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Salisbury, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Salisbury, an episcopal city, three parishes, and a municipal and parliamentary borough in Wiltshire, and a diocese partly also in Dorsetshire and Berks. The city stands at the confluence of the Upper Avon, the Bourn, the Wiley, and the Nadder rivers, 28½ miles W of Winchester, and 82 by road and 83½ by railway SW by W of London. Its site is part of a green valley, among extensive breezy downs; and its environs are enriched with villas and mansions, including Clarendon Park, Trafalgar House, Longford Castle, and Wilton House. It has excellent communication with all parts of the kingdom by means of the G.W.R. and L. & S.W.R.

History.-The city originated about 1220 in the desertion of Old Sarum, 2 miles to the N, and it bears the alternative name of New Sarum. It was called " Sorbiodunum " by the Romans. Its name in old documents was Sarisbyrig or Saresbury-a name previously borne by Old Sarum, and signifying " the dry town," and that name was gradually corrupted into Salisbury. The inhabitants of Old Sarum migrated to New Sarum in consequence of the scarcity of water. They began to remove in the time of Richard I., and the old town was totally deserted by Henry VII.'s reign. The new city shares the historical reminiscences of the old one, " the Wiltshire Nineveh," from the times of the ancient Britons, through those of the Romans, the Saxons, and the Danes, to those of William the Conqueror, of William Rufus, of Henry I., of the Empress Maud, and of Henry II., who all made a figure at Old Sarum, and it may be said to claim as its own the desolate remains of that old city and the remains of ancient neighbouring camps. But it was made independent of Old Sarum so early as 1244 by the diversion to it of the Great Western Road or "Wilt Way." It was constituted a borough or free city by Henry III., was the meeting-place of a parliament of Edward I. in 1297, was walled in 1315, was the meeting-place of a parliament of Edward III. called to impeach Mortimer in 1328, and from its position on the Great Western Road was in all times of civil commotion a post of importance, and a place of transit for troops. The contending parties in the wars of the Barons and the Roses gave it considerable disturbance, the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded in its market-place by order of Richard III. in 1483, the Royalists and the Parliamentarians alternately occupied it in the Civil Wars of Charles I., an abortive rising of Penruddock, Wyndham, and others occurred in it on behalf of Charles II. in 1665, the army of James II. was concentrated at it to oppose the anticipated landing of the Prince of Orange in 1688, and the Prince himself triumphantly entered it on his way to London on 4 Dec. of the same year. The city was visited in 1258 by Henry III., in 1457 by Henry VI., in 1478 by Edward IV., in 1486 by Henry VII., in 1516 and 1535 by Henry VIII., in 1574 by Elizabeth, in 1603 and on seven other occasions by James I., in 1625, 1632, and 1635 by Charles I., in 1651 after the battle of Worcester and under hiding by Charles II., in 1678 again by Charles II., in 1688 to oppose the Prince of Orange by James II., in 1722 by George I., in 1778 by George III. and his queen, and in 1846 by Queen Victoria. Cardinal Winterburne of the 13th century; Provost Herman, who died in 1535; Bishop Thornborough, 1552-1641; Philip Massinger the dramatic poet, born in 1584; Matthew the Jesuit, 1577-1655; Maschiart or Mackert, who died in 1598; Coryat, who died in 1606; Bishop Hyde, who died in 1667; Bishop Ward, who died in 1676; Dr Bennet the orientalist, 1673-1728; Ditton the mathematician, 1675-1715; Chubb the deist, 1700-47; W. Lawes and H. Lawes the musicians, who died in 1645 and 1662; Hayter the theologian; Dr Harris, author of "Hugh Peter's Life," born in 1720; James Harris, author of " Hermes," 1709-80; the Earl of Malmesbury, 1746-1820; Tobin, author of the " Honeymoon," born in 1770; J. Feltham, Pitt Earl of Chatham, and Henry Fawcett, postmaster-general, were natives. Joseph Addison was educated at the grammar school, and the family of Cecil take from the city the title of Marquis. John of Salisbury, Bishop of Chartres, who made a great figure in the 12th century, was born at Old Sarum.

