Uncover Winchester’s gems
07 October 2020
As you wander around Winchester you cannot miss the big historic, cultural and leisure attractions but the city is awash with hidden gems to be found…if you know where to look.
Keep your eyes peeled as you can happen across them without even realising it and some are worth a detour.
Water Close garden
If you cut through the back of Winchester Cathedral to Colebrook Street you will pass through Water Close and a tiny, picturesque Italianate garden with the Cathedral as a backdrop and a stream running through it. The garden was created by Peter Smithers in 1958, then Winchester’s MP and a former spy recruited by Ian Fleming. He bought a terrace of small cottages on Water Close, adjoining his house, that were condemned by the City’s slum clearance programme and demolished them to create the public asset. A keen gardener too, his book “Adventures of a Gardener” was first published in 1979. It is a lovely place to stop and contemplate for a few moments.
St Giles Hill
On the eastern side of Winchester, the ancient hill takes its name from a medieval chapel that once stood there and was the site of St Giles Fair, the largest and most profitable medieval fair in Europe. Today, St Giles Hill is a residential suburb but still overlooking the city is a large, hidden park area, accessed by a series of steps and rustic paths, where you will find a viewing platform from which to see a fantastic panorama of the city with a handy information point naming locations of the major landmarks. It is one of the best views of Winchester and is a uniquely unchanged route of the medieval high street as it climbs up to Westgate.
Dean Garnier Garden
The tranquil and beautiful walled garden, behind the Cathedral, stands on the site of the monk’s dormitory, once part of the great medieval Priory of St Swithun. It was created in the 1990’s to commemorate Thomas Garnier, Dean of Winchester (1840-1872). Find the entrance up a short flight of steps behind a 13th century doorway. Once inside there are three sections to wander around, linked by medieval elements, a medlar tree set in a lawn, a herb garden, an arched arbour with climbing plants and at the far end the Lady Chapel Garden. Keep a look out for the little stone fox.
The lost Abbey of Hyde
Hyde, a suburb of Winchester, was once home to Hyde Abbey, dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 and then demolished. Its spirit lives on if you know where to look. Recent excavations revealed the site of the high altar and graves presumed to be those of King Alfred, his wife and son, carried by the 11th century monks to their ‘new’ minster, having been squeezed out by the new Norman Cathedral. Hyde Abbey Gatehouse still stands and nearby the design of Hyde Abbey Gardens echoes the remains of the Abbey that lies beneath.
Winchester Book Shop
Established in 1991 by four local book dealers, the Winchester Bookshop has three floors of antiquarian, second-hand, vintage and nearly new books, as well as a selection of prints and ephemera and is really well tucked away, down a little passage off St Georges Street, near to the Parchment Street junction. It continues to be run by four enthusiastic booksellers who between them have a wide range of knowledge and subjects on offer.
If you find yourself in The Square or on Great Minster Street, look out for the 24 bollards, painted by The Colour Factory between 2005 and 2012, each is done in the style of a famous artist, from David Hockney to Leonardo da Vinci or with a topical scene.
With plenty to explore, you’ll be spoilt for choice as a resident of Winchester. Our Winchester Holts community is currently under construction so be one of the first to secure one of the two or three bedroom apartments by contacting: 01962 418 059 / [email protected]