Winchester was England's capital long before London and it is appropriate that it should have two stone Castles. It was also inevitable, bearing in mind the City's importance, that William I would have constructed the first Castle on the site. It is possible that William’s Castle was nearer to the Cathedral as records state it was burned down in 1141 (presumably during the Anarchy).
A stone Castle was built in the 12th century by Henry II (with additional work by Richard I and John) but was very badly damaged in the rebellion against King John when the whole City was taken by Prince Louis. In the Civil War the Castle was held for the King until take by Parliament in 1645 afterwards almost all the rest of the Castle was torn down to foundation level. All that survived was the Great Hall - regarded as possibly the best preserved medieval hall in England - which even then was used as the County Court (and still is today).
Sir Walter Raleigh was tried here, as was Captain John Burley who tried to rescue Charles I in 1647, and King Henry III was born here, as was Henry VII’s ill-fated son Arthur (named in honour of the the Round Table hanging in the Hall). His death made way for Henry VIII to reach the throne. The last infamous trial here was in 1685 when the notorious Judge Jeffries ordered Alice Lisle to be burned to death for her part in the Monmouth rebellion. In the end she was beheaded rather than burnt.
Despite all this wealth of history the best known feature is "King Arthur's Table" which hangs at one end of the Hall. This was a medieaval replica (probably instigated by Henry III or Edward I), but the names of the Knights were painted on as recently as 1522! Nevertheless, as a work of art it is remarkable.
Charles II recovered possession of the Castle and began work on building a Palace in the bailey, but this remained incomplete on his death and eventually became barracks which were burnt down and replaced in 1900.
Winchester's other Castle is Wolvesey Castle.
Winchester Castle is open throughout the year.
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