Exploring Winchester’s Great Hall

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The Great Hall, built in 1235 by Henry III, is the last remaining building from the great Winchester Castle. After his coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror began building the castle. Henry III had a love of architecture and commissioned Elias of Dereham to oversee building of the Hall. Dereham also oversaw the construction of Salisbury Cathedral and is the only commoner to be honored in the stained glass windows.

The Great Hall has been used for many functions: court trials, weddings, and a “round table.” Tournament is Edward I time were called “round tables” where courtiers dressed up from Arthurian legend and participated in jousting and feasting.

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On our way to the Great Hall we stopped at Eat, Drink and Be for coffee and breakfast. Yum.

“Edward I believed strongly in the myth of King Arthur. He attended many round table feasts. Edward had the table build within the Great Hall, which may have been for a round table tournament in 1290 to celebrate the arranged marriages of his children.” (The Great Hall Where History and Legend Meet, Hampshire County Council)

Henry VIII first visited Winchester as King in 1516, whereupon he ordered the repair of the Great Hall at Winchester and the Round Table. This is when it was first painted in the design you see on display today.

Winchester Castle was largely destroyed by that spoilsport Oliver Cromwell after 1645. Only the Great Hall remains and it is now the responsibility of the County of Hampshire.

The Great Hall makes the most of its sketchy connection to King Arthur. I’ve seen Excalibur and read a bit about it, but I admit my knowledge has some big blanks, so I was excited to read Rosie Schaap’s New York Times travel article, “King Arthur Slept Here (Maybe).” She asserts that the places to visit if you are interested in an Arthurian pilgrimage are Glastonbury, Tintagel, Totnes and Padstow. Her article then goes on to describe the kind of new age and coven-catering shops you can find almost anywhere in California. None of her experiences relate to King Arthur. Perhaps Avalon is best left to the imagination.

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A good reason to leave London: Winchester

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As a cycling fan, I knew I made the right choice to include Winchester in my vacation plans when I walked to a late lunch and had to detour around an amateur bike race! I found the The Old Vine pub restaurant and was able to get a seat with a view of the race. The food was delicious–pub food has certainly been given a serious uplift since the 1980s and 90s.

I wasn’t more than a 5 minute walk to the doorstep of the Winchester Cathedral. Just in time for Evensong. Naturally I did not have to pay an entrance fee to attend worship, but I gladly paid 8 pounds the next day when I returned for a proper tour of the Cathedral with UK Sarah and her friend from Winchester, Adrienne.

The Winchester Cathedral is truly impressive. I enjoyed it more for seeing it with a long time parishioner Adrienne.

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The Cathedral Crypt

We spent over an hour going around the Cathedral and enjoyed a great conversation.

We were ready for a coffee and I had read about Chococo chocolate and coffee cafe. Adrienne agreed that it was a terrific idea and we ended our time together drinking coffee and eating desserts. Delicious.

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SWATCH: Crafts and Wool in Winchester

I was looking for a pub for lunch when I discovered Creative Crafts kitty corner from the Winchester City Museum and the Cathedral grounds. I wasn’t looking for wool since my suitcase was already bulging. My imagination was caught by the crocheted shark toy and the book of crazy sea creatures that featured the pattern. I purchased two pattern books and added them to the box I’d ship home from the post office.

IMG_1446The women who offered assistance in the shop were friendly and interested in what I was working on. I showed them the pineapple baby hat I was knitting for my grandson Calvin.

If you need any type of needle craft supplies while you are traveling or want to purchase a project, stop by Creative Crafts at 11 The Square in Winchester.

Jane Austen Anniversary Today

IMG_1436The author of five sublime novels,  Jane Austen moved to Winchester seeking medical treatment at the end of her life. Her beloved sister Cassandra joined her at No. 8 College Street. Although Winchester was a renowned medical center, her doctor Giles King Lyford did not hold out hope. Indeed, Jane crossed over on July 18, 1817, 200 years ago today.

After reading about the many special anniversary activities planned this Anniversary year, I added Winchester to my itinerary. I lodged at the centrally located Royal Winchester Hotel and took an easy train ride from Southampton.

