If we’ve being successful at anything this trip, it’s revisiting places that have thwarted us in the past. It doesn’t happen very often, but it is frustrating when it does. The last time we were in Salisbury, parking was impossible: it was raining and having been caught up in its tiny ancient streets, we eventually reluctantly gave up. Not so today. Himself has done his research and come up with not one but two options. Travelling through thatched cottage green corridors,
we end up staying a little out of town in a delightfully green setting on Salisbury Hill, using the park and ride service to come in.
I’m so glad he persisted, is clear from first sight that Salisbury has a lot to offer.
Technically, it’s the “new” city, founded in 1220, when the old city, Sarum, was abandoned. Sarum’s history meanwhile goes back to the Iron Age, some 2,300 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I find there’s a lot to love about a place that deems a place founded in 1220 as “new”.
It’s a later arrival than usual, hampering our usual “leave no stone unturned” exploration. Instead we focus on a reconnaissance walk and a tour of Salisbury’s beautiful cathedral, also home to the best preserved of the four surviving originals of the Magna Carta.
Salisbury Cathedral is stunning. Set on an an ancient grassed burial ground, its foundation stone was laid in 1220. Legend has it that the site for the cathedral was determined by an arrow’s landing, shot from Old Sarum. We’ll have to presume it was a windy day – it’s a hell of a shot otherwise. Old Sarum is almost two miles away.
The Cathedral was built with unprecedented speed, in just 38 years. Its famous spire was added later though, in 1310 – 1330. At 123 metres, it’s still Britain’s tallest.
Inside, finishes are relatively modest, a far cry from the ornate baroque interiors we’ve seen earlier this trip.
Old Sarum also had a cathedral – a number of its tombs were moved to the new cathedral, including the tomb of St Osmond, who was Bishop of Old Sarum from 1078 – 1099.
We tour the Cloisters, added in the 13th century, the largest in England,
where we also find the Chapter House, decorated with friezes from the old testament.
It’s also home to the Magna Carta and a detailed account of its history. It’s in excellent condition, written in ink on sheepskin parchment in heavily abbreviated mediaeval Latin. Stored in dark conditions, photography is not allowed, but there’s a good likeness outside and a full English translation.
Looking between the two, it’s extraordinary how much information was included in one piece of parchment – it was an expensive medium and consequently used with great consideration. Mistakes were scratched off with a knife. This and the other surviving three copies have been entered into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
Tour completed, we wander home, very much looking forward to seeing more tomorrow. Salisbury has suffered of late, following the 2018 use of a nerve agent to kill a senior Russian official turned MI6 spy. The fallout caused tourism to plummet. It hit the town hard, with many businesses closing. Salisbury deserves better, I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it as a place to visit.
By any measure, Salisbury is a pretty town, its long history providing a architectural gems from each period – so much to explore tomorrow!