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Winchester and the Raymond family

According to the book "A History of Winchester" by Barbara Carpenter Turner, families did not stay in Winchester for generation after generation and we do not know how long the Raymond family lived there. The first evidence that they were there is from the marriage of Thomas Raymond(1) and Martha Gregory on 29th August 1744 and the last is the 5th and 9th April 1844 with the death and burial of Thomas Raymond(2), the grandson of the first Thomas, in the parish registers. This gives us a hundred years in Winchester or more as we do not know how long the first Thomas, or his parents, were there before 1744. I will however begin the history of Winchester long before these times as I hope the Raymond family, who after all believed that they were descended from a Norman knight, had a sense of history.

Winchester has a long and interesting history. It was an important Roman town, named Venta Belgarum (the market town of the Belgii) and was established in the early part of the first century. Roman coins as early as the time of Claudius and Nero and a storage jar dating from A.D. 40-60 have been found there. Rubble from a Roman wall around the town has been found underneath parts of the Medieval wall. Roman roads came to the town from the north, south, east and west and the four main roads into Winchester still use these routes. Little remains of the town plan of the Romans but it is thought that the present day High Street (in which a descendant, John Condie, of the Raymonds now lives) was a Roman street as it goes directly east/west between what were the East and West gates of the town. A north/south Roman road has also been identified which would have gone between the North Gate and Kingsgate, which has a Roman origin. This is the gate on which St Swithun's church was later built and where many of our Raymond ancestors were baptised, married and buried. Venta Belgarum was an important administrative, trade and market centre and a meeting place for Romans and Romanised Britons from a wide area. Industries flourished. There were many important farms and villas in the neighbourhood with fine mosaic floors.

Between the years 400 and 450 Roman rule in Britain came to an end and with the departure of the Roman army the country was open to invasion from pagan warriors in wandering raiding parties which, since the time of the historian, Bede, have been identified as Angles, Saxons and Jutes. Many Britons had become Romanised during the Roman occupation and lived and worked in the city, but without the army to protect them they had little chance against the invaders. The Roman town fell into disrepair and trade and industry ceased to exist.

Although Winchester lays claim to King Arthur and his knights, and the Round Table is displayed in Castle Hall, there is no real evidence that this is anything more than myth.

Gradually the West Saxons became the dominant race in the area and established their kingdom in 519. At first the town was not of much importance to the Saxon rulers but towards the end of the 7th Century the for-runner of the present cathedral, the Old Minster, was built in Winchester (then called Wintanceaster) and eventually it became the very heart of the civilisation of Wessex and of Western Europe as a holy city and a royal town.

After the defeat of the Danes, King Alfred ruled his kingdom (871-899) from Winchester. He revived the church and established an England where law and order, learning and civilisation were able to flourish. Trade and crafts were encouraged and a strong navy built up. Although he was only king of Wessex he was over-lord of the seven kingdoms of England. He established Wintanceaster as his capital.

Today you can see a large statue of King Alfred, of whom the people of Winchester are justifiably proud to be associated, in the High Street of Winchester. King Alfred was not known as `The Great' without reason for he was not only the warrior that the statue depicts but a man of learning who encouraged learning in others. England under his rule became a peaceful and law-abiding country. He established his palace in the city, probably in the High Street, and three monasteries. The Mint for producing the coin of the realm was also established there.

His reign was followed by the less peaceful reigns of his descendants the last of whom was Edward the Confessor.

  Statue of King Alfred in Winchester

Saxon rule in England came to an end in 1066 with the defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings and Norman rule began.

The city of Winchester was surrendered to William by Edith, the widow of Edward the Confessor. It has been said that had the people of Winchester remained strong against the advancing Norman army then England would not have succumbed to Norman rule but because of the strong support that the Saxon kings had always given to the church, often to the detriment of the citizens of Winchester, there was an unwillingness amongst the laymen of the city to support the native royal dynasty and so there was no resistance.

Although William the Conqueror was crowned as William I in London, Winchester remained the capital of England for another 200 years after the Norman conquest, sharing equal honours with London. Under the Normans a magnificent cathedral was built which dominates the city even today. The old Saxon palace was pulled down and a much more impressive castle was built for the king's residence. Commerce flourished and Winchester was the centre of the woollen trade.

The wall surrounding the city which had been partially re-built by the Saxons was added to and strengthened.

One of the attractions for the Norman kings to spend time in their castle in Winchester was the proximity of the New Forest. This forest had been created by William I by eradicating dozens of small villages and their accompanying fields and animals to make a space for him and his lords to hunt. What misery this caused to the local population is unrecorded. The New Forest (which still exists) covered an area of between 130 and 200 square miles but it is not all trees; there are also large areas of open heath-land. The word forest comes from the words "for rex" - an area set aside for the use of the king to hunt and originally had nothing to do with trees at all. Two descendants of William the Conqueror died in the New Forest; his son, William II (Rufus) while hunting (it has remained a mystery of whether it was a hunting accident or murder) and his great-grandson Richard, the Lionheart, who was killed there by a stag. It used to be said that this was a punishment for William taking over the land from the people for his hunting.