IMG_1430 Her temporary home makes a good first stop. Further down the road on College Street is the elite boys prep school Winchester College. Across the street from No 8 is a small park with several Jane tributes. Stop in the awesome independent bookstore P&G Wells and buy a new copy of Persuasion, the international Austen book for 2017. Then go round the corner to the Wykeham Arms for a fantastic cup of coffee or better than pub lunch or dinner.

The Winchester Cathedral offers a “Jane Austen Events Programme 2017” and includes a funeral procession reenactment on Monday 24 July at 8:30 a.m. (5 pounds for ticket). This is the same time, 200 years earlier, that her brothers and nephews escorted her body to the Cathedral. “Her sister Cassandra wrote that she watched from the window as her dear sister left her forever as the procession turned the corner to enter the Close.” (Winchester Cathedral programme)

The Winchester Cathedral is the final resting place for Jane Austen. Her grave and a special memorial are in the north nave aisle. The Cathedral published a booklet by Michael Wheeler, “Jane Austen and the Winchester Cathedral,” where he explains how Jane Austen came to be buried inside the Cathedral,

“The fact that Jane Austen died in the paris of St Swithun entitled her to burial in the Cathedral precinct, and there were no compelling reasons for her to be buried in Chawton, Steventon or Bath. But to be buried inside the Cathedral, she and her family must have had strong connection in the Close. If the Revd Henry Austen made the request to the Dean and Chapter, he may well have been supported by Mrs. Elizabeth Heathcote, nee Bigg, his sisters’ lifelong friend and the widow of the Revd William Heathcote, sometime Prebendary of Winchester.”

IMG_1421My last stop on my Jane Austen adventure was to the special exhibits at the Discovery Centre and library. If you are not already familiar with Jane’s life story, then this is the place to start. I also picked up a helpful brochure at the City Museum “Jane Austen’s Winchester” that provided a helpful overview of her time in Winchester 24 May – 18 July 1817.

These exhibits will be open through 24 July (and the last one until 20 August):

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and her Alton Apothecary

If you have the extra time, Chawton is about 30 minutes by car and 1 hour by bus. Jane’s home and a special study center await you there.

Celebrating Jane Austen in 2017

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Any year is a good year to celebrate Jane Austen. If you agree with this statement then you don’t need the 200th anniversary of her death to do a little Jane Austen inspired travel. The good news is that many places in southern England are using it as an excuse to offer plays, special exhibits and special events. If you have complete flexibility in your travel check out Hampshire county’s website.

janes-tombstoneI have a specific time in June when I will be in Hampshire county and Winchester, so I will be able to see three exhibits at the Winchester Cathedral where the novelist is buried:

  • The Mysterious Miss Austen
  • Jane’s Winchester: Malady and Medicine
  • Jane and the Alton Apothecary
  • The Jane Austen Story

My favorite is an ephemeral event called #RainJane.  “Explore the city of Winchester and be delighted as 12 of the writer’s quotes from her novels or correspondence magically appear various locations across Winchester city centre when it rains. Rediscover Austen’s words in Winchester, her final resting place, and re-experience their enduring relevance. Copies of the trail can be downloaded here or hard copies can be collected from Winchester Tourist Information Centre. Explore the city to find the quotes and share your images on social media with #RainJane. A carved wooden and wrought iron bench is placed in College Street in the Winchester College garden as a place to reflect upon a living wall of ivy showcasing one of Austen’s memorable quotes “Know your own happiness. Call it hope.”

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If you have flexibility, the week of March 13th there are a number of plays and other events scheduled in surrounding towns. It looks like fun. Events are scheduled at Steventon, Chawton, and Southampton.

England to far away for you? North America has two celebration for Janeites.

The largest Jane Austen event in North America will be in Louisville, Kentucky from July 14 to 16, 2017.  The theme this year is “Celebrating Jane Austen’s Legacy: 1775-1817.”

The Jane Austen Society of North America hosts the 2017 Annual General Meeting:  “Jane Austen in Paradise: Intimations of Immortality,” at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa October 6-8. Registration fills quickly in early summer, so become a member in good standing so you can take part.