March 31, 2018|Reports

“Salisbury – A Tale of Two Cities” by Andrew Negus

On March 27, over sixty members and guests were treated to very well presented and researched talk by Andrew Negus.

Around 400 BC a hill fort was built, roughly oval in shape, about 400m in length and 2 miles north of present day Salisbury. It was known as Old Sarum (from Searoburh meaning fortress) with a commanding position on a long ridge overlooking the junction of 5 rivers.

The Romans first developed the site and the Normans added a motte-and-bailey castle. Eventually, as William disbanded his army, civic authority passed to the Bishop of Salisbury and the first Salisbury Cathedral was consecrated in 1092.

By the 1200’s disputes had arisen between the military and church authorities, and in 1217 a Papal indulgence was issued to relocate the cathedral some distance outside Old Sarum.  Legend has it that it was agreed the bishop would take ownership of all the land in arrow shot. The arrow hit a deer, which then carried it far beyond arrow range, greatly increasing the bishop’s landholding!

The site was near a new bridge over the Avon, essential for transport of the vast quantities of local stone required for the cathedral.  It took only 38 years to build although the spire, the tallest in Britain, added 6500 tons to its weight. With ample building space the area round the cathedral soon became a new city and the bishop one of the country’s richest.

Andrew controversially shared his dislike of the embellished stonework on the cathedral tower compared with the tall and elegant spire. He showed us pictures of the beautiful arched internal decoration, the more than 100 external niches, most of them containing a statue, and the later added cloisters.   The tower clock (without a face) is from 1386 and the oldest working clock in the world.   And inside is one of only 4 copies of the Magna Carta.

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