The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville
Bishops, Buildings and Bones
Mr Andrew Negus came on 14th February to give us a talk and slideshow entitled “Bishops, Buildings and Bones”. He is a retired history teacher.
It was a very interesting talk and history lesson about Winchester. I have only written a few points of what we were told.
During Saxon times, Winchester was the capital of England, chosen by King Alfred, and the City remained a Royal residence for centuries afterwards.
There is an enclosure on the west of the river Itchen at a place called “Oram’s Arbour” dating from around 600BC to 300BC. There is also a hill fort on the top of St Catherine’s Hill on the east side of the river Itchen which dates from around 700BC to 100BC. In the Iron Age the people dug ditches and built up banks to protect themselves from their enemies.
The Romans invaded Britain in AD43, they came to Winchester, which they named Venta Belgarum. The Romans built several straight roads to link Winchester with other Roman settlements. At the time the site of Venta Belgarum was the lowest bridging point on the River Itchen. The Romans diverted the river to make sure that the crossing point was bridged effectively.
The bridging point meant that a lot of traffic and trade passed through the town. The Romans built strong walls to defend the town. Venta Belgarum became an important regional administrative centre and a thriving town with buildings like shops, offices and a public meeting house where town business took place.
After the Romans, a new group of people crossed the sea and settled in Britain. They were the West Saxons. They lived in the area around Winchester which became known as Wessex.
Over hundreds of years, the Saxons grew in power and Winchester, known as Wintanceaster, became an important town and a major centre of power.
The first church at Winchester was built by the Saxons known as the “Old Minster”. King Alfred the Great is famous for his defence of Southern England against the Viking raids. He ruled Wessex for 18 years. When he died, he was buried in Winchester’s Old Minster. In 1110 his bones were moved to nearby Hyde Abbey but were lost when it was destroyed during the Reformation.
King Canute was a Danish king of England. He made war with Ethelred. He proved to be a most effective ruler. Canute died in 1035 and was buried in the Old Minster at Winchester.
The Old Minster in the 10th century was the Priory Church of a Community of Monks, living a simple life of frequent prayer under the rule of St Benedict. The Church was made bigger and grander by its 10th century Bishop Aethelwold.
After 450 years, Old Minster was demolished. The stones were used for the new Cathedral, consecrated in 1093. By the early 16th century, much of the Cathedral you see today was complete. The 19th century saw much restoration work, by the early 1900’s there were fears that the east end of the building would collapse after centuries of subsidence. William Walker, a deep sea diver worked under water in total darkness for six years to stabilise it. It is now a thriving attraction for visitors all over the world.
Easter Edition 2013