The Great Hall and Round Table, Winchester Castle
The Great Hall
The first and finest of all 13th century halls, with the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, 'The Round Table of King Arthur'. Winchester Castle dates from the reign of William the Conqueror (1066-1087). By the end of King John's reign in 1216 the castle and its royal palace needed extensive repair. Between 1222 and 1235 the Castle's hall was replaced by the building which stands today. Other alterations and improvements brought the castle to its peak of military and domestic development during the reigns of Henry III (1216-1272) and Edward I (1272 - 1307). Edward and his second wife Margaret of France, almost lost their lives in a fire which destroyed the royal apartments in 1302. The roof was rebuilt at the end of the 14th century changing the halls external appearance. During the English Civil War the Castle was held by the Royalists until its capture by the Parliamentary Forces in 1646. Oliver Cromwell ordered the demolition of the Castle, but the Great Hall was kept as a venue for assemblies and the County Assizes. The Hall was restored in the 1870s, and was used last as a court between 1938 and 1974. 12th century castle halls were massive and gloomy, with few furnishings. In the 13th century halls became lighter and more comfortably furnished. The Great hall of Winchester was the first and finest of these halls. With its Purbeck stone columns, pointed arches and plate tracery windows, it had all the best features of Early English Gothic architecture. Plastered and decorated walls emphasised its lightness, elegance and grace. The finest and most brilliant colours were used. The Hall reflected the preferences and tastes of Henry III. He was born at Winchester Castle in 1207 and loved to return here. During his reign (1216-72) art, architecture and design became more refined and sophisticated. This trend was reflected in the Great Hall. The Hall was the heart of the Castle. When in residence the King dined here, discussed affairs of State with his barons and clergy and sat in court to administer justice.
Castle or defences
Opening times 10am to 5pm daily
We advise that groups book in advance (minimum of 24 hours notice) because the Hall is used for other purposes by Hampshire County Council. If you have not booked we may be unable to allow entry at your chosen date/time. Contact the Custodian to arrange a suitable date and time tel 01962 846476.
Closed Christmas Day & Boxing Day only
Admission FREE (donations gratefully accepted)
The Round Table: Although now known to have been constructed in the 14th Century, and repainted in its present form for King Henry VIII, the table has for centuries been venerated by generations of tourists as the mysterious table of the 'Once and Future King' Arthur. The first written accounts of the Arthurian story appeared in 1130 in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 'History of the Kings of Britain', which maintains that Merlin had the 15-year-old Arthur crowned at nearby Silchester. However, the first mention of the Round Table is Robert Wace's Roman de Brut (1155), which says that Arthur seated his knights at a round table so that all should be equal. In Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur, the table is a wedding gift to Arthur from Guinevere's father, Leodegrance.
Queen Victoria Sculpture: The sculpture was made by Alfred Gilbert and was presented by William Ingham Whitaker, High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1887 to celebrate the golden jubilee memorial. Its inscription reads 'Commemoration of Fifty Years Glorious Reign of Victoria Queen and Empress Wm Ingham Whitaker gave this statue anno domini MDCCCLX'. (The Latin numerals actually read 1860 although 1887 is the correct date). Artist's inscription at the side of the throne reads 'Alfred Gilbert ARA Devised and Made it AD 1887'
Key artists and exhibits
- King Arthur and the Round Table
- Queen Victoria sculpture by Alfred Gilbert