Day 7 – Rest Day, Winchester

In an uncharacteristic show of restraint we didn’t try and cram everything in Winchester into our eyeholes in one day like the massive tourists we are. Instead we decided to be selective, and allow time for other things such as lunch, and actual resting as this was, in fact, our rest day. We figured we’d have to check out the cathedral because it’s really quite magnificent, and as the City Mill was closed we’d have a look at Wolvesey Castle too.

Guys. The cathedral! Oh my fucking gosh, it’s incredible! Even if you just wandered in there and pointed your face at everything it’d be brilliant, but guided tours are free and shit is so much better when you know what you’re rubbing your eyeballs all over. A volunteer called Jacqui took us around. She was great, I don’t know how she can store all this information in my head. I’ve already forgotten most of it but there are a few things I’m going to excitedly tell you all about in this post via the medium of photos I took.

This huge stained glass window at the front used to depict the life of Christ but Puritans smashed it during the Civil War. When the monarchy was reinstated they just put all the glass back in however they could and now it looks like modern art. Jacqui’s favourite story is that the local people collected all the pieces and kept them safe for years but this isn’t verified. Regardless, it’s the original glass. You can make out the odd image but mostly it’s just beautiful chaos.
The Puritans also trashed all the statues on the screen behind the altar. The ones you see here today were put there in Victorian times but the originals were painted bright colours. They have one of the original statues on display upstairs and there’s evidence it was painted. We associate cathedrals with being somber places but back then it would have been awash with colour.
Those boxes are mortuary chests. When the Puritans were on their rampage they smashed open the boxes and used the bones inside to smash more shit up. The bones have since been returned to the chests but, obviously, in no particular order. Analysis suggests they’re the bones of Saxon kings and at least one queen.
In an act you can’t blame the Puritans for which ever way you turn it, one side of the cathedral started sinking in the early 1900’s. Huge cracks opened up big enough for owls to roost in. They ended up getting a navy diver called William Walker in to shore it up. He spent 6 hours a day for 5 years shovelling silt by hand in zero viz and shoving bags of concrete under the cathedral. He’s hailed as a hero for his efforts. They’ve even named a pub after him. You can’t really see it in this photo but in real life the wall on the right is obviously listing.
This is the oldest part of the cathedral. When they first started building it, it went up pretty quickly. If you look closely you can see how little care was taken. The masonry is shoddy, columns are wonky and go nowhere, it’s quite slap dash.
So, fun fact, unless you’re a literal saint or an utter, utter prick you’re not going straight to Heaven or Hell. You go to purgatory, but if you’re wealthy you can have a chantry built where monks would pray for you so you had to spend less time there.
This is The Holy Sepulchre chapel. The murals on the left are more vivid despite being 12th century because they were hidden under plaster for centuries. Jacqui told us that they were possibly damaged during a repair in the 13th century so they just plastered over the originals and repainted it. They were discovered in the 60’s during restoration.

I didn’t get a photo of the shrine of St Swithun but he was kind of a big deal around here. He was a Bishop and when he died he had literally one request; to be buried in a humble grave in the Old Minster. This was done but eventually they decided to move him and on that day a terrible storm lashed down, pissing rain. They took this as a sign of St Swithun’s displeasure aaaaand moved him anyway. Pilgrims flocked from all over to be close to his corpse. Religious types are fond of bits of dead people. He was moved again at some point, and right now no one has a fucking clue where the poor bastard is. However, if it rains on the 15th July, St Swithun’s day, 40 days of rain will follow.

Wolvesey Castle is cool but it’s completely ruined. It’s the old Bishop’s palace. Henry of Blois was responsible for most of what would have been a magnificent palace, he was fabulously wealthy. His name came up a lot in the cathedral too, he financed a lot of things including the spectacular font and the Winchester Bible which was on display when we visited.
Aforementioned fancy font.

Anyway. ANYWAY! I’ll cease boring you with the details but we found it fascinating and I’m still a little bit excited by the whole thing.

I love our accommodation too. We’re staying above the Westgate pub and when we were taken upstairs to our room I thought I was having a fucking stroke. The whole building is on the wonk. The floors of the narrow corridors tilt one way which throws you off when you’re not expecting it and you sort of stumble into the wall. According to the Interwebs the building dates back to around 1877. You’d be on the wonk too if you were 145 years old.

Day: 7
Distance walked today: 0 miles
Total walked so far: 114.2 miles
Weather: Overcast with spots of rain.
Trigs bagged: 0
Trigs to date: 16
“Have you read ‘The Salt Path?'” (Running Total): 1

Jump to “Useful shit to know…”

Winchester, Hampshire, England

Stayed at: The Westgate, Winchester

The Westgate. Cosy, clean room and the staff were really friendly. Its wasn’t noisy considering it was above a pub either. Brilliant location for the price, especially in a city that’ll have your bank balance weeping in a corner.

Useful shit to know…

  • It’s £10 to get into the cathedral but that gains you entry as much as you like for 12 months.
  • Guided tours are free and start from 10am. Or you can just collar a volunteer and ask them questions.
  • Wolvesey Castle is managed by English Heritage but is free entry for everyone.

BUDGET for one person
Accommodation: £26.92
Groceries: £10.60
Booze: £3.79
Breakfast at Greggs: £3.45
Dinner at The Old Gaol House: £9.28
Winchester Cathedral: £10
Souvenirs: £3.50
Grand Total: £67.54

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.