Postcards from Winchester Cathedral

3 September 2017

It was time to leave the little secret garden and head back towards the car park. As it was still a little early for Commando to be back from his Half Marathon run I figured I had time to get a coffee in Costa on the way and maybe dry out my damp old bones. As I hadn’t had breakfast before we left home and the milky hot chocolate I’d had at six thirty seemed a long way off, I might even treat myself to a croissant too. Thinking about it made my tummy rumble.

Strolling across the inner close all I could think about was that croissant. The image was so vivid I could almost taste the warm flaky pastry as I headed along Curle’s Passage. Usually I’m heading in the opposite direction, from the outer to the inner close and I’ve taken many photographs through the arches. As so often happens, walking in the opposite direction revealed things I’d never noticed before, like the view of the stained glass windows at the far end of the passage. Despite my growling stomach, I stopped to take a few photos.

Somehow I’d also missed the copper plaques inset into the buttresses on my previous walks. The first I came to was dedicated Mary Elizabeth Sumner, founder of the Mother’s Union. I stopped to take a photo, thinking I’d capture each one as I walked along. As I began to walk to the next though, I noticed a photographer with an impressive looking camera at the other end of the passage waiting patiently to take a photograph. Thinking of all the times I’ve stood in the exact same spot waiting for the passageway to be clear of people to take a photo, I moved behind the pillar so he could take his shot.

The photographer was obviously a professional, unlike me he didn’t just snap away randomly and hope for the best but took a while to get the shot he wanted. By the time he’d gone, I’d forgotten about my plan to capture the other plaques. Instead I took a few shots along the passageway as I walked, surprised at how the whole atmosphere of the place was different from this direction.

The passageway was built in 1632 by Bishop Curle. It created an outdoor route between the outer and inner close meaning pedestrians could avoid walking through the cathedral. On one side the arches are bordered by the catherdeal walls but, on the other, they open onto the inner close. Entering from the outer close the view seems enclosed and haunting, as if the history of the place hangs heavy there. Going the other way it feels far more light and airy, even on such a dismal day, and the ghosts of the past seem a long way off.

Looking the other way on my last walk

When I emerged into the outer close the modern world was very much in evidence. A VW camper van, decked out for a wedding, was parked just outside the arch. Perhaps the photographer I’d seen was a wedding photographer taking some atmospheric shots. The Catherdral seems like a wonderful place for wedding photos. Not wishing to get in the way of the wedding, if there was one, I strode off across the grass to look at the wonderful bronze solder, a memorial to members of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps who lost their lives in both World Wars.

I was about to March along the avenue of trees back towards the High Street and my coffee, when I suddenly remembered the FGO Stuart postcards of the Catherdral I’d been looking at a few days ago. I didn’t have pictures on my phone but I had a good idea of where the shots had been taken so I thought I’d try to recapture them while I was there. It’s been a while since I did any PostCard recreations after all.

The first was taken looking at the front of the Catherdral. From memory, it looked as if it had been taken standing on the grass. Memory told me there were graves in the shot and parts of the wall and buildings of the inner close. Not feeling all that hopeful, I tramped across the wet grass and took a few shots that felt about right. They all capture the essence of Stuart’s photograph but things have changed in the intervening years.

The County War Memorial, right in front of the Cathedral entrance was erected in 1921, two years before Stuart died, and wasn’t in his picture. Neither was the VW camper or the people waiting outside the Cathedral  but Stuart liked to have people in his photos so would have been glad to see them there. At least one of the graves has been moved since Stuart took his picture too and, of course, Stuart always managed to somehow take his photos from a high angle. Even so, I think my third shot is a fairly good recreation, even if the trees have grown a good deal and are blocking some of the view.

Stuart’s second Postcard of the front of the Catherdral was taken looking along the avenue of trees. This was one I didn’t remember quite as well and my attempt to recreate it isn’t very good. Really I needed to be further along the avenue and I think I will come back another day and try again. Even so, it does show how much the trees, most of which were planted by Dean Garnier, have grown since Stuart took his picture.

There are some interesting looking gravestones scattered on the grass here. Perhaps if I hadn’t spent so much time waiting around the the photographer earlier, or trying to recreate FGO Stuart postcards, I might have had a closer look at them. If I wanted my coffee and croissant before Commando returned though, I needed to get a move on, so I took a few random shots through the trees, put my phone in my pocket and hurried towards the High Street.

According to Commando’s estimate, I thought I still had time to sit for a while in Costa and enjoy my croissant and I was trying to decide between plain croissant and pain au chocolate as I walked down Winchester High Street. The Costa sign was in sight when I heard someone running behind me. Stepping aside to let them past I wondered if it was one of the runners I’d met earlier in Winnall Moors. Then I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find it was Commando, back earlier than expected.

While he ran back to the car to get changed into dry clothes I did still go into Costa. Disappointingly, there were no croissants of any description left so I got two take away coffees and two cakes and we ate them sitting on a bench in Abbey Gardens while we told each other about our mornings adventures.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

6 thoughts on “Postcards from Winchester Cathedral”

  1. I’ve always revered cathedrals, maybe because of their mystery and arches pointing up, up, up. Don’t minimize your ability to take great shots, Marie. These are lovely.

    As I viewed the photos, the melody of “Win-chester Cath-e-dral” kept blowing through my mind. Ha!

    1. Thank you. I was in Winchester again today for the half marathon. Not much time for cathedral photography though. I will admit that song often goes through my head when I’m in the city.

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