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An historic city which was once the capital of England

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Winchester started its life several decades before the birth of Christ, as a small Celtic fort. It was previously known as "Winton", but this soon changed when the Romans invaded Britain and renamed the place "Venta Belgarum". It was only when the Anglo-Saxons arrived in the 6th century that the name Winchester was finally settled upon.
One Saxon in particular, King Alfred, had a big effect on the town - after he chose it as his seat of power, he initiated a lot of building and development work, which transformed Winchester into a large settlement that eventually became the capital of England itself.
Of course, London eventually took over as the nation's primary city, but Winchester certainly played its part in the history of Britain. Visitors can't help but notice the ancient architecture, which includes remains of the old Roman walls.
However, the first item on any tourist's to-do list is usually Winchester's giant cathedral, which is the longest in Europe. Building work began in 1079AD, shortly after William the Conqueror's victory at the Battle of Hastings. Strangely, the construction site was actually a peat marsh, which made for a very unstable surface to say the least! The architects proceeded to build the church on a series of raft-like structures, which managed to support the building safely for around 800 years. It was only in 1905 that cracks began to appear. A man called William Walker came to the rescue by diving underneath the cathedral, shoring up the foundations and saving the church. The repair work took him an incredible six years. There is a statue inside the building, commemorating his achievement.
To the south of the church is the Cathedral Close, a street lined with similarly old, impressive buildings. Winchester has many of these, including the Guildhall, which is built in a beautiful Victorian style, and the City Mill, an old watermill which has recently been restored to working order.
Another place worth visiting is Winchester Castle - or at least, what's left of it. Only the Great Hall still remains, which had stood since the 13th century. Hung on the wall is a model of King Arthur's Round Table, featuring the names of each of the knights. It was originally thought to be the real Round Table, but it was later found to be a recreation, commissioned by Henry VIII!
There is much more to do in Winchester, from shopping, to food, and entertainment. There are fairs and festivals throughout the year, celebrating everything from chamber music to alternative transport. Every other Sunday the city hosts what is probably England's largest farmer's market, featuring dozens of stalls, with plenty of free samples to draw in the crowds. Winchester is also the start of several famous walking routes, including the Three Castles Path to Windsor, which recreates the journey taken by King John in the 12th century.
There's plenty to see and do in Winchester. It contains every bit of the history and culture you'd expect from the previous capital of England.
Visitor Information
Winchester Cathedral is open, 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday, 12:30 to 3pm on Sundays (times may vary for special events). Entry costs around £6 for adult, children with families are free. Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9LS. Tel: 01962 857200
Winchester Castle is open daily, 10am to 5pm (7pm on Fridays in high summer). Donation accepted. The Castle, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 8PJ. Tel: 01962 846476
Winchester City Mill is open 10:30am to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday for most of the year. Entry costs around £4 for adults, £2 children. Bridge Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 0HN. Tel: 01962 870 057

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