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Old Sarum, Wiltshire

Historical Description

Sarum, Old, a quondam city and an extra-parochial tract in Wiltshire. The city stood on a lofty eminence on the S border of Salisbury Plain, nearly midway between the rivers Avon and Bourn, and on Icknield Street, at a convergence of Roman roads from Winchester, Silchester, Speen, the Severn, and Dorchester, 2 miles N of Salisbury; occupied the site of the Roman station Sorbiodunum; was known to the Saxons as Searebyrig or Sarisbyrig, signifying " the dry town;" was taken from the Britons in 552 by the Saxon king Cynric or Kenric; is supposed to have been re-fortified, with addition of outer entrenchment, in 871 by Alfred; was the meeting-place of a wittenagemot of Edgar in 960 to concert a defence of England against the Danes; became the seat of a diocese in 1072, by removal to it of the see of Sherborne or Wilton; and was the meeting-place of a great council in 1086, convoked by the Conqueror to establish the feudal system. It had its cathedral completed and formally opened in 1092; was the meeting-place of a council of William Rufus in 1096; was visited by Henry I. in 1100,1106, and 1116; was taken and damaged by the Empress Maud, in her wars with Stephen; was partly restored, and had a castle rebuilt, by Henry II.; began to decline at the removal of its see to Salisbury in 1220; continued to be a resort of kings and a place of national councils down to the 15th century; but sank afterwards into such desolation as not to have one inhabited house. The town sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I., and continued to send them till disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832; is now represented by only remains of ditches and ramparts, enclosing an area of about 75 acres; had suburbs extending beyond these limits a considerable way down the hill; presents now a dreary surface, partly under the plough, partly in a state of waste; and commands a very fine view over Salisbury Plain and along the valley of the neighbouring rivers. The extra-parochial tract includes the quondam city, and bears the alternative name of Old Castle. Population, 13.

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 
Civil parishStratford Under The Castle 
Poor Law unionAlderbury 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Old Sarum from the following:


Online maps of Old Sarum are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Wiltshire papers online:

RegionSouth West
Postal districtSP4
Post TownSalisbury