Winchester (wĭnˈchĭstər) [key], town (1991 pop. 34,127) and district, county seat of Hampshire, S central England. Winchester was called Caer Gwent by the Britons, Venta Belgarum by the Romans, and Wintanceastre by the Saxons. The town was the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex. Even after the Norman Conquest, when London gradually gained political ascendancy, Winchester remained England's center of learning and attracted many religious scholars. At the time it was also a wool center. Winchester has long held a position of ecclesiastical influence, reflected in its magnificent cathedral; the Norman structure, which replaced a Saxon church, was consecrated in 1093. In the 14th cent. it was enlarged and transformed into the present Gothic cathedral. It is the burial place of Saxon kings and queens and of William of Wykeham, Samuel Wilberforce, Izaak Walton, and Jane Austen. In Winchester are remains of Wolvesey Castle, where Queen Mary I lived in 1554. St. Cross Hospital, founded in the 12th cent., is the setting for Anthony Trollope's The Warden. The Norman castle, where several parliaments met, was damaged by Oliver Cromwell's soldiers; a round table, supposedly of King Arthur, hangs in the Great Hall. Winchester is still a historic cathedral town, virtually untouched by modern industry and construction. Winchester College, a famed English public school, was founded (1382; opened 1394) by William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, and is still partly housed in 14th-century buildings.
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