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Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, UK

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A Brief History of Winchester
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Royal Hampshire County Hospital | Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

Already standing for over 900 years, Winchester Cathedral1, built between 1079 and 1093, is the third cathedral on the site. This house of worship, located in what was once England's capital city, is the longest mediæval cathedral in Europe. In addition to its architectural significance, the cathedral boasts a fascinating history.

Early History

From Saxon times Winchester was the capital of Wessex and subsequently, after the reign of King Alfred the Great, of all England. From 648 AD a Minster was located in Winchester and in 757 Hampshire became the first county of England. Winchester was the wealthiest see2 in England throughout the Middle Ages, wealthier even than the archbishopric of Canterbury which Winchester challenged unsuccessfully for the right to be an archiepiscopal see3.

Old Minster

The first cathedral in Winchester was the Old Minster, which originated with the construction of a small chapel in 648. The cathedral for the West Saxons was originally in Dorchester, yet the bishop's cathedra moved to Winchester before 676, making Winchester the cathedral for the diocese of the West Saxons, the see of Winchester. The first Bishop of Winchester, Wine, is believed to have been appointed in 660.

Between 648 and 994 this chapel was gradually expanded and improved, almost beyond all recognition, to become what was described as the finest building in England, and the largest church in Europe during Saxon times. Built of limestone on an east-west orientation, the Old Minster was 74m long and originally cruciform in shape, but rapidly expanded to include four towers, three crypts, three apses, and two dozen or more smaller chapels. The Old Minster was decorated with coloured window-glass, paintings and wall-paintings, sculptures and stone reliefs, some of which has survived and is on display in the neighbouring Winchester City museum. The Old Minster was home to a booming organ dating from 951 AD, that needed 70 men to operate, and was believed to be the largest organ in the world. It also had bells and a weathercock on top of a five-storey tower which was described by Wulfstan's Narratio Metrica:

stands on its summit, adorned in gold, awe-inspiring to behold... It holds the sceptre of rule in its proud talons and stands above the entire populace of Winchester.

In 860 Winchester was attacked by Vikings and the fragments of stained glass that have been discovered imply that the Old Minster suffered in this raid, and that the city was rebuilt on a different street grid. Several Kings of Wessex were buried in the Old Minster. These included King Egbert, died 839, Æthelwulf, died 855, and Alfred The Great, died 899, although he was later reburied by his son in the New Minster. It is believed that much of the stone for the Old Minster was imported from Bath, although some was re-used from the Roman remains in the city.

Bishop Æthelwold encouraged a community of Benedictine monks to take up residence in the Old Minster around 964. These monks stayed in the Old Minster and later neighbouring St Swithun's Priory until 1539, when the monasteries were dissolved.

When the New Minster was constructed next to the Old Minster, the Old Minster immediately had a new west front and grand façade constructed to ensure that the Old Minster looked the more impressive and larger of the two. It was also constructed so that the king on his throne on the second floor of the west end of the minster could see the altar on the ground floor at the very east end of the minster.

St Swithun

The Old Minster was a home of the shrine to St Swithun4, a Bishop of Winchester who died in 862. His body was found in 974, shortly after the discovery in 971 by Bishop Æthelwold that St Swithun had, in his lifetime, performed miracles5. One of these miracles took place on the day that St Swithun bridged the river Itchen at Winchester, at the site of the current bridge by the watermill. A woman who had come to watch the bridge open was jostled in the crowd and broke the eggs she was carrying, smashing them into pieces. St Swithun miraculously restored the eggs and made them whole again. He is also famous for predicting the weather; if it rains on St Swithin's Day, 15 July, it will rain for 40 days afterwards. This belief is believed to have been based on the day that St Swithun was interred in his shrine in the Old Minster and the weather following. The old, empty grave site remained in use until the dissolution of the monasteries as a memorial court and St Swithun's Priory.

