Closing the door on Salisbury

In September 2013 I started full time work in Salisbury, and moved there in late November 2013. This afternoon I left it for good. It has been quite a year for me, but I guess I have to look at opportunities and developments and occasionally these may require change. Leaving Salisbury and my job was one such change. Initially I was not too keen on Salisbury, its only really redeeming feature seem to be that it had a cathedral in it, and that magnificent building was really an experience on its own. 
Initially I stayed very close to work, in an area called “The Friary”, which had somewhat of a chequered reputation. But I did have a nice spot but when an affordable place came available to rent I grabbed it like a shot, moving in in mid April this year.
My new walk took me from one end of Salisbury to the other, through town and the many shops and business that would become almost second nature to me. It was a 25 minute walk and by the time I got to work (or home) I was usually bushed.
This odd structure is the Poultry Cross, and it marks the site of the former markets. It was constructed in the 14th century, and is a popular hang out for pigeons, smokers, cellphone weenies and sitters arounders, The market is usually held on a Tuesday and Saturday, and while not my favourite place did net me a few interesting odds and ends. The market square is also home to the Guildhall and the War Memorial; where I commemorated Remembrance Day this year.  Naturally I would gravitate to the local cemeteries, there were two larger ones in Salisbury, namely Devizes Road and London Road cemeteries. Both are quite old and I did have lots of fun walking through them. London Road in particular was a very nice visit, and I did find all the war graves and got very muddy while doing so. (It’s an occupational hazard)
Salisbury was a very large training area during the war years, and still has a number of military bases and facilities on Salisbury Plain. Unfortunately the furthest I seemed to get there was Old Sarum and of course Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. I had visited Stonehenge with my landlord from Southampton during 2013, and while I was suitably impressed I did not get there a second time.
We also visited Woodhenge on the same day, and it was quite a strange place to see.
I even attempted a panoramic stitch of it, and while it is not perfect you get the general idea. (Image is 1500×426).  Salisbury is really a tourist attraction, and somewhat of a retirement home, with its narrow pavements and strange alleyways it can sometimes lead you to surprisingly pretty buildings. In general though the city is a mix of olde, old and recent, but there is not a lot of work available so it does tend to be a destination commuted to (and from). The station is not a pretty building at all, if anything it is somewhat of an ugly place, although occasionally steam powered specials would make an appearance. It was also the site if a very bad train accident in 1906 but at the time of posting there was nothing to see that commemorates the accident on the station. However, I believe a plaque was erected recently. 
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There is a wall memorial in the cathedral, although I would have thought that the station would have been a much more relevant place for it.
The rest of the time South West Trains and First Great Western make the station their junction. There are 3 lines converging on Salisbury. One heads towards Southampton/Portsmouth, the other heads towards Andover, Basingstoke, Woking, Clapham Junction and London Waterloo, while the third heads west to Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, and Cardiff Central. I did a lot of odd visits on these lines, and probably once winter had finished would have gone a bit further, although an ankle injury really messed up my travels towards the last few months. There were a number of interesting museums and churches worth occupying myself with, and I did the rounds of most of the accessible ones.  The prettiest must have been St Lawrence in Stratford Sub-Castle  as well as St Andrews in Laverstock.

Walking around town on my rounds was always interesting, especially since there are 5 rivers converging on Salisbury. In January we had a flood scare, and I must admit it was quite interesting watching the levels rise and the flood plain become a lake. The Avon used to flow past the back of the house where I was staying, and it was fun feeding the ducks when I had some spare bread.

 
Naturally there were also coots, swans and pigeons, but the water birds had the advantage when it came to food.  I think that one of the all abiding memories I will take with me from Salisbury are of the people I worked with for just over a year. They made Christmas fun and often inspired me to do things. A new workplace does mean making new friends and that is always difficult. But I will have to make a go of it irrespective. Tomorrow is week 2 of my new job and new home. So lets see what I can find in Basingstoke. 

And so I close the door on Salisbury. I will miss it, and I take fond memories with me. I never did get to the spire of the Cathedral, or revisit Bemerton, neither did I get back to Arnos Vale in Bristol. Oh, and that pub that forgot my breakfast? you probably lost a lot of money from me, much more than the lousy 3.19 that you nicked from me. I will miss my little home that I had, and will look for a new one. London is closer and I have cemeteries to visit. But first I must unpack all this stuff I brought with me; where did it all come from?

