Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Salisbury in the rain - Part 1

Salisbury cathedral through the trees.

How wonderful these statues must have looked in all the glory of their Medieval colouring. The building of the cathedral at "New Sarum" as Salisbury was once known, began in 1220 and the main building completed in under 38 years. The spire is 400 feet (123 metres) high and is the tallest spire in England. It is amazing that the cathedral is still standing, since it is built on very shallow foundations (18"!) on a base of wooden faggots over gravel.

Below, from the distance you get a better idea of the front of the cathedral and all the niches for many saints.

It began to rain shortly after we arrived in Salisbury (several weeks back now . . . Just happy memories!) It didn't bother us. We browsed in a few charity shops, and in a few non-charity shops, and spent a King's ransom on sit-down fish and chips which were barely edible, the chips having been warmed up from the night before. Note to self, do NOT be the first lunchtime or evening customers in a chippy again . . .

The beautiful Poultry Cross in Salisbury. If you had visited Salisbury in the 15th century, you would have found quite a few different trading crosses in the Market Place, which were focuses for the sale of meat, cheese, butter, poultry and presumably fish and perhaps corn too. Sadly this is the only one which remains. The flying buttresses were added to this cross in 1852. Market-day in Salisbury is on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and when I lived in Coombe Bissett, just outside Salisbury, I always enjoyed visiting the market and bought my fruit, vegetables and meat there, as well as material to sew the first patchwork quilt I ever made. I also managed to get caul here to use for casings for home-made faggots. Gosh, that's taken me back to the late 1970s now. Thirty years ago.

The Haunch of Venison pub is across the other side of Silver Street to the Poultry Cross. I used to go out for a drink there on Saturday lunchtimes, when I'd finished work, with friends from the Folk Club. When renovation was being done in 1905, a mummified hand, still holding a hand of cards, was found walled-up, and in my time, a replica hand was on display behind glass. The pub dates from the 15th century, and is one of many half-timbered buildings to be found in Salisbury. It is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a lady in white shawl, who is given to moving the crockery around, and has been seen looking out of an upper-floor window. Whether or not she was buried in the graveyard backing onto the pub is a matter of conjecture.

This is the excellent Salisbury Museum, where Keith and I spent a happy hour or so. The building itself is a called Kings House and is Grade I listed, parts of it dating back to the 13th century. Apparently it inspired Thomas Hardy to set part of Jude the Obscure there, in his mind's eye. It has a very good collection of ceramics. It has a particularly fine archaeology display, including masses of Neolithic pots from Salisbury Plain, the fine Victorian archaeologist General Pitt-Rivers' collection, and has an excellent display of the remains and burial goods of the famous Amesbury Archer, who was unearthed at Boscombe Down back in 2002. His rich grave goods included Beaker pottery, copper knives, and two gold hair tresses/earrings which dated to 2,400 BC and are the oldest true-dated gold ever found in Britain. Buried just 3 miles from Stonehenge, he was also contemporary with the building of it. He himself came from the Alps and was Swiss or Austrian and would have been of high status because of his metal-working skills. He died aged around 35 - 45 years of age. Buried close by was a younger relative of the Archer's - they both shared an unusual bone structure in the foot - but strontium analysis showed that he had grown up in the South, and spent his late teen years in Scotland or the Midlands. He was quite possibly his son.

Above and below, buildings within the Cathedral Close. The one below is where the late Ted Heath, ex Prime Minister, lived for many years.

This is one of the gateways into the Cathedral Close. When I worked in Salisbury, there was a wonderful 2nd hand book shop (Beaches I think it was called) just out of shot on the right. It's now a restaurant. Just beyond the white house through the gateway are some beautiful old Almshouses.

You can just see a corner of this lovely old building in the photograph above. I have always loved the criss-cross leaded glass in such windows, but I bet they're the very devil to keep clean!

I love this ram and am trying to find out the story behind him. Judging by the ring on his back, he once hang over a shop front, rather than sitting above the doorway.


  1. I'm beginning to wonder if it always rains in Salisbury - it was raining when I was there too! That sheep is fascinating isn't it? I wondered what the story behind it is as well. Wish I'd seen the Amesbury Archer - didn't know he was there until it was too late.

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