Many visitors to Winchester are drawn to arguably the Cities main attraction the Cathedral, located in the city centre, and rightly so, it is a magnificent building.
However, if you venture less than a mile out of town you are in for a real treat. The medieval Hospital of St. Cross which was founded by Bishop Henry of Blois around 1136 and still stands today in all its glory. The Hospital was originally founded to support thirteen poor frail men who later became the Brothers of St. Cross. The Hospital was also used to feed one hundred men at the gates each day.
The Almshouse was added later in the fifteenth century by Cardinal Henry Beaufort and created the Order of Noble Poverty. The Almshouse is still in use today and are private residences so they are not open to the public.
There are a couple of ways to visit St. Cross, but my favourite walk as a local is along the River Itchen passing St. Catherine’s Hill where you are teased with a glimpse of the clock tower in the distance. Turning right onto Five Bridges Road and looping back around along the water meadows to come up behind the Hospital. On your first visit, it will emerge as you pass through the trees and take your breath away.
I have ventured by this delightful place on numerous walks around Winchester and recently I popped inside the grounds to wander around the stunning Master’s Garden. They are beautifully maintained and during the summer months, vibrant colours pop against the grey garden walls with a large variety of plants and flowers on show.
The centrepiece is a tranquil fish pond featuring a fountain surrounded by lovely little nooks for places to rest and take in the peace and quiet. It also offers fantastic views of the Hospital from inside the grounds that you can’t help but stop and reflect on as you take it all in.
I think I have always been fascinated with architecture and the craftsmanship on show here is nothing short of spectacular. Perhaps it’s just me, but I do like to rest a hand on ancient stone or brick and quietly reflect on the men who constructed the building. What were they like? What did they talk about? How did they live? This is probably why I became a genealogist in the first place. That connection to our ancestors, long since gone, but never forgotten.
If you make a trip to Winchester, and I urge you to do so, then I highly recommend you take the time to venture out of the city itself and explore this wonderful place as you won’t be disappointed.
TheAncestralNomad © 2021