Winchester’s High Street

Last summer I read a book about Queen Emma and King Canute (see the blog about it here). That’s why it was pretty cool to see the Godbegot House in Winchester. This 15th century house stands at the site of the ancient manor of Godbegot, which belonged to Queen Emma, wife of King Canute and mother of Edward the Confessor. Edward gave the building to the Winchester Cathedral in 1052.  The coolest thing about the building is that at 8pm each night, they ring a bell to signify the curfew (which itself no longer exists, but the tradition remains).

We actually had lunch in the Godbegot House, because it’s been converted into a pizzeria. At first I was a little taken aback — wouldn’t they want to preserve this house instead? Isn’t a pizzeria a bit profane?  But then I reminded myself that England, and Europe in general, is absolutely swimming in old stuff. They can be a bit cavalier about preserving it, because they are awash in riches.


Just down the street from Godbegot House is the Butter Cross. No, it’s not a cross made out of butter, literally — but the cross was funded by the fines paid by people caught eating butter during lent, so there is a dairy-connection. (That’s one theory, at least. The other is far more mundane, and suggests that the name comes from the 19th century, when dairy farmers gathered at the cross to sell their wares.)  The cross dates from the 15th century, and stands 43 feet high. The pinnacles have both saints and kings decorating them, although the cross as a whole looks a little odd because it’s quite close to the building next door — I believe the cross used to stand in the center of the square, but valuable real estate means the buildings have moved closer.  The Butter Cross is THE meeting place in Winchester — we saw lots of people perched on the steps.

One other cool thing we saw along the High Street of Winchester was Hammond’s Passage.  The signpost says: “Anyone committing a nuisance in this passage will be prosecuted.”

This is the actual passage. Doesn’t it just beg the question: what kind of nuisance would one be committing in this narrow, dark little space?  My imagination is running wild!


Posted on 03/04/2011, in Castles & Cathedrals, Exploring the UK, travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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