Structure.-The site of the city, before the erection of any buildings, was partitioned into squares or 11 chequers." The principal streets in consequence run in parallels from N to S and from E to W, and cross one another at right angles, or nearly so, while the houses are arranged in rectangular groups, with central spaces for yards and gardens, so that the entire city presents an aspect of regularity and airiness. Bricked channels, locally called canals, and swept by copious streamlets from the river, traverse the principal streets, were at one time open, and crossed by numerous tiny bridges, and occasioned the city to be described as a " heap of islets thrown together," and even to be compared to Venice; but these channels have all been covered in. The extensive sewerage and other sanitary improvements have effectively drained every part of the city; large works have been erected on the north-east side of the town which supply it with water of a very pure quality. Some of the houses exhibit curious specimens of ancient domestic architecture, and have gable-ends of brick and timber-work covered with plaster. Two bridges, each with six arches, span the Avon, and connect the city with Fisherton Anger and Crane. A ten-arched bridge connects on the east with East Harnham; it was built in 1244 by Bishop Bingham, and rests at the middle on an islet. The chapel (St John's) still stands, but is converted into a private dwelling-house. The market-place, in the centre of the city, is an open area surrounded by shops and public buildings. The town-hall or council and session-house stands at the SE corner of the market-place, was rebuilt in 1788-95 after designs by Taylor, is a white brick edifice with rustic stone quoins and cornices, and with a Doric portico, and contains a hall 75 feet by 24, with portraits of Camden, the author of " The Britannia," James I., Queen Anne, the Earl of Radnor, John Duke of Somerset, Sir R. Hyde, Sir S. Eyre, Sir T. White, W. Hussey, W. Chiffinch, Bishop Ward, Bishop Fisher, Bishop Hamilton, and Henry Fawcett. The corn exchange stands at the NW corner of the market-place, was erected in 1858-59, and is connected by a branch railway with the railway stations at Fisberton. The county hall, erected in 1889, is a handsome and commodious building in the Queen Anne style, and is admirably adapted for concerts, lectures, public meetings, and exhibitions; the interior of the hall is most artistic and elegant. A curious old hexagonal Gothic structure called the Poultry Cross, stands off the SW corner of the market-place, is supported by buttresses, and has a conical roof; seems from its style to have been erected in the 16th century, and was thoroughly restored in 1855. A monument to Sidney Herbert stands in the market-place, was erected in 1863, and consists of a bronze statue 9 feet high by Marochetti on a pedestal of polished marble 10 feet high. A statue was erected in 1887 in honour of Henry Fawcett, M.P., who was born in 1833 in a house nearly opposite to where the statue stands. The Blue Boar Row Church House stands near Cranebridge, was originally a mansion of the Earl of Castlehaven, dates from the latter part of the 15th century, and has a gate-house and a bay window. The banqueting hall of John Halle, a wealthy woolstapler of the times of Henry VII. and Edward IV., was built in 1470, and restored by Pugin in 1834, is an interesting specimen of the domestic architecture of its period, and has a lofty timber roof with insertions of plaster scollop-work, and four stained-glass windows with devices of the royal house of York. The quondam George Inn in High Street figures in Pepys' Diary, and is a good 15th century timber house, with an outer gallery. The quondam Joiners' hall, in St Anne Street, retains a front of the time of Queen Elizabeth. There are newsrooms, assembly rooms, and a theatre. The Victoria Park, distant about half a mile from the market-place, is the permanent local memorial of the Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria; it consists of 16 acres, and has been laid out partly as gardens, and the remainder for cricket, tennis, football, and cycling.

