Background

Winchester’s character properties, historic charm and proximity to open countryside make it popular with tourists and homebuyers alike. Once the capital of England, it is one of our oldest cities, and its many remaining ancient buildings tell the story its illustrious past.

While Winchester itself provides some of the best elements of city life, including excellent shopping facilities and many cultural events, it is also located just a one hour away from London by train, making it perfect for those with ties to the city but who seek a closer community and a slice of ‘country life’. A hub for walkers and ramblers, King Alfred’s capital is surrounded by beautiful open countryside, and acts as the ‘gate to the South Downs’.

Winchester’s architecture is almost as grand as the surrounding landscapes. The magnificent Cathedral is surrounded with many beautiful townhouses, and the quiet neighbouring villages are also studded with period houses and larger estates.

History

Alfred the Great made Winchester the capital of England in Saxon times. Since then city has been home to many members of the Royal family, as well as powerful members of the church.

The Cathedral, one of Winchester’s most prominent landmarks and arguably one of England’s most magnificent buildings, was built during the eleventh century. Its bishops include William of Wykeham who was the founder of Winchester College and New College, Oxford.

Other famous residents include Jane Austen, who spent her last days in the city before dying in a house in College Street. Her grave and memorial are in the Cathedral.

Schools

One of Winchester’s main attractions for homebuyers is its excellent schools. Winchester College for boys, thought to be the country’s oldest concurrently running school, was established 600 years ago, and has an unmatched academic reputation, with one member of teaching staff for every seven pupils.

St Swithun’s School for girls is also well-renowned, and there are several preparatory schools, including Twyford Prep School, Pilgrims School and Nethercliffe School, as well as some good state schools.

Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral was built during the eleventh century on the site of another church, which itself had origins in the seventh century. Since then its pale white walls have witnessed the burial of William Rufus, the coronation of Richard I, the marriage of Henry IV, and the marriage of Queen Mary.

Many significant historical figures have been buried at the Cathedral, including ancient Kings of England, as well as several Saints and Bishops, and the magnifcent building has been added to and altered countless times over the centuries.

Architecture

Winchester’s rich past has left a legacy through the city’s exceptional architecture. From the Cathedral to the numerous hospitals, every ancient building has a story to tell. The streets are lined with period properties, from Georgian and Victorian townhouses to detached, thatch-roofed cottages.

Other significant buildings include the Great Hall, the last remaining section of Winchester Castle and now home to the Round Table; the Corn Exchange, a beautiful Georgian structure which is now the city’s library; and the Hockley Viaduct, England’s largest brick-built structure.

Arts and Culture

Sat alongside Winchester’s historic buildings are several museums, galleries and theatres which cater for all tastes. The Theatre Royal presents an extensive range of work, from plays to stand up comedy acts, while the Chesil Theatre, which occupies a 12th century Church, hosts a range of amateur productions.

England’s military past is celebrated in several museums including the Ghurkha, Royal Hussars and Light Infantry museums.

Parks and Gardens

Winchester is celebrated for its summer bloom, and its several parks and public gardens are havens for locals as well as important tourist attractions. Queen Eleanor’s Garden, located next to the Great Hall, is a modern interpretation of a 13th century garden, while the Abbey Gardens, located on the site of the Abbey Mill, is a wonderfully well-kept public park.

Countryside

Winchester is immediately surrounded by beautiful Hampshire countryside, and acts as the gate to the South Downs, which can be reached from the city within minutes. The South Downs Way, possible the most well-known walking and riding route through the proposed National Park, starts in Winchester and heads east over 100 miles to Eastbourne.

The villages surrounding Winchester, such as Arlesford, Twyford, Littleton and Stockbridge, are also popular with homebuyers and are easily accessible from the city. They are linked by peaceful chalk rivers and streams, such as the River Itchen, whose clear waters offer some of the best rainbow and brown trout fishing in the country.

One of Winchester’s most treasured events is the monthly farmers’ market which is the largest in the country. Over 90 local producers sell the best food available in Hampshire, from ostrich meat to fresh crab from the Solent.

Property Market

Thanks to its proximity to London, the Winchester property market is underpinned by a steady flow of demand from homebuyers deciding to make the move away from the capital. Several direct trains leave for London Waterloo every hour, and the journey takes approximately one hour, so a daily commute is a possibility.

According to one spokeswoman from Jackson, Stops & Staff estate agents, the market has been ‘surprisingly busy’ going into 2005, and while prices have come back slightly, sensibly priced properties are selling quickly. According to the spokeswoman, the top end of the market is holding up especially well, and it is the more expensive properties which are attracting the most viewings.

Families in particular are drawn to the city thanks to the excellent private and state schools: ‘The schools are a great attraction,’ said Charlie Burtells from John D Wood & Co, ‘but there are other factors, such as the transport links to London, the culture of the city, the excellent chalk stream fishing and the horse riding. The surrounding countryside is fabulous, but also the shopping in the city is outstanding.’

Mr Burtells has also noticed a resurgence of activity over recent weeks, as many vendors who were ‘sitting on the fence’ at the end of 2004 are now committing to the market. While he sees many buyers coming from London, Winchester is also popular with residents moving from surrounding areas. According to John D Wood & Co’s figures, 57% of buyers in 2004 were moving from within Hampshire.

St Cross, located to the south of Winchester, is one of the most sought after areas, as is Fulflood, thanks to its three excellent secondary schools. According to Mr Burtells, those moving away from London are often drawn to Winchester’s surrounding villages, such as Twyford, Littleton and Arlesford, as they represent, for many people, the ‘rural idyll’. Stockbridge, a pretty village well-known for its excellent fishing, is also sought after.

Mr Burtells sums up Winchester’s appeal: ‘It’s a popular and beautiful area, and it’s got all those ingredients which make it unsurprising that people want to live here. There are a lot of choices for people with different lifestyles, and there is a good choice of excellent state and private schools.’