The foundations of the ancient capital of England were probably laid when the waves of Celtic conquest that had submerged the Neolithic men stilled to tranquillity. The earliest records left to us are many generations later and they are obscure and doubtful, but according to Vigilantius, an early historian whose lost writings have been quoted by those who followed him, a great Christian church was re-erected here in A.D. 164 by Lucius, King of the Belgae, on the site of a building destroyed during a temporary revival of paganism. The Roman masters of Lucius called his capital, rebuilt under their tuition, "Venta Belgarum." The British name - Caer Gwent - belonged to the original settlement. The size and boundaries of both are uncertain. Remains of the Celtic age are practically non-existent beneath Winchester, though the surrounding hills are plentifully strewn with them, and if Roman antiquities occasionally turn up when the foundations of new buildings are being prepared, any plan of the Roman town is pure conjecture. The true historic interest of Winchester, and historically it is without doubt the most interesting city in England, dates from the time of those West Saxon chiefs who gave it the important standing which was eventually to make it the metropolis of the English.

The early history of Winteceaster is the history of Wessex, and when Cerdic decided to make it the capital of his new kingdom, about 520, it was probably the only commercial centre in the state, with Southampton as its natural port and allied town. As the peaceful development of Wessex went on, so the population and trade of the capital grew until in a little over a hundred years, when Birinus came from over seas bearing the cross of the faith that was soon to spread with great rapidity over the whole of southern England, he found here a flourishing though pagan town. After the conversion of King Cynegils the first Wessex bishopric was founded at Dorchester near the banks of the Thames, but by 674 this was removed to the capital where there had been built a small church dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul, probably on the site now occupied by the cathedral and originally by the church of Lucius and its predecessor.

The great structure we see to-day is remarkable in many ways. It is the longest Gothic building in the world, and is only exceeded by St. Peter's in Rome. In spite of the disappointment the stranger invariably experiences at his first sight of the squat tower and straight line of wall, its majestic interior, and the indefinable feeling that this is still a temple and not a mere museum, will soon give rise to a sense of reverent appreciation that makes one linger long after the usual round of "sights" has been accomplished. The war memorial, dignified and austere, that was placed outside the west front in the autumn of 1921, is a most effective foil to the singularly unimposing pile of stone and glass behind it. But, however it may lack the elegance of the usual west "screen," this end of Winchester Cathedral has the great merit of being architecturally true.

Of the first Saxon building nothing remains. In this Egbert was crowned King of the English in 827. It was strongly fortified by St. Swithun, who was bishop for ten years from 852. At his urgent request he was buried in the churchyard instead of within the cathedral walls. Another generation wishing to honour the saint commenced the removal of the relics. On the day set aside for this - St. Swithun's day - a violent storm of rain came on and continued for forty days, thus giving rise to the old and well known superstition of the forty days of rain following St. Swithun's should that day be wet.

Under Bishop Swithun's direction the clergy and servants of the cathedral successfully resisted an attack by the Danes when the remainder of the city was destroyed. Soon after this, in the midst of the Danish terror, Alfred became king and here he founded two additional religious houses, St. Mary's Abbey, the Benedictine "Nunnaminster;" and Newminster on the north side of the cathedral. Of this latter St. Grimald was abbot. Nearly a hundred years later, in Edgar's reign, the cathedral itself became a monastery, with Bishop Athelwold as first abbot. He rebuilt the cathedral, dedicating it to St. Swithun; it had been originally dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul. Within this fabric Canute and his wife were buried; that earlier Conqueror of the English having made Winchester his imperial capital. A few years later, on Easter Day, the coronation of St. Edward took place with great pomp. Soon after the advent of William I, who made Winchester a joint metropolis with London and was crowned in both, the building of the great Norman church by Bishop Walkelyn was begun; the consecration taking place on St. Swithun's day 1093. Of this structure the crypt and transepts remain practically untouched. The nave, though Norman at its heart, has been altered in a most interesting way to Perpendicular without scrapping the earlier work. Walkelyn's tower fell in and ruined the choir in 1107, legend says as a protest against the body of Rufus being placed beneath it. The present low tower immediately took its place. Bishop de Lucy was responsible for rebuilding the Early English choir about 1200. The famous Bishop Wykeham completed the work of his predecessor, Edyngton, in rebuilding the west front, and he it was who beautified the nave. The great east window dates from about 1510; the lady chapel being rather earlier in date.

