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November 16, 2008

Wikipedia: Salisbury

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Coordinates: 51°04′26″N 1°47′37″W / 51.074, -1.7936

City of Salisbury
New Sarum

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury (Wiltshire)

City of Salisbury shown within Wiltshire

Population 45,000 (2006)
OS grid reference SU145305
District Salisbury
Shire county Wiltshire
Region South West
Constituent country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SP1, SP2
Dialling code 01722
Police Wiltshire
Fire Wiltshire
Ambulance Great Western
European Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Salisbury
List of places: UK • England • Wiltshire

Salisbury (IPA: /ˈsɒlzbri, ˈsɔːlzbri/ (‘Solzbry’) or IPA[ˈzɔːwzbri] (‘Zawzbry’) — moving from RP to local dialect) is a cathedral city in Wiltshire, England. The city forms the largest part of the Salisbury district. It has also been called New Sarum to distinguish it from the original site of settlement at Salisbury, Old Sarum, but this alternative name is not in common use. Similarly, a native of Salisbury may be known as a “Sarumite”[citation needed], but this term is also not commonly used. In 1990 Salisbury was twinned with Saintes in France, and in 2006 with Xanten in Germany. The city is located in the south-east of Wiltshire, at the edge of Salisbury Plain.

Salisbury railway station serves the city, and is the crossing point between the West of England Main Line and the Wessex Main Line making it a regional interchange.

Salisbury is at the confluence of five rivers: the Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne are tributary to the Avon, which flows to the south coast and into the sea at Christchurch, Dorset.



The location was chosen for a settlement because of the abundance of water. The city’s origins go back to the Iron Age. The Romans called it “Sorviodunum”. In modern Welsh the city is Caersallog. There was a battle between the West Saxons and the Britons here, after which the place was called “Searoburh”. The Normans built a castle and called it “Searesbyrig” or “Seresberi”. By 1086, in the Domesday Book, it was called “Salesberie”. The site of the castle is now known as Old Sarum. Old Sarum was a rotten borough that was abolished as at the time, one MP represented three households. The bury element is a form of borough, which has cognates in words and place names throughout the Germanic languages. For a fuller explanation, see borough.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Cathedral Close. At 123 metres (404 feet), the spire is the tallest in the UK.

The origins of the name “Sarum” are obscure. It most likely derives from the fact that Sarum came into use when documents were written in contracted Latin. It was easier to write Sar with a stroke over the “r”, than write the complete word “Saresberie”. That mark was also the common symbol for the Latin termination “um”. Hence “Sar” with a stroke over the r was copied as “SarUM”. One of the first known uses of “Sarum” is on the seal of Saint Nicholas Hospital, Salisbury, which was in use in 1239. Bishop Wyville (1330-1375) was the first Bishop to describe himself “episcopus Sarum”.[1]

Great West Front of Salisbury Cathedral


The first Salisbury Cathedral was built at Old Sarum by St Bishop Osmund between 1075 and 1092. A larger building was built on the same site circa 1120. However, deteriorating relations between the clergy and the military at Old Sarum led to the decision to re-site the cathedral elsewhere. Thus the city of New Sarum, known as Salisbury, was founded in 1220, and the building of the new cathedral begun by Bishop Richard Poore in that year. The main body was completed in only 38 years and is a masterpiece of Early English architecture. Some stones which make up the cathedral came from Old Sarum, others from the Chilmark Quarries from where they were floated down the River Nadder in small boats. The 123 m (400 ft) tall spire was built later and is the tallest spire in the UK.

The cathedral is built on a gravel bed with unusually shallow foundations of 18 inches (46 cm) upon wooden faggots: the site is supposed to have been selected by shooting an arrow from Old Sarum, although this can only be legend as the distance is over 3 kilometres (1.9 mi). It is sometimes claimed the arrow hit a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where the Cathedral now exists.

The cathedral library contains the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

In 1386, a large mechanical clock was installed at Salisbury Cathedral, the oldest surviving mechanical clock in Britain.

Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, housed in The King’s House

The Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum is housed in the King’s House, a Grade I listed building whose history dates back to the 13th century, just opposite the west front of the Cathedral.

The permanent Stonehenge exhibition gallery has interactive displays about Stonehenge and the archaeology of south Wiltshire.

The Pitt Rivers gallery holds a collection from General Pitt Rivers, often called the “father of modern archaeology”.

The costume gallery showcases costume and textiles from the area with costumes for children to try on and imagine themselves as characters from Salisbury’s past.

The City

In 1219 Richard Poore, the then Bishop of Sarum decided to establish a new town and cathedral on an estate in his possession (confusingly known as Veteres Sarisberias – Old Salisburys) in the valley, on the banks of the River Avon.

