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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

(36,000 in 1991)
City on the river Itchen; administrative centre of Hampshire. A place of some significance in pre-Roman and Roman times, its real importance began when the Anglo-Saxon kings of *Wessex made it their capital. As they (and in particular *Alfred the Great) became pre-eminent among other Anglo-Saxon rulers, Winchester developed almost imperceptibly into the capital of England. It retained this position under the Norman kings, being in their time (and until about the 14C) a joint capital with London; it was at Winchester that the royal treasure was kept and the city had the advantage of being close to Southampton, the usual port of embarkation for Normandy.

Winchester was a diocese from the 7C and St *Swithin was bishop in the 9C. The cathedral, begun shortly after the *Conquest, was ready to be consecrated by 1093 and the Norman church remains the basis of today's building. But its greatest glory derives from the Gothic columns and vaulted roof added in the *Perpendicular style in the late 14C. The result is the astonishing vista of the interior – seemingly endless, for this is one of Europe's longest cathedrals, at 160m/526ft.

The transformation of the nave was largely carried out for William of Wykeham (1324–1404), who was bishop from 1367 till his death. He was also the founder in 1382 of Winchester College (boys educated there are known as Wykehamists). The college, still in its original premises to the south of the cathedral close, provided the first pattern for what became the *public school. Of the medieval city's four gates only the Westgate survives, with its upper room used as a museum. And of the Norman castle (begun by *William the Conqueror) all that remains is the Great Hall, known since the 15C for containing the supposed *Round Table of King Arthur.

A famous local hero is William Walker, a diver who worked for 6 years (1906–12) in liquid mud beneath the cathedral, underpinning it with concrete.

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