The extreme length of the cathedral is 556 feet; the breadth of the transepts being 217 feet, and as the nave is entered the majestic proportions of the great church will be at once appreciated. Particular notice should be taken of the black font brought from Tournai; it has the story of St. Nicholas carved upon it. The situation of this and the tombs and other details will be quickly identified by reference to the plan. On the south side is the chantry of Bishop Wykeham, now fitted up as a chapel. Farther east is a modern effigy, much admired, of Bishop Harold Browne, who died in 1891. A very beautiful iron grille that once protected the shrine of St. Swithun now covers a door on the north side of the nave. Certain of the piers in the nave were repaired in 1826-7 and the "restorer," one Garbett, inserted iron engaged columns on the face of that one nearest to Bishop Edyngton's chantry, it is said for the sake of economy and strength! Some of the stained glass in the nave, according to Mr. Le Coutier, dates from the time of Bishop Edyngton, and that representing Richard II is a work contemporary with Bishop Wykeham. This part of the building has been the scene of many progresses - magnificent and sad - from the coronation processions of the early kings and the slow march of their funerals to that of the wedding of Mary I, when the queen blazed with jewels "to such an extent that the eye was blinded as it looked upon her." But the most unforgettable of all was on that dreadful day when the troops of Waller marched up the nave, some mounted and all in war array, to despoil the tombs of bishop and knight of their emblems of piety and honour and to destroy anything beautiful that could be reached with pike or sword.

On the right of the choir steps is Bishop Edyngton's chantry and on the left the grave of the last Prior, Kingsmill, who afterwards became first Dean. In the centre of the choir stands the reputed tomb of William Rufus. This part of the building forms a mortuary chapel for several of the early English Kings, including Canute. Their remains, with those of several bishops, rest in the oak chests that lie on the top of the choir screen. They were deposited here by Bishop Fox in 1534. This prelate was responsible for the beautiful east window; a perfect specimen of old stained glass. The fine pulpit dates from 1520. In the choir, the scene of Edward Confessor's coronation in 1043, Mary I and Philip of Spain were married. The fine carvings of the stalls date from 1296 and their canopies from 1390. They are among the earliest specimens of their kind in Europe.

The magnificent reredos was erected by Cardinal Beaufort; it is, of course, restored. "The wretches who worked their evil will with this beautiful relic of piety had actually chiselled the ornament down to a plane surface and filled the concavities with plaster." It bore at one time the golden diadem of Canute; behind it stood the splendid silver shrine of St. Swithun, decorated with "the cross of emeralds, the cross called Hierusalem" and who shall say what other gifts of piety and devotion, all to become the spoils of that arch-iconoclast - Thomas Cromwell.

Bishop Fox's chantry was built during his lifetime. It is on the south side of the reredos, Gardiner's being on the north. Behind the reredos are the chantries of Bishop Waynflete and of the great Cardinal Beaufort. The latter claims attention for its graceful beauty and the peculiarities of character shown in the face of the effigy within. He is termed by Dean Kitchin, who draws attention to the "money-loving" nose, the "Rothschild of his day." Beaufort was the representative of England among the judges that condemned St. Joan of Arc to the flames and, at the time of writing, a memorial to the Maid is in course of preparation, to be set up near the Cardinal's tomb; an appropriate act of contrition and reparation. Beyond the space at the back of the reredos is the Early English Lady Chapel with an interesting series of wall paintings depicting the story of our Lady. Here is the chair used by Mary I at her wedding. Although it is unusual to praise anything modern, the beautiful stained glass in this part of the cathedral, forming a complete design, must be admired by the most confirmed "antiquary."

It is in the transepts that the earlier architecture can be seen at its best. This is nearly all pure Norman work, as is that of the crypt. It has been suggested that the latter antedates the Conquest so far as the base of the walls is concerned. Here is an ancient well which may have served the defenders during the Danish siege.

