The Great HallWinchester
Castle Avenue
Hampshire SO23 8UJ
 
 
 
At the top of the High Street is Winchester’s most famous building and artefact – the Great Hall and the Round Table.
 
The medieval Great Hall is all that is left of Winchester’s Castle and for many years the Round Table which hangs on the wall, was believed to prove the existence of the mythological ‘Once and Future King’, King Arthur!
 
Despite the fact that the romantic reason for visiting the Great Hall is no longer valid, the Round Table is a remarkable object and well-worth seeing.
 
History of Winchester Castle
After the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror had the castle constructed in 1067 to help secure his hold on the city. It housed important aspects of government such as the Treasury and the Exchequer. A royal palace was added soon afterwards and monarchs spent a great deal of time at the palace.
 
Winchester was an important royal and administrative centre in the medieval period and the castle was a focus for this. Empress Matilda’s army was besieged by King Stephen at the castle in 1141, Henry III was born there in 1207 and King Edward I and his second wife, Margaret of France were nearly killed by fire at the palace in 1302.
 
By the end of King John’s reign in 1216, the Castle and its royal palace needed extensive repair. As part of the work, the Hall was rebuilt between 1222 and 1235 at a cost of £500, and this is the building we see today.
 
During the later medieval period Winchester lost significance as London became the centre of government; however the Great Hall was still an important location for court business.
 
During the English Civil War the Castle was held by the Royalists until its capture by the Parliamentary Forces in 1646. Oliver Cromwell eventually ordered the castle’s demolition, but the Great Hall was spared from this fate as it was useful for assemblies and the County Assizes.
 
Sir Walter Raleigh stood trial in the Great Hall in 1603 and the notorious Judge Jeffreys condemned supporters of the Duke of Monmouth to death there as part of the Bloody Assizes in 1685.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Hotels.com here:    External Link
 
The Great Hall
Some time between 1222 and 1235, King Henry III added the Great Hall to the castle. It was built to a "double cube" design, measuring 110 x 55 x 55 feet (approximately 33.5 x 16.8x 16.8 metres).
 
It is built of flint with stone dressings. Purbeck marble columns and pointed stone arches create two aisles within the interior making Winchester’s Great Hall one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century.
 
Originally the hall had lower walls and a roof with dormer windows. In their place were added the tall two-light windows with early plate tracery. In 1873 the roof of the Great Hall was completely replaced.
 
Hanging on the west wall is the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, ‘King Arthur’s Round Table’.
 
The Round Table
At one end of the Great Hall hangs the top of an enormous ancient round table. Scientific testing has calculated the table was made between 1250–1280 in the reign of King Edward I, from a store of timber felled some years earlier.
 
- Round Table’ Festivals
During the Middle Ages, festivals called ‘Round Tables’ were celebrated throughout Europe in imitation of King Arthur's Court. These events were very elaborate and featured jousting, dancing, and feasting, and in some cases attending knights assumed the identities of Arthur's entourage. The earliest of these was held in Cyprus in 1223 to celebrate a knighting.
 
King Edward I was an Arthurian enthusiast who attended at least five ‘Round Tables’ and hosted one himself in 1299, which was erroneously thought may have been the occasion for the creation of the Winchester Round Table.
 
An examination of Edward's financial accounts, links it instead with a tournament Edward held near Winchester on April 20, 1290, to mark the betrothal of one of his daughters.
 
Originally, it was a standing table with 12 outer legs and a central support. The top measures 18 feet (5.5 metres) in diameter, weighs 1.3 tons (1200kg) and is constructed from English oak. It has hung on the west wall of the Great Hall, Winchester since 1873, when it was moved from the east wall where it had hung since at least 1540, and possibly since 1348.
 
The marvellous Arthurian-themed paintwork is 16th century. King Henry VIII ordered it to be painted to mark the State visit of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1522. The table is painted with the Tudor Rose at its centre and portrays Henry as King Arthur on his throne, surrounded by 24 places for his Knights of the Round Table.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Booking.com here:     External Link

 

 
Other artefacts in the Great Hall
A series of pictorial epigrams illuminated in medieval monastic style known as The Winchester Panels hang in the Great Hall. They depict the 25 Knights of the Round Table and illustrate the challenges facing a maturing character as it progresses round the great "Wheel of Life".
 
A huge 14 foot (4.3 metre) high bronze statue of Queen Victoria has graced the Hall for over 100 years. The statue was cast by Sir Alfred Gilbert to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in May 1887. However it took 25 years for all the finishing touches to be made. The statue weighs around two tonnes and is 30 feet (9.1 metres) at its widest point.
 
The only two other statues in the world made from the same mould are in Newcastle and at the British Embassy in Bangkok.
 
Linking the 13th century hall with the 20th century Crown Court and Gallery are two forged stainless steel gates designed by Antony Robinson to commemorate the Royal Wedding Charles and Diana in 1981.
 
Made 1981 - 82 they are the first of their kind in the world. They exploit both the strength of the material and the versatility of the electric arc welding process. This work is considered a watershed in 29th century forgework.
 
Behind the Great Hall is a re-creation of a medieval garden called Queen Eleanor's Garden.
 
Plan Your Visit 
Opening Times
Hampshire County Council cares for the Great Hall and it is usually open to the public, although it continues to be used for civic and other functions, as well as for concerts and exhibitions. Please check the Great Hall website, go to  Web:  The Great Hall/ Times    External Link
Normal opening hours are 10:00 to 17:00 hours.
Closed: 25 & 26 December.
 
Admission Cost
Free but donations are always welcome. Suggested amount £1.50 to £3 per head.
 
Disabled Access
The paved avenue leading to the Great Hall has some cobbled, uneven surfaces. Access to the Great Hall and Queen Eleanor's Garden is via a low ramp and seating is available in the Hall and garden. Guide dogs and assistance dogs are welcome.
 
The gift shop, gallery and wheelchair accessible toilet, with a baby changing unit, are on the 1st floor usually reached via a stone staircase but access to these areas is available for wheelchair users by using a lift in an adjacent building – please see the custodian or ring the bell on the display board for assistance.
 
Parking - a small amount of blue badge parking is usually available directly outside the venue by prior arrangement.
 
Facilities
Toilets
The Gift Shop selling unique products is located in the building next to the Great Hall.
For details go to Web:  The Great Hall/ Gift Shop    External Link
The Exhibition Corridor Gallery displays the castle and hall’s fascinating history and is located behind the gift shop.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Lastminute.com here:     External Link
 
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)1962 846 476
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website  The Great Hall    External Link  
 
Getting There
The Great Hall is situated at the top of Winchester High Street, just beyond the old Westgate.
 
- By Train
The Great Hall is a 10 minute walk from Winchester Station.
 
- By Car
Tower Street car park is a 5 minute walk from the Great Hall. Satt Nav postcode SO23 8UJ.
 
Google Maps - The Great Hall Winchester