New Minster

Work on constructing the New Minster began in the reign of Edward the Elder (899-924) and was built in 901-3. The New Minster was not intended to be a replacement for the Old Minster, but rather a separate structure bordering the Old Minster a few feet away that doubled the importance of Winchester and emphasised its place as the heart of the kingdom of England. The Old and New Minsters were part of a Royal Ecclesiastical complex that also included Wolvesey Palace, the castle that was the Bishop's Palace, and Nunnaminster, a neighbouring abbey for nuns founded by Alfred's wife Queen Ealhswith. The Old Minster was used exclusively by monks while the New Minster was to be for ordinary people, although Winchester's population would attend services at the 76 parish churches rather than the New Minster.

Edward the Elder also intended that the New Minster would be a fitting mausoleum to the Royal Family of England and reburied his father, Alfred the Great, and Alfred's wife Ealhswith in the New Minster. Many, but not all, kings of England in the late Saxon age were buried in the New Minster. These include Edward the Elder, died 924, Edward's son Ædred, died 955, Ædwig the Fair, died 959, Cnut, also known as Canute, King of Denmark, Sweden and much of Norway as well as England, died 1035, and Harthacnut, who died in 1042. Alfred the Great and Edward the Elder were later reburied elsewhere. Kings Edgar, died 975, Edward the Martyr, died 978 and Æthelred II, who died in 1016 were all buried in other places. After the Norman Conquest, all the tombs of the Saxon kings were preserved and reburied in the new cathedral; William the Bastard6 wished to emphasise that he was the rightfully appointed heir to the Saxon kingdom. In 1158 the lead coffins containing these kings were placed high above the screens surrounding the cathedral's high altar.

Not everyone was pleased with the construction of the New Minster next to the Old Minster. It is reported that the voices of the two choirs confounded one another.

Winchester Cathedral

At the time of the Norman Conquest, Archbishop Stigand was Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Winchester, despite never having been a monk. William the Bastard considered him a threat to his power, and in 1069 William took advantage of a rebellion against the Normans to implicate Stigand's family and remove Stigand from power. William's kinsman and Royal Chaplain William Walkelin was appointed Bishop of Winchester. One of his first impulses was to expel from the Old Minister all the Benedictine monks serving the cathedral and was only prevented from doing so by the Norman Archbishop Lanfranc, newly-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

Construction of Winchester Cathedral

Bishop Walkelin on his appointment immediately began constructing a new Norman cathedral next to the Saxon Old Minster, angled slightly towards it, so that the new cathedral intercepted the Old Minster at the west end. Much of the stone for this work came from the quarries of Quarr on the Isle of Wight. It is known that King William Rufus granted the Bishop of Winchester:

half a hide of land on the Isle of Wight for the building of his church... I have given [the Bishop of Winchester] licence to dig for stone not only there but also throughout my land on the Island, in open country, and in woodland, that is if the woodland is so small that the horns of a stag can be seen going through it.

The story is also told of either William the Bastard or William Rufus granting the cathedral the right to as many trees as could be felled in three days and nights in nearby Hempage Wood. Walkelin allegedly rounded up the entire population of Winchester for those three days and cut down the entire forest save for one tree, known as the Gospel Oak. Next time William Rufus visited he is believed to have said: Have I gone mad? Surely I had a most delightful wood near Winchester?

Some stonework also came from Bath. The Old Minster was demolished in 1093 with much of the stonework used to finish constructing the present Winchester Cathedral. This was not unusual; by 1125, within 50 years of Archbishop Lanfranc's Council of London in 1075, all the old Saxon cathedrals and most of the large abbeys in England had been rebuilt.

