WOW! Winchester's finest buildings open their doors - free of charge!

Now in its fifth year, Winchester Open Weekend (WOW) is set to return this September with the largest selection of architectural treasures yet. WOW is Winchester City Council's Tourism unit contribution to the national Heritage Open Days scheme co-ordinated by the Civic Trust and takes place on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 September 2004.

The Mayor of Winchester, Councillor Cecily Sutton, will be visiting the Old Chesil Rectory to inspect the 15th century building, which was donated to the city by Mary Tudor in recognition of the immense cost of her wedding to Philip II of Spain at Winchester Cathedral in 1554. While there, The Mayor will investigate for herself the rumour that a ghost haunts the 17th century staircase.

The building occupies land that originally belonged to St Mary's Abbey, one of the many religious sites demolished by Henry VIII during the Reformation, and now houses one of the finest restaurants in Winchester. Tours of the Rectory are being organised by the owner, Carl Reeve, and manager, Gary Nicholls, with the help of Graham Scobie from Winchester Museums Service.

Among the new entries for this year are Winchester Heritage Centre, housed in a listed artisan's cottage, a tour of the Royal Oak, purported to be the oldest pub in England, also with resident ghost, and the Great Hall where a medieval mock trial is to be held.

Further afield, there will be an opportunity to visit Bishop's Waltham Museum, housed in the former kitchen of the building that is home to Barclays Bank today. The museum is not due to open officially until spring 2005, but the public will be able to view the renovation work in progress.

Full details of these and the remaining participants can be found in a programme available from Winchester Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840500, email or log on to the website at For information about the national event contact Heritage Open Days on 0870 240 5251 or visit