The town was laid out in a grid pattern, and work started in 1220, with the cathedral commencing the following year.

The town developed rapidly, and by the 14th century was the foremost town in Wiltshire.

The city wall surrounds the Close and was built in the 14th century. There are five gates in the wall; four are original, known as the High Street Gate, St Ann’s Gate, the Queen’s Gate, and St Nicholas’s Gate. A fifth was created in the 19th century to allow access to Bishop Wordsworth’s School located inside the Cathedral Close. A room located above St Ann’s Gate is where the composer Handel stayed, and whilst there wrote several works. During the Great Plague of London, Charles II held court in the Close.

The novel Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, published in 1987, is an imaginative retelling of the history of Salisbury.


Salisbury has a population of 45,000. As of the 2004 census[2] 98.67% of the population was white, 96.41% of which was White British, 0.30% of the population was South Asian, 0.13% was black, 0.16% was Chinese, 0.57% were mixed race.

88.50% of the population were born in England,[3] 4.77% were born elsewhere in the UK, and 3.12% were born elsewhere in the EU (including the Republic of Ireland). 3.60% of the population were born outside of the EU.

78.29% of the population declared their religion as Christianity,[4] while 13.58% stated “no religion” and 7.17% declined to state their religion. The second largest actual religion in Salisbury was Islam with adherents accounting for 0.24% of the population.


The 15th century Poultry Cross in the Market Place originally marked the section of the market trading in poultry.

Salisbury holds a market on Tuesdays and Saturdays and has held markets regularly since 1227. In the 15th century the Market Place was dotted with stone crosses marking the centres for certain trades and goods. Today only the Poultry Cross remains, to which flying buttresses were added in 1852.

In 1226, King Henry III granted the Bishop of Salisbury a charter to hold a fair lasting 8 days from the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (15 August). Over the centuries the dates for the fair have moved around, but in its modern guise, a funfair is now held in the Market Place for three days from the third Monday in October. However, there is still an ancient law stating that the fair can be held in the Cathedral Close.

The world famous Stonehenge prehistoric stone circle is about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Salisbury and greatly aids the local economy. The city itself, Old Sarum and the original cathedral also attract visitors.

Shopping centres include The Old George Mall, The Maltings, and Winchester Street.

Major employers include Salisbury District Hospital, Friends Provident and pyrotechnics company Pains Wessex.


Salisbury High Street

Salisbury was an important centre for music in the 18th century. The grammarian James Harris, a friend of Handel, directed concerts at the Assembly Rooms for almost 50 years up to his death in 1780, with many of the most famous musicians and singers of the day performing there.[5]

Salisbury has a strong artistic community, with galleries situated in the city centre, including one in the public library. In the 18th century, John Constable made a number of celebrated landscape paintings featuring the cathedral spire and the surrounding countryside. Salisbury’s annual International Arts Festival, started in 1973, and held in late May to early June, provides a programme of theatre, live music, dance, public sculpture, street performance and art exhibitions.

Some buildings in Salisbury are reputed to be haunted. Ghost tours are popular with locals and visitors. One such building is the local Odeon cinema located in the House of John Halle. It is the oldest building in the UK to contain a cinema.


Salisbury is located in a valley. The geology of the area, like much of South Wiltshire and Hampshire, is largely chalk. The rivers which flow through the city have been redirected, and along with landscaping, have been used to feed into public gardens. They are popular in the summer, particularly Queen Elizabeth Gardens as the water there is shallow and slow-flowing enough to enter safely. Close to Queen Elizabeth Gardens are water meadows, the water is controlled by weirs. Because of the low-lying land, the rivers are prone to flooding particularly during the winter months. The Town Path, a walkway that links Harnham with the rest of the city, is at times unpassable.

A cause of concern to the people of Salisbury is the lack of adequate roads. There is no motorway that links the ports of Southampton and Bristol meaning that all traffic must pass through the city.

The closest town is Wilton which is the former county town of Wiltshire. To the north the town of Amesbury, which includes Stonehenge. Other places, to the west of the city, include Barford St Martin, Tisbury and Gillingham (Dorset). To the east can be found the garrison town of Tidworth, and slightly further lies Andover. Alderbury and Romsey are to the south, as is Salisbury’s largest neighbour, Southampton. Finally to the north are Warminster and Westbury.

To the north and east is Salisbury Plain. Much of this area is used by the British military for training. There are military airfields at Boscombe Down, Middle Wallop, Netheravon and Upavon (RAF Upavon). There are civil airfields at Old Sarum (where the experimental aircraft the Edgley Optica was developed and tested) and at Thruxton near Andover.


Salisbury Racecourse with the cathedral in the distance.

