The Great Hall in Winchester is home to one of the greatest symbols of medieval mythology…King Arthur’s Round Table!
Surrounded by the remains of Winchester Castle, built by William the Conquerer no less, it is an iconic piece of the city that’s tucked away at the top of the high street.
It’s definitely another tick off the bucket list for me and I am so glad I found it, I’m not a big history buff but, King Arthur’s table is seriously impressive!
The Great Hall
This hall is hidden in the castle building and just wasn’t what I expected at all. How did I not realise this was here?! It’s magnificent.
Before entry you pass through The Long Gallery which is full of beautiful paintings, images and reading material to inform you about the Kings, Queens and characters connected to the hall’s past.
Inside the hall are plenty of artefacts including a bronze statue of Queen Victoria, made by Sir Alfred Gilbert R.A., for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
It’s really big and sits just to the right of Round Table which is above the stone platform, that’s now in ruins, that the Kings and Queens used to sit on to hold court.
There’s also a tribute to Queen Elizabeth on the wall too.
The hall has some pretty recent history too. The ‘marriage gates’ were built to celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana, they connect the hall to the law courts, because until recently the hall was still used by the monarchy.
The ‘marriage gates’ are way ahead of their time and the ornate work is incredibly pretty and looks more like it should be in Game of Thrones!
On the walls surrounding the gates is the family tree, I thought it was a pattern until we got closer to it!
Every window was beautiful and told a story or represented royalty and nobility in some way. They were full of detail and vibrant colour that contrasted with the surrounding grey stone.
King Arthur’s Round Table
Since Thomas Malory, the 15th century author of Le Morte D’Arthur, identified Winchester as the site of Camelot, the King Arthur obsession has been real.
The table is dated back to sometime between 1250 and 1280, the time of Edward 1, who was captivated with the legend of Arthur. The origins aren’t clear but it’s thought Edward could have constructed it for a tournament, to settle arguments or for the marriage of his daughter.
Great Kings and Queens over the years have protected the table over the years and King Henry the VIII was also very taken with the legend and this table.
It’s thanks to him that the table, which had suffered significant neglect since it was made, was looked after and repainted in the 16th century.
Apparently he did it to impress the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1522 who came to visit.
The repainting had a few adjustments including a Tudor rose in the centre and Henry put his name in the place of the King’s name. Ah, to be King and to do whatever you like – madness!
While it did change the table, without the care it was given it wouldn’t exist today.
Ok, so that’s about as much history as I could retain and even then I had to Google some of names and dates because I’m hopeless at remembering. I did learn a few things, promise!
Queen Eleanor’s 13th Century Garden
The garden was built and developed for the Queen and although it’s small it’s got lots of little corners, water features and nooks to take in. I reckon it would be beautiful in summer, I went in the depths of January.
Where is King Arthur’s Round Table?
I went to college in the city and have been trying to find the round table for years, strangely despite living nearby and wandering the lanes regularly I never found it, until now that is!
And, before you start thinking, ‘why didn’t you just Google it?’, well smartie pants, when I was younger this place wasn’t on Google. Then I kind of forgot about it but I always kept my eye open as I frequently visit the city. It was always one of those things I thought I must research but always forgot to do.
If you go looking for The Great Hall, hike a right at the top of Winchester High Street, it’s sign posted from the West Gate or the law courts. Keep your eyes peeled though as these signs are small and there aren’t many of them.
It sounds silly but visiting this made me so happy, it took me 15 years to find and I am so glad I made the effort to finally get there! A massive tick off the old travel list.
Want to see this piece of history for yourself? Take a look at Visit Winchester’s page all about The Great Hall and King Arthur’s Round Table.