On the wall of the north transept is a large painted figure of St Christopher. The chapel of the Holy Sepulchre (about 1350) stands between the transept and the choir. In the south transept Izaak Walton rests beneath a black marble slab in Prior Silkstede's chantry.

The epitaph, written by Bishop Ken, may be quoted:


Near by is an old oak seat used by the monks between the services, and a modern effigy of Bishop Wilberforce which strikes a Victorian note in its general effect. The cathedral treasury was once the repository of Domesday Book, also known as The Book of Winton.

Just before the Great War commenced, the costly operation of underpinning the cathedral was brought to a successful conclusion. Much alarm had been felt after the architect's report was made public. There is little doubt that a more or less general collapse of the structure would have occurred had this very necessary operation been long deferred. Large sums were spent in the closing years of the nineteenth century in the repair of the roof and walls. A tablet recording the particulars is placed at the west end of the nave.

On leaving the cathedral some time may be spent in exploring the interesting precincts and in endeavouring to reconstruct the medieval aspect of this part of the city. The narrow "Slype," or public right of way between the south transept and the site of the ancient chapter-house, was probably made to replace a passage through the interior, an intolerable nuisance at all times, but especially during service hours. The old circuit wall of the monastery is still standing, and the entrance to the deanery should be seen; this dates from about 1220. The cloisters were destroyed for some unknown reason in 1570. The ruins of Wolvesley Castle erected by Bishop de Blois about 1150 are close to the cathedral on the south-east. It was the residence of the Bishops, and part of the buildings formed an angle of the city defences. The name Wolves ey or island is said to be a survival from early Saxon days when the tributary Welsh here made an offering of wolves' heads to their masters.

There are some very scanty and doubtful remains of the New Minster on the north of the cathedral. This was pulled down at the dissolution of the monasteries. Nunnaminster was also swept away during this woeful time.

The College of St. Elizabeth stood near St. Mary's. Founded by Bishop John de Pontissara in 1301 it was dedicated to St. Elizabeth of Hungary. After the Dissolution it was sold to the Warden of St. Mary's for three hundred and sixty pounds, subject to the condition that the church should become a grammar school for seventy-five students, or that it should be pulled down. This fate befell the building, which had three altars and a total length of 120 feet as was shown in the dry summer of 1842 when the outline of the walls was distinct in the grass of the meadows on the south-east of Winchester College.

Winton is now as famous for St. Mary's College as for the cathedral itself, and though not the earliest foundation of all the great schools, it can claim to having taught Eton the rules of good pedagogy. Henry VI came here to ask advice and obtain experience for his new college on the banks of the Thames. The school was founded by Wykeham in 1387 for "seventy poor scholars, clerks, to live college wise and study grammar," and its roll contains a goodly proportion of England's great men. Here students were taught rather more than is stated above, and "Manners Makyth Man" became the watchword of the foundation.

It was appropriate that the first of the great schools should be established in the city of the warrior-student Alfred, the first of that semi-barbarian race of monarchs to turn to the higher things of the mind, and without losing the leadership of the nation and the love of his people in so doing. On the contrary, he gained his niche in the world's history as much for this virtue as for the heroic side of his character. The King's palace stood not far from the river bank and probably the college buildings cover part of the site. Like most Saxon domestic structures, it was of wood, and no visible traces remain, though the recent interesting discoveries at Old Windsor lead one to wonder what may lie hidden beneath the turf here.

The Hero-King was buried, first in the cathedral, and then in the Newminster. After the destruction of this building by fire, his remains were removed to Hyde Abbey on the north of the city. This met the fate of most other monasteries at the Dissolution, and the site of the final interment and, according to some accounts, the actual sarcophagus itself, were desecrated by eighteenth-century vandals in order to build a lock-up!

The bronze figure of Alfred, standing with sword held aloft as a cross, on its colossal block of granite at the bottom of High Street, is an inspired work by Hamo Thornycroft. It was erected in 1901 to commemorate the millenary of the king's death and is the most successful statue in the kingdom, imposing in its noble simplicity.

