne receiving the city’s charter from King Henry II.
These interesting instruments are inset into the guildhall wall. So far I have been unable to find out their history…
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
Alfred. king of the West Saxons (AD 871-889) drove the Danish invaders from Wessex. He created fortified centres, of which Winchester, the largest was his capital. During his reign, the streets in use today were first established. Alfred was the most esteemed of English kings. He encouraged the revival of learning and monastic life, and laid the foundation for a single kingdom of England. This statue by Hamo Thorneycroft, was erected in 1901.*
*From the signboard beneath the statue.
From the Three Saints website:
The medieval church of St Lawrence in the Square is of great interest, not only for its unusual square design but also for its fine 17th-century ‘king-post’ roof and its ancient site. There was a church on the site before the Norman conquest, and it was incorporated into William the Conqueror’s palace as the royal chapel.
After the palace and chapel were destroyed by fire, St Lawrence Church was rebuilt in about 1150. The church was badly damaged by fire in 1978 and after restoration re-opened in 1980, with seating for about 120 people. St Lawrence is still referred to as the Mother Church of Winchester, for it is the only surviving parish church of Norman foundation within the city walls. When a new Bishop of Winchester is on his way to his enthronement in the Cathedral, it is at St Lawrence Church that he is presented to the Mayor, clergy and citizens.
In 2012 a project to enhance the porch of the church saw the installation of a beautiful glass screen.
Words from The Elixir by George Herbert
Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see,
and what I do in anything
to do it as for thee.
A man that looks on glass,
on it may stay his eye;
or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
and then the heaven espy.
I ordered egg and bacon for breakfast which I was expecting to be a small portion without all the added extras of a full cooked breakfast. I was wrong, I was served double quantities of egg and bacon! After breakfast we packed our cases into the car and set off towards Coughton Court which was our chosen stop off point on our journey home. On arrival at Coughton Court we had a cup of tea before taking a tour of the house.
Unfortunately it was raining heavily during our visit which meant we weren’t able to visit the garden and that photo opportunities were limited. However we did drop lucky when we visited the Anglican Church just as a historian started to give a very interesting and informative talk on the history of Coughton Court and the Throckmortons. After the talk it was time for lunch before continuing on our journey home. After such a large breakfast all I needed was a small cake to tide me over until our evening meal.
After breakfast, where the correct amount of toast for three people was served, we set off for the Bodleian Library. On our way there we stopped off at the “Oxford University Press” bookshop. I am a fan of their “Very Short Introductions – To Almost Everything” and I was in my element seeing the full collection lined up in one place. We decided to return later to make some purchases.
On arrival at the Bodleian Library we purchased tickets for the tour then sat in the library hall waiting for the tour guide. Mum rushed out at the very last minute saying she didn’t like the thought of the steps in the library… As it turned out her departure was unnecessary, the steps were only a small (easily missed) part of the extremely interesting tour of the building. When we located her after the tour it transpired that she had gone off shopping!! After the tour I purchased a book in the Bodleian Library shop before returning to the Oxford University Press bookshop to purchase three of their short guides for the price of two.
At this point it was time for Mr C to move his car from the hotel car park as we did not have an allocated space for that evening. Mr C deposited mum and I in M&S, the place that mum was aiming for and failed to find on her errant shopping expedition. I am not really a good person to go shopping with because I dislike shopping. I did however spot a lovely glass necklace and bracelet and treated myself for my birthday
When Mr C returned from moving his car we headed off for a creperie that Mr C had seen an advert for. When we arrived it turned out to be a mobile road side booth. We eventually found somewhere more suitable and sat outside enjoying our lunch in the unseasonably warm weather. After lunch we made our way to the University Church of St Mary which we found very interesting.
We then made our way to the Ashmolean museum, taking in Blackwell Bookshop along the way. On arrival at the Ashmolean it was time for a cup of tea before exploring the Ancient Egyptian and Syrian halls, after which it was time to return to the hotel and rest our weary feet and freshen up before our evening meal.
We struggled to find a place to get booked in to. We ended up finding a table available at the Brasserie Blanc. We traveled by cab to save our weary feet. The brasserie had a nice ambiance and the food was delicious. After the meal we returned to The Head of the River for a nightcap and to pack our cases for the journey home…
Breakfast was cooked to order and very tasty, although it was a little odd that we had two rounds of toast for three people. When we had finished the two pieces we asked for a bit more. After breakfast we set off towards Christ Church College and walked through the memorial garden and water meadows before joining the queue to enter the college. I say joining the queue, in fact there were only two people in front of us but by the time the doors opened, ten minutes late there was a large queue behind us.
We enjoyed the college and the Cathedral, where in the shop I found the Pitkin Guide to Oxford. It shows the best of Oxford via two walking tours. As luck would have it we were part way through the route of one of them. We carried on along the route to the science museum and stopped for a brief visit before carrying on past the Bodleian Library to a nearby pub for lunch. The pub was a bit chaotic but we managed to find ourselves a quiet corner to sit.
After lunch we returned to the Bodleian Library but opted out from rushing to join the last tour of the day. We visited the library hall, with the intention to return the library for a tour the following day. We then carried on along the walking route passing under ‘The Bridge of Sighs’, which is so named due to the apparent resemblance to its Venetian namesake. Just past the bridge we took a slight detour down a narrow alley to find The Turf Tavern where allegedly Bill Clinton imbibed in some ‘pot’. We then continued along the walking route passing many historic buildings, stopping off in a Viennese cake shop to indulge in tea and cake…
We then made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before our evening meal in The Quod Brasserie. On our walk to the brasserie it was lovely to see young ladies in long dresses and young gentlemen in suits and ties queuing up for a function in the college. After dinner we returned to the hotel for a nightcap before retiring to bed.