|HCC Site ID:||1606||Parish:||Winchester|
|Access:||Public Access||Ownership:||Winchester City Council|
Location and Site
St Giles Hill is the summit of a chalk spur which falls steeply to the east bank of the River Itchen and sits above the city of Winchester.
Originally belonged to the Bishop of Winchester. It was formerly a bare down on which St Giles Hill Fair was held. By the time the diocese lost its real estate in the financial reform of the mid-19th C, the Fair had degenerated and become the Magdalen Hill Fair. The financial reform also made the development of the Hill possible. In 1878, Winchester Corporation bought a large area (the ‘front ‘of the Hill, facing the city) direct from the Commissioners for £1250 and continued to make further acquisitions. A small purchase was made from the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway. The purpose of those purchases by the Corporation was to make what the contemporary newspapers called a ‘pleasure ground’. In 1894, during the mayoralty of Thomas Stopher, Lord Northbrook gave the area sloping down to Morn Hill Road. It was a generous present and was reciprocated by an acknowledgment in the form of a vellum roll presented to Lord Northbrook.
The Corporation laid out the pleasure ground area and employed Edwin Milner, a well-known landscape gardener to advise them. However, at the end of the 19th century there was also villa building and many trees were planted. Public outcry stopped the building and saved the summit and southwest slopes of the hill as open space which offered magnificent views over the city and St Catherine’s Hill. The attractive wooded slope now looks down over the river and city and closes the vista looking east along the High Street.
An unsuccessful bid for Milennium project money was made to develop St Giles Hill as a major tourist attraction for Winchester. Although there has been continued residential development of the Hill since the financial reform of the 19th century, it has been in the main sympathetically carried out. The pleasure grounds on the eastern side have been retained and there are pleasant walks with seats on the terraces with wide sweeping views over the city of Winchester. It is considered to be an important amenity and recreation area owned by Winchester City Council.
A bare down, belonging to the Bishop of Winchester the site of St Giles Hill Fair. Bought late 19th century by Winchester Corporation; partly developed, partly pleasure ground. Summit and southwest slopes preserved for open space with walk, trees, terraces, views over Winchester City.
Information: HGT, December 2003