Friday, February 24, 2017

Historic Cities - Salisbury, England

Ask someone to name a few cities in the UK and the chances are Salisbury will not be one of them, but at one time this town in Wiltshire was the seventh largest in England. Originally called New Sarum, it came into existence when the Bishops of the cathedral at Old Sarum decided to build a new cathedral several miles away from the Iron-age Hill Fort. The foundation was laid in 1220 and the cathedral was consecrated in 1258. In the meantime a thriving community built up around it eventually leading to the abandonment of Old Sarum.

While the terms city and town tend to be used interchangeably, in the UK official city status is granted by a royal charter and was historically given to those towns with a cathedral. Salisbury was recognized as a city in 1227, long before many of the more well known cities of today!

Not surprisingly, the highlight of Salisbury is the cathedral.

The spire, at 404 feet, is now the tallest in Britain as it has out-lasted the spires at St Paul's, London, and Lincoln which were taller but made of timber and lead. 

The carvings on the facade are phenomenal. Imagine the work that must have gone into creating this. Think of the pride of the master craftsmen in their work. 


The cathedral has another claim to fame. It is home to the best-preserved original manuscript of the Magna Carta. The permanent display in the Chapter House offers a chance to view one of the most important documents in English history. Drawn up in 1215 as a charter of liberties after barons caused a political crisis by their rebellion against King John's rule, it introduced the principle that everyone, including the king, was subject to law. It became the foundation of the English legal system and, while many of its clauses have been repealed, the core idea of the right to justice and a fair trial have been incorporated into many other constitutions and documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Founding Fathers also used the charter as precedent in claiming freedom from the crown for the American colonies. 

The architecture of the city reflects its long history. Medieval remains mix with Tudor, Victorian and more modern developments to create a charming town center. Every Tuesday and Saturday a market is held in Salisbury, a tradition dating back to the 13th century. Although today's markets are considerably smaller, street names such as Fish Row or Poultry Cross indicate where particular products were sold in those ancient markets.  

The Old Mill at Harnham, a few minutes walk from the cathedral, also dates back to the 12th century.

hard to believe this was in December!

The mill is now a hotel and restaurant and provides a perfect spot to stop and admire the view of the River Nadder on a pleasant day.

shame about the modern buildings in the foreground

Over the centuries there have been some changes to cope with the increasing demands on infrastructure as indicated by this sign on a bridge near the mill:

Verdict: A delightful city to visit and, with both Stonehenge and Old Sarum only a few miles away, an ideal base for those wishing to explore historic sites of England. 

Mel Parish writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense.

Her latest novel Trust No One  is currently entered into the Kindle Scout competition which lets readers check out the first few chapters of an unpublished novel and decide whether it is worthy of nomination for an Amazon publishing contract. If a book is selected all those who nominated the book get a free copy when it’s published!
You can check out the campaign page at

Please take a look  and, if you like what you see, nominate Trust No One before 10 March 2017


  1. Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories of a trip there long ago. Have you read Edward Rutherford's SARUM? It's excellent. Meticulously researched historical fiction that follows the same families from Old Sarum to the 1980s or so.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Karen. Haven't read SARUM yet, but it's on my to-read list as I have read several other Rutherford books and they are all excellent - especially NEW YORK. Having now visited the place I'm really looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Lovely -- as usual, Mel. Thanks for taking me to Salisbury :-)

  3. Thanks, DV. Glad you enjoyed it.