Win'chester, the city of Hampshire, on the Itchen, 60 miles WSW. of London. It originated in a tribal settlement on the summit of a hill. As the settlers became more numerous they descended the slope (St Catherine's) to the plain, which they named 'Gwent,' or the hollow. The Romans took possession of the town, and formed its future rectangular plan. Alongside of the wattled huts of the ' BelgAe' soon grew up city walls, temples, a head college for flamens, etc.; and, if the record be true, the first Christian church in Britain was built here, 169 a.d. Tessel-ated pavements, etc. are preserved in the museum of the new guildhall, while the walls of Wolvesey are studded with Roman bricks and drums of columns. The Romans spelt the name Venta, the Saxons Wintanceastre. From the 8th till the 13th c. Winchester was a rival of London. In 635 an Italian monk, Birinus, here converted King Cynegils, whose son Cen walk here built St Peter's basilica. Alfred the Great, educated here, resided during his long reign at Winchester, of which his tutor St Swithin was a native and afterwards bishop. Alfred also founded the 'New Monastery,' afterwards called from his favourite master, ' St Grimbalds.' After the king's death the monks by trickery obtained his body, and became also possessed of the bones of St Josse. But in Edgar's reign Bishop Aethelwold erected a magnificent cathedral, its chief attraction the body of St Swithin and the miracles it worked. William the Conqueror built a palace at Winchester, which so circumscribed the monks that they moved across to Hyde Mead, on the north-west of the city. This took place in 1110; in 1141 the abbey was destroyed by fire-balls from Wolvesey, when the fight raged for seven weeks in the heart of the city. The monastery was soon afterwards rebuilt, and in 1390 its abbot was mitred. In 1788 a bridewell was* constructed out of the ruins. Beneath the east window lie the bones of five persons found here in 1867, and supposed to be those of King Alfred, his queen, two sons, and St Grimbald. Henry III. ('of Winchester') was born in the castle, which had a Mappa Mundi and Wheel of Fortune - the latter perhaps 'Arthur's Round Table,' which now hangs in the hall. The castle had become much dilapidated before the Cavaliers took refuge here - soon to surrender to Waller. The city and castle were retaken by the royalists, but finally yielded to Cromwell in 1645. One tower of the castle remains, with the fine hall 110 feet long. For 400 years parliaments occasionally sat in it, and now it is a law-court. Hard by is Charles II. 's red brick palace, now a barrack (largely destroyed by fire in December 1894). The Saxon cathedral was rebuilt in 1079-93. Its central tower fell in 1107, but was soon rebuilt; and it still forms the substantial part of the present cathedral, which owes its existing form to Bishops de Lucy, Edington, Wykeham, Cardinal Beaufort, and Wayne-flete. Specially interesting are the monuments and unrivalled chantries. In the centre of the choir stands an ancient tomb, said to be that of Rufus; here too are buried Bishops de Lucy, Dela Roche, Edington, Wykeham, Cardinal Beaufort, Wayneflete, Langton, Fox, and Gardiner, as also Jane Austen and Izaak Walton. The resting-places of the Saxon kings and bishops are unique - coffers perched on the choir partition walls. This cathedral is the longest in England (520 feet) except Canterbury (525).
In 1369-93 Winchester College was founded by William of Wykeham. His edifice is that now existing, except the chantry chapel, schoolroom, and tower. At the entrance of the kitchen stands the picture of the Trusty Servant. The hall is magnificent, 53 feet long. In the schoolroom, built by Warden Nicholas (1687), stands the celebrated signboard painting (c. 1450), informing the schoolboy that he must learn, leave, or be flogged. There were always some boys who were not on the foundation, and as they increased ' Old Commoners' was built in 1730. The number of boys is now about 450. Among former Wykamists have been Archbishops Warham and Howley, Sir Thomas Browne, Bishop Ken, the poets Collins, Warton, Young, Otway, and Bowles, Lowth, Lempriere, Dr Arnold of Rugby, Sydney Smith, and Lord Sherbrooke. There are two hospitals dedicated to St John, and said to have been founded by Birinus; one has been rebuilt, the other has a fine hall belonging to the corporation. Portions of the city wall, mostly built in the reigns of John and Henry III., remain, and two of the gates. Several of the town houses are ancient; the Butter Cross dates from Henry VI.; and close to it an old clock projects over the High Street in front of the former guildhall. The city once extended to St Cross, Wyke, Worthy, and Magdalen Hill, and in the reign of Henry I. had 20,000 inhabitants, but declined so much after being sacked in 1265 that it has but now regained that amount, the pop. being 13,704 in 1861, and 20,919 in 1901. A free library was established in 1877. A mile distant stands the interesting hospital of St Cross, founded in 1132 by De Blois, but almost wholly rebuilt by Cardinal Beaufort.
See works by Dean Kitchin (' Historic Towns,' 1890), L'Estrange (1889), Misses Bramston and Leroy (1882; new ed. 1884), Benham (' Diocesan Histories,' 1884); and on the College, Adams (1878), Kirby (1888 and 1892), Holroyd (1891), Leach (1899), and Townsend Warner (1901).