  • The Bishop’s Walk on the edge of the city provides excellent views
  • The city has a football team, Salisbury City F.C., and a rugby team
  • The Five Rivers Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool is located just outside of the ring road and was opened in 2002
  • The local theatre is the Salisbury Playhouse. [4]
  • Salisbury is well-supplied with pubs. ‘The Haunch of Venison’, overlooking the market, still operates from a 14th century building. One of its attractions is a mummified hand, supposedly severed during a game of cards. The hand vanished on 15 March 2004 but later reappeared under mysterious circumstances and can still be seen [5]
  • The City Hall is an entertainment venue and hosts comedy, musical performances as well as seminars and conventions
  • Salisbury Racecourse is a flat racing course to the south-west of the city
  • Salisbury Arts Centre has exhibitions, workshops and an underground music scene with bands playing most weekends


Salisbury is served by two local radio stations. Spire FM is the local commercial station, and BBC Radio Wiltshire is the regional public service station for the whole county of Wiltshire.

The Salisbury Journal is the local newspaper.

Local event information can be found on The Best of Salisbury website.

For region-specific television services, Salisbury falls into the BBC Southern Region. Commercial TV is supplied by ITV Meridian.

Salisbury now has its own “On Demand” Video TV Station called Vision News TV, found at [6]. It serves West Hampshire, South Wiltshire and North Dorset; providing local news, views and stories affecting the area. While most of the material is professionally produced, the station encourages the public to submit their own videos, photos and written reports.

Areas within and around Salisbury

  • Alderbury
  • Amesbury
  • Bemerton Heath
  • Bishopdown
  • Bishopdown Farm
  • Bodenham
  • Britford
  • Churchfields
  • Clarendon
  • Constable Court
  • Downton
  • East Harnham
  • Ford
  • The Friary
  • Fugglestone Red
  • Homington
  • Laverstock
  • Lower Bemerton
  • Milford
  • Netherhampton
  • Nunton
  • Odstock
  • Paul’s Dene
  • Petersfinger
  • Riding’s Mead
  • Quidhampton
  • Shady Bower
  • Solstice Park
  • Spire Views
  • Stratford-Sub-Castle
  • Stonehenge
  • West Harnham

Notable residents

  • Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Edward Heath lived and died in Salisbury. He lived in the Cathedral Close. His funeral took place in the cathedral and was attended by many respected political figures.
  • Bishop John Jewel 1522-1571, Author of The Apology of the Church of England.
  • The former Iron Maiden vocalist, Paul Di’Anno lives in Salisbury.
  • The actor Anthony Daniels (who played C3PO in the six Star Wars films) was born there.
  • John Levene (Real name John Anthony Blake), who played Sergeant Benton in Doctor Who, was born and brought up in Salisbury.
  • Ralph Fiennes lived in Salisbury and went to Bishop Wordsworth’s School in the Cathedral close, as did rugby international Richard Hill
  • Comedian, actor and writer David Mitchell was born in Salisbury.
  • Nobel prize winner and author of The Lord of the Flies, William Golding worked as a teacher at Salisbury’s Bishop Wordsworth’s School.
  • Author Susan Howatch lives in Salisbury. Her “Starbridge” and “St. Benet’s” series of novels are set in Starbridge, a fictional cathedral city based on Salisbury.
  • Actor and winner of I’m a Celebrity Christopher Biggins was raised and still returns to Salisbury. His family still live there.


  • The Debenhams department store is said to be haunted by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham – the store is on the site where he was beheaded in 1483
  • Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, was formerly named Salisbury
  • The BBC TV series Archer’s Goon was filmed in Salisbury
  • There is a sundial in St Thomas’s Square
  • Old Sarum was the first place William the Conqueror visited having defeated King Harold at Hastings
  • Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower are said to have met in the small room at the front of the The Haunch of Venison pub whilst planning the D-Day landings


  1. ^ Victoria History of Wiltshire Vol. VI, pp. 93-94
  2. ^ British government census statistics for race and ethnicity. [1]
  3. ^ British government census statistics for country of birth. [2]
  4. ^ British government census statistics for religion. [3]
  5. ^ Music and Theatre in Handel’s World: The Family Papers of James Harris 1732-1780, by Donald Burrows and Rosemary Dunhill, Oxford University Press, USA (March 29, 2002)
  • Britain Express
  • with dates of charter for medieval fair.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Salisbury (England) travel guide from Wikitravel
  • Salisbury at the Open Directory Project
  • Salisbury District Council
  • Official tourism website
  • Salisbury College
  • Salisbury Playhouse
  • Salisbury Arts Centre
  • Salisbury International Arts Festival
  • Historic Salisbury photos at BBC Wiltshire
  • Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
  • Old Postcards of Salisbury
This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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