When this first, main phase of construction was finished, Winchester Cathedral was 534ft (163m) long. In comparison, Christ Church Cathedral, Canterbury, was 295ft (90m) long. Winchester Cathedral was the second-longest cathedral in Europe at the time, after Cluny, and the longest north of the Alps. It is believed that Walkelin built Winchester to such an enormous scale in order to attract royal burials and the wealth that pilgrimage would bring. William II Rufus, who died in 1100 by an Act of God7, was the first king to be buried in the new Winchester Cathedral, and the last king to be buried in Winchester. Shortly after he was buried, the tower of Winchester Cathedral collapsed on his tomb. This was declared another act of God. In fact, collapse of cathedral towers was not uncommon. Within 60 years of the Norman Conquest, all the cathedrals of England had been quickly rebuilt in a new, confident style that pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved in building with stone. Experimenting at the limits of what could be built out of stone created new techniques, such as the invention of flying buttresses. It also created unstable stone structures. Collapses included: Winchester Cathedral's tower 1107, Gloucester Abbey's west front tower 1170, Lincoln Cathedral's nave 1185, tower 1237, St David' Cathedral tower 1220, Ely Cathedral tower 1322, York Minster tower 1407, and Ripon Cathedral tower 1450.

Cathedral Life

Life in the monastic cathedral followed the Rule of St Benedict, written in the 6th Century. Monks wore black habits and were secluded from the outside world by the symbolic Close Wall which surrounded the cathedral land. Only the cathedral church and shrine of St Swithun were open to the public.

Eight services were sung each day in the choir, the most important part of the cathedral located beneath the lantern tower. This is also where daily High Mass took place. Only one mass would take place at the high altar each day. Unlike today, where the nave is used for seating, the nave originally would have been used for processions. The cathedral was originally the preserve of monks. As such, it had the usual collection of buildings surrounding the site that are associated with monastic life.

After the Reformation in 1549 the number of daily services was reduced to two; Morning and Evening Prayer, which took place in English rather than Latin. Communion only took place on Sundays, replacing the High Mass service.

Monks were allowed to keep pets. Every Holy Innocent's Day a 'Boy Bishop' was elected for the day. The Boy Bishop's duty was to preach a sermon, after which he would be given a shilling's worth of wine as a reward.

Monastic Buildings

Unusually Winchester Cathedral had a priory as part of its grounds, one of the centres of the Benedictine monastery that used Winchester Cathedral. The number of monks was usually about 45. In addition to the cathedral church there was also a small chapel building on the site where St Swithun's remains had been found.

Other than the cathedral church and St Swithun's chapel, the monastic buildings were arranged around two cloisters, the Great Cloister next to the nave and the Little Cloister further south. These were arranged in a figure of 8 in the middle of the cathedral land which was protected by the Close Wall.

Arranged around the Great Cloister were the Cathedral church, the nave forming the north side of the Great Cloister and the South Transept of the church a third of the east side. The middle third of the east of the Great Cloister was taken up by the most important of buildings after the church; the Chapter House, constructed in 1090. This sadly no longer exists, other than the entry arcade and south walls. Every morning the monks would gather in the Chapter House to hear a chapter's reading from the Rule of St Benedict, and discuss the day ahead. South of the Great Cloister and taking up the final third of the east side was the Dorter or Dormitory, where the monks lived on the first floor, raised over an undercroft used for storage. A culvert of a small stream known as the Lockburn had been diverted by Bishop Æthelwold to provide a source of water to the Old Minster and was used as a water source and drain for the Dorter and the neighbouring Rere-dorter. The Rere-dorter was the latrine block and was attached to the rear of the Dorter but not open to the Great Cloister.

On the south-east corner of the Great Cloister and extending into the Little Cloister was the Prior's House, now occupied by the Deanery. On the south of the Great Cloister and dividing it from the little Cloister was the Frater or refectory, with kitchen and service buildings nearby. The west was the cellarer's range where food and provisions were stored.

The Little Cloister was dominated by the kitchen buildings and a separate kitchen for the Prior was on the east. To the south of the Little Cloister was the infirmary, which had its own culvert from the Lockburn and where sick and old monks stayed. This was next to the Almonry, the schoolroom where the boy choristers were taught. Other buildings on the cathedral land included the stables, brewhouse, barn, forge and Floodstock Mill. The guesthouse built in 1308 in the south-east corner of the cathedral land still survives, and is known as the Pilgrim's Hall. It contains the oldest-surviving hammer-beam roof. The south entrance to the cathedral today passes Cheyney Court, an attractive Elizabethan timber-framed building.

Soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries many of the monastic buildings were considered superfluous and were stripped of all saleable materials then demolished. The infirmary was destroyed in 1570, the Chapter House in 1580. The guesthouse only survived demolition through its adaptation into a brewhouse.

Cathedral Description

The cathedral, more remarkable for its antiquity and length (518ft) than for its appearance. The west front, however, and the front view of the entrance are imposing.
– George Bradshaw's Descriptive Railway Handbook, 1866

The cathedral was cruciform in shape and it was intended to have had twin towers flanking the north, east, south and west ends as well as the large central lantern tower. After the collapse of the central tower, only the twin towers at the west end were actually constructed. The west end may also have had a royal ceremonial balcony; one is known to have existed at the Old Minster that the cathedral replaced.

The cathedral has a central lantern tower. Originally this was open to the roof and had windows that would provide the building with light. After the collapse of the original lantern tower, the second, current tower built 20 years later is one of the finest constructed parts of the cathedral. Although the ceiling of the tower is finely decorated, when originally constructed the tower, open to the elements, created such a draft that in 1243 the monks were given special dispensation from the Pope himself allowing them to wear caps in choir in the winter in order to keep warm. In the 16th Century the tower was blocked off below its original height in order to create a bell chamber and ringing chamber.

The cathedral church itself has three main sections. The first is the nave, originally used for processions and now as seating. This is the western and longest arm of the cathedral. The second is the choir or quire, the central altar area used for the singing body of the cathedral. The third is the other spaces, chapels and side-altars, including the unusually high number of chantry chapels. Chantry chapels are a particularly English tradition in cathedrals which housed altars where masses were said specifically for the souls of those who created the chapels, usually bishops or wealthy patrons.

The choir is particularly noted for its outstanding highly decorated carved 14th Century choir stalls. Either side of the choir are the two 'arms' of the church, which are known as transepts. Both north and south transepts are three stories tall, from ground level main arcade, gallery and clerestory, with these three stories of equal height. At the end of each transept it had been planned to build twin towers, however these were never built. The south transept, as part of the Great Cloister, was the reserve of the monks and had a door to the monastic buildings. The north transept was used as a reception for pilgrims.

Originally the cathedral was undivided and immediately on entering the nave the visitor would have been able to see the apse on the far east end, and the bishop's throne or cathedra stood. Since then the cathedral has been divided by screens: a rood screen near the crossing, later to become a choir screen, and the Great Screen behind the High Altar in the east end of the cathedral. This was built in 1470.

Church Organ

The cathedral's organ was built by Henry Willis & Sons Ltd8 and was the largest organ at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. Winchester Cathedral's organist SS Wesley attended the exhibition and recommended that it should be purchased by the cathedral, where it was installed in 1854. Since 1854 the organ has been modified several times, most notably in 1897, 1905, 1937 and 1988. The organ has 5,500 pipes and 79 stops. In 2012 it briefly featured in the television documentary series Great British Railway Journeys.

Cathedral's Early History

When constructed, St Swithun's remains were transferred into the cathedral from the Old Minster on St Swithun's Day, 15 July, in 1093. After this had taken place the Old Minster was ordered to be demolished in November 1093 and was completely destroyed by 1095. The cathedral was then built over the site of the Old Minster's west end. The walls are 12ft (3.65m) thick.

Theoretically the monks of Winchester Cathedral had the right to elect the bishop of Winchester, with gaining royal approval a minor formality. In practice throughout the mediæval period the monarch chose who would be bishop.