The Cathedral.-The original cathedral stood at Old Sarum. The present cathedral was founded at Salisbury in 1220, partially opened in 1225, and mainly completed in 1263 at a cost of about £26,666. It received addition of cloisters and chapter-house in 1263-70; of the upper part of the tower and the spire about 1330-40; of the Beauchamp chapel, now destroyed, on the S side of the Lady chapel, in 1450-82; of Lord Hungerford's chantry, now destroyed, in 1476; and of the chantry chapel, on the N side of the choir, in 1502-24. Alterations were made on it, under direction of James Wyatt, at a cost of £26,000; but these obliterated paintings, destroyed porches, reredos, and screens, removed a separating screen between the Lady chapel and the presbytery, and altogether were of a character more destructive than improving. A sinking of tower and spire took place as early as 1415, such as to throw them 24½ inches out of the perpendicular on the S, and 16½ inches on the W, and to occasion preservative measures to be taken under direction of Sir C. Wren; and though no further sinking was ever afterwards perceptible, some fear eventually arose that they were insecure. Sir Gilbert Scott made a careful survey of the entire pile in 1864; pronounced the tower and spire decidedly unsafe, and the body of the cathedral in a bad state of repair; explained the methods which would require to be adopted for effecting restoration; and estimated the cost at £50,000. His suggestions were subsequently carried out, and the whole building is now in an excellent state of preservation. Excepting features of rich Decorated English in the later portions, the cathedral is all Early English, pure and highly ornate; and it has a perfect ground plan, a finely symmetrical adjustment, and a sort of pyramidal external disposition. It comprises a ten-bayed nave, 229 feet long, 78 wide, and 81 high, with aisles; a northern porch; a four-bayed main transept, 206 feet long, 57 wide, and 81 high, with an aisle once containing a chapel; a central tower of three stages, surmounted by an octagonal spire rising to the height of 404 feet; a six-bayed choir, 151½ feet wide, 78 long, and 91 high, with aisles; a three-bayed choir transept, 145 feet long, 44 wide, and 81 high, with an aisle; a Lady chapel, 69½ feet long, 37 wide, and 40 high, with aisles; a cloister on the S side, 182 feet long, 18 wide, and 18 high; and a chapter-house to the E, 58 feet in diameter and 53 high. The length of the whole is 450 feet, and the circuit of the exterior walls is half a mile. The W front is an exquisite composition in five storeys, pierced in the centre by the great W doorways and window, and surmounted at the sides by towers, and it once had so many as 123 statues. The great tower is crowned at the angles by octagonal turrets terminating in crocketed spirelets, and the spire springs from the midst of these spirelets, presents canopied spire lights to the points of the compass, and soars into conspicuousness over a great extent of country. The E part of the choir consists of a steep gable set between two octagonal turrets with lofty spirelets. The chapter-house is an octagonal structure, with roof supported by a central pier of slender clustered shafts, and was restored in 1856 in memorial of the late Bishop Denison at a cost of more than £7000.

The chief monuments in the cathedral are-in the nave, one of Lord Wyndham by Rysbrach; in the N side of the nave, an alabaster effigies of Sir John Cheney, altar-tomb of Lord Hungerford, altar-tombs and effigies of the Hon. J. De Montacute and the second Earl of Salisbury, and a bas-relief of a bishop supposed to be of the 13th century; in the S side of the nave, effigies of the first Earl of Salisbury and Bishop De la Wyle, an altar-tomb of Lord Stourton, an alabaster effigies of another Lord Hungerford, an altar-tomb of Bishop Beauchamp, and two bas-reliefs of the 12th century; in the main transept, altar-tombs of Bishops Woodville and Blythe, monuments by Flaxman of B. Earie and W. Long, a monument by Bacon of J. Harris, a monument by Chantrey of the first Earl of Malmesbury, a canopied effigies of Bishop Metford, and a monument by Pugin of Lieutenant Fisher; in the presbytery, a chantry of Bishop Audley, and canopied arches of Bishops Bingham and William of York; in the choir transept, an altar-tomb and marble effigies of Bishop Poore, an incised brass of Bishop Wyville, and a tomb and small chantry of Bishop Bridport; in the Lady chapel, an effigies of Sir T. Gorges, a floriated tablet of Bishop Mortival, an effigies of Sir T. Mompesson, an altar-tomb of Bishop Capon, effigies of the Earl and Countess of Hertford, and an altar-tomb of Chancellor W. Wilton. The monument of Bishop Moberly consists of an arched recess, with gabled and traceried panels, erected in 1885. A close or walled precinct of about half a square mile in area surrounds the cathedral, has three gates on the S, the E, and the N, and is adorned with ample verdure and magnificent trees. The bishop's palace contains a feudal hall, built in 1460, and hung with portraits of the bishops since the Restoration. A house, formerly a canon's, near the E gate, is surmounted by a double gable, and was the residence of Archdeacon Coxe, author of the " Life of Marlborough," and of Canon Bowles the poet. The king's house on the W side of the close, takes its name from having been the lodging-place of James I. on his visit to the city of Salisbury, and is an ivy-clad Tudor edifice of the 15th century. Bishop Ward's College, near the N gate, is an institution founded in 1682 for ten widows of clergymen.