High Street is still quaint and old fashioned, though it has few really ancient houses. "God-Begot House" is Tudor and the old "Pent House" over its stumpy Tuscan pillars is very picturesque. Taking the town as a whole it can hold its own in interest with the only other English medieval city worthy of comparison - Chester. The visitor must have a fund of intelligent imagination and a blind eye for incongruities and then his peregrinations will be a remembered pleasure. The beautiful gardens belonging to the houses around the close and the black and white front of Cheyney Court will be recollected when more imposing scenes have faded.

The "George Hotel," though it but modestly claims to be "old established," is said by some authorities to stand on the site of an hostelry called the "Moon" that was very ancient in the days of Richard II. The new title was given about the time of Agincourt when the battle cry - "St. George " - had made the saint popular.

The City Cross is graceful and elegant fifteenth-century work, much restored of course, and in a quaint angle of some old houses that rather detract from its effectiveness. The exact site of the inhuman execution of Mrs. Alicia Lisle in September, 1685, is unknown, but it was probably in the wider part of the High Street. This gentle old lady, nearly eighty years of age, had given shelter to two men in all innocence of their connexion with Sedgemoor, but the infamous Jeffreys ordered her to be burnt; a sentence commuted by James II to beheading.

The City walls were almost intact down to 1760. Now we have but the fine West Gate and the King's Gate, over which is St. Swithun's church. The churches of Winchester are little more than half their former number. St. Maurice has a Norman doorway and St. Michael a Saxon sundial. St. John Baptist and St. Peter, Cheesehill, are of the most general interest. The former has a screen and pulpit over four hundred years old; transitional arches; and an Easter sepulchre. The latter is a square church mostly in Perpendicular style but with some later additions more curious than beautiful. Visitors to St. Lawrence's should read the inscription to Martha Grace (1680). St. Bartholomew's, close to the site of Hyde Abbey, shows some Norman work. In 1652 the Corporation petitioned Parliament to reduce the several city parishes into two, deeming a couple of ministers, one for each church, sufficient for the spiritual requirements of the city. In connexion with this a tract was issued describing the ghastly condition of the churches, one, St. Mary Kalendar being a garbage den for butcher's offal, another, St. Swithun's, Kingsgate, was let by the corporation as a tenement and had a pigsty within it!

The ancient castle and residence of the Kings of England is now represented only by the Great Hall, dating from the early part of the thirteenth century. It is used for county business and is a good specimen of the domestic architecture of the time. The great interest of the hall is the reputed Round Table of King Arthur, placed at its west end. Experts have decided that it cannot be older than 1200. The painted names upon it are those of Arthur's Knights. These were executed in the reign of Henry VIII and replaced earlier inscriptions. The Hospital of St. John Baptist is in Basket Lane. Established by John Deverniche, one of the city fathers, in 1275 for the succour of aged wayfarers, it was suppressed at the Reformation, but reverted to its original purpose in 1829, and is thus one of the oldest living foundations of its kind in the kingdom.

Charles II desired to revive the royal glories of Winton and commissioned the erection of a palace which was unfinished when he died. After being used as a barracks, the fine building was practically destroyed in 1894 by a disastrous fire. This element was almost as great an enemy of old Winchester as the reformers themselves. On one occasion the town was fired by a defender, Savaric de Mauleon, on the approach of a French army under Louis the Dauphin. When the other, and junior, capital was receiving its cleansing by fire in 1666, Winchester was being more than decimated by the plague, which was as direful here as anywhere else.

The city is 1,025 years old as a corporate town. Its staple business in medieval times was the sale of wool or its manufacture into cloth. Standing midway between two great tracts of sheep country, it was the natural mart for this important trade and therefore prospered and became rich. St. Giles' Fair, once famous and of great importance to cattle and sheep farmers, finally expired about the middle of the last century. In its prime it was of such a nature that the jurisdiction of the Mayor and the City Courts was in abeyance for sixteen days from the twelfth of September. It was held on St. Giles' Hill just without the town. The fair was under the patronage of the Bishop, who appointed a "Justice of the Court of Pavilion" during the period of the fair.

The chief excursion that every one takes, and that every one should take, from Winchester is to St. Cross. The beautiful old Norman church and its equally beautiful surrounding buildings almost rival Winchester Close itself in their interest and charm. A short walk southwards through the suburb of Sharkford leads direct in a little over a mile to this goal of the archaeologist. A slightly longer but pleasanter route goes by the banks of the Itchen.

