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

Christmas Greetings

Yep, its that time of year when the fat oke in the red suit pops down the chimney and leaves you a lump of coal if you have been a bad boy/girl. 
 
This year I wont be spending it with family like I usually do, I will probably be popping down to the pub for a quick scoff and then returning home for a days vegging. Its kinda difficult to decide though because a lot of it does come down to the weather. Snow? who knows. If you want to know what the weather was like today check back tomorrow. 
 
I have to admit that they do things differently here (as they do in the USA), and the people at work have been going barmy over this period; draping thistle, scoffing mince pies and going crazy like there is no tomorrow. Maybe thats a good thing? I don’t know.
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I paid a visit to Salisbury Cathedral today, and saw the attendant Nativity Scene and it reminded me of the days when we did the Christmas play at Sunday School. I blogged about it awhile ago, and it still sends shivers down my spine. 
 

So, with shivers down my spine I shall use this opportunity to wish everybody a Merry Christmas,  do not overdo the food (I know it is difficult), and don’t drink and drive because you will spill it.

© DRW 2013-2018. Images replaced 16/04/2016.

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