Visit Salisbury and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Salisbury, Wiltshire, is a delight, a town where there is no need to go looking for interests in dark corners. It is everywhere in the streets, flanked by gabled houses and buildings of all periods set in happy juxtaposition. Although architecture gracefully spans the centuries, it is all part of an original plan. Unlike Winchester, which grew up as a medieval medley, Salisbury was built on a grid or chequer system, which left space between the blocks.
Ancient medieval bridges span the river, for the city is built on the junction of the Avon and Nadder. Constable painted one of his famous pictures here. Inns date from all periods. Pepys once stayed at The Old George, sleeping in a silken bed. It was built in 1320, with later additions; the ground floor has now been removed to form the entrance to a pedestrian shopping precinct. The restaurant next door contains a splendid Jacobean staircase. Fielding lived in the Cathedral Close, though it is doubtful whether he wrote Tom Jones while there. Nell Gwynn bought a pair of scissors here for 100 guineas, and all through the ages kings, queens and the famous have visited this city. Perhaps the unhappiest was the Duke of Buckingham, beheaded as a traitor by Richard III in 1485. But most of the city's history is less gory, since it managed to escape most disturbances.
Salisbury's history dates back to the 13th century when it was decided to move the bishop's see from Old Sarum, where it had been made uncomfortable by too much wind, too little water and squabbles with the military. The site of the cathedral, or so the old story goes, was chosen by the fall of an arrow from a bow drawn at venture. The foundations were laid in 1220, and the main part of the building was complete by about 1258. It is said to have been built on woolpacks for a total sum of £27,000.
The first sight of the cathedral is particularly impressive when approached through St Ann's Gate. It soars, an elegant example of Early English architecture, built as a whole in one single style, though the magnificent spire, 404 ft tall and the highest in England, was added in the 14th century, and the cloisters and chapter house were also added later.
The west front has tier upon tier of niches, most of which stand empty. The nave, measuring 198 ft, has a clear, uncluttered beauty, little changed since it was first built. However, at the end of the 18th century James Wyatt, who enjoyed the unflattering title of ‘destroyer’, swept away screens, tombs, chantries, campanile and more, as if on some gigantic spring-clean. He is actually said to have thrown the ancient stained glass down a drain. He also rearranged the nave tombs into nice tidy lines, thus, for example, divorcing the ancient Altar of Relicks, with the niches for the sick to creep into, from the tomb of St Osmund, the patron saint of the cathedral.
However, many beautiful tombs do lie in Salisbury Cathedral, and in the north transept there is the oldest clock in England, dating back to 1386. Made in wrought iron and with no dial, it struck only the hours.
The choir has a beautiful l3th-century roof painting, covered by Wyatt, but later restored. In the octagonal chapter house the stone vaulting flies away from one single pillar, and a series of beautiful sculptures decorate a stone plinth around the walls. The library is particularly interesting for it contains many old manuscripts and documents, including a closely written copy of the Magna Carta. The medieval glass in the cloister should also be noted.
The Cathedral Close is one of the most beautiful in all England. Graves were ruthlessly swept away at the end of the 18th century, and the whole was smoothed and levelled. There has always been a tradition of good building here, and houses from various centuries harmonize gracefully. Mompesson House dates from the start of the 18th century. Built for a rich merchant, the panelling, plaster-work and superb staircase are particularly outstanding. Salisbury churches, too, are of interest. St Martin's, in the south east, is the oldest, dating back before the Early English period, but with later additions. St Thomas of Canterbury in the centre of town boasts a remarkable Doom painting over the chancel arch. It is mostly Perpendicular, as is St Edmund's, though the tower here is later.
Nearby attractions: Stonehenge
Nearby cities: Shaftesbury, Southampton, Winchester
Nearby towns: Amesbury, Andover, Fordingbridge, Romsey, Warminster
Nearby villages: Alderbury, Coombe Bissett, Stockbridge, Whaddon, Wilton
Have you decided to visit Salisbury or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Salisbury bed and breakfast (a Salisbury B&B or Salisbury b and b)
- a Salisbury guesthouse
- a Salisbury hotel (or motel)
- a Salisbury self-catering establishment, or
- other Salisbury accommodation