University of Oxford


Published on by Victorian Professions

As the former residence of the royal family and the capital of England, the southern city of Winchester has a long tradition as an important centre of religion and trade. The city was particularly badly affected by the plague in 1665, which killed a quarter of the population, yet over the course of the eighteenth century the city prospered, and small business ownership and the rise of professions ensured the city's survival. This was very important as the city had no local manufacturing or industry and therefore it was almost entirely reliant on the service sector for its wealth and prosperity. However, Winchester was also a garrison town with approximately 30 per cent of the adult male population were members of the armed forces, the majority residing in the infantry barracks that occupied Wren's unfinished royal palace overlooking the Cathedral. The Cathedral and parish churches provided employment for thirty-three clergymen in 1851, only slightly fewer than the thirty-eight army officers resident in the city. Winchester was also the location of the county courts, and twenty-five barristers and solicitors lived in the city, employing a similar number of law clerks. The other prominent institution was Winchester College, which could accommodate around 150 scholars in mid-century, although actual numbers were lower. Other public institutions included the Hampshire County Hospital, county gaol, and the Diocesan Training School for schoolmasters, established in 1840.

Winchester has been a site of religious importance since the seventh century and was a popular destination for pilgrims. The arrival of the railways to Winchester in 1840 built upon this tradition and enabled a new tourist industry to emerge with day-trippers travelling from London to see the Norman Cathedral and visit the burial places of ancient kings and queens. Subsequently the hospitality trades became central to Winchester's economic success in the nineteenth century.

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