Famous people

Over the centuries, many famous names have become part of the Cathedral’s history. You can find out more about some of them, and how they became connected to this place, below.

Jane Austen: A great English novelist

Jane Austen is now celebrated as one of England’s greatest novelists, but when she was buried in the Cathedral in 1817 at the age of 41, her original memorial stone made no mention of her books. You can read the brass plaque erected in 1872 to redress the omission in the north side aisle and an illustrated exhibition detailing Jane Austen's life, work and death in Hampshire, is displayed beside her grave. Find out more

St Swithun: The Cathedral’s patron saint

The life of St Swithun, an Anglo-Saxon bishop, is rich in legend. A century after his death in 863, he was chosen as patron saint for the Cathedral’s Benedictine monastery. His bones, housed in a splendid reliquary, became famed for their healing powers. His cult lasted until the Reformation, when all traces of his shrine were swept away. Find out more

William Walker: The diver who saved the Cathedral

When huge cracks started to appear in the early 1900s, the Cathedral seemed in danger of complete collapse. Early efforts to underpin its waterlogged foundations failed until William Walker, a deep-sea diver, worked under water every day for six years placing bags of concrete. You’ll find a small statue of him at the far end of the Cathedral. Find out more

Izaak Walton: Biographer and angler

Famed during his life as a biographer, Izaak Walton is now remembered for his much-loved treatise on the joys of fishing, The Compleat Angler. You can see his grave and stained glass image in the Chapel of St John the Evangelist and the Fisherman Apostles – visited by anglers from all over the world. Find out more

Mary Sumner: Founder of Mothers' Union

In 1876 Mary Sumner, a clergyman’s wife living in nearby Old Alresford, became concerned about how local mothers related their Christian faith to family life. Wanting to encourage them she founded a small group called the Mothers’ Union. She lived to see it become a worldwide organisation, now with millions of members. She is buried outside Winchester Cathedral. Find out more

Josephine Butler: 19th century campaigner against human trafficking

In 1869, Josephine Butler, a clergyman's wife then living in Liverpool, agreed to spearhead a campaign against state inspection of women suspected of being prostitutes for venereal diseases. By the time her husband George was appointed a Residentiary Canon of Winchester Cathedral in 1882, she had turned her work towards the eradication of sex trafficking across the world, but also made time to found a refuge for recovered prostitutes in Winchester. Find out more

Bill Wilson: Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, and also of the visit of a certain Bill Wilson to Winchester Cathedral. A young officer sent from American to fight in the trenches, Bill survived the war and went on to write one of the world’s best-selling books – the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous. And on the first page he recounted the story of his wartime visit to the cathedral. Today people from all over the world make the trip to see the grave of Thomas Thetcher which so inspired him. Find out more

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