All About Salisbury

For the Community by the Community

The Great West Front

Bishop of Salisbury Hubert Walter was instrumental in the negotiations with Saladin during the Third Crusade, but he spent little time in his diocese prior to his elevation to archbishop of Canterbury. The brothers Herbert and Richard Poore succeeded him and began planning the relocation of the cathedral into the valley almost immediately.

Their plans were approved by King Richard I but repeatedly delayed: Herbert was first forced into exile in Normandy in the 1190s by the hostility of his archbishop Walter and then again to Scotland in the 1210s owing to royal hostility following the papal interdiction against King John.

The secular authorities were particularly incensed, according to tradition, owing to some of the clerics debauching the castellan's female relations. In the end, the clerics were refused permission to re-enter the city walls following their rogations and processions. This caused Peter of Blois to describe the church as "a captive within the walls of the citadel like the ark of God in the profane house of Baal". He advocated

"Let us descend into the plain! There are rich fields and fertile valleys abounding in the fruits of the earth and watered by the living stream. There is a seat for the Virgin Patroness of our church to which the world cannot produce a parallel."

Herbert Poore's successor and brother Richard Poore eventually moved the cathedral to a new town on his estate at Veteres Sarisberias ("Old Salisburies") in 1220. The site was at "Myrifield" ("Merryfield"), a meadow near the confluence of the River Nadder and the Hampshire Avon. It was first known as "New Sarum" or "New Saresbyri". The town was laid out on a grid.

Work on the new cathedral building, the present Salisbury Cathedral, began in 1221. The site was supposedly established by shooting an arrow from Old Sarum, although this is certainly a legend: the distance is over 3km (1.9mi). The legend is sometimes amended to claim that the arrow struck a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where the cathedral now rests.

The structure was built upon wooden faggots on a gravel bed with unusually shallow foundations of 18 inches (46cm) and the main body was completed in only 38 years. The 123m or 404ft tall spire, the tallest in the UK, was built later. With royal approval, many of the stones for the new cathedral were taken from the old one; others came from Chilmark. They were probably transported by ox-cart, owing to the obstruction to boats on the River Nadder caused by its many weirs and watermills.

The cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Early English architecture. The spire's large clock was installed in 1386, and is one of the oldest surviving mechanical clocks in the world. The Cathedral also contains the best-preserved of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta.

15th Century Doom painting in St. Thomas' church

New Sarum was made a city by a charter from King Henry III in 1227 and, by the 14th century, was the largest settlement in Wiltshire. The city wall surrounds the Close and was built in the 14th century, again with stones removed from the former cathedral at Old Sarum.

The wall now has five gates: the High Street Gate, St Ann's Gate, the Queen's Gate, and St Nicholas's Gate were original, while a fifth was constructed in the 19th century to allow access to Bishop Wordsworth's School, in the Cathedral Close.

During his time in the city, the composer Handel stayed in a room above St Ann's gate. The original site of the city at Old Sarum, meanwhile, fell into disuse.

It continued as a rotten borough: at the time of its abolition during the reforms of 1832, its MP represented three households.

In May 1289, there was uncertainty about the future of Margaret, Maid of Norway, and her father sent ambassadors to Edward I. Edward met Robert the Bruce and others at Salisbury in October 1289, which resulted in the Treaty of Salisbury, under which Margaret would be sent to Scotland before 1 November 1290 and any agreement on her future marriage would be delayed until she was in Scotland.

A picture of Minster Street c.1870

In 1450, a number of riots broke out in Salisbury at roughly the same time as Jack Cade led a famous rebellion through London. The riots occurred for related reasons, although the declining fortunes of Salisbury's cloth trade may also have been influential. The violence peaked with the murder of the bishop, William Ayscough, who had been involved with the government. In 1483, a large-scale rebellion against Richard III broke out, led by his own 'kingmaker', Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. After the revolt collapsed, Buckingham was executed at Salisbury, near the Bull's Head Inn.

In 1664, an act for making the River Avon navigable from Christchurch to the city of New Sarum was passed and the work completed, only for the project to be ruined shortly thereafter by a major flood. Soon after, during the Great Plague of London, Charles II held court in Salisbury's cathedral close. Salisbury was the site chosen to assemble James II's forces to resist the Glorious Revolution. He arrived to lead his approximately 19,000 men on 19 November 1688. His troops were not keen to fight Mary or her husband William, and the loyalty of many of James's commanders was in doubt.

The first blood was shed at the Wincanton Skirmish, in Somerset. In Salisbury, James heard that some of his officers had deserted, such as Edward Hyde, and he broke out in a nosebleed, which he took as an omen that he should retreat. His commander in chief, the Earl of Feversham, advised retreat on 23 November, and the next day John Churchill defected to William. On 26 November, James's own daughter, Princess Anne, did the same, and James returned to London the same day, never again to be at the head of a serious military force in England.

At the time of the 1948 Summer Olympics, held in London, a relay of runners carried the Olympic Flame from Wembley Stadium, where the Games were based, to the sailing centre at Torbay via Slough, Basingstoke, Salisbury, and Exeter.