Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Old Sarum, Wiltshire

Two miles north of the modern-day Salisbury, Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury, and is situated upon a much earlier Iron Age Hillfort, the outer banks of which were created around 500 BC. However, archaeological remains reveal that the site has been occupied since Neolithic times, around 5,000 years ago. Roughly oval in shape, the hillfort consists of a bank and ditch with an entrance at the east side.

It was held by the Romans as a military station during their occupation of Britain between AD 43 and AD 410, which they named Sorviodunum, and was also later used by the Saxons. It was shortly after the Norman conquest that the motte and bailey castle in the centre of the hillfort was built, around 1069. The town was then renamed and listed in the Domesday Book as Sarisburia, from which the names Sarum and Salisbury are derived. A cathedral and bishop's palace were constructed upon the site between 1075 and 1092, and the cathedral (having suffered severe damage from a storm just 5 days after consecration), was rebuilt and finally completed between 1130 and 1139, along with a castle and stone Royal Palace on the hill site.

After relations between the castle guard and clerics of the cathedral broke down, it was decided in 1219 by the then Bishop Richard Poore to build a new cathedral  to the south. A new settlement grew around it and eventually became the city of Salisbury.

Remains of the castle keep and courtyard house walls are still extant on the site. Very little of the cathedral remains, but the outline and foundation stones can be seen.

Standing on the southern ramparts of the motte (above)...very briefly, as I'm totally acrophobic!...and looking across to Salisbury in the photo below, where the spire of Salisbury Cathedral can just be made out on the horizon.

Two years on from visiting, I'd more or less lost the plot and almost didn't include this site here. It honestly didn't grab me, plus I had no knowledge about its history at the time, but after doing some research and seeing an aerial view of it I realised just how impressive it actually is. In the Google Earth image below, the remains of the cathedral can clearly be seen in the north-west.

It was difficult to remember, or even find out, which parts of the castle were which. However, I eventually capitulated and sent off for an official English Heritage guidebook - being of the persuasion that if all else fails, read the instructions! ;) Which means I can now put names to the various bits of the castle remains. 

Some of the best remains are of the courtyard house in the inner bailey, which was a very ambitious and grand building of it's day. Below is a wall of the keep, which was situated at the west gate. I will be adding more photos and information shortly, but my website builder is under maintenance at the mo and I can't access the photos.

And finally, a view of the motte from the outer bailey below.

These and more photos can be viewed in the Photo Gallery album.

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