As work begins on developing this website I have been going through some of the many photographs taken at last year’s Heritage Open Days. My eye was caught by a few Mike Hall and I had taken of Abbey House, the official residence of Winchester’s Mayoralty. Winchester is the second oldest mayoralty in England and it is a Thursday so I thought Abbey House would be perfect for Paula’s Traces of the Past photography challenge.
Winchester is one of only five cities that has an official residence for its Mayor, not that this has always been the official residence. Abbey House stands where there was once a Nunnaminster, which was founded around AD900 by Alfred’s Queen Ealhswith. The Abbey, later known as St Mary’s, survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid 16th century. I’ve not yet been able to discover what happened on the site in the 17th century, but thanks to the City Council website I have learnt that by the early 18th century, William Pescod, the Recorder of Winchester, had built a substantial town house on the site surrounded by formal gardens. I wonder how much the gardens have changed?
In 1889, the City Council resolved to buy Abbey House and the gardens “for public purposes”. Since that time, the grounds have been open to the public and the house made available to the incumbent Mayor. They don’t live here these days but their secretary and the Mayor’s Charities Team are based here and some of the rooms are used for community and social functions.