Nowadays a tranquil, handsome market town, WINCHESTER was once one of the mightiest settlements in England. Under the Romans it was Venta Belgarum, the fifth largest town in Britain, but it was Alfred the Great who really put Winchester on the map when he made it the capital of his Wessex kingdom in the ninth century. For the next two hundred years or so Winchester ranked alongside London, its status affirmed by William the Conqueror’s coronation in both cities and by his commissioning of the local monks to prepare the Domesday Book. It wasn’t until after the Battle of Naseby in 1645, when Cromwell took the city, that Winchester began its decline into provinciality.

Hampshire’s county town now has a scholarly and slightly anachronistic air, embodied by the ancient almshouses that still provide shelter for senior citizens of “noble poverty” – the pensioners can be seen walking round the town in medieval black or mulberry-coloured gowns with silver badges.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

England features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The joys of winter walking in the Lake District

The joys of winter walking in the Lake District

The Lake District is Britain's newest UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the country's most popular hiking destinations – but in winter it sees far fewer w…

20 Nov 2017 • Ben Lerwill local_activity Special feature
Podcast: the extraordinary life of Aboriginal storyteller Francis Firebrace

Podcast: the extraordinary life of Aboriginal storyteller Francis Firebrace

Cowboy, pirate, Aboriginal storyteller, artist, cultural educator, filmmaker, soft-porn photographer. Francis Firebrace, now 81, has certainly led an extraordin…

14 Nov 2017 • Greg Dickinson volume_up Podcast
Podcast: adventures with the Natural Navigator

Podcast: adventures with the Natural Navigator

In a world where we rely so heavily on GPS to get from A to B, it's easy to tune out from the natural navigational clues that surround us. In this episode of…

07 Nov 2017 • Greg Dickinson volume_up Podcast
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook