The Church of the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester

The wonders of Winchester

February is not my favourite time of the year so I love to break it up with a couple of days away. Having said that, unlike last year, this February has been pretty good. There were days here in The Cotswolds when the temperature reached 19 degrees and even warmer in some parts of the UK.

We had decided to go to Winchester for our break as it’s an interesting city and it was quite a few years since we’d been there. My man had done his usual research and booked a ‘Fullers’ pub right in the heart of the city near to the Cathedral. The Wykeham Arms was a great choice; a pub full of character, good beer and our spacious room was excellent. Good rates too.

After checking in, our first stop was to walk up to the small church of St Swithun’s. This church is tiny and sits above the Kingsgate arch just outside the cathedral grounds. You could easily miss it as the only access is by a narrow staircase at the side. The church dates back to the 13th century and has whitewashed walls and a timber roof. Only a very few of these ‘gateway’ churches’ remain. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Sights of Winchester, Hants.
The pub, the arches alongside the cathedral and the interior of St Swithun’s Church.

Cathedral Close, Winchester.
Cathedral Close

Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the country and is one of my favourites. It’s architecture is stunning especially the enormous Gothic nave and atmospheric crypt with its statue by Anthony Gormley entitled Sound II. There’s a modest admission charge and nothing extra to take photographs. It’s a brilliant place in which to just ‘snap away’! Here below is a selection.

Architectural highlights of Winchester Cathedral
South Transept, the nave and (bottom right), view of the High Altar from the lectern.
Architectural highlights of Winchester Cathedral
Altar and in the background one of the famous Chantry Chapels
Architectural highlights of Winchester Cathedral
The 14th century choir stalls and The 15th century Great Screen.
Architectural highlights of Winchester Cathedral
The nave with its fan vaulted ceiling and bottom right the exit door and medieval stained glass window.
Crypt in Winchester cathedral and Anthony Gormley's statue
‘Sound II’ sculpture by Anthony Gormley made from lead out of plaster cast of the sculpture’s own body. The crypt floods when there’s been lots of rain.

After spending a very pleasant hour or so we had lunch in the Cathedral Refectory. A good range of food but quite a wait for two toasted sandwiches!

Just by the visitors’ centre is a statue (technically a bust) of the famous diver, William Walker. He is credited with saving the Cathedral from sinking by underpinning the foundations. It’s a fascinating story which is told in panels in the cathedral complete with pictures. From 1906-1911 he dived down into the waters to a depth of up to six meters in complete darkness to excavate the mud and sludge so that afterwards the area could be filled in with concrete. His heavy diving suit was made of metal and was too cumbersome to take off so when he came up to eat his sandwiches at lunchtime he just removed his helmet. It enabled him to eat and enjoy his pipe afterwards which he was convinced would protect him from any germs in the water. Sadly William died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

William Walker, famous diver, who saved Winchester Cathedral
William Walker, famous diver.

After lunch we walked along the river to the Hospital of St Cross. Founded in the 1130’s this Hospital is one of the oldest Almshouses in England. It’s purpose was to provide help for gentry who had fallen on hard times. Today the Almshouses are home to 25 Brothers who to this day still wear burgundy gowns for their daily Matins.

Walk to St Cross, Wilts by the river.
Walking along the river to St Cross
Grounds of the Hospital of St Cross, Wiltshire.
Grounds of St Cross

It’s an impressive place with a large church, Brethens’ Hall, Kitchens and the interesting and peaceful Master’s Garden. There were only a few other visitors which meant that I had a ‘clear run’ taking pictures.

Inside Brethren's Hall St Cross, Winchester
Inside Brethren’s Hall
St Cross Church, Winchester
St Cross Church
Master's Garden, St Cross, Winchester
Master’s Garden

It’s only a short walk from there back to the city centre but we felt we deserved a pint of ‘London Pride’ when we got back to the pub. If only we had beer like that in our local …

We rounded off our day with a Thai meal which wasn’t memorable but walking through Cathedral close was. The evening light on the Cathedral was fantastic. A friend of ours described it as a ‘Golden House’ and he was right. A perfect end to our stay in this lovely city.

Evening sunlight on Winchester cathedral, Wilts
Evening sunlight.

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