St. Cross is the oldest charity, still living its ancient life, that remains to us. Its charter is dated 1151, but it was founded nearly twenty years earlier by Bishop Henry de Blois. The document set forth that thirteen "poor men, so reduced in strength as to be unable to raise themselves without the assistance of another" should be lodged, clothed and entertained, and that one hundred other poor men of good conduct should dine here daily. The munificent charity of the founder was soon abused and the funds had the common habit of disappearing into the capacious pockets of absentee masters. William of Wykeham and his immediate successor, Beaufort, caused reforms in the administration and added to the foundation, the latter instituting an almshouse of "Noble Poverty," which was partly carried out by Bishop Waynflete in 1486. The brethren of this newer foundation wear a red gown; those of the old, a black gown bearing a silver cross. Even within living memory scandals connected with the administration were perpetuated; an Earl of Guildford taking over L1,000 annually during a period of fifty years for the nominal mastership. This peer was a nephew of Bishop Brownlow North. It was in 1855 that the Hospital was put on its present footing and the charity of the hundred diners finally became the maintenance of fifty poor people of good character in the vicinity.

To the average tourist the chief interest seems to be the dole of bread and beer which must be given to whoever claims it until the two loaves and two gallons of liquor are exhausted. The well-clothed stranger who has the temerity to ask for it must not be surprised at the homoeopathic quantity which is handed to him. I am informed that the genuine wayfarer receives a more substantial dole.

The beautiful church of the Holy Cross measures 125 feet in length, and 115 feet across at the transepts. The choir is a fine example of Transitional Norman with a square east end. The ancient high altar is of Purbeck marble. The Early English nave and the Decorated west front show the centuries through which the church grew. It is said that it was originally thatched, the lead roof being placed by Bishop Edyngton in 1340. A fine screen which now divides the chancel from the north aisle came from St. Faith's church, as did the old Norman font. The fine old woodwork and ancient tiles (some having upon them the words "Have Mynde.") are noteworthy. The chancel contains the magnificent brass of John de Campeden who was Wykeham's Master of the Hospital and who was responsible for raising the church and domestic buildings from a ruinous state to one of comeliness and good order. The mid-Victorian restorations, though fairly successful, included a detestable colour scheme which goes far to spoil the general effect of the interior and should be removed, as was done after much agitation, some years ago in St. Paul's Cathedral. It is a great pity that any attempt should be made to imitate this seemingly lost art. Far better to leave the walls of our churches to the colouring that time gives than to wash or paint them with the tints that seem to be inevitably either gaudy or dismal.

The buildings inhabited by the brothers form two quadrangles. The outer court has the "Hundred Men's Hall" on the east side, the gateway tower and the porter's lodge being on the south. From this runs an ambulatory and overhead gallery to the church. The hall porch bears the arms of Cardinal Beaufort over the centre and inside are various relics of his time, such as candlesticks, pewter dishes, black leather jacks, etc., and in the centre of the hall is the old hearth. The actual dwellings of the brethren are in the inner court on the west and part of the north side. The buildings erected by Beaufort have disappeared; they were on the south of the church.

No description can give any adequate idea of the beautiful grouping of these old grey walls, which must have been the inspiration of one who was artist as well as architect. In June and through the summer months the beautiful garden and its fish pond belonging to the master's house is a sight not easily forgotten.

Winchester does not make a particularly good picture from any of its surrounding hills. Its crown - the cathedral - lacks that inspiring vision of soaring, pointing spire that causes the wayfarer leaving Salisbury to turn so many times for a last glimpse of its splendour against the setting sun. Its square and sturdy tower lacks the grace of those western lanterns whose pinnacles are reflected in the waters of Severn and Wye. But the town, with the long leaden roof of the cathedral among its guardian elms, makes a pleasant and very English picture as we ascend the long road to St. Catherine's Hill, which rises directly east of St. Cross. This hill may be the true origin of Winchester as a settlement. It is an ideal spot for a stronghold, either for those whom the Romans displaced or for the Conquerors themselves. Its great entrenchments look down directly upon the river flowing in its several meandering channels beneath. On the other side of the hill from the river valley the Roman highway comes in a great curve from its straight run off Deacon Hill to distant Porchester, though by far the greater portion of that course has been lost. The bold clump of trees on the summit, so characteristic of the chalk hills, is visible for miles and takes the place of towers and spires to the returning Wykehamist, eager for his first glimpse of Winton. Paths may be taken to the southward across Twyford Down that eventually lead into the Southampton highways, by which a return can be made to the city.

