Chichester to Winchester to London

Trip Start May 22, 2010
Trip End Oct 31, 2010

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Margaret and Don's place

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

We walked into the centre to go to Chichester cathedral after we had packed. The centre was busy but not crowded and everyone looked happy on a nice summer's day. We didn’t go to the market as we didn’t need to buy food.

The cathedral was built here by the Normans following their policy of having them in important cities. It was begun in 1076 and completed in 1108. Since then, of course, it has had changes made. Carvings that date from the 12th century were found when renovations were made in 1829.

The women in the cathedral were very welcoming. We were offered a small pamphlet so we could see more as we walked around. The diocese covers East and West Sussex and the cathedral is also used for cultural events so it is a busy site. The cathedral was a real mix of old and new. There were a number of pieces of modern art amongst the old treasures.

In the first corner was the Baptistry and had a new stone with a copper bowl which was a memorial to a former bishop as well as a piece of modern art on the wall. Later there as a piece of carving that dated to the early 12th century, rediscovered in 1829 and set into a choir aisle.

There was a chapel (St Clement) for the Royal Sussex Regiment which had a full roll of honour on a series of boards on one wall. Near by was an airforce memorial and it referred to the links with St Clement Danes in London. It was dedicated on Battle of Britain day in 2006

The information area had a display explaining the collapse of the spire in the 19th century. The woman at the counter took us to the middle of the cathedral to explain. There is (what they refer to as) a screen there. It looks a bit like a pagoda. In the early days the poor had to pay to attend mass and were not allowed any further forward than this area. The screen was removed in the 19th century because the people of the day felt you should be able to see from the front door right through the cathedral to the altar. Fortunately it was removed carefully and stored because it turned out that it was integral to the church structure. For a while the people of Chichester heard creaking and cracking and then the spire collapsed in 1861, but fortunately no one was hurt. This was such a blow that the money to repair was raised and it was rebuilt very quickly. It is said that the Dukes of Richmond and Norfolk and Lord Leconfield met and 'settled the matter’ over breakfast. It was rebuilt in 6 years. A major restoration was done to the spire in the 1980’s for 700,000 pound.

As well as old stained glass there was a lovely new window that had been unveiled by the Duchess of Kent in 1978. The theme was ‘let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ and the window shows musicians playing horns, cymbals, flutes, drum and strings. It is very vibrantly coloured with a lot of red in the design.

I went briefly into the Treasury which holds silver from many of the churches in the diocese. Some of this went back to the 16th century. There was also a cannonball, found in the deanery, after the siege in the Civil war. The cathedral banner was given to the cathedral in 1901 and is recognised as an outstanding example of Victorian embroidery.

There were a number of tombs in the cathedral, mainly of former bishops. There was also the Arundel tomb which dates to about 1307 and shows a couple with clasped hands. This is the oldest monument where a knightly couple are showing affection, known to exist.

There were a few groups in the grounds as we left. There was a sign asking for the area to be treated with respect (no skateboards, littering etc) but otherwise it seemed it was fine to picnic there.

We called in to see Pam and Chalky again with some wine and gifts for their great grand children, and had to insist that we couldn’t stay for coffee. We were then on our way to Winchester with again a clear run on the roads. We found a car park building and then a cafe at the bottom for lunch.

We went first to the cathedral but didn’t go in. It was a 6 pound entry and we were not the only ones baulking at the cost. There was a couple behind us who also left and a group of 4, one of who was going to pay for the rest but what seemed to be his mother saying it was too much. 3 days ago Pam had complained about this very thing saying she was happy to give a donation but not a fee. They missed out on something from 4, possibly 8 people, but must think it is better to make it compulsory. When we mentioned it to Margaret and Don in the evening they totally agreed with the idea of a fee. They consider 6 pound a small amount if you are earning in the UK and they felt most people would give nothing if it was not compulsory.

The grounds were nice and a lot of people were enjoying the sun. Just outside was a local museum. It was donation entry although you could pay for an audio-guide. We started on the top floor which went through the Roman history in the city and worked our way down.

The first display told us about the city BC. The surroundings area had been occupied for many years but in 100 BC the Iron Age inhabitants built a new settlement here, although it was probably only seasonal in use. Its closeness to the Channel made it develop as a trading site. In AD43 the Romans invaded and this became part of the Roman Empire. In AD70 the Romans established a town at Winchester, Ventre Belgarum, the 5th largest town in the Roman Empire. They built canals and this allowed the city to extend over a former floodplain.

Because this was an important centre, earth and timber walls and gates were reinforced in stone in the 3rd century. There was a recently uncovered mosaic floor in the centre of the room, which would have been the showpiece of a villa. One part had been destroyed by a tree growing through it but otherwise it was complete. One edge was blacked from the use of a brazier. In this area they also had a display of a hypocaust, the central heating of the day.

There were items from various burial sites on display. Wealthy people were often buried with treasures and so their status could be seen even today. Many were in their 20’s and high levels of lead are often found in the remains, suggesting some were poisoned from the pipes or drinking vessels of the day.

