Archaeology weekend at Old Sarum - Sat 25th Jul 2015 - Sun 26th Jul 2015
Willing adventurers required to dig deep into Wiltshire’s past. History hunters young and old can discover artefacts from Old Sarum, find out how objects are found and preserved, and get hands-on with a spot of digging. Dirty hands are a must!
Periods: Prehistory, Saxons and Vikings, Romans
English Heritage respond to criticism of scrub clearance
From Salisbury Journal 11/2/2010:
English Heritage has hit back at criticism of its management of Old Sarum (the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury, in England, containing evidence of human habitation as early as 3000 BCE) as a fresh round of scrub clearance gets under way... continues...
Old Sarum could be considered as similar to Avebury in terms of its scale, both in its earthly size and its mysterious Lay-Line energy. It has also witnessed many events that have created the kingdom(s) we live in today.
The site is run by English Heritage, but it is only the inner section that the visitor is required to pay an entrance fee (£3.70) to experience. The site is a jewel-in-the-crown kinda place and you should check the EH Old Sarum events page before you decide to visit. The bulk of the site is open 24-7 and public foot paths allow access to all the Neolithic outer banks and ditches, just like Avebury. Parking in the car park is free, although you may be asked to move on at dusk. Boo. There is a campsite next to Old Sarum at Hudson's Field, Castle Road, Salisbury SP1 3RR (01722-320713)
An excellent network of cycle tracks lead directly from Salisbury City centre, the Railway Station and the Coach parks. These connect up to many of the monuments that make up the Stonehenge sacred landscape and the WHS.
I had never actually been up to Old Sarum before, though have passed it many times. Today to celebrate the new year I travelled down to Salisbury with a friend intending to walk up to Old Sarum along the River Avon and through water meadows. The weather forecast was for the rain to hold off until late afternoon, this proved incorrect as we just made it to the village of Stratford Sub Castle when heavy rain set in. Not wearing a waterproof jacket today so just at the foot of Old Sarum we decided to turn back, although we still got a soaking. No matter, as we started our return walk a lone swan circled us in flight, always a rare and wonderful sight.
We decided to drive up to Old Sarum on the way back; as reported in the News Section about winter closures there were indeed closed signs. The hillfort is open to walkers, however, as I spotted a stoical runner go through the gate. My friend parked the car for a few moments by the entrances to the hillfort where we stood in the rain looking towards Salisbury Cathedral - just visible through the rain. We also had a very good view of the deep ramparts of the hillfort.
Travelled back via Stonehenge which looked majestic and beautiful in the rain - the umbrellas of the visitors adding colour to a scene which otherwise would have been rain swept monochrome.
Visited last year as part of my on-going project to try to visit every E.H. site (all 400 of them!). The site can be seen for miles around and is well sign posted. There is a car park with toilets, although you do have to pay to enter the centre of the site. The outer sections can be seen without having to pay. Nice views down into Salisbury which I hope to have a day exploring sometime in the future.
Site needs to be visited to appreciate the scale of the construction. Unfortunately we visited on a day that a historical military event was being held. We had to pay five pounds entrance even though we weren't really interested in the event. Couldn't really get a feel for the place with so many people about and so much going on. Will visit again and check the events diary before leaving home.
The Original earthwork at Old Sarum probably dates back to the Iron Age but may be earlier, although it was altered over the centuries. The mound in the centre of the earthworks was built in Norman times. The remains of Norman buildings can be seen as well as the foundations of the original Cathedral, abandoned in the 1400's when the town moved to New Sarum, Salisbury.
I'd not thought of this, but the trouble with putting your cathedral in a fort is that all the soldiers get in the way. Apparently.
One its short sheep-bitten turf may yet be traced, in dry weather, the outlines of the foudation walls of its ancient and once splendid cathedral, built by Bishop Osmond - the Conqueror's nephew - but transferred by Bishop Poore in 1220, from that bleak and barren position, into the sheltered vale and fertile meadows of the fishy Avon beneath. Old Aubrey gives the following version of the cause of its removal, which he says he had from Bishop Seth Ward, who extracted it from the musty records of the cathedral.
The old church in the castle of Old Sarum being seated so high was so obnoxious to the weather that when the wind did blow they could not heare the priest say masse. But this was not the only inconvenience. The soldiers of the castle and the priests could never agree; and one day when they were gone without the castle in procession, the soldiers kept them out all night, or longer. Whereupon the bishop, although much troubled, cheered them up as well as he could, telling them he would study to accommodate them better. In order thereunto he rode several tymes to the Lady Abbesse at Wylton to have bought or exchanged a piece of ground with her ladyship to build a church and homes for the priests. A poor woman at Quidhampton that was spinning in the street, sayd to one of her neighbours, "I marvell what the matter is that the bishop makes so many visits to my lady; I trow he intends to marry her." Well the bishop and her ladyship could not conclude about the land, and the bishop dreamt that the Virgin Mary came to him and told him she would have him build his church at Merrifield, and dedicate it to her. Merrifield was a great meadow where the city of New Sarum now stands and did belong to the bishop, as now the whole city belongs to him.
From an article about books on Wiltshire in 'The Quarterly Review' for January 1858.
To fill out what Purejoy was saying: Old Sarum was the most notorious 'rotten borough'. It obviously it is / was no laughing matter but the style of this reminded me of a C19th Mark Steel:
.."Rotten Boroughs," i.e., towns which, centuries ago had a flourishing existence, continuing to send representatives to Parliament long after any human being had made his local habitation therein, and whose very names would have perished from the land, but that they were annually recorded on the Parliamentary rolls.
One of these has been immortalised by the discussions on the Reform bill -- Old Sarum. Not a soul had dwelt there since the Tudors ascended the English throne - not a tenement had been seen there since Columbus discovered America - nor could the vestiges of its ruins be traced by the antiquarian eye of a Champollion or a Stephens.
This sand-hill, in 1832, sent as many members to Parliament as Lancashire, with a population of a million and a half.
From 'Sketches of Reforms and Reformers' by H Brewster Stanton (1850) p166 - on Google Books.
Entrance is an absolute snip at 2 quid for adults. This is a really impressive place steeped in history all the way from the Iron Age to the political 'rotten boroughs' dealt with in the Reform Act of 1832.
Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Salisbury Cathedral and Clearbury Ring Hillfort are part of what is often considered one of the ‘best’ leylines. The latter three are often shown clearly in photographs.