Fig 1. The remains of a Roman mosaic now located in Winchester museum.
Located in the heart of Hampshire lies Winchester one of the oldest towns in England with a long and turbulent history.
The first settlement was an Iron Age Oppidum, the tribe of the area was known as the Belgae, the neighbouring Attrebates had their tribal centre at Silchester (Calleva Attrebatum, worth a visit!) located only 40 minutes drive from Winchester.
A number of Iron Age coins from around Winchester have been discovered indicating that trade with the continent and the neighbouring tribes was already established before the Roman invasion.
Winchester was firmly established as a Roman town following the Roman invasion of AD 43, it began as a small settlement in the late C1 but by the late C2 it had expanded and was one of the largest towns in Britain. It contained a forum, bath house, villas and dwellings. In the early C3 it was strengthened by walls due to the turbulent times caused by the crisis of the C3. Nevertheless the town prospered, until the late C4 when it declined.
Following the withdrawal of the Roman legions, the town entered a new phase in its history when the West Saxons settled. The remnants of the earlier settlement must have survived, such as the walls. The town flourished from the late C9 to the C12 when Alfred the Great and his successors constructed churches, markets and a mint. Witan-ceastre was effectively the capital of Wessex and later England until the C12.
This was just a brief introduction to the town up to the end of the early middle ages it is not intended to be a complete history. Highlights of Winchester include it’s museum, cathedral and the great hall.
Author: Jeremy Fazzalaro
Photos: All photos taken by author.