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Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Winchester Cathedral (Winchester)
Advantages: Beautiful cathedral, informative tours
Disadvantages: Admission charges
Winchester Cathedral is a very attractive one, set in beautiful grounds just a few metres from the High Street in Winchester Town Centre. They charge an admission of £6 which I think is quite steep, however guests at certain hotels are given free tickets. The price does include a guided tour every hour (which last about an hour - although our very enthusiastic guide went over her time) from 10am until the last one at 3pm on Monday-Saturdays. I visited on a Bank Holiday and it was very busy, so had to queue to get in and there was quite a few on our tour. You can also get an audio tour narrated by David Suchet, which incurred an extra fee.
On the tour our guide told us about the origins and history of the cathedral which can date back to the 11th Century (although there was a church on the site prior to that - possibly as far back as the 7th Century), it reflects the importance that Winchester has held in English history where important bishops and cardinals are buried here and Mary Tudor was married here. Here you will also find the shrine of St Swithin, who received beatification after performing the miracle of restoring an old lady's broken eggs. Most will no doubt be aware of the legend that if it rains on 15th July (St Swithin's day) then it will rain for the next 40 days and nights. This apparently is because St Swithin wished to be buried outside, but he became angry when it was decided to move his shrine inside. Our guide also told us about the architecture of the church.
We were fortunate to be able to pop down and see the crypt. This famously gets flooded regularly so cannot always be accessed, inside is a statue called 'Sound II' by Anthony Gormley (he of Angel of the North and One & Other Fourth Plinth project fame). We only viewed it although it was dry, I believe they do special tours to see it every day but I missed the signage with any details/charges. There is also a tower tour for a further charge too. After the crypt visit, someone started practicing the organ, it is a very large and noisy organ but meant that our guide rounded up the tour, she had already over-ran but I reckon she could have kept going much longer! I would say an hour is plenty, most people get a bit fidgety after that especially with all the information our guide gave us, there was no room for any more in my brain!
One of the most famous people interred in the Cathedral is the 18th Century author Jane Austen. Currently (until late September) there is a small exhibition within the Cathedral telling the story of her life and death, as well as a few Georgian artefacts similar to things she owned or could have owned. Fans of Jane who have visited other places she has been, or read much about her, will learn nothing new here. The exhibition is sited next to her grave; she was buried in the Cathedral because her wealthy brother paid for it, rather then because she was a famous authoress. In fact she had not been published under her own name before her death - just credited as 'A Lady'. There is also a small memorial to her.
If you are in the area then I think a visit to the Cathedral is worth doing especially if you time it with a tour. I think it is too expensive to just meander around it, as you are unlikely to get as much out. I believe there is a refectory here also, plus the grounds are nice to picnic in, with benches and plenty of space, and you are not far from the High Street for refreshments.
Summary: An elegant and charming cathedral