Nicky Gottlieb's favourite Winchester HOD's events
Last week Nicky Gottlieb of Winchester Heritage Open Days was asked by the national Heritage Open Days team “What is your favourite event running in your area this year?”. This is what she said to them!
That’s a REALLY difficult one to answer - there are so many to choose from! I’m going to be diplomatic and say that I don’t really have a favourite but there are some events that I am particularly looking forward to - you’ll have to forgive me if I mention a few.
- Winchester College has been truly amazing this year and really embraced the whole spirit of Heritage Open Days by opening several buildings that you just never get a chance to see. I went on one of the College tours last year which I found fascinating – so much history there and traditions too that have been woven into our heritage. Did you know that ‘a square meal’ and the phrase ‘manners maketh man’ both originated from the College? The tour left quite an impression on me and I’d highly recommend it but I’m sure this year’s other events there won’t disappoint either. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to climbing the spiral stone staircase with eighty-eight steps up to Archives but once you get there you’re in for a real treat. Not only does the building house the school’s Foundation Charters and other precious documents and artefacts but it is also the medieval chapel in Paris that features at the end of the film Les Miserables. Winchester is always a popular film location because of its medieval buildings including the Great Hall, Hospital of St Cross and the Cathedral and Wolf Hall, The Hollow Crown and the Da Vinci Code have all been filmed here. I always admire the beauty of medieval manuscripts so one of the other Winchester College buildings I’ll be visiting during HODs is the Fellow’s Library where there will be an exhibition of them. I try to imagine some devout monk spending hours by candlelight painstakingly writing on these vellum or parchment documents with ink-pot and quill and praying they don’t make a mistake – no cut and paste in those days! We are very lucky to have so many wonderful medieval manuscripts in Winchester, including the stunning Winchester Bible which is illuminated and on show in the Cathedral. It took a single scribe 30 years to produce but was never actually completed! Another College tour I will be joining is that of War Cloister. The College lost over 500 pupils during the First World War so it will be a poignant memorial as this year we remember those who fought and were killed at Passchendaele. I will also be popping my head into Treasury, the College’s own museum that was converted from the medieval stable block and was opened last year. The collection comprises a real treasure trove of art and archaeology from across the world including Chinese ceramics, ancient Greek pottery, casts of classical sculptures, early English silver, and medieval and Pre-Raphaelite stained glass.
- Another event that I definitely won’t want to miss is the guided walk around Peninsula Barracks with local architect, Huw Thomas. Huw is one of Winchester’s gems who has a real demonstrable passion for the city and its heritage and, being of Welsh descent, you can imagine he gets quite fired up about it! He is also known as the saviour of the Barracks when it was under threat of demolition in the 1990’s. Huw successfully took on the council and the MoD and managed to halt the bulldozers just in time. His subsequent proposal and design to convert the buildings into apartments has won him several awards and the city is truly grateful to him. The Barracks have a fascinating history all of their own dating back to William the Conqueror. Huw’s tour for HODs promises to be nothing short of inspirational, informative and, not least, entertaining. I can’t wait!
Others that are particularly high on the list this year include:
- Pilgrims’ Hall, the medieval hall at Pilgrims’ School was once the guesthouse of St Swithun’s Priory where pilgrims were given hospitality. It will not only be opening specially for HODs but is also host to three other events - 1) An antiques road show style evening where you can bring along your treasures to be valued and listen to a talk on Asian Art. 2) Costumed performances of scenes from all six of Jane Austen’s novels and particularly fitting in the bicentenary year of her death in Winchester. 3) Poetry readings from The Tree Line celebrating all that trees mean to us on the 800th anniversary of the Charter for Forests. Visitors will also get an opportunity to add their name to the charter at the event should they wish
- Also very exciting, is a new event for this year – Clue Capers will be setting up a mini pop-up escape room in the cellar room of The Royal Oak pub which is reputed to be one of the oldest bars in England. I shall be going along to try and discover the clues and solve the puzzles for this Royalists’ themed event.
- Hursley House, a listed mansion used by Vickers Supamarine in WW2 as their base to design and build Spitfires and now home to IBM and its museum which traces the history of the company and its technological innovations.
To discover more about all of these events, including opening times, booking arrangements and more. Visit the Winchester Heritage Open Days website or follow Nicky, Becky & Mike of Winchester HODs on twitter and instagram.