After William Walkelin's death in 1097 William Rufus deliberately chose not to appoint a bishop, preferring instead to confiscate all funds generated by the diocese of Winchester. After William Rufus' death by Act of God, William Giffard, William Rufus' chancellor, was nominated bishop by Henry I in 1100, but not consecrated until 1107. The monks of Winchester accused William Giffard of appropriating church funds, and in protest at his actions marched anti-clockwise around the cathedral holding their crosses upside down. This hard-hitting civil disobedience is reported to have deeply affected Bishop Giffard. He spent the rest of his life eating at the cathedral's lowest table in the refectory, staying in the monks' dormitory, and founded England's first Cistercian abbey, nearby Waverley Abbey in Surrey. He also sent a monk named Reginald to Stavanger, Norway, carrying an arm-bone of St Swithun in order to found a cathedral9 there. William Giffard, the 35th Bishop of Winchester, died in 1127 and in 1128 Henry de Blois took the title.

Henry de Blois

Henry de Blois was a brother of King Stephen and nephew of King Henry I, son of Henry I's younger sister Adela and Stephen de Blois, and a grandson of King William the Bastard. As the 36th Bishop of Winchester, he was one of the most powerful men in England, controlling Winchester, England's wealthiest bishopric. As papal legate he outranked even the Archbishop of Canterbury and was King Stephen's chief advisor. Henry de Blois had his own castle, Wolvesey Castle, next to Winchester Cathedral at Winchester's eastern border. He played a vital role in the civil war known as the Anarchy (1135-54), fought between Empress Matilda and King Stephen. Unfortunately Winchester was at the centre of the civil war. In 1141 de Blois' forces loyal to King Stephen held Wolvesey Castle in the east of Winchester, while Empress Matilda held Winchester Castle by Winchester's West Gate. During the siege the city of Winchester in between bore the brunt, with the Royal Palace at Winchester completely destroyed, the north of the city burnt to the ground and 40 churches in Winchester scorched. It was not until the signing of the Treaty of Winchester on 6 December, 1153, which stipulated that Stephen would rule England until his death, after which Empress Matilda's son Henry Plantagenet would be crowned king, that peace would be restored.

After the Anarchy had ended de Blois began to transform Winchester Cathedral into a centre of arts and antiques, creating a substantial treasury within the church itself. It was de Blois who, in 1158, moved the coffins of kings and placed them on display around the high altar and displayed the reliquary of St Swithun more prominently. De Blois created a short tunnel, known as the 'Holy Hole', to bring pilgrims closer to the precious relics. Pilgrims would be forced to crawl through this tunnel, which was considered a fitting humbling position for those meeting the remains of a saint.

De Blois imported a new, highly detailed marble font from Tournai in Belgium in 1160. The font shows scenes from the life of Bishop Nicholas of Myra, now known as Father Christmas or Santa Claus. De Blois also commissioned the famous Winchester Bible, one of the greatest art treasures of the Middle Ages. This bible is decorated with gold leaf and the rarer and more valuable lapis lazuli, with each page two feet tall by one foot wide. He also commissioned the 12th Century wall paintings. De Blois tried unsuccessfully to persuade Pope Celestine II to elevate the status of Winchester from being a part of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury to being an archbishopric in its own right.

Historical Events

In 1202 the east end of the cathedral was extended to create a retrochoir, where pilgrims could congregate to visit St Swithun's reliquary and the relics of St Birinus, the first bishop of Wessex. This was originally a large open space, but in the 15th Century numerous chantry chapels were constructed. On the retrochoir's floor is the largest mediæval tile pavement in England. The stonework was originally painted red and green, but today it is bare stone. In 1310 the east end of the cathedral was remodelled to better link the style of the later extension with the original Norman cathedral.

In 1213 in Winchester Cathedral's Chapter House King John performed penance for Papal envoys, ending the Pope's embargo on church services known as the Interdict10. In 1194 Richard I the Lionheart was effectively coronated for a second time in Winchester Cathedral. Henry III of Winchester, who had been born in Winchester Castle in 1207, was baptised in Winchester Cathedral.

