City Walls of Winchester
City Walls in Winchester
The city walls of Winchester, originally constructed during the Roman era, are a defensive fortification located in the heart of the city. Winchester, known as Venta Belgarum at the time, was established as a Roman settlement in southern Britain. The surrounding area had been inhabited by Britonnic tribes, and the name Venta Belgarum derived from the Belgae tribes present in the region. Earthwork defences were initially built around the end of the second century and later reconstructed using stone in the late third century.
During the Saxon period, King Alfred the Great undertook the reconstruction of Winchester and its defences as part of the burh system, which aimed to safeguard against Norse invasions. Winchester was chosen as the site for one of the earliest Norman castles in England, Winchester Castle, which was constructed alongside the city walls in 1067. Additionally, Wolvesey Castle, the residence of the Bishop of Winchester, was built in the eastern part of the city near the River Itchen. During the Civil War known as The Anarchy, the city faced significant destruction, including the urban defences, during the Rout of Winchester, a siege between the forces of Queen Matilda and Empress Matilda.
Although Winchester’s city walls experienced periods of neglect, by the 14th century, the city boasted six gates: West Gate, South Gate, King’s Gate, East Gate, North Gate, and Durn Gate. In the English Civil War, the city changed hands between royalist and parliamentary forces. The walls were partially demolished during the 18th century due to safety concerns and the low height of the gates, with the Eastgate being demolished in 1768 and the Southgate starting in 1771. The Northgate also collapsed in 1756. Presently, only the Kingsgate and Westgate remain intact, while other sections of the walls can be found near Winchester Castle and the remains of Wolvesey Castle along the Itchen River. Some portions have been demolished or repurposed, but certain sections are protected as listed areas.
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Visiting City Walls of Winchester