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Was Venta Belgarum, capital of the probably artificial civitas of the Belgae. Extensive 4th‐cent. cemeteries suggest that Winchester was still a major centre of population, but they passed out of use at the beginning of the 5th cent. Winchester revived as a bishop's seat (662), but urban life did not return until a planned and fortified town (burh) was laid out within the Roman walls, probably by King Alfred. The city expanded dramatically between the 10th and 12th cents., ranking by c.1110, with Norwich, second in size after London, and sharing with Westminster the developing functions of a national capital. Besides the cathedral, it possessed royal and episcopal palaces, 57 parish churches, and one of the four great trading fairs of England. However, it declined from the 12th cent. as the close links with the monarchy slackened, and since the 15th cent. it has been only a modest, though delightful, provincial town.

Subjects: Literature.

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