Originally Winchester Cathedral extended a further 45ft (13.7m) west than it does today, with the original front framed by two towers until these were demolished c1350. It had been intended to rebuild these towers in the mid-14th Century, however the Black Death prevented this, with the population of Winchester more than halved. Winchester would not regain its pre-plague population until the reign of Queen Victoria. Instead of the grand new twin towers, the present west face complete with West Window was constructed by 1404.

In February 1403 Henry IV married Joan of Navarre in Winchester Cathedral. In 1486 Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Henry VIII's older brother was baptised there.

In 1525 the mortuary chests containing the kings of England were placed in their present position. Four of the eight chests are original but the other four were destroyed during the Civil War and were replaced in the 17th Century. On 25 July, 1554, Queen Mary married Philip of Spain there. In 1673 Nell Gwyn, Charles II's mistress, was refused entry to cathedral grounds. In 1817 famous novelist Jane Austin was buried in Winchester Cathedral, she had died nearby in College Street.


Winchester Cathedral has faced two periods of destruction or iconoclasm. The first was the Reformation followed by the subsequent dissolution of the monasteries, the second was the Civil War.

In 1539 the dissolution of the monasteries meant that the monks of Winchester Cathedral and the associated Priory of St Swithun surrendered to King Henry VIII and the cathedral's valuables were confiscated. The remaining bones of St Swithun11 were lost at this time, and many of the cathedral's statues were used as building material.

During the Civil War in August 1642 Winchester Castle surrendered to Parliamentary forces. The troops chose to celebrate by looting Winchester Cathedral and on 13 December the soldiers broke into it, many riding their horses through the nave, smashing the choir, opening the mortuary chests containing the remains of English kings and throwing the royal bones through the stained glass west window. By the restoration of the monarchy, of the 12 surviving cathedral buildings before the Civil War, all but five were demolished by Parliament, two were ruins. There had been plans to demolish the entire cathedral church, which was spared only by a petition from the people of Winchester asking for the building to be saved. Despite this, a large number of mediæval wall paintings have survived.


The crypt floods each winter. This is as a result of the water-table of Winchester having raised significantly in the last thousand years. In the crypt now is a sculpture of a figure entitled Sound II, which is designed to stand in water. It evokes the natural beauty of the sculpture and its reflection in the water within the floodlit crypt.

By the beginning of the 20th Century it was realised that this flooding, through causing subsidence, had seriously eroded the cathedral's foundations and the whole building was in danger of collapse. The only way to secure it was by underpinning the mediæval walls with concrete, but to do so would involve going 13ft below water. There was no money available for this work, and so a national appeal for funds was made in newspapers. From 1905-12 deep sea diver William Walker spent six hours each day underwater in the dark beneath the walls of the cathedral, making the building safe while buttresses were constructed on the cathedral's south side to help support the building. Finally the work was completed and celebrated by a special service on St Swithin's Day 1912, which was attended by King George V and Queen Mary.

The Cathedral Today

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral was the first cathedral in Britain to appoint a curator who takes care of Winchester Cathedral's art treasures and historical artefacts, of which there are over 5,000 portable in addition to those built into the fabric of the building.

The cathedral is maintained by a dean, five canons, an organist, a music master, seven vicars, 16 choristers, two sub-sacrists, four vergers, 12 bell-ringers, 12 bedesmen as well as choirboys and, since 1999, choirgirls.

Winchester Cathedral has inspired popular music. The New Vaudeville Band in 1966 had a hit entitled 'Winchester Cathedral' and Crosby, Stills & Nash sang about Winchester Cathedral in a song entitled 'Cathedral' 11 years later, released on their album CSN.

Additionally, Winchester Cathedral has been used as a location for film and television. Recently it appeared in the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007, prior to that in 2006 it doubled as the Vatican for the mildly-controversial film The Da Vinci Code.

In October 2011 Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series of books, launched his book 'Death of Kings', set in Saxon Winchester at the time of King Alfred the Great, with a book signing in Winchester Cathedral. Winchester Cathedral now charges an admission fee for entry to tourists in order to help maintain the running of the building. In the grounds are a statue of a Tommy, a War Memorial, the gift shop and cafe. Just outside the grounds is the Winchester City Museum, located in a Grade II Listed Building, which houses many historical artefacts associated with the cathedral.

