Wessex Attractions: Winchester Military Quarter

Winchester is home to a number of regimental museums, six to be precise, which have now banded together under the label of Winchester's Military Quarter. A single ticket costing £11 gains you access to the following:

  • Horse Power: The Museum of the King's Royal Hussars
  • The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum
  • The Gurkha Museum
  • The Rifles Collection
  • The Museum of the Adjutant General's Corps
  • The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum

Horse Power tells the story of three cavalry regiments: The 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own), the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own), and their successor regiment The Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own). It features uniforms, audio-visual displays, and a diorama of the aftermath of the Battle of Balaclava (1854).

The Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum features the uniform worn by Andy McNab, a touch screen display giving information on the regiment's 59 Victoria Cross recipients and a diorama of the Battle of Waterloo (1815).

The Gurkha Museum allows visitors to explore not only the history of the Gurkha regiment, but also the culture of Nepal.

The Rifles Collection is of particular interest to Society members, as the four regiments which merged to form The Rifles in 2007 covered the whole of Wessex, as well as some neighbouring counties. We had hoped at the time that the new regiment would feature the word Wessex in its name, but it was not to be.

The Museum of the Adjutant General's Corps is dedicated to the internal administration of the army, as well as featuring a display on the history of women in the army.

The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum naturally has more of a focus on local history than the others. The "Hampshire Tigers" are the county regiment for Hampshire (in its pre-1974 boundaries) and the Isle of Wight.

The museums are all located close to each other at Peninsula Barracks, Romsey Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 8TS . The site also features a cafe called Copper Joe's serving light lunches from 10am to 4pm.

Wessex on Screen: Comrades

Comrades was a 1986 film written and directed by Bill Douglas telling the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The Martyrs themselves will be the subject of a separate article in due course, so this post will concentrate purely on the film.

The film clocks in at nearly three hours, the first half of which takes place in Dorset, and the second in Australia after their unjust transportation for the "crime" of forming a trade union. Douglas was previously known for the autobiographical, social realist trilogy My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973) and My Way Home (1978). Comrades was the result of a nine-year struggle to bring it to the screen.

Rather than a straight retelling of the story, Comrades uses an impressionistic approach, with the tale told by a magic lanternist played by Alex Norton, who also plays a dozen other roles scattered throughout the film. It was praised as a "poetic and painterly work" by Sheila Rowbotham in The Guardian, and won the BFI's Sutherland Trophy for 1986, as well as being nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival the following year.

Despite what the DVD cover used as the featured image (taken from Wikipedia) says, the film was never an 18 certificate. It was originally cut by three seconds in order to receive a PG rating, and re-released uncut on home video in 2009 with a 15 certificate.

Comrades is available to rent on the BFI Player.

Wessex on Screen: Inspector Morse

Inspector Endeavour Morse is the creation of Colin Dexter, the star of 13 novels, a short story collection and two successful TV series. He is now so associated with Oxford, where the stories are set, that a veritable cottage industry in Inspector Morse tours has now sprung up in the city.

Dexter originally conceived the character of Morse while on holiday in Wales in 1972. He spent the next 18 months writing the first novel, Last Bus to Woodstock, which was eventually published in 1975. The novel was adapted for BBC radio in 1985, and six more novels were published before ITV turned it into the highly successful TV series starring John Thaw.

The series spawned a spin-off, Lewis, starring Kevin Whately in the role of Morse's former sidekick; and a prequel series, Endeavour, starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse. The music by Barrington Pheloung was based on the Morse code for the name MORSE. Pheloung later stated that he had also provided clues in some episodes by spelling out the killer's name in Morse code.

All three series are now available to stream on the Britbox, the new streaming service from the BBC and ITV.

Wessex Attractions: Frogmore House

Frogmore House is a country house in Berkshire owned by the Crown Estates. It was built during the reign of Charles II by one Hugh May. A story that May asked the king "Your Majesty, may I build a house in the grounds of WIndsor Castle?" and he replied "Yes, Hugh May" remains unconfirmed, probably because I just made it up.

It became a royal residence in 1692, when it was bought by Mad King George's wife, Queen Charlotte. The main thing to know about Queen Charlotte is that she was really, really into botany. This is reflected not only in the magnificent gardens, but in the decor of the house. To call it "floral-patterned" would be a massive understatement. The wallpaper alone would give a person hay fever.

The gardens are home to over 4000 trees and shrubs, including tulip trees and redwoods. There is an 18th century summerhouse designed to look like a gothic ruin, and a teahouse made for Queen Victoria.

Frogmore House is home to part of the Royal Collection. Again, many of the works have a botanical theme, including artificial flower arrangements, and paintings by botanical artist Mary Moser.

Frogmore House is open to the public only in August. Bookings must be made in advance, and the minimum party size is 15. Details can be found here.

The postcode for satnav purposes is SL4 2JG

Wessex Worthies: Thomas Chatterton

Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) was Bristol's very own rock'n'roll suicide, 200 years before rock'n'roll was born. A precocious child, he was, by the age of 12, able to pass off his poetry as the work of a 15th century monk named Thomas Rowley. The forgery was convincing enough to take in the antiquarian William Barrett (1733-1789).

Chatterton's father died before he was born, and it is thought that this motivated him to create the character of Rowley as a father figure-cum-imaginary friend. He saw his poetry as a way of rescuing his mother from poverty, and pursued a literary career from childhood, writing for the Bristol Journal at 11 years old. He sought a patron in Bristol, but was unable to find one who paid enough, so he left for London aged 16 in the hope of convincing Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Oxford (1717-1797) to publish the works of the mythical Rowley. Walpole initially agreed, but on discovering Chatterton's age, he became suspicious, and soon figured out that Rowley's work was a forgery.

Snubbed by Walpole for his poetry, Chatterton concentrated on political writings, penning polemics for Town and Country and the Middlesex Journal, the latter under the pseudonym of Decimus.

In April 1770, he penned a satirical Last Will & Testament, in which he left "all my vigour and fire of youth to Mr. George Catcott, being sensible he is most want of it...unto the Reverent Mr. Camplin senior, all my humility. To Mr. Burgum all my prosody and grammar, --likewise one moiety of my modesty; the other moiety to any young lady who can prove without blushing that she wants that valuable commodity. To Bristol, all my spirit and disinterestedness, parcels of goods, unknown on her quay since Canning and Rowley!" He predicted that his death would happen on the following day, Easter Sunday.

This proved to be sadly prophetic. In August of that year, when walking in St Pancras churchyard with a friend, he fell into an open grave, On being helped out, he remarked that he had been at war with the grave for some time. Three days later, three months shy of his 18th birthday, he retired to his room and drank a fatal dose of arsenic.

His suicide went largely unremarked at the time, and he was buried in the graveyard of Shoe Lane Workhouse in Holborn. But his reputation grew after his death, both in England and France, where in 1835, the playwright Alfred de Vigny (1797-1863) wrote a drama based on his life; while much later, Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991) wrote a song entitled Chatterton. Recognition in his native Bristol was less forthcoming, however. In 1886, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and the architect Herbert Horne (1864-1916) campaigned unsuccessfully to have a plaque erected in his memory at his old school, Colston's School. A statue was erected at St Mary Redcliffe church, but was later removed when it became unsafe. A later bronze statue now stands in Millennium Square on Harbourside., while the house where he was born is now a cafe in Redcliffe Way, while one of the walls of the school where his father taught (now otherwise demolished) can still be seen next door.