Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Great Hall

My attempt to visit and photograph the Great Hall in Winchester eventually succeeded. This not particularly impressive building dating from 1222 is all that remains of Winchester Castle which was demolished in 1651 after the Civil War on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.

Inside the hall is largely empty. It is often used for exhibitions. It was first restored in 1875, and again in 1976 and 1998-9.

At one end is a mural I suppose you'd call it with all the names of British monarchs from Edward I to Victoria. In the photo above you can see William and Mary, James II along with sundry other names. Lord Harry Powlett seems to be popular, and the name Thomas seems to turn up all over the place. I can find no information on the the mural, nor any explanation of the names and dates.

At the other end is the Round Table, now known to have been constructed in the 14th Century, and repainted in its present form for King Henry VIII.

This massive lumpen statue of Queen Victoria is more or less the only other thing of note inside the Hall. It was presented to High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1887 to celebrate the queen's golden jubilee. It is enormous, and not very pretty.

Outside is Queen Eleanor's Garden, a medieval garden recreated in 1986.It is named after Queen Eleanor of Provence wife of Henry III and her daughter-in-law, Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I.  The web of alleyways between buildings of the castle would have left odd shaped plots with high walls which were made into gardens "Let three herbaria be made". This garden has been pieced together from fragmentary descriptions.

The modern building at the end is part of Winchester Crown Court which is in the position of and much the same height as the old castle wall.

The fountain based on a description written in 1272.

The bronze falcon on top of the fountain created from medieval drawings with details from the wooden falcon (1305) in the Winchester Cathedral choir stalls.

An arbour made from coppiced poles of willow. Vines and roses were grown to provide shade to protect the ladies' pale complexions.  The wall to the left was part of King's House built for Charles II with 120 rooms. It was used to house 600 refugee French priests during the French Revolution. Quite cosy then. The building burnt down in 1894 and lines of melted pitch can be seen on parts of the wall.

A turf seat with trellis roses behind and a floor of wild flowers. All plants in the garden would have been grown in thirteenth century gardens.  Herbs were loved for their scented leaves which were more valued than visual beauty, and also had domestic uses.

The wooden bench is adapted from a much larger bench in Winchester Cathedral. On the left is the Pentice roofed with oak shingles.

Although it's really a very small garden, it is very pretty and full of interest. And it changes from season to season.
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  1. Thanks for taking me on a tour through the Great Hall in Winchester. So breath-taking. I want to visit it and see it for myself one day.... and pictures of me in the beautiful garden. :)

  2. What a fascinating lot of photographs and descriptions. It was almost as good as being there.

    I particularly loved the falcon.

  3. ECL, if you ever make the trip, let me know and I'll give you a guided tour. :)
    Elaine, you too of course. I loved the falcon. So much more attractive than Queen Vic!

  4. Thank you A! Very fascinating... and just imagine how much nicer it might have been if that meanie Cromwell didn't demolish the rest of it like he demolished most of the country in those times.

  5. The garden is spectaculor - enjoyed that. I lived in Scotland for a while and I would like a castle some day (in my dreams). One day I will return and do a bit more sightseeing. In the meantime I can see what you are up to - thanks.

  6. That is such a fantastic castle! I'd love to stroll through there and the garden looks so romantic! Or the whole place. I just love old castles like that. So beautiful!

    One can truly feel the wings of history!


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