The Anglo Saxons occupied most of England from the 5th century AD. In this area much of the Roman drainage system broke down and the area reverted to marsh. Because it was an easy place to cross the river the town still existed but was much smaller. Some Anglo Saxon remains have been found in the area and were on display.

On the next level we saw a big display of coins. From about 895AD for about 350 years, Winchester had its own mint under royal control. Today the largest collection of Winchester coins is in St Petersburg museum because of all the ransom paid to the Vikings (there was a close connection between Russia and Scandinavia). Most coins were silver as no copper coins existed at that time.

After the Norman invasion, Winchester again grew in importance. A castle was rebuilt in stone, an old royal palace was enlarged and the Old Minster was demolished as the new cathedral was built. Prosperous residents had a varied diet including strawberry, cherries, figs, wheat and bran. The Doomsday book was written and compiled in Winchester in 1086. At that time there were about 10,000 people in the town and a local record of 1110 gives the names and occupations of people in each street.

The city declined in medieval times, after the black plague. The dissolution of the monasteries saw the major religious houses swept way

One display talked about the electoral fight between the Muckabites and the anti-Muckabites. In 1848, 34 people died during a cholera epidemic as waste removal by cart was no longer suitable. A committee recommended the installation of mains sewers. This was not done for 30 years the Muckabites won the polls by arguing that this would raise rates and was unnecessary. It took national legislation in 1871 for the sanitation to be improved.

There was also a small piece about Jane Austin. She had moved to the city for medical treatment but died here in 1817.  Her epitaph emphasised her faith and virtues but made no mention of her writing.

The bottom floor was of Victorian times. There were old shop displays, based on actual stores in the city of the time. They included a pharmacy and a toy shop.

We then went to the Great Hall to see the Round table. Chalky and Pam used to live in the city and thoroughly recommended a visit. Chalky remembers apologising to a visitor because the table only dates to the 12th century and was not King Arthur’s. It is believed to have been made in the reign of Edward I and Queen Eleanor. The visitor was American and said it was still older than anything made in the USA.

The Hall had a number of displays based on wool so there were a lot of people taking photos of sheep. The Great Hall was the first of the 13th century, lighter and more lavishly furnished halls that followed from the massive but gloomy ones of the 12th century. It reflected the tastes of Henry III so was built with the finest materials of the time, had finely plastered walls and used brilliant colours. The King dined here, dispensed justice here and discussed affairs of state with advisors.

We were told that the original castle had been here in 1067. It was besieged and damaged in the reign of King John and so Henry had this Great Hall built when he restored the ruins. Cromwell destroyed the castle, leaving only the Great Hall. Charles II built a palace here, designed by Christopher Wren, but never occupied it and it became an army barracks.

The stained glass was mainly of the arms of various royal and noble people associated with Hampshire. The windows date to the 14th century but the glass was made from 1850-1855. There were also portraits of Kings associated with Hampshire.  We thought of Jennifer and found Richard II’s emblem and a small piece about him on one wall.

Outside was a new medieval style garden, Queen Eleanor’s garden, based on paintings from the day. It has flowers, herbs and plants that would have been used for dyeing.

Other than the great hall, there are only the ruins of a former tower still here. Some of the passage ways that went under the tower to the dry moat have been restored and we walked through them. The passages are curved so arrows could not be fired straight up them. There were 2 oak doors and the area between them could be filled with rubble in case of attack. The doors were single because this was stronger in the face of a battering ram. The tower was 13 m in diameter and was higher than the Great Hall.

This took us to an area with a new sculpture made by a local. The plaque told us that it was circular to represent the round table. The centerpiece is a throne and there are 3 guardian figures, the Alfred, Mitre and Overflow stones. The first represents royalty, the second the church and the third the natural resources of the county.

I went into the former Westgate which is now a part of the local museum. From the top you also got a great view down the main road. It had a display of weights and measures and said that the Winchester measure was the official measure of corn from Anglo Saxon times until imperial measure was introduced in 1826.  In 1327 Edward III authorised standard Winchester weights to be used in the wool trade. They had some of the official royal measures on display. The gatehouse was used as a debtor’s prison from the 16th to 18th centuries.

All through the city were signs commenting on historic features. There was a cross in one corner that is referred to as the City Cross. The earliest reference to it goes back to the early 4th century when a tenant at a local building was known as ‘Walter at the Cross’. It was a focal point for civic ceremonies in the later Middle Ages. There were doorways kept that went back to the late middle ages and pieces of walls pointed out as using Norman stones.

We stopped for afternoon tea and checked out some of the shops. This is another city I felt I could live in quite happily. We then carried on to Margaret’s and Don’s in London. We moved into the ground floor room, because Christian and Ali are still with them. It is a very nice space and we are grateful that they have such an obliging landlord.

We shared news of our trips. They had had a week in Cornwall and had also been to Lands End and Tintagel. They had round a model village at Lands End that we are sorry we missed. We also found we had all bought food from the same Pasty place at Tintagel.
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