Among the more interesting near-by villages, that will repay the traveller for the walk thither, are the "Worthy's": - Headbourne, King's, Abbot's and Martyr's. To reach the church at Headbourne Worthy from the road one crosses a running stream by a footbridge. The little building is Saxon in part and won the enthusiastic regard of Bishop Wilberforce. It is exceedingly quaint and, although restored, unspoilt in appearance. Over the porch was once a hermit's cell. The clipped and much maltreated stone Rood at the west door is Saxon work and the most interesting item in the church.

A little further away is King's Worthy, with an uninteresting and rebuilt Perpendicular church in a pretty spot on the banks of the Itchen. At the far end of the village the Roman road to Basingstoke leaves the way taken by the pilgrims from Winchester to Canterbury at Worthy Park, and the straggling houses on its sides soon become the hamlet of Abbot's Worthy, a name reminiscent of the time when the countryside was parcelled out among the great religious houses. This village was once in the possession of Hyde Abbey and afterwards became the property of that Lord Capel who defended Colchester for the King during the Civil War. Martyr's Worthy, a mile farther, has a Norman arch to the doorway of its church, but is otherwise unremarkable. "Martyr," by the way, is a misspelt abbreviation for "Mortimer." Itchen Abbas, the goal of this short journey, is not five miles from the centre of Winchester and is a great resort of fishermen. Here Charles Kingsley came to stay at the "Plough" and, I am told, wrote a good part of Water Babies between spells upon the trout stream near-by. Possibly these charming chapters were planned while the author watched the placid waters before him.

The main road winds on to pleasant Alresford, where Mary Russell Mitford was born. The principal attraction of the town is a large lake, made by Bishop de Lucy in the twelfth century as an aid to the navigation of the Itchen. Not so far as this, and in the same direction, is Titchborne, quiet and remote among its trees with an old church that boasts a Saxon chancel and with memories of the Titchbornes, whose separate aisle and secret altar for the celebration of mass indicate their devotion to the old faith. But our return route passes Abbas church and crosses the river to Easton, a rambling and pleasant river-village full of mellow half-timbered houses and with a church that boasts a Norman apse and fine chancel arch. There is a unique monument in this church to the widow of William Barton, Bishop in turn of St. Asaph, St. David's, Bath and Wells, and Chichester, whose five daughters married five bishops! The walk across the meadows to Winnal and the city is one of the best near Winchester, but is hardly pleasant after wet weather. The hilly road, about three miles long, direct from Martyr's Worthy, affords pretty glimpses of the Itchen valley and the low Worthy Downs beyond. Just before the last descent toward Winnal there is a fairly good view of Winchester itself.

The straight, dusty and rather wearisome Roman road to Southampton runs up to a spur of Compton Down, a once lonely hill but now unsightly with the red-brick and plate glass of suburban Winchester. Near the conspicuous roadside cross - a memorial to fallen heroes - there is a distant view of the city, veiled in blue smoke, to the rear. Compton church, in the combe beyond, has made good its place in history by recording its ancient past in the porch of the building erected in 1905. The old church is actually one of the aisles of the new, and here may be seen an ancient wall painting and two piscina. A little over a mile to the south-east is picturesque Twyford on the wooded banks of the Itchen. Here Pope went to school for a time, and in the chapel of Bambridge House close by Mrs. Fitzherbert was married to the future George IV.

Twyford Church was believed by Dean Kitchen to be built on the site of a Stone circle. Two large "Sarsens" or megaliths lie by the side of the building, and a magnificent yew stands in the churchyard. Shawford Downs, that rise above the river and village, are scored with "lynchets" or ancient cultivation terraces and there is no doubt that the neighbourhood has been the home of successive races from a most remote age.

