A Summer Outing

If you are going to deface somewhere with graffiti, include the date. After a century or so people cease censuring you and find your marks historical and fascinating.

I really wanted to see the carved noughts and crosses game in the north aisle, but it was hidden by an art display. However, this splendid cockerel consoled me.

We were in Winchester for the day. It’s a town I rarely visit, and every time I do, I think I shall return again soon. The reason today was it was the destination of the Annual Outing of a local archaeological group of which I am not a member. Last year Celia and I joined them for the trip to Ramsgate and had such a good time we were among the first to sign up for today.

Our visit coincided with the town fair. The city thronged with people enjoying themselves in the sunshine. Joy was spread by unicyclists and others. We had the cathedral almost to ourselves.

It’s where Jane Austen is buried. She died aged just forty-one. I don’t think any member of our group had clocked up less than half a century. Our combined ages would make a pretty sum.

But I have seen Jane Austen’s headstone and memorial on previous visits. Today my eye was caught by other things. To be anyone in Winchester it seems to helpful to be called William.

William Walker was the diver who worked for years at the start of the twentieth century to clear the peat floor under the cathedral, and by so doing, he saved the building. We ate cake and drank coffee in a pub named after him.

He has a deservedly splendid memorial in the cathedral gardens.

And our afternoon cake in another pub celebrating Hyde’s most famous buried king, Alfred, was not short of photographs commemorating him either. And the references to Alfred were many, though no sign of his recipe book. We looked at where he is said to be buried.

We guessed Alfred was the middle one, between his wife Ealhswith, a name that sadly seems to have fallen quite out of fashion, and son Edward.

Back at the cathedral I admired William of Wykeham’s chantry chapel with both praying monks and angels ready to help him jump the queue and get into heaven.

Bishop Stephen Gardiner who has never seemed an attractive character, looked less than well. It is unsurprising he is dead.

Why Bishop Edward Browne should have a dragon swirling at his feet remained unexplained. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And the angel on this memorial seems to have forgotten to get dressed properly. Angels are usually sexless, but there seems little doubt about this one’s gender.

Up a small staircase marked ‘private’ I was pleased to see the wine carrier ready for communion.

It was a splendid day altogether, and I do hope I shall be back in Winchester again before too many months have passed.


17 thoughts on “A Summer Outing

    • You find similar things on many effigies, but I think most of the time we look at the main bit and often miss the details.
      We were looking at the many pelican motifs on Bishop Fox’s tomb, and wondering why he didn’t have foxes. Then later in the day we saw his coat of arms and saw he has a pelican there.
      At Exeter, what does Bishop Bronescombe have at his feet? Somewhere, in my vast collection of cathedral guides I have one of Exeter, but I cannot put my hand on it just now.

  1. Thank you for reminding me of how lovely Winch is (that’s what my son calls it) We are due to visit him in a couple of weeks & I have already requested a visit to the see the cockerel!

    • Thanks Octavia. Join us next year.
      I believe it is pronounced Elswith, but there are alternative spellings. We walked along an Aelswitha Road too. I imagine the residents spend much of their lives spelling that one out when placing orders by telephone.
      There is a folk band named after her, so who knows, maybe the name will become current again in our lifetimes.

      • I have a German friend who insists the worst word for pronunciation in English is “Ellsworth” (a street in our town). So what’s the original meaning of the name, you think?

        • Worth means an enclosure, or farm. So presumably a field or farm belonging to someone called El? Ell is also a measurement, I wonder if it could refer to the size of the enclosure?

  2. Love that place. Speaking of defacing somewhere, Lord Byron was guilty of doing that! Along the coast from Athens is the temple of Sounion. It was here that King Ageous waited anxiously for the return of his son Theseus from slaying the Minotaur. Theseus was supposed to set white sails on the returning ship which had left Athens with black sails, filled with young men and women to be sacrificed. Although victorious Theseus forgot to change the sails and his father, seeing the black sails ,threw himself into the sea thus giving us the Agean Sea. It is a wonderful place for a school trip as you can tell the tale in situ! Visitors are no longer able to walk in the temple itself but there on one of the columns Byron has scratched his name! Can’t get close enough to see if there is a date. He did go on to die fighting to liberate Greece so I think we can forgive him!

  3. This whole post was fascinating for me! Love the simple picture of the wine carrier on the steps… the lighting and detail of the doors and the stone steps, very nice. The praying monks are a bit creepy or maybe just strange to me. The rooster, cockerel, or chicken is cool…. I am trying to see what makes up the feathers.

  4. Hi Isobel, Winchester is great. Quite a coincidence – you were visiting Winchester while our friends from Winchester were visiting us here in Ramsgate, last year’s destination.

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