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Winchester Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Winchester.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Hampshire (City of Winchester).
1974 county of Hampshire.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU47712944
Latitude 51.06261° Longitude -1.31976°

Winchester Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Motte and bailey castle was probably built in 1067 and survived until the late C13. It was a favourite Royal residence with a complex of halls, chambers and chapels, but all that survives is the early C13 great Hall built, 1232-1240, by Henry III, now part of the County Offices complex. The entrance to the Great Hall was altered in C19 and the roof was renewed in 1873 by T H Wyatt. The medieval round table is situated on the west wall. The castle was demolished in 1645 and in 1683 a palace for Charles II was commenced, to be used successively as a prison and barracks, before being destroyed by fire in 1854. (PastScape)

Winchester Castle occupied several acres of rising ground at the west end of the city. The Motte, presumably the work of William or his sons, was situated at the southern end of the site, with the bailey occupying the majority of the remainder. Until the end of the 13th century it was a favourite royal residence with a complex of halls,chambers and chapels, but all that survives is the early 13th century Great Hall, now part of the County Offices complex. The earliest reference to a keep is in 1196. In 1216 it was captured after a siege of 2 weeks by Louis of France using siege engines. Under Henry III, extensive repairs and alterations amounting to £10,000 were made. These included the demolition of the old hall and its replacement, the construction of interval towers, and the rebuilding of the great keep. Numerous chapels are also documented. The royal were badly damaged by fire in 1302, and apparently were not made good. The Great Hall was restored under Richard II (HKW).
The castle was demolished in 1645 and in 1683 a palace for Charles II (The King's House) was commenced, to be used successively as a prison and a barracks before being destroyed by fire in 1854 (VCH).
Recent excavations in the vicinity of the hall have confirmed some of the details noted on Colvin's plan (Biddle 1962-3).
Winchester Castle is mainly occupied by a modern army barracks. The surviving remains comprise the castle ditch preserved on the south and the Great Hall, now used as the County Court. Preserved within the Castle Hall is the so-called Round Table of King Arthur. Of considerable antiquity it is none the less merely a mappa mundi using the legend of Arthur as its motif (F1 CFW 21-APR-68).
Excavations from 1968 to 1971 were carried out in the Castle Yard. Two Anglo-Saxon streets were found below the castle earthworks, one of which had been repaired at least seven times. Timber pits and buildings of the same period have also been discovered (Biddle 1969; 1970; 1975.
The Castle was probably built about 1067 with a motte at the north end of the bailey and the rest of the castle built on an immense platform running north-south. A chapel of this period was also found. Nothing now remains of the early Norman defences or buildings; the castle was completely remodelled in the reign of Henry III. (PastScape)

M. Biddle ... uncovered part of the apse and nave of the early Norman chapel of the castle. The NE. angle of the nave was still standing 8 ft. high and turned in long-and-short quoins, and the Anglo-Saxon technique of construction suggests that the chapel should be dated c. 1070. The inner face of the N. wall of the nave was painted with a series of half-length draped figures, the heads of which had been destroyed when the building was demolished c. 1150. The chapel stood at the N. limit of the outer bailey, immediately beside the foot of the motte which commanded the N. apex of the castle. The motte had originally been revetted with timber, but when this was replaced in stone, the new wall, which was structurally later than the chapel, curved to avoid the NE. corner of the nave. (Med. Arch. 1971)

Interestingly the castle was not built on the site of the Saxon royal palace, which was in the centre of the town adjacent to the cathedral precinct. This may be because in 1067, when William the Conqueror was still trying to confirm his possession of the English Crown with the co-operation of the English, the Saxon palace was still occupied and used by Queen Edith, widow of King Edward the Confessor, sister of Harold Godwinson and, questionably, the author of the Bayeux Tapestry, who died at Winchester in 1075 and was always considered with the greatest respect by William. William is reported as rebuilding this palace in 1070, or at least equipping it with a hall large enough for great gatherings of the lords. However, Armitage suggests the decision to build castles on the edge of towns was one motivated by defensive considerations and access to an escape route from hostile townspeople. Renn (1973) states that William's palace was within the town and that the castle may not date until after 1141 although this then raises the question as to the reason for the move at that time. Biddle interpreted his fairly extensive excavations of the area as being that of a castle started 1067. The original castle appears to have been an extensive earthwork platform raised over the Roman wall and part of the Saxon town, which Biddle writes was timber revetted but there may not have been a motte in sense of an isolated tall mound.
If William was using the palace within the city as his residence and place for his kingly display and gatherings then that would suggest the castle was being built as a military base and secure redoubt in times of trouble (and possibly also a a prison). However, even if this is so, the castle rapidly (after the first decade of the C12) became the centre of political administration, holding the treasury and exchequer, and the site of the royal residence and when in 1140 the old palace in the town was burnt it was not replaced (Although In 1683 Charles II started a new palace next to the castle).
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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