The medieval gallery at Winchester’s City Museum has re-opened following a major five month refurbishment project.
Re-named The Gallery of a 1000 Years, the gallery is dedicated to 1000 years of Winchester’s history, spanning the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods that were key to the city’s development as England’s centre of royal, ecclesiastical and political power.
The emphasis of the newly renovated gallery is on telling the captivating stories of the people that lived in the city and unlocking the secrets that the objects on display have to tell about the people that owned and used them.
‘There is so much we can learn from what, on the face of it, may appear to be relatively simple or homely objects,’ commented Ioannis Ioannidis, Cultural Experience Manager at Hampshire Cultural Trust, which operates Winchester City Museum. ‘A good example of this is the gallery’s pottery collection. As well as the locally-made, Winchester tin-glazed pottery, we also have pots from medieval Spain and France – one of which was owned by John de Tytynge, mayor of Winchester in the 1300s – showing the importance of the city as an international trading centre.’
One of the major additions to the refurbished gallery is digital interpretation to animate the stories being told. Key figures from Winchester’s past have been brought to life including King Alfred, William the Conqueror, Henry of Blois and Cardinal Beaufort.
Amongst the new objects on display are stained glass fragments believed to be from the Old Minster and a Jewish token, or coin, from the same period as Licoricia, one of the most prominent Jewish women of 13th century England, which joins the 10th century Bramdean and 12th century West Meon coin hoards.
Visitors to the museum will be able to view the display of the original 12th century arch from the cloisters of Hyde Abbey, the final resting place of Alfred the Great and the location of Hyde900 community digs in 2016-18. The exquisite stonework of the arch, discovered during the digs, is one of the finest examples of Romanesque carving in the country and it is now being shown for the first time in the context of the Anglo-Saxon and medieval history of Winchester.
A further new feature of the gallery is a display which will change on a regular basis to showcase key local archaeological discoveries. The first items on display are the skull of a 35-45 year old Anglo-Saxon man discovered during excavations at an execution cemetery in Littleton, with marks showing that its owner came to a grizzly end after being decapitated by three blows, and the remains of two skeletons with shackled legs unearthed in Oliver’s Battery.
The gallery was officially opened by the new Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Eleanor Bell, on Friday 17 May at an event attended by guests including members of Hyde900, householders from King Alfred Terrace where the 2016-18 community digs were held and Professor Martin Biddle, Professor Emeritus of Medieval Archaeology at The University of Oxford.
‘The renovation of the middle floor of City Museum has given us such an excellent opportunity to reinterpret this key period in Winchester’s history and make the stories of the people who lived in the city real and relevant to our visitors,’ said Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust. ‘With the Sparsholt Roman mosaic, the model of Victorian Winchester and now this refurbished gallery, the museum is a fantastic place for residents and tourists alike to discover the stories and history behind this fascinating city.’