The high-road continues over hill and down dale to Otterbourne, with its memories of a celebrated Victorian writer, Miss Charlotte M. Yonge. The Rood in the rebuilt church was erected to her memory nearly twenty years ago. The tall granite cross in the pretty churchyard commemorates the incumbency of Keble, the author of the Christian Year, who was also vicar of Hursley, three miles away to the north-west, where a beautiful church was erected through his efforts on the site of an eighteenth-century building, and, it is said, paid for by royalties on his famous book. At Hursley Park Richard Cromwell resided during the Protectorate of his father. He is buried with his wife and children in Hursley church.

A road runs westwards from near the summit of Otterbourne Hill through the beautiful woods of Hiltingbury and Knapp Hill to the valley of the Test at Romsey. There are a couple of inns and a few scattered houses, but no village on the lonely seven miles until the parallel valley is reached.

Romsey Abbey dates from the reign of Edward the Elder, and his daughter, St. Alfreda, was first Abbess. Another child of a king - Mary, daughter of Stephen - became Abbess in 1160, and her uncle, Henry de Blois of Winchester, built the greater part of the present church about 1125, the western portion of the nave following between 1175 and 1220. The building is 263 feet long and 131 feet broad across the transepts. The interior is an interesting study in Norman architecture and the change to Early English is nowhere seen to better advantage. Portions of the foundations of the Saxon church were laid bare during repairs to the floor in 1900. A section is shown beneath a trap door near the pulpit.

A peculiar arrangement of the eastern ends of the choir aisles is noteworthy. They are square as seen from the exterior, but prove to be apsidal on entering. At the end of the south choir aisle, forming a reredos to the side altar, an ancient Saxon Rood will be seen; the Figure is sculptured in an archaic Byzantine style. The Jacobean altar in the north choir aisle was once in the chancel and had above it those old-fashioned wooden panels of the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments that may still be met with occasionally. When these were removed an ancient painted reredos was found behind them. It is now placed in the north choir aisle. The subject is the Resurrection and the painting is dated at about 1380. In a glass case is the Romsey Psalter which, after many vicissitudes, has become once more the property of the Abbey.

In 1625, for some unknown reason, the two upper stages of the tower were pulled down and the present wooden belfry erected. Outside the "nuns door" is a very fine eleventh-century Rood that owes its preservation to the fact that for many years it was covered by a tradesman's shed!

Nothing remains of the conventual buildings but a few scanty patches of masonry. The history of the Abbey was not a very edifying one and, although every effort was made to save the house at the Dissolution, chiefly by the exhibition of the imposing royal charters of foundation and re-endowment, the many scandals recorded gave the despoilers an additional, and possibly welcome, excuse for their work.

A great amount of careful and reverent restoration was carried out some years ago by the late Mr. Berthon, a former vicar; but he will probably be remembered by posterity as the inventor of the portable boat that bears his name and which is still made, or was till recently, in the town. Romsey (usually called Rumsey) is not a good place in which to stay and, apart from the Abbey, is quite uninteresting. In the centre of the town is a statue of Lord Palmerston, who lived at Broadlands, a beautifully situated mansion a short distance away to the south.

A pleasant journey by road or rail can be taken up the valley of the Test between the low chalk hills of Western Hampshire to Stockbridge (or even farther north to Whitchurch or Andover, but these districts must be left until later). At Mottisfont, four miles from Romsey, was once a priory of Augustinians. Remnants of the buildings are incorporated with the present mansion. In the church perhaps the most interesting item, by reason of the alien touch in this remote corner of Hampshire, is an heraldic stone of the Meinertzhazen family brought here from St. Michael's, Bremen, at the end of the nineteenth century. The square font of Purbeck marble is of the same date as the Norman arch in the chancel. Just to the south of the village a branch line of railway follows a remote western valley to its head and then drops to the Avon valley and Salisbury. To the east is another lonely stretch of country through which the ridge of Pitt Down runs to the actual suburbs of Winchester. At the western end of this ridge, and about three miles up the Test from Mottisfont, are the villages of Horsebridge and King's Somborne on the southern confines of what was once John of Gaunt's deer park. The present bridge is higher up the stream, but the railway-station is on the actual site of the ancient road between Winchester and Old Sarum and the "horse bridge" was then lower down stream and almost immediately due west of the station. Somborne gets its prefix from the fact that an old mansion usually called "King John's Palace" formerly stood here, it may be that it belonged to John of Gaunt. Certain mounds and small sections of wall are pointed out as the remains of this house; they will be found to the south-west of the church; a much restored, but still interesting, thirteenth-century building. The font, of Purbeck marble, is very fine; of interest also are the late Jacobean chancel rails and certain crosses and monograms on the north doorway.

