New displays at the Westgate Museum

Press Release: 17/02/2004

Winchester City Council's Westgate Museum, in the Upper High Street, is re-open after its winter closure and visitors may be surprised to be greeted by the ghostly figure of Alderman William Jacob. He is a former mayor of Winchester (1889-90) who was instrumental in restoring the building and opening it as a museum on 16 September 1898.

Alderman Jacob provides a short audio guide to the history and uses of the Westgate. He describes its construction as one of the main defensible gates in the city’s medieval walls and its later use in the 16th and 17th centuries as a debtors’ prison - the prisoners’ graffiti can still be read.

Later still the Westgate was used as ‘a place of entertainments’ and smoking room for the adjoining public house, the ‘Plume of Feathers’, and then as a repository for the city’s archives before finally opening as a museum.

Robin Freeman, who has acted with both the Chesil Theatre and the Winchester Players, provided the voice of Alderman Jacob. He is also well known as a librarian with the Local Studies Library in Jewry Street.

Visitors can view the new displays that support Alderman Jacob’s story, in particular the fine Tudor painted ceiling and frieze. The latter is thought to have been painted to celebrate the marriage of Mary Tudor to Philip II of Spain, which took place in the cathedral on 25 July 1554. This year is the 450th anniversary of that event.

The Tudor and Stuart displays complete the story of the wider city told in the City Museum in the Square.

For more information please contact: Geoff Denford, Principal Curator, Historic Resources Centre, 75 Hyde Street, Winchester SO23 7DW. Tel: 01962 848269