Not many finer spots in England. 

To many, the words of politician and journalist William Cobbett in 1830 still hold true today. Nestled at the edge of the South Downs, Winchester holds an unrivalled position in the history of England. Ancient capital of Alfred the Great’s Anglo-Saxon kingdom, witness to The Anarchy, powerhouse of medieval monarchs, resting place of Jane Austen and immortalised as Wintoncester in Hardy’s Wessex, the city and its heritage are unique.

Iron Age to Anglo-Saxons
A view over a green hill looking across rooftops
Iron Age settlement

An Iron Age hillfort was constructed about 400 BC on St Catherine’s Hill near Winchester. About 100 BC a defended settlement was founded overlooking the River Itchen at Oram’s Arbour, controlling access across the river and perhaps a seasonal market place.

Looking across a Roman mosaic towards a wall in a museum
Venta Belgarum

Established around AD 70, Roman Winchester became the capital of the Belgae tribe. By the 3rd century AD, Venta Belgarum, 'the market place of the Belgae' had become the fifth largest city in Roman Britain. The story of Roman Winchester is told in in the Venta Belgarum gallery at City Museum, Winchester.

Circa 660

Located immediately to the north of the current cathedral, King Cenwalh of Wessex builds the Old Minster, Anglo-Saxon cathedral for the diocese of Winchester from the 660s onwards.


King Alfred established the largest ‘burh’ or fortified town in Wessex at Winchester, which became the royal centre of the Kings of Wessex and later Anglo-Saxon England.

An image depicting the Battle of Edington with a map of Anglo-Saxon Wessex overlaid.
May 878

King Alfred defeats the Danes at the Battle of Edington, securing Anglo-Saxon independence: the victory is a pivotal point both in the history of Winchester and the history of England as an emerging, unified nation. 

Medieval Winchester

In the early weeks of 1067, following his coronation on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror orders the construction of a castle within Winchester’s Roman walls. Over the next century, Winchester becomes the centre of Anglo-Norman government and power. 

The front of Winchester Cathedral against a blue sky with white clouds.

Building begins on Winchester Cathedral. Seat of the Bishops of Winchester, it is one of the largest cathedrals in the UK and has the longest nave of any cathedral in Europe. 

An aerial view of the Hospital of St Cross, an early medieval flint and stone building.
1132 - 1136

Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and grandson of William the Conqueror, founds the Hospital of St Cross, believed to be England’s oldest charitable institution. 

14 September 1141

A significant point in the early years of the war of succession known as The Anarchy (1138-1153), the Rout of Winchester sees the defeat of claimant to the throne of England, the Empress Matilda.

An early medieval stone building with green foliage in the foreground.

Henry III commissions The Great Hall. Building finishes in 1235 – the cost is over £500. 

A wall-mounted version of King Arthur's round table with the red and white tudor rose in the centre and green and white sections.

1290 is believed to be the year that Edward I commissions the Round Table to be made as part of an Arthurian tournament in celebration of the marriage arrangements of his children in April 1290. 

Interior view of a courtyard showing an earely medieval stone building with a tower in its centre.

Winchester College is founded by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. His motto ‘Manners Makyth Man’ is still the motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford, which he also founded.  

The Tudors
A painted depiction of King Arthur, modelled on King Henry VIII, in royal robes holding a sceptre.

Following a visit to Winchester, Henry VIII orders ‘the repair of the Great Hall and the Round Table there’. The table is painted with its now famous design, with the original King Arthur – repainted and aged since – modelled on the likeness of a young King Henry and the Tudor rose prominent in the centre. 


Henry VIII brings the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to The Great Hall to admire the Round Table.

An ornate, panelled ceiling decorated in black with royal motifs.
25 July 1554

Queen Mary I marries Philip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral. A fine, painted ceiling commissioned by Winchester College in anticipation of a visit by the couple can be seen in Westgate Museum. 

Graffiti image of a ship carved into a sandstone wall.
Mid 16th century

The Westgate, part of the Winchester Castle complex, becomes a debtors' prison until the mid 18th century. The earliest known, published record of a debtor’s name is that of one Henry Haywood, committed to Westgate for debt in 1580. Prisoners’ graffiti can still be seen on the Westgate’s walls today.

The Stuarts to Jane Austen
17 November 1603

Charged with complicity in a plot to overthrow the first Stuart king, James I, the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh begins at The Great Hall. Raleigh conducts his own defence and is convicted, but his life is spared by King James. Raleigh is imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he remains for more than a decade. 