A road runs for six miles north-westwards up into the chalk hills by the side of the Wallop brook to the euphoniously named villages of Nether, Middle, and Over Wallop. The first and last have interesting churches, but the excursion, if taken, should be as an introduction to perhaps the most remote and unspoilt region of the chalk country. Although the Wallop valley is fairly well populated, the older people are as unsophisticated as any in southern England. The scenery is quietly pleasant, the hills away to the southwest exceeding, here and there, the 500 feet contour line. One of them, near the head of the valley, is named "Isle of Wight Hill." It is only upon the clearest of days that the distant Island is seen over the shoulder of the neighbouring Horseshoe Hill and across the long glittering expanse of Southampton Water.

Proceeding up the fertile valley of the Test, Stockbridge is reached in another three miles. This sleepy old country town and one-time parliamentary borough occasionally wakes up when sheep fairs and other rural gatherings take place in its spacious High Street, but on other days it is the very ideal of a somnolent agricultural centre; it is, therefore, a pleasant headquarters from which to explore the north-western part of the county. The long line of picturesque roofs and broken house-fronts, in all the mellow tints that age alone can give, makes as goodly a picture as any in Hampshire. On the right-hand side, going down the street, is the Grosvenor Inn with its projecting porch. Next door is the old Market House and across the way stands the turreted Town Hall.

Alone in a quiet graveyard at the upper end of the town is the chancel of old St. Peter's church, now used as the chapel of the burying ground. Most of the removable items were taken to the new church erected in High Street in 1863, including certain fine windows and the Norman font of Purbeck marble. In a neglected corner of the old churchyard is the tombstone of John Bucket, one-time landlord of the "King's Head" in Stockbridge. It bears the following oft-quoted epitaph:

  And is, alas! poor Bucket gone? 
  Farewell, convivial honest John. 
  Oft at the well, by fatal stroke 
  Buckets like pitchers must be broke. 
  In this same motley shifting scene, 
  How various have thy fortunes been. 
  Now lifting high, now sinking low, 
  To-day the brim would overflow. 
  Thy bounty then would all supply 
  To fill, and drink, and leave thee dry, 
  To-morrow sunk as in a well, 
  Content unseen with Truth to dwell. 
  But high or low, or wet or dry, 
  No rotten stave could malice spy. 
  Then rise, immortal Bucket, rise 
  And claim thy station in the skies; 
  'Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine: 
  Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign.

The main street crosses the Test by two old stone bridges and from these, glancing up and down the street, one has a charming view of the surrounding hills which fill the vista at each end. The road out of the town to the east runs over the shoulder of Stockbridge Down on which is a fine prehistoric entrenchment called Woolbury Ring. Thence to Winchester is a long undulating stretch of rough and flinty track with but few cottages and no villages on the way until tiny Wyke, close to the city, is reached. One welcome roadside inn, the "Rack and Manger," stands at the cross roads about half way, and occasional ancient milestones tell us we are on the way to "Winton."

Our itinerary through west-central Hampshire has not included that little known fragment of the county that lies to the west of Romsey and is a district of commons and woods, part of the great forest-land that we shall hurriedly explore in the next chapter. The chief interest here, apart from the natural attractions of the secluded countryside, is a simple grave in the churchyard of East Wellow, a small by-way hamlet about four miles from Romsey. Here is the last resting place of Florence Nightingale who lies beside her father and mother. The supreme honour of burial at Westminster, offered by the Dean and Chapter, was refused by her relatives in compliance with her own wish. So East Wellow should be a pilgrim's shrine to the rank and file of that weaponless army whose badge is the Red Cross.