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.