Winchester: Cathedral close

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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'Winchester: Cathedral close', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) pp. 12-13. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]


Within the old enceinte of the city, approached by the wonderful lime-tree avenue leading from the Square, is the Cathedral Church, with its precincts and Close.

The house known as Cheyney Court stands on the east side of Prior's Gate, in the angle of the Close wall. It appears to be of mid-15th-century date. The lower portion of the front, which faces on the close, is of flint and stone rubble; the oversailing upper stories are of half-timber construction and crowned by three nearly equal-sized gables. The western gable, next the gate-house, has a richly carved bargeboard; in all probability the two other gables had similar barge-boards, but these have now disappeared. The house appears to have been originally of four stories throughout, two in the stone basement and two above. The western portion of the Close front is now occupied by the porter's lodge, and a small room of half-timber construction overhanging the east side of the gate-house wall is built out at right angles from the west gable, reached from the second floor of the house by a small staircase with its spandrel and soffit exposed externally. The lower portion of the back wall of the house is formed by the Close wall itself. The interior has been much modernized, and the original staircase has disappeared. The original doorway opening into the centre room on the Close front is now built up, and a new doorway has been formed to the east of it. The original door has been made up to fit the opening. At about half the height of the east side of the centre room is a beam, now plastered over, a portion being left exposed, carved with the initials L.B. and the date 1632. On what is now the first floor was originally a large room, now cut up by modern partitions. In the back wall, which is entirely of stone, are some original stone mullioned two and three-light windows with external labels. Adjoining the house on the east side is a barn built out at right angles to the Close wall, part of which has recently been thrown into the house. The chimney stacks have been mainly rebuilt. The roof is covered with tiles; in the attics the original roof timbers may still be seen.

West of the Cathedral Close is Minster House, at the corner of Little and Great Minster Streets, a welldesigned house of the first years of the 18th century. It is built of red brick with a diaper of burnt headers, a tiled roof, and a very well designed wooden cornice with modillions. The principal entrance is unfortunately marred by a poor porch. In this, or one of the adjoining houses, John Keats lived when he wrote his 'Ode to Autumn.'

Leading south from Minster Street to St. Swithun's Street by the high west wall of the Cathedral Close is Symond's Street, at the St. Swithun's Street end of which are the red brick buildings of Christ's Hospital. They have been a good deal restored, all the windowframes, doors, roofs, &c., being modern or nearly so. The central block of three stories is flanked by two long wings, the whole building being divided into small tenements entered from Symond's Street. The building is set back from the street line, and has a long narrow garden in front of it. In the central block is a small stone tablet bearing the arms: Gules a cheveron between three trefoils or, and the inscription 'Peter Symonds Founder 1607.' This is repeated on the north block, and was also apparently on the south, now covered by a modern addition. The old tablet has been reset in the new wall. In each case a smaller stone below that bearing the arms is inscribed 'Christes Hospital.' There is also a modern tablet fully recording the foundation.

Christ's Hospital, Winchester
(From an original drawing [c. 1820] lent by Mr. Thomas Stopher)