Captured by Cromwell, Winchester Castle is besieged for the last time. By 1651, most of the castle is demolished, with just The Great Hall remaining.

A grey stone ancient gateway.

Charles I is met by the Mayor of Winchester at the Westgate on the way to his trial in London. The mayor offers the king the keys to the city, but Parliamentary guards attack him; Charles is briefly detained in the Westgate as a prisoner.

A magnificent, huge red brick building with a large circular fountain in front of it.

Charles II chooses a site overlooking the cathedral for a magnificent new palace, designed by Christopher Wren. The King’s House remains unfinished following his death but is used to house prisoners of war and as a military barracks until it burns down in 1894, before being rebuilt in the early 20th century into a new military facility, now known as Peninsula Barracks.

Plaque stating: Site of Old Market House place of execution of Lady Lisle 1685 in the roadway
2 September 1685

Found guilty of treason at the beginning of Judge Jeffreys’ notorious Bloody Assizes for her role in the Monmouth Rebellion, Lady Alice Lisle is publicly beheaded in the Square. A plaque marking the place of her execution can be seen on the wall of City Museum, Winchester. 


The Royal Hampshire County Hospital opens, the first hospital to be built outside London.

An 18th century house painted cream with double chimney breasts.
18 July 1817

Jane Austen dies at the age of 41 at 8 College Street after being brought to Winchester by her sister Cassandra and brother Henry for treatment for what was her final illness. She was buried in the north aisle of the nave of Winchester Cathedral, where a brass plaque was erected to her memory in 1872. 

September 1819

Inspired by his regular walks across the River Itchen’s water meadows and views from the city’s St Giles Hill, John Keats writes his famous ode To Autumn during a two month stay in Winchester. 

The Victorians to the present day
Bronze statue of Queen Victoria sitting on a throne

To mark her Golden Jubilee, the county of Hampshire is presented with a statue of Queen Victoria by Sir Alfred Gilbert, R.A., sculptor of the famous Eros in London’s Piccadilly Circus. The statue can today be seen in The Great Hall. 

Black and white picture of a stone medieval gateway surrounded by 19th century buildings.
16 September 1898

The Westgate opens to the public as a museum. Mayor of Winchester in 1889/90 and keen historian, Alderman William Henry Jacob was the driving force behind its opening and the museum’s first honorary curator.  

Statue of a man in Anglo-Saxon clothing holding a sword.

Inscribed Aelfred, To the Founder of Kingdom and Nation, the iconic statue of Alfred the Great on Winchester’s Broadway by Hamo Thornycroft, R.A., was erected to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of his death – two years after the actual anniversary. The maquette for the statue can be seen in City Museum, Winchester. 

Black and white from 1903 with crowd of people attending an openign ceremony
15 October 1903

City Museum opens on The Square in Winchester, then one of the first purpose-built museums outside London. 

1906 - 1911

Deep-sea diver William Walker works underwater for six years, placing bags of concrete to shore up the foundations of a Winchester Cathedral threatened with collapse. 

14 November 1973

Marian and Dolours Price, along with other members of the Provisional IRA, are tried and convicted at The Great Hall for their part in bombings in London that injured 200 people in March of the same year. 

A pair of large-size, ornate steel gates surround by stone arches.

Two pairs of steel gates specially commissioned to mark the marriage of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 are installed in The Great Hall. 

An ornate garden situated next to a medieval stone building.
8 July 1986

A recreation of a 13th century garden is opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at The Great Hall, named for the queens Eleanor of Provence and Eleanor of Castile, wives of Henry III and his son, Edward I. 

Bronze statue of a woman in medieval dress holding the hand of a child.
3 March 2022

A statue of Licoricia of Winchester is unveiled by HRH Prince Charles outside The Arc. Licoricia was a 13th century Jewish business woman who formed a close working relationship with Henry III and his queen, Eleanor. She was found murdered in her house in Winchester’s Jewry Street in 1277. 

Projection of an animated Viking warrior onto a screen with a family sitting watching
12 November 2022

878 AD, Winchester’s newest visitor attraction, opens to the public. The immersive experience brings the atmosphere of the Anglo-Saxon city to life as its people await the outcome of the clash between Alfred the Great and the mighty Guthrum at the Battle of Edington in May 878.

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