Thomas Malory and Winchester

This would have been an entry in our Wessex Worthies series, except that Thomas Malory probably didn't come from Wessex. Malory's identity is the subject of scholarly debate, but the consensus view is that he came from Newbold Revel in Warwickshire. Alternative candidates hail from Shropshire, Wales and Yorkshire.

He does, however, have a connection to Winchester, which is explicitly identified as Camelot in Malory's book Le Morte d'Arthur, the first major prose work printed in the English language. It was published by William Caxton in 1485 , the year in which the Tudor dynasty ascended the throne of England, and which was said to mark the end of the middle ages and the birth of the modern era when I was at school.

The Caxton book was though to be the earliest manuscript of Le Morte d'Arthur until 1934, when WF Oakeshott, headmaster of Winchester College, was cataloguing the school's library, and came across a previously unknown manuscript. The Winchester Manuscript, as it became known, differed significantly from Caxton's edition, which appears to be a revised version of the same text. In 2009, it formed the basis of a modern English paraphrase by Dorsey Armstrong.

Winchester remains proud of its Arthurian connections, and a 13th century replica dominates the Great Hall. But that's a subject for another post.

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.