Festival Spotlights

Our historic churches are part of our lives and our landscape

We’ve got some pretty special religious buildings in and around Winchester, and I’m not just talking about our wonderful Cathedral. Many of our current parish church buildings date back to the 12th century, and the sites where they are built are even older in terms of religious settings. Our 11th century Cathedral was built using the stones from the very first Christian church in Winchester; the Old Minster built by the son of the first king of Wessex in the mid 7th century.

All of them of course are beautiful spaces where you can find peace and reflection. Many also host glorious music, stunning stained glass and have some quirks such as the dogs at the end of one of the pews in St Bartholomew’s or the square shape of St Lawrence. Karen Kousseff, Church of England priest and Area Dean in the Winchester Deanery comments

Our Church buildings are witness to the faithful presence of God, and story-keepers of the life of the communities they continue to serve. Although many are open daily, Heritage Open Days are a chance to see some really special ones, including the lovely St Michael & All Angels in Bullington on the banks of the River Dever, and All Saints in Hursley, former home of John Keble.

We do hope you are able to visit at least one of our wonderful historic churches during Heritage Open Days. And if you do whilst you are there take a moment to reflect on the unsung stories all these buildings can tell. Some of them after all have been here centuries.

Event Description
Barter Memorial Chapel This is a rare chance to come and explore the original hospital chapel designed by William Butterfield and its beautiful stained glass windows. Learn more about the history of the RHCH and see historical artefacts, including Florence Nightingale’s lamp, and photos through the ages.
Bullington Craft fete at St Michael and All Angels Looking for the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon then visit Bullington. Local crafts on display, being demonstrated and for sale, in and around the lovely medieval church  of  St Michael  & All Angels, on the beautiful River Dever.  Attractions for all ages include a bouncy castle, music, teas, cakes, and other stalls. 
Heathcote Mausoleum in the churchyard of All Saints, Hursley Alternatively why not head south to Hursley. The mausoleum  was built in 1771 by Thomas  Heathcote  as burial place for his family, who occupy half of the 70 spaces inside. Acquired by the Mausolea & Monuments Trust in 1997 it was restored in 2005/6.  Close by is the tomb of John Keble, in whose memory Keble College Oxford was founded.
St Bartholomew’s Church St Bartholomew’s was built by the monks of Hyde Abbey in the 12th century. Parts of the original church survive, including the Norman doorway. When the Abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII, its stones were used to build the church tower. King Alfred the Great is long rumoured to be buried in the churchyard.
St Cross at the Hospital of St Cross At the heart of the Hospital’s inner quadrangle is a wonderful Norman church, its tower, chancel, transepts and nave soaring so high that it looks like a cathedral in miniature. Used daily as the private chapel that it is, the church can be visited by parishioners of St Cross or as part of a tour of the Hospital of St Cross
St John the Baptist’s Church Winchester’s oldest parish church is situated on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way between Winchester and Canterbury. Built in the 12th century, later features include a spectacular south window, wall paintings and screen. Described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘a gem’, major restoration has revealed its medieval simplicity and beauty.
St Lawrence-in-the-Square St Lawrence was a deacon martyred in Rome in AD 258. The Church stands on the site of the chapel of William the Conqueror’s Palace. It is called the Mother Church of Winchester, for it is the only surviving church of Norman foundation within the city walls. Before a new Bishop of Winchester is enthroned, he is first presented at St Lawrence.
St Swithun-upon-Kingsgate St Swithun is the only church above a gate in the UK still holding church services. It was built in the 13th century and named after a local bishop, Swithun, thought to have been the tutor of King Alfred the Great. When Swithun’s bones were moved to the Cathedral against his wishes, a terrible storm occurred, giving rise to the legend that if it rains on St Swithun’s Day (15th July), it will rain for 40 days.
Winchester Cathedral: tours of the close Cathedral guides will be offering tours of the Cathedral Close, including some buildings not normally open to the public. The tour itinerary will vary but may include the brand new Wessex Learning Centre and apothecary garden, the stonemasons’ and carpenters’ workshops and private gardens

PS And if you love church architecture why not take part in ‘Ride & Stride‘ on Saturday 9th September. Ride+Stride is a sponsored bike ride or walk in which people all over England walk or cycle between churches. The money they raise helps to save historic churches, chapels and meeting houses for future generations by helping to fund urgent repairs and the installation of modern facilities. To find out more how you can help save our churches visit Ride & Stride.

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