The War Cloister was the vision of Headmaster Montague Rendall and was originally designed as a memorial to the 500 Wykehamists killed during the First World War. The total number of boys in the school, in the years between 1914 and 1918, was no more than 450. Effectively, Winchester lost a generation of young men to the Great War. Their names are engraved on the outer walls. Those Wykehamists who died in World War II are listed on the inner columns.
The great roofed quadrangle was designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker with contributions from the Art Master R.M.Y. Gleadowe, who designed the gates and the Lombardic script that runs all the way around the cloister. Work began in 1922 and the memorial was dedicated by the Duke of Connaught on 31st May 1924. It is the largest private war memorial in Europe.
Architecturally, its combination of knapped flint, dressed stone and English oak reflects the medieval cloister built by the School’s founder, William of Wykeham. It contains a wealth of symbolic detail. Recorded on the stone corbels and beams of the roof are the badges of the 120 regiments in which Old Wykehamists served. The badges of the regiments most closely associated with Winchester: the Royal Artillery, the Hampshire Regiment and the King’s Royal Rifle Corps are held by angels on the oak struts.
In each of the corners, the four quarters of the Empire are commemorated. Africa, Australasia, Canada and the West Indies, and India, all represented by the emblems of their states. In the case of the Indian provinces, whose emblems had only recently been granted, this is thought to have been the first occasion on which these symbols were displayed. In the centre stands a cross implanted within an octagonal stone which was dedicated as the foundation stone of the Cloister. It is flanked on either side by two crusader knights.
Tours of War Cloister
Tours of the War Cloister are conducted by Winchester College Tour Guides. Please contact Winchester College Enterprises on 01962 621209 for further details.