WINCHESTER laid its stall out as the Christmas capital of the south last week.

The Cathedral Close was packed with revellers as the Dean of the Cathedral and the Mayor of Winchester officially opened the festive market and ice rink to the public.

The lantern procession, which has already become a firm fixture in the city’s yuletide calendar, went ahead – but not without a struggle against the elements. An extremely blustery |evening meant that only by the miracle of Christmas did participants manage to keep hold of their lamps.

The market is bigger than ever, with around 100 traditional wooden stalls offering everything from mulled wine to soap, jewellery to cakes. Modelled on the original European markets and now in its seventh year it attracts in excess of 300,000 visitors annually and has become an attraction in its own right.

The alpine-style cafe proved an excellent spot to watch the stars of Dancing on Ice, Vicky Ogden, Katie Stainsby and Andre Lipanov.

Before blessing the Christmas tree, Dean of Winchester The Very Rev James Atwell said: “This is now a significant community event and it’s an important cooperation between the cathedral and the city.”

Mayor Frank Pearson officially opened the market and also read the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel.

A fireworks display signed off the proceedings.