Hampshire Day is July 15th, the feast day of county native Saint Swithun (Swithin)
recognised by the county council in 2019, as Hampshire Day and duly noted as such by the Flag Institute.
Swithun was born in Winchester in 800 and was counsellor to Kings Egbert
who donated much of his royal land to Swithun to build and restore numerous churches. For the last ten years of his life he was Bishop of Winchester and died in 863, whereupon he was buried in front of the west door of the Saxon Old Minster
which preceded the Norman cathedral
A century later his bones were unearthed by a successor, Aethelwold,
who wanted a patron saint for his new Benedictine community and placed in a reliquary, presented by King Edgar, inside the building. Under Norman rule his bones were moved anew to their newly built cathedral, behind the high altar, resting there until 1450. A shrine for cure seeking pilgrims, a short tunnel allowed them to crawl right underneath his placement, to benefit from his miraculous healing power. An even larger shrine, festooned with silver, gold and jewels from attendees, was fashioned in 1476, at the far end of the building.
He is said to have tutored Ethelwulf’s son, the young Alfred the Great
and caused the first stone bridge to be constructed over the River Itchen in Winchester
, whilst legend tells of a miracle where he made whole, the broken eggs of a woman jostled when crossing the bridge. It is related that upon his death, he asked to be buried outdoors “where the feet of ordinary men could pass over him”. When his bones were moved inside the Old Minster on his feast day, 15th July 971, a terrible storm is said to have broken out, reportedly lasting forty days and nights! This gave rise to the belief that if it rains on Saint Swithun’s day it will continue for forty days!
With his link to the town of Winchester, Swithun is unsurprisingly celebrated in his home town and county, being regarded as the patron saint of the cathedral and sometimes described as the patron saint of the county itself.
The inaugural Hampshire Day, for which a special logo based on the county flag, was created, was held in 2019. At a ceremony held at the Castle Yard, at Winchester Great Hall, attended by an audience of around 100 guests, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson,
described how the County of Hampshire is older than England itself
and summed up his hopes for the day:
“Hampshire day about celebrating everything that makes Hampshire great, its heritage, its world-famous historic sites, its diverse mix of towns and villages, the beautiful natural landscapes and above all the people of Hampshire both past and present. This is why I hope communities across the county will embrace Hampshire day in years to come by holding their own activities and celebrations so that over time this day will go from strength to strength in fostering a shared pride in Hampshire and all that it represents.”
Councillor Judith Grajewski commented “I think to have a day a year where we remember in our history and celebrate everything that’s good about Hampshire as it’s a diverse county, I think that’s a really good idea”
The event included an ensemble of student musicians from the Hampshire Music Service
and was marked with a series of speeches, poems and songs
emphasising the uniqueness of the county of Hampshire.
Also attending were Chair of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Charles Choudhary and Catherine Ogle, the Dean of Winchester Cathedral,
who blessed the flag
before it was raised by Nigel Atkinson
The flag was also raised in Southampton by the town’s mayor
and made an appearance in Basingstoke
and one flag flew in Australia!
The county’s MPs also joined in the celebrations