Random Photographs.
War Memorial
War Memorial
The Guildhall
The Guildhall

DRW © 2014-2020. Images recreated 21/04/2016

Old Sarum, a hill with a view.

This morning I headed off to Old Sarum, a longish walk “just up the street”. It is one of those really old sites that seem to abound in the UK, steeped in history, blood, religion and a dash more history. Realistically there isn’t really much to see there, from afar it looks like a giant pimple on the landscape, but once you investigate what lies beyond then things get interesting. 
 
Image from the main information board.
Image from the main information board.
The site is just outside Salisbury, and it could really be described as the place Salisbury was before Salisbury was what it is. It is the site of the cathedral that existed before Salisbury Cathedral was built. It was not only a cathedral though, but an iron age hill fort, a Norman fortress and at one time home to the English King (or one or two of them).  The pimple is deceptive though, because there is a moat between the surrounding area and the inner sanctum of the fortress (lets call it a fortress at this point). Crossing that moat would bring you into the castle and fortifications within.
 
The "drawbridge" looking out of the entrance towards the parking lot
The “drawbridge” looking out of the entrance towards the parking lot
Within the walls of the the inner fortress would have stood the castle/fortress proper. With its many layers of access to various members of the population. Tradesmen around the back, higher-ups higher up, and the King and his court being lord of all he surveyed below.
 
Very little remains of the interior buildings, realistically there are just remnants of walls and rooms and no real sense of what stood here originally. This grassy area was probably the courtyard with the well where the signpost is. At one point (1110-1120) the home of Henry I was here, and this would have been a bustling area. The place fell into disfavour and some repairs were carried out in 1366, but by 1514 it was an abandoned and desolate place and the site was given to Thomas Compton along with permission to demolish it and reuse the building materials.
 
  
In the 16th century the buildings were all demolished, leaving the ruins behind for us to puzzle over. It was excavated between 1909 and 1915, and it is probable that there are layers of buildings built over each other, and we only really see the ruins today. Oddly enough one important historical artifact has survived, ye olde privy…. 
  
The royal loo was probably built over this deep pit,  which was where the the King could read the morning newspapers in peace before stepping out for a days ruling/throning.  Some poor peasant (a Baldrick type I suspect), would have the unenviable task of having to clean up every so often, being lowered down into the poo to clean up. It does show that even Kings have more than one throne. 
 
 
The view over the surrounding countryside is magnificent, and you would see an enemy coming from miles away. The outlines in the image above are all that remains of the cathedral that stood at that spot before. The original cathedral was completed in 1092, but it was severely damaged by lightning 5 days after it was consecrated. A mere hundred years later and it too was abandoned in favour of the new cathedral in what was technically “New Sarum” (Salisbury).  The remains of the cathedral and Bishops residence are outside the inner sanctum of the fortress but inside the first moated area, and you have to walk around the fortress to get to them. All that is left are the foundation outlines and a few remnants of rooms. Not much to see, although there were two burial areas close to the ruins.
 
You would have had to cross the drawbridge and head along a path that must have existed back then, I am sure the mud must have created havoc with any procession.
 
Today you would need your imagination to conjure up a cathedral at this spot. It is however a very pretty area with breathtaking views. And it is very popular with the dog walking set. I have no idea how they keep the grounds so immaculate either. 
 
And what of Salisbury? it lays roughly east of Old Sarum, and you can see the spire of the cathedral from the fortress. Unfortunately the sun was sitting in the east and the clouds kept on coming and going, but I did manage this image.
 
And so Old Sarum was left to its ghosts, and I do not think this would be a nice place on a dark and windy night. There was a decidedly creepy feel about it 
  
So I said my farewells and headed off to my next destination. The site is not really one with a lot to see, but it has a rich and complex history and I cannot begin to cover that here. It is however a very pretty place and its worth just going there to walk the area, Who knows, I may go back one day. I am sure there is more to see if only I look more closely.
 
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 17/04/2016

Savouring Salisbury Cathedral

This post is long overdue, and I do not quite understand why I did not do this at the time. I lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire for just over a year, and the Cathedral dominated the skyline. I had first visited it with my landlord in May of 2013, and we really just dashed in and out, but it was the sort of place that left you awestruck. Be aware, this blogpost is very image heavy. 
 
