Fortified by Anglo-Saxons

From two towns with three-letter names, we progressed to one with a ten-letter name: Winchester. Under the Romans, this town was known as Venta (pronounced “Wenta”) and when the Anglo-Saxon invaders occupied it, they added the word “ceaster” (meaning “fortified town”) to it. In the fullness of time Venta Ceaster came to be known as Winchester.

Winchester is a lively town, as this street scene suggests:

Street scene, Winchester

There are enough buildings, sculptures and curiosities to keep a photographer’s trigger finger continually in action. Here are a few:

Period building Winchester's coat of arms Winchester Guild Hall

Winchester, of course, has a cathedral. It is quite a handsome one. Being so old, it has had to be restored and the work is still continuing. Unlike the case of Ely, however, the work is being done properly. Although the new work obviously is new, it is an exact replica of the fabric that has been replaced. This gives some idea of what the building must have looked like when new: quite startling.

Cathedral facade Gargoyle Gargoyle

King Aelfred of Wessex (849-899) is held in high esteem here and the picture on the left below shows one tribute to him in the city.

Aelfred of Wessex Water Garden Meteorological instruments

And finally, for reasons of pure self-indulgence, a selection of birds seen around Winchester (it’s what your zoom is for):

Robin Wood pigeon Grazing duck

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Fortified by Anglo-Saxons

  1. Nora says:

    Being a Dutch Saxon, I am always interested in the Anglo-Saxons, because they are so well documented. I wonder about the name Ceaster and don’t recognize it in our language at all. It must be long dead. The Oxford dictionary offers no help and I can’t find it in the Dutch dictionary. I’ll take your word for the meaning of it, though. I am just fascinated by language and the origin of words. If you know a few languages, you see the relationships, especially if you also speak some dialects.

  2. SilverTiger says:

    The word ceaster presumably derives from, or is cognate with, the Latin word castrum, which meant a fort in Roman times.

    The pronunciation of ceaster would have been something like “chayester”, which gives us all the names of towns English towns whose names end in -chester.

    The interesting thing about English place names is that they were sometimes successively translated by invaders. Thus in working out the meaning of a modern name you might be faced with an adaption of a Norman French translation of an Anglo-Saxon translation of a Roman translation of an original Celtic name!

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