Winchester Cathedral is a short walk downhill from Winchester railway station, is located close to National Cycle Route 2312 and it can be easily reached by car from Junction 11 and 10 of the M3. A park-and-ride scheme is available to encourage tourists not to cause congestion in the historic city centre.

Bishops of Winchester

The Bishop of Winchester is one of the five most senior clergyman in the Church of England, after the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London and Durham. The Bishop of Winchester is one of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords. Since 1349 all Bishops of Winchester have held the position of Prelate of the Order of the Garter. Bishops of Winchester have in the past refused to accept when offered the higher rank of Archbishop of Canterbury, as Winchester was by far wealthier. Many bishops of Winchester have been Chancellor of England.

Of the 102 bishops of Winchester since Wine in 660, the most influential bishops have been:

  • St Swithun, 19th Bishop 837-62
  • St Æthelwold, 32nd Bishop, 1008-15, created the cult of St Swithun
  • William Walkelyn 36th Bishop, 1069-97 – Kinsman of William the Bastard, constructed the cathedral.
  • Henry de Blois, 38th Bishop, 1129-71 – brother of King Stephen and key figure in the Anarchy.
  • William Wykeham, 53rd Bishop 1366-1404 - founded New College, Oxford in 1379 and Winchester College in 1382.
  • Henry Beaufort, 54th Bishop, 1404-47 – later Cardinal, half-brother of Henry IV and three times Chancellor of England.
  • Thomas Wolsey, 59th Bishop 1529-30 – Chancellor of England, executed by Henry VIII.

The first Bishop's Residence at Winchester is believed to have been located beneath the current cathedral. Bishop Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester 963-84, was the one to build the first Bishop's Residence on the small island in the middle of the Itchen. This island, known originally as Wulf's Isle, a name that corrupted in time into Wolvesey, is still home to the Bishop of Winchester over a thousand years later.

1A cathedral is a church containing a cathedra, a cathedra being the throne or seat of a bishop. 'Cathedral' usually is used to mean the cathedral church but can also mean the complex of buildings surrounding the church used by the bishop and cathedral staff. In mediæval times this included a monastery.2A diocese or see is the area controlled by a bishop, and is divided into parishes.3The diocese of Winchester originally stretched from Surrey to the Isle of Wight. In 1927 the diocese of Winchester was divided into three smaller sees; the northern third became the diocese of Guildford, the Isle of Wight and south-east Hampshire became the diocese of Portsmouth and the rest remaining the diocese of Winchester.4Also Swithin.5It is believed that this 'discovery' was in order to attract more pilgrims to Winchester, and thus increase Winchester's wealth. Trails known as the St Swithun's Way and Pilgrim's Way still lead to Winchester Cathedral.6William the Bastard has been known since Victorian times as William the Conqueror. Bastard was not originally the insult that it is considered today.7William Rufus was out hunting in the New Forest when he was killed by an arrow. William Rufus' death was declared an official Act of God. Curiously his older brother, Richard, Duke of Bernay, had also died in a hunting accident in the New Forest in 1081, although God was not considered a suspect in that death. Richard is also buried in Winchester Cathedral.8This company also built organs for Durham, Hereford, St Paul's and Salisbury Cathedrals.9Stavanger Cathedral is Norway's oldest cathedral and is still dedicated to St Swithun.10Pope Innocent III placed King John and England on interdict, refusing the people of England to receive communion, between 1208 and 1213 when John refused to accept Stephen Langton, the Pope's nomination, as Archbishop of Canterbury.11St Swithun's skull was loaned to Canterbury, from which it was taken to Evreux Cathedral in Normandy, where it is still stored in the cathedral treasury.12Sandown, Isle of Wight to Reading, Berkshire, via Newport, Cowes, East Cowes, Southampton, Eastleigh, Winchester, Alresford and Basingstoke.

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