  
I make no bones about it, my pics from then were not great, I was probably in too much of a rush to savour the beauty of the building, and while I was glad to see it at the time, I never thought it would feature in my life for a year. I moved to the city in November of 2013, and I had some time to kill on 22 December to have a proper look around. Logically the blogpost should have happened then, but it did not, so while the date reflects as 22/12/2013, the reality is I am writing this in 2015! 
 
I admit that I do not recall a lot of the things I am going to post here, but then a lot of it is really more about just savouring the beauty and not asking questions. 
 

My favourite images of the cathedral I took late on afternoon in December of 2013 when the sun was low on the horizon and the stonework shone. It is truly a beautiful building; majestic and with so much hidden detail that you can never see it all. 

Entering into the cathedral you are confronted with the length of the centre aisle and the vaulted roof overhead.
 

The one thing I do recall about the cathedral is how light it was, it did not have a heavy oppressive feeling like I had felt in St Pauls in London, but then I had not really gone very far into that building so maybe I just judged it wrong at the time.

In my view one of the most beautiful objects in the cathedral is the Baptismal Font with its reflecting pool and silent waterflow. It was really magnificent, and made for fascinating photography.

At the time there was a Nativity Scene inside the cathedral, and that is what can be seen in the distance. If I remember correctly, the nativity scene was in the crossing between the North and South Transepts. The South Transept would be to the right in the image above.

Standing in the centre of the crossing would put you underneath the 123m (404 ft) spire of the cathedral. Unfortunately I was not able to do the spire tour, but with hindsight wish that I had. The 6500 tonne weight of the spire and tower has bowed the support columns, but that has not stopped it being the tallest church spire in the United Kingdom.

Advancing past the crossing we would enter the Quire, which is where the choir is seated amongst magnificent woodwork and grandeur that these buildings had in abundance.

Further on is the High Altar, with the Trinity Chapel behind it.

These are really awe inspiring places to stand at, and I always feel uncomfortable taking photographs in them, possibly it is a sense that this place is special? or maybe my Anglican upbringing is rattling around inside of my head?

The Trinity Chapel is not a grand place, but the stained glass windows make it a very special place. The window, called the Prisoners of Conscience Window, was designed by Gabriel Loire and is dedicated to prisoners of conscience throughout the world. The Chapel is also the site of the Shrine Tomb of Bishop Osmund (died 1099): It is one of three tombs brought here for reburial in 1226 from the previous Cathedral at Old Sarum.

Retracing our steps back to the Crossing, we can get some idea of the Transepts from the image taken from the North Transept to the South Transept, with the Nativity scene in the middle.
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Like so many other churches and cathedrals, Salisbury has its fair share of wall memorials, effigies, plaques, and floor memorials. I am a particular fan of these because often they are truly works of art,  and often there is a lot of very good information on them from a military historian point of view. I wont even attempt to show them all, but here are a few.

Of course it is not only about wall memorials and effigies, there is a lot more in the cathedral worth looking at. One of my favourites is the world’s oldest working clock, it is used to strike the hours on the bells. There used to be a separate bell tower and it was housed there until 1789. It is a surprisingly simple piece of automata though, but the age of it is really what makes it so special. 

 

 

Next to the Cathedral is the Chapter House where the Magna Carta is kept. Unfortunately they do not allow photographs in that area, but it is a beautiful area, and the Magna Carta seems almost insignificant in so grand a space, however, the physical size of the document is not the important part, but the ramifications of it are.
 
The exterior stonework of the cathedral is amazing, I still do not understand  how it was built from a practical point of view. The skill levels of the craftsmen is to be seen to be believed. Yet, in spite of it all, parts of the cathedral are currently being restored, and are clad with scaffolding.
 
 
The scaffolding does not detract from the beauty though, I know I tried to photograph a number of the figures in their alcoves, but there were just too many of them. I also looked for Gargoyles on the building and saw very few, or maybe I did not spot them? 
 
 
 
There is a lot to see, and of course I did not get up to that spire, but then the tours were always difficult to get especially when the weather was poor. Photography is also very difficult, light conditions are good, but in some cases a flash was needed and I did not really want to use one. I was able to see Lichfield Cathedral too and it was interesting comparing the two buildings. These are wonderful churches, and they are history in stone, the ages look down from their walls, and frankly they are really something special in a community.
Random Images 
There are a lot of images that I have that I cannot really tie into a specific area or object, these are some of them.
 © DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 16/04/2016