City of Winchester Trust
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Summer Walks 05 - TrustNews Dec 05

We had 13 Walks this Summer - unlucky for some maybe, but not so for the Trust as we enjoyed another successful year. Whether this was due to the variety of Walks' subject matter or whether to a particularly kind meteorological regime, I cannot say. Perhaps it was due to the brilliant advertising and pre-season publicity afforded us by those Hampshire Chronicle articles on Winchester's hostelries by Phil Yates. We certainly enjoyed plenty of press coverage and not one but TWO walks by our own theatrical impresario.

Our first walk on 2nd June, conducted by Hampshire County's Assistant Director of Environment, Merrick Denton-Thompson was a repeat of a walk entitled "Winchester in its landscape setting" which we had enjoyed two years ago. But here the "repeat" characteristic changes, because anyone who has attended a presentation by Merrick will know that so much intricate and contemporary detail is woven into the plot that the whole event takes on a new and refreshing life of its own.

We assembled in the delightful Abbey Gardens for the 2nd Walk on 9th June, where Phil Yates shared with us his knowledge of the nature and quality of the brewing industry in Winchester. We learnt about the many brewing establishments, how public houses had grown up and formed part of the social framework of the city and of how these differed from brewery "taps". Many of the colourfully named pubs have of course disappeared and breweries too. Following Phil, who once worked as a solicitor's clerk for Marstons, whenever a Marston's pub was pointed out, the assembled walkers had to exclaim "but now its a Greene King pub". All good Music Hall stuff!

The Trust's evening walkers were brought back to sobriety for the 3rd Walk when we made the by now regular visitations to the Hospital and Chapel of St Cross, guided by the Trust's Vice-Chairman Michael Carden MBE. Once again we enjoyed good weather on 16th June and an excellent discourse by Michael as he guided us first around the perimeter of the ancient establishment and then into the glorious and unique Transitional Romanesque chapel. Having been architect to the fabric for so many years, Michael was able to point out many of the detailed idiosyncrasies of the magnificent building. We concluded the evening with a tour of the Brothers' Hall and the amazing Mediaeval Kitchen.

The 4th Walk on 23rd June Architecture Week was celebrated and brought to a fitting conclusion by Keith Leaman, Architect and longstanding Trust Council member. In a most interesting presentation Keith gave us a short history and synopsis of Modern Architecture and illustrated various aspects of this by selecting "typical " examples from buildings which had received Civic or Preservation Trust Awards.

"Winchester's Churches, Past and Present" was the subject of Walk 5, led by Architect and Planner, Richard Baker. Richard stressed how many churches have been lost and drew our attention to many of their sites. Reference was also made to the social cohesion of the church and parish and to the sad demise of this from contemporary life. Once again the subject was well-researched and presented. I was again made aware of the complete change of scale and perception of communities in the present century.

Walk 6 took us to the "Green Man" - not on one of Phil's pub crawls, but to rendezvous with Andrew Rutter. After first being given a history and mythology of the Green Man image we proceeded along St Thomas Street and heard anecdotes of past planning problems from his days as conservation architect. We looked in on several houses and proceeding northwards were about to start debating the controversial building on the site of Minstrels Restaurant when a summer shower intervened and brought the evening to a somewhat anti-climactic conclusion.

For Walk 7, Barbara Hall, City Guide and Chairman of the Friends of Hyde Abbey Garden took us on a well-prepared itinerary around the area of the mediaeval city's North Gate, past the Hermit's Tower,over City Road, a 19th century thoroughfare, and into Swan Lane,the original mediaeval route. Here we talked about "twitchens" , early road classification and the whole hierarchy of these communication networks. It is difficult for inhabitants of the 21st century to come to terms with the intricate and minute scale of the mediaeval city. Swan Lane was once a major access point leading towards the North Gate and busy with carts, horses and pedestrian traffic.

Robin Freeman, Architectural Historian and Local Studies Librarian,introduced us on Walk 8 to his particular interest in the architectural history of buildings of the High Street. This turned out to be complementary to the detailed research on hostelries already undertaken by Phil Yates. Robin was able to examine the architectural significance of certain well-known landmark buildings particularly those by Owen Browne-Carter and Thomas Stopher. Of course, some of these buildings were also public houses and so we had come full circle.

One of our regular walkers, Chris Pile, led us on Walk 9 on a most carefully planned new area of subject matter, that of the humble post box. He took us on a major hike around the city, visiting these familiar items of street furniture. As we started outside the General Post Office in Middle Brook Street, Chris gave us a detailed introductory history of the postal service and of the post box in particular. We were enlightened about many of the idiosyncracies of the Royal Mail and then we walked.....covering most of the area of central Winchester and even including a unique wooden Victorian post box inside the Hampshire County Council HQ in the Castle. Chris was a mine of information and gave out his expertise in a wonderfully modest manner, even compiling a quiz,which I still haven't cracked!

Walk 10, on 4th August we were treated to another fascinating tour of The Grange, Northington, again as guests of David Brock, Team Leader of the South East region of English Heritage. Once again we were fortunate with the weather and were able to see much more of the interior than last year because the light held out longer. Even so we had to take parts of the hazardous interior journey in shortened stages, but that made the whole experience rather more exciting. David Brock had produced some interesting handouts describing the complicated building process which has resulted in the present building group. We are hoping that next year we will be able to extend the visit to include the attractive new opera building.

For our 11th Walk was led by John Wells, Works Bursar of Winchester College. Last year John had introduced us to the new Music School which has since been given a Trust Award. This year John was asked to take us around the college and consider the major and ongoing problem of restoring ancient stonework. We started by viewing the renovated statuary in College Arch and proceeded to consider the newly restored exterior of Chapel. John described the difficult and skilled cleaning processes with the various washes of limewash protection integral to the programme. It was apparent to all that the limestone buildings of College, whilst forming a major asset and defining characteristic of its atmosphere, were also a major financial liability.

Walk 12, the penultimate Walk was my own, entitled "The Village in the City", an architectural walk around Hyde. As Walk Leader responsible for this one, I can only say that it works well. The core of the Walk is based on architectural illustration work undertaken during my two year part-time MA at Kingston University in 1993.

The Walk season was brought to a fitting close by Phil Yates, who led a group of "regulars" on the second of his guided tours of Hostelries. Starting at the Westgate Hotel we proceeded along Upper High Street, passing the end of Newburgh Street and collected at the corner, overlooking the new County Records Office. Phil explained how much this particular part of town had changed and how many pubs had been part and parcel of the Victorian grid of terraces. One such building, although hardly a common hostelry, was the Carfax Hotel. Phil produced a photograph of Station Approach in the 1930's showing the remarkable variety of buildings and change of scale. Our final stop was at the famous Hyde Tavern, a traditional venue for Trust conclusions and farewells. Here we drank at what had been a Marston's pub "but now its a Greene King pub".And all agreed that it had been a very good year.

Nick McPherson