An important event in Winchester from the time of King William II was the St Giles Fair. This lasted for several days and attracted traders from far and wide. It continued to be held into the 19th century so our Raymonds would have been very aware of it.

In Medieval times the people of Winchester, called Wintonians, had no excuse for not going to church as there were parish churches everywhere - within the walls, on top of the gates (North gate & East gate as well as Kingsgate) and outside the walls. There were also the cathedral, an abbey, several monasteries and nunneries, friaries, chantries, oratories, a royal chapel and three hospitals with church foundations. The church was obviously a very powerful presence there.

As the population grew the city within the walls became very crowded and suburbs began to appear outside the walls.

In 1348-9 the Black Death arrived in England and the effect in Winchester was devastating. Three quarters of the population was wiped out. If our Raymonds were there then it is only another example of the miracle of our existence. Even if they were not in Winchester, wherever they were in England they were survivors. The decline of the city had started in 1290 with the expulsion of the Jewish population who had brought wealth to the city. The massively decreased population caused by the Black Death brought the city down even further. By 1442 eleven streets, 17 parishes and 989 dwellings were in ruins.

The church on top of Kingsgate had become derelict and was being used for a store room.

Under Henry VIII and the Reformation there were further troubles for Winchester. The monasteries were pulled down and the stone used as a quarry for other buildings. Other church buildings passed to the city and the Friaries became part of Winchester College which had been established in 1387 for the education of poor scholars.

Winchester Cathedral was the place chosen for the wedding of the daughter of Henry VIII, Queen Mary, to Philip, the King of Spain and the Catholic Church was re-established with strong support from a large proportion of the population of the city. Even after Elizabeth became queen and the Protestant church was established again it was said that Winchester was the most Catholic town in England.

By the 17th century the importance of Winchester had declined. Although there were some important and wealthy people there the city on the whole was poor. The wealthy people built grand houses but they had no interest in preserving the Medieval buildings and many of these fell into decay. The city walls had chiefly eroded and most of the gates had collapsed. The building on Kingsgate, now St Swithun's church, was used as a prison up until 1742. The crypt of the cathedral was used as a wine vault and the north aisle as a works yard. In 1665 the city of Winchester, along with the rest of England, was hit by the plague. Once again the population was decimated and once again our particular Raymond ancestors survived.

In the Civil wars, Winchester supported the Royalist side but was forced to surrender to the Parliamentary forces. Cromwell took his revenge on the city later by attempting to destroy its castle and the bishop's palace as well as damaging the cathedral and many of the buildings. Enough of the castle survived for Charles II to choose it as a site for a new palace for himself when he was restored to the throne but, although Queen Anne also was interested in restoring the palace there, it was never built.

After the French revolution hundreds of French priests sought refuge in Winchester and were accommodated in the partly dismantled palace.

It would be interesting to know which of the entertainments available in Winchester would have been patronised by our Raymonds. In 1785 a theatre was opened in Jewry Street in the centre of the town. It was elaborately decorated throughout and had a ceiling painted blue, like a sky with clouds. It was very popular with the populous for many years, finally closing its doors

Map of Winchester in 1791.

This map is a about ten years earlier than the time that Thomas Raymond (2) had his shop on the corner of College Street but there was probably very little change during that time. The position of the walls around the town are quite clear with the High Street running from west to east through the middle of the town. The cathedral dominated the city as it still does today. The Raymond shop and residence in College Street was one of the few in the emerging suburbs. A little to the west in the same street is Winchester College. in 1865. All this time members of the Raymond family were living there. Other popular entertainments were racing, boxing and cock fighting. Amazingly another event which attracted huge crowds were public hangings and worse still, public burnings, for this was the punishment meted out to wives who had murdered their husbands. The last of these burnings was in 1817 when the crowd watching it was so big that the magistrates decided that in future all executions would take place within the gaol.

The 19th century saw the Industrial Revolution take off in England and the rise of desperately poor slums in many cities but because Winchester had very little industry this did not happen there even though there was great poverty in parts of it. The main occupation in Winchester at this period was the small retail shop trade and this was certainly the activity in which our Raymonds were involved.

In 1840 the railway to London was opened and it seems that Thomas Raymond(3) took immediate advantage of this for according to the 1841 census he and his family were living at 23 Portman Place in London soon after.

Winchester had always enjoyed the reputation of being a healthy town but in 1844 it was revealed that, because the drains were in such poor condition, effluence ran through the streets and into the brook causing outbreaks of `low fever'. A proliferation of cesspits contaminated adjacent well water. In fact the life expectancy of 50 was lower than in most other towns in the country. It was wise of Thomas Raymond(3) to leave but possibly these conditions had contributed to the early deaths of so many of his children. Thomas Raymond(2) died in 1844 but he was aged 72. Over the next years piped water became available but it was not for some time that a sewerage system was added.

Today Winchester is a prosperous and attractive city with a flourishing tourist industry. Many of its Medieval houses have been restored and others, built through the ages since then, are well kept. The cathedral is magnificent and St Swithuns-upon-Kingsgate is still a church. Museums house artifacts from the long and interesting history of the city.

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