Royston Went to Winchester

Monday 30th August 2021

We went to Winchester to confirm that the cathedral is a low croft, white-washed, and very narrow. Approaching, the truncated tower looked promising from the point of view of possible disparagement. But we were at once in a situation of patronage, before entrance to the building, encountering the Head Gardener, a hot hunk whom Royston had brought on from the Royal Parks and whence, Royston suggested, he should now return. But he’d got the lawn to mow first, despite its being due to be dug up for the Christmas Fayre. So the infestation of plantain, pointed out by me merely as a means of getting into the conversation, was of no consequence. I only meant to say that plantain is tiresome in a lawn but hardly worth bothering about. Needless to say, my remarks were viewed as incredible grandeur and white supremacy.

We entered the cathedral. So strange. I’ve definitely been there before and it was for sure a low dingy croft. Perhaps it was somewhere else but it was Winchester Cathedral for sure. At least that’s what I was told. Well, now it’s high soaring, light and incredibly long. Also on several levels. No, I couldn’t fault it – fine-boned, taut and astonishing. The light pouring in to the English cathedrals, as opposed to the Gothic gloom of those on mainland Europe – that’s what makes them so superior.  Winchester is thunderous yet dancing. Also intriguing with many accretions. Royston explained. As a boy he was everywhere – changing for Choir in this room, processing down that passageway or careering round a cloister with a tea urn. It was so complex – galleries, romanesque parts, suddenly a library up a stairs, an enormous apse behind the main altar with medieval patterned tiles on the floor. Extraordinary – I thought they were Victorian. But they weren’t. They were medieval.

The only thing I would say – Winchester Cathedral is narrow. But that’s probably the effect of its being so long. The floor tiles were my favourite accessory within and I’d love to have them at home.

We lunched well at the Wykham Arms and discussed racism. Then we continued the tour. So Winchester’s got a cathedral and a school. As a Wykhamist, Royston is permitted to enter the school premises unaccompanied. Only a lanyard is necessary. So enlightenment at the first stage. No police check required. You might dread a school, especially if you didn’t care for your own schooldays. But this school is something else. Ancient. A lot of the time you could have been at Knole. Courtyards just pure, pure medieval. The Scholars’ Dining Hall is up a stoney stairs. To think scholars have been dining here for 500 years or more. It’s a cream scheme, pitch black wooden roof, panelling across the back wall, stone dressing to the window arches, stone floor. So wood, plaster and stone. Very appetising. The refectory in a monastery would be much the same. Although austere, in its day and still today, it is a luxury building, airy and high. Otherwise the school has two of everything. Two cloisters, one of which is a War Memorial, in the other is the second chapel, making this the only cloister in Britain with a chapel in the middle of it. So two chapels, two halls, one modern and the other by Christopher Wren, possibly. If you count the dining hall, that’s three halls. The premises flares out into riverside playing fields, gardens for summer drinks parties, sanitoria, Victorian boarding houses, a parish church for the juniors. In the Christopher Wren hall, Royston practiced the piano in a quiet hour. James Lees-Milne’s friend, Derek Hill, had done one of the portraits of a previous Headmaster. Even when empty, I could tell that this school is a haven of brain power, not showing off, no gushing, even when dead of the 1st World War, as many were on the tablets in the War Cloister, welcoming and egalitarian, although immensely rich.  We encountered only outdoor staff, who can be Hell. But these were charming, so delighted to see us. Royston complimented a gardener passing on a sit-down lawn mower: ‘What an excellent beard you have, Sir.’

It’s that kind of place. Royston came to Winchester on a county scholarship and became what he afterwards became. Winchester took him in and they were made for each other. What a wonderful bosom of quiet unassuming power that has lasted him for 50 years as well as Winchester sending out a wondrous web of the best who work together ever after. Rishi Sunak, of course, who might save Our Nation yet.

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style

Winchester Cathedral: Manx style: This is the Lawn the Head Gardener was Mowing. These are His Stripes

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible

Winchester Cathedral within: High Soaring Above. Incredible.

Jane Austen's Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Jane Austen’s Grave: a Pack of Lies. Trying to Make out she was a Nice Person. No Mention of her Novels

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester Cathedral Medieval Tiled Floor. Wow factor. You too could Have One at Home

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: this is Where Patrick Gale sat in the Choir stalls

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval

Winchester College: Pure Pure Medieval: Marvellous Lack of Garden: So Bare

The Scholars' Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Scholars’ Dining Hall at Winchester College: Somehow Sensual, as if Made of Cheddar Cheese, but such Restrained Ornament as Well

The Wren Building: Winchester College

The Wren Building: Winchester College

Winchester College: The Other Chapel

Winchester College: The Other Chapel: Almost All Window

Chief Air Marshall Dowding

Chief Air Marshall The Lord Dowding in the War Cloister.  General Wavell, also Viceroy of India, is Buried in the other Cloister, quite Alone.

 

 

Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2021 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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