Heritage Open Days

England's largest, free heritage festival takes place each September and Winchester's participation has developed over recent years, making the city one of the most significant destinations for Heritage Open Days events. The event showcases the very best of Winchester, bringing in tourists and providing free, cultural activities for local residents.

As the main sponsor of Heritage Open Days in Winchester, the school supports access to other historical sites across the city, as well as hosting an exciting selection of talks, concerts and tours at the school. 

Teaching Treasures

Winchester College is home to nationally significant collections of art, archaeology and rare books. A new series of three films, each presented by a teacher at the school, introduces some of the most fascinating artefacts at Winchester:

  • Bartolomé de las Casas was a sixteenth-century Spanish friar who observed first-hand the atrocities committed by the conquistadores in Central and South America. In this film, Jan Hepworth (Head of Spanish at Winchester) explores an illustrated edition of Las Casas’s Destruction of the Indies, published in 1598, and discusses the author’s status as a pioneer of Human Rights and an inspiration for the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-73). Watch the film.
  • The misericords of Winchester College Chapel are amongst the finest woodcarvings to survive from medieval England. Nick Townson, a history teacher at the school, uncovers their hidden meanings, explaining the significance of mermaids, shepherds and pelicans. Watch the film.
  • James Hallinan, Head of History at Winchester, explores the impact of the Mongol invasions on Chinese culture through a group of ceramics from the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties. Watch the film.

Tours and Events

  • Guided Tours of War Cloister - Within the precincts of Winchester College is the beautiful and peaceful War Cloister, a memorial to former pupils who died in both World Wars and subsequent conflicts. Listen to their stories and the story of the creation of this wonderful memorial.
  • Guided Tours of the Archives - This hour-long tour allowed a rare opportunity to view two medieval rooms which house the school’s archives. Documents and artefacts relating to the school’s history, including the Foundation Charters and Founder’s Statutes, were on display.
  • Guided Tours of the Fellows' Library -  This 45-minute tour included part of the Warden’s Lodgings, home to the school’s historic library, with an exhibition of medieval manuscripts and an opportunity to see the study of John Harmar, one of the translators of the King James Bible.
  • Food at Winchester College: A Guided Tour with the Headmaster - William of Wykeham took great care about what and how his College would eat. In this one hour tour, which included many areas and objects not usually shown to the public, the current Headmaster of Winchester College, Dr Tim Hands, showed visitors some of Wykeham’s original arrangements with a glimpse of more recent developments too. 
  • Join an Open Rehearsal with the Winchester College Quiristers - The Quiristers are part of the original foundation of Winchester College, and have been singing here since the 14th century. Watch them rehearse in the beautiful surroundings of the College Chapel, and find out how these young men are trained to become one of the leading choirs in the country.
  • Guided Tours of the Winchester College Gardens - A chance to look behind the walls and walk through the beautiful hidden gardens of Winchester College. The tour was led by the school’s experienced gardeners and included a look at a traditional college ‘quad’, a quiet sitting garden for the old College sick house and stately trees which frame the campus. The tour concluded with a unique look at the ‘Warden's Garden’, with its herbaceous borders, woodland and chalk stream.
  • George Mallory Exhibition in Winchester College Cloister - Between 1921 and 1924, three Wykehamists played leading roles in the British attempt to map, survey, and summit Mount Everest. One, George Leigh-Mallory, would die in pursuit of that effort. One hundred years later, the 14th-century Cloisters and 15th-century Chantry Chapel of Winchester College were transformed into an exhibition to the achievements of these three climbers.
  • Trenchers and Teapots: Food at Winchester College - From celebrations in the 14th century, to hardship during the world wars, this podcast, created by current pupils of the school, explores the history of food at Winchester College through our archives and former pupils' recollections. Listen at Hampshire HistBites.
  • The Treasury museum opened it's new exhibition, An Age of Exploration, 1400-1600, looking at European exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries, and how it changed the world. A combination of art, artefacts, navigational tools, and books from the Middle Ages onwards explores the intellectual and artistic culture of Europe before and after the voyages, and shows what made global travel possible. The exhibition was curated by a group of Winchester’s pupils. New for Heritage Open Days, the Treasury hosted a children’s trail on the theme of 'Edible England', which will continue to be available in the museum throughout the year.

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“What a treat! An informative and interesting lecture... it was so inspirational. It enabled us to learn something new.”

Visitor • 2019