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Important historic buildings include the cathedral, built in the 12th century; the Great Hall, the only surviving portion of the old Royal Palace; and Winchester College, a public school founded in 1382.
Settlement in the area dates back to pre roman times, and there is evidence of iron age hill forts around the city. Under the Romans the town, then named Venta Belgarum, was of considerable importance.
The town has historic importance as the capital of the ancient kingdom of Wessex. Although it was not the only town to have been the capital, it was established by King Alfred the Great as the main city in his kingdom in the 9th Century. Winchester remained the capital of Wessex, and then England, until some time after the Norman Conquest when the capital was moved to London.
William of Wykeham (1320-1404) played an important role in the history of the town; as bishop of Winchester he was responsible for much of the current structure of the cathedral and also founded Winchester College.