Exciting development plans for Winchester’s historic Great Hall and Castle

Exciting plans for investing in Winchester’s cultural offer are on the horizon as Hampshire Cultural Trust could be set to take on responsibility for running The Great Hall with a vision to bring the city’s historic castle back to life as an integrated visitor destination for tourists and residents

Dec 4 2023

Image of inside The Great Hall in Winchester, showing the replica of the round table on the opposite wall

The plans have moved a step forward after a decision by Hampshire County Council’s Leader, Councillor Rob Humby (on 30 November 2023), which paves the way for the County Council and the trust to work together on detailed proposals before a final decision is made.

Hampshire Cultural Trust’s ambition is to enhance the heritage offer in the city by creating a joined-up ‘Winchester Castle’ visitor experience, re-connecting The Great Hall to both the ruined keep and the city’s only surviving medieval gateway, the Westgate, through new interpretation.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Rob Humby, said: “We enjoy a very positive partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust who have an established good track record in managing and operating a number of our visitor attractions such as Milestones Museum in Basingstoke and The Arc in Winchester. 

“Undoubtedly, The Great Hall is one of the most important heritage venues in England and I can think of no better custodian than Hampshire Cultural Trust who I am confident could maximise the venue’s potential and increase visitor numbers.”

Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust, commented: “This is an incredibly exciting time: we are thrilled that Hampshire County Council has made the first step in a decision to transfer one of Winchester’s most iconic and historic buildings to Hampshire Cultural Trust to run. Our track record in operating public buildings speaks for itself, not only through our management of two city centre museums, Westgate and City, but also through The Arc, which we took on in 2022, revitalising it as a space for the whole community.”

‘We pride ourselves on putting the customer experience at the heart of what we do, on our creativity and innovation. Nowhere is this more in evidence than at our newest visitor attraction, 878 AD, where we have used live performance and groundbreaking technology to create something that is unique, not just in Winchester, but in the UK. It is this experience and expertise that we will be bringing to our vision for The Great Hall.”

In addition to operating 878 AD and The Arc in Winchester, Hampshire Cultural Trust also runs both City Museum and Westgate Museum for Winchester City Council and with the potential addition of The Great Hall, hopes to realise their long-term ambition of providing a joint ticket option for visitors.

Leader of Winchester City Council, Cllr Martin Tod, said: “The Great Hall is a remarkable survival from the time of medieval kings and one of the historic buildings that does the most to make Winchester unique and special. I’m delighted that it will now be managed by the Cultural Trust alongside the City Council’s historic Westgate and the other trust-run attractions and buildings in the city.  A bigger, better, more joined up offer can only be good for our city.” 

Following this decision in principle, the County Council will now work closely with the trust on the details of the transfer. Subject to agreement being reached, it is anticipated that a transfer could take place in early 2024.


About Hampshire Cultural Trust

Hampshire Cultural Trust was established in 2014 to promote Hampshire as a great cultural county. It manages and supports visitor attractions, museums, art galleries and arts centres across Hampshire, as well as delivering county-wide outreach programmes that bring culture to local communities and caring for 2.5 million objects relating to Hampshire’s rich and internationally important heritage. 

The trust also delivers a diverse range of social impact initiatives targeted at those who are most vulnerable or disadvantaged and who would not usually have access to arts and culture. Its mission is to provide great arts, heritage, museums and creative programming, working closely with local and national partners, placing communities, collections and stories at the heart of everything it does.

To find out more, visit hampshireculture.org.uk, follow us on X @HantsCulture and Facebook @HampshireCulturalTrust.