The Diocese.-The see was originally disjoined from the see of Sherborne and established at Wilton in 905; was removed to Old Sarum in 1072, and was removed thence to Salisbury in 1258. Among the bishops have been Osmund, the compiler of the Sarum Use; Roger, the chancellor; Poore, the architect; Wyville, who sent a wager of battle to Montacute, Earl of Sarum; Waltham, who was lord chancellor; Hallam, who became cardinal; Ayscough, who was murdered by Jack Cade; Woodville, who suffered great domestic reverses; Blythe, who was master of the rolls; Campeggio, the cardinal; Jewell, the studious; Seth Ward, the founder of the clergymen's widows' college; Burnet, the well-known voluminous author; Hoadly, Sherlock, Douglas, and Burgess. Among the dignitaries have been Fuller, N. Spinkes, W. L. Bowles, J. Bampton, who founded the Bampton lectures at Oxford, and eleven who became cardinals. Hooker, Pearson, and Butler were also canons. The cathedral establishment includes the bishop, the dean, a precentor, a chancellor of the church, a treasurer, three archdeacons, a succentor, four residentiary canons, thirty-nine prebendaries, a chancellor of the diocese, and four minor canons. The income of the bishop is £5000 per annum. The income of the dean was intended to be £1000 and that of each canon £500, but owing to depreciation of the value of the estates of late years they have not reached much more than half these amounts. The diocese comprehends all Dorset, all Wilts, except the deaneries of Cricklade and Malmesbury and part of Hungerford parish, and a pendicle of Berks forming part of Chilton Foliatt parish, and is divided into the archdeaconries of Salisbury, Wilts, and Dorset. The population of the diocese is 369,996.

Churches, &c.-St Edmund's Church was founded in 1268, by Bishop De la Wyle, as a collegiate church; lost its tower in 1653; was rebuilt in the Later English style; and has a new chancel after designs by Sir G. G. Scott, and an E window by Clayton and Bell; the tower was restored in 1889. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Salisbury; gross value, £300 with residence. Patron, the Bishop. St Martin's Church, the most ancient in the city, was thoroughly restored in 1886; has some Early English windows, some Later English, and a spire, and contains a brass of 1586. The living is a rectory; value, £70 with residence. Patron, the Bishop. St Thomas' Church was originally built in 1240 as a chapel of ease to the cathedral; is now Later English, with numerous windows, and with a roof of carved timber; contains a tomb supposed to be that of the Duke of Buckingham, and monuments of the Eyres. The living is a vicarage; gross value, £300 with residence. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury. A handsome Roman Catholic church was built in 1849, after a design by½Pugin. There are Congregational, Baptist, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan, and Christian Brethren chapels. Two ultra-mural cemeteries have been formed-the one of 8 acres, about a mile to the NE of the city; the other of 4 acres, on the Devizes Road-and both have mortuary chapels. A college was founded in 1260 by Bishop Egidins, and some ruins of its walls and chapel still exist. A Grey friary was founded in 1227 by Bishop Poore, a Black friary in 1270 by Archbishop Kilwardy, and an hospital of St John by some other person; but all these three have entirely disappeared. A training school for female teachers is in the cathedral close. A school for the cathedral choristers also is there, and had Harris, the author of "Hermes," for a pupiL Another grammar school in the city was founded by Queen Elizabeth, and had Addison for a pupil. There is a school of science and art, and a museum for the early stone antiquities collected by Squier, Davis, and Blackmore was built in 1867 and enlarged in 1895. Bishop Ward's College for clergymen's widows, already noticed, has £654 a year from endowment, and a public library. The city contains a number of hospitals and asylums for the aged and infirm, and charitable institutions for educational purposes. There are also four suites of almshouses, an infirmary, and a lunatic asylum.

Trade, &c.-The city has a head post office, four banks, is a seat of petty sessions, quarter sessions, and assizes, and publishes four weekly newspapers. A corn market is held on every Tuesday, a general market on every Saturday, a cattle market on every alternate Tuesday, and a cheese market on the second Thursday in each month; fairs are held on 15 July for sheep, and on the third Tuesday and Wednesday in October for pleasure. Woollen manufacture and the making of ornamental cutlery were formerly extensive, but have entirely disappeared, and the principal trade now is in agricultural produce. The city sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till the Redistribution of Seats Act in 1885, when the number was reduced to one. It is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors. Area of the parliamentary borough, 908 acres; of the municipal, 3222 acres; population of the parliamentary borough, 17,362; of the municipal, 15,533. The population of the ecclesiastical parishes are:-Liberty of the Close, 684; St Edmund, 3649; St Martin, 6410; and St Thomas of Canterbury, 1729.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWiltshire 

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RegionSouth West
Postal districtSP1
Post TownSalisbury