A Winchester Walk 4
Outer Gate , Winchester College , and the Virgin and Child .
New College , Oxford .
Winchester College Walk
( 30 minutes )
We start from outside Outer Gate on College Street , under the gaze of a 14th-century Virgin and Child , one of the finest Gothic sculptures in the country . The paint that once brightened her features has long since weathered away , but she is still serenely beautiful , holding in her right hand a lily as a sign of her purity . Christ grasps what is presumably a goldfinch , a bird associated with thorns , alluding to His passion and future crucifixion .
Winchester College , or ‘ The College of the Blessed Mary of Winchester , near Winchester ’, as the school should properly be known , is the oldest school of its type in England , with a foundation charter dating to 1382 . The first pupils , 70 Scholars and 16 Quiristers , or choirboys , arrived in 1394 to be educated , some progressing to Winchester ’ s sister college in Oxford , also dedicated to Mary of Winchester , commonly known as ‘ New College ’. From Oxford , many would enter the priesthood , a boy ’ s career determined when he was only eight or nine .
Education was free for these 86 boys ; they were mostly from unexceptional families and of limited means , their backgrounds similar to that of the Founder , William of Wykeham ( 1324- 1404 ), Bishop of Winchester from 1367 .
The gate in front of which you are standing , Outer Gate , was built in the 1390s , the entrance to Outer Court . It has guarded the College
William of Wykeham , copy of portrait at New College , attributed to Sampson Strong , late 16th century .
ever since . The walls are thick , the doors solid , necessary as the 14th century was a time of uncertainty and tension in the country . Events such as the Black Death of 1348 and the Peasants ’ Revolt of 1378 must have been in Wykeham ’ s mind when he founded the College .
Walk through the gate and into Outer Court , once busy with the working buildings of College . To your right along College Street ‘ small beer ’ ( alcoholically weak ) was brewed in a fully functioning brewery until 1903 , beer a safer alternative for boys than local water , which was often polluted . In 1710 , there was a pupil rebellion about the quantity and quality of the beer ration . Also to your right were a slaughterhouse and stables ( converted in 2016 into ‘ Treasury ’ or the College museum , rich in exhibits and worth an extended visit : opening times are advertised in the Porters ’ Lodge in College Street ).