Winchester House, Southwark

Px08435_800x600 - 30 Sep 2011

Above: The ‘Rose Window’, photographed from the eastern side of the wall with a clear blue sky behind it on 30 September 2011.

Just a short distance west of Southwark Cathedral stood a large, extensive house and grounds used by the Bishops of Winchester as their London residence – while attending the House of Lords. All the bishops in England and Wales had a London residence – in addition to their normal residence next to the cathedral in the City from which they came.

In the case of the Bishops of Winchester, their diocese extended from Winchester east to include land in Southwark. After the 1530s few bishops continued to come to London. Those at Winchester used the residence until the mid-1600s and then the buildings were gradually taken down. The west wall of the Great Hall still stands today – with the masonry of the so-called ‘Rose Window’ still to be seen at the top.

Over the last few years, many of us have been concerned about a new development on the west side of the only remaining wall of the Great Hall. The wall containing the ‘Rose Window’ dates from the 14th century and is the last piece of remaining masonry from Winchester House. The top window gave light into the Great Hall. The wall, at the western end, was probably one of two – there being another one at the eastern end.

Plans were submitted, about 2009, to build on the site of the old warehouse adjacent to the west side of the west wall. The old warehouse was not a pretty sight but at least it was not high enough to block light from the sun shining through the Rose Window in the afternoon. The new plans were for a much taller structure. Now, in 2011, the new building is complete, being used as a cafe. Its height is such that it does obstruct the historic window.

Px08439_800x600 - 30 Sep 2011

Above: The ‘Rose Window’, seen from the western side of the wall, above the open space of the restaurant, on 30 September 2011.

It could be claimed that the restaurant has ‘tidied up’ the derelict site of the old warehouse but the shiny panels below the ‘Rose Window’ do not really contribute to the antiquity of this 14th century relic.


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