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Winchester is located about an hour from London, with easy access using the National Rail from Waterloo station.  The Winchester Cathedral was holding a Christmas fair on their grounds, so it was a good opportunity to start my Christmas shopping.

I was surprised how busy the market was for a Monday.  It must be packed with people on the weekend.  I managed to find a few gifts here.

Winchester’s history goes way back.  It was an important Roman town, then became capital of the kingdom of Wessex during Anglo-Saxon times.  After the Norman conquest, William the Conqueror built one of the first castles here.  The only surviving part of the castle is the Great Hall.

The Great Hall, Winchester

Interior of the Great Hall, Winchester

A huge 13th century Round Table hangs on the wall in the Great Hall.  Henry VIII had it painted as it is seen today, with him depicted as King Arthur and the Tudor rose in the center.

The Winchester Round Table

Tournai marble font, Winchester Cathedral

The Cathedral is also worth a visit.  While I don’t think it’s as pretty as York Minster, it has an interesting history.  Its treasures include an old baptismal font called the Tournai marble font, which was made from one large piece of stone and shows scenes from the life of St. Nicholas.  It is also home to the Winchester Bible, a beautiful 12th century hand-written, illuminated Bible.  You can see some of the illuminations by clicking here.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the carved figures in the early 14th century choir stalls.  My photos didn’t come out well, but you can see some of them by clicking here.

Winchester Cathedral, west front

Winchester Cathedral is also the burial place of Jane Austen, who died in Winchester at the age of 41, and where Henry VIII’s oldest daughter, Mary, married Phillip of Spain in 1553.