After reading Ken Follett’s novel, Pillars of the Earth, which loosely parallels the construction of Salisbury Cathedral, New Sarum, and having completed Edward Rutherford’s book about Sarum, it was a consensus between Bob, me and our son that we should visit Old Sarum, the location of the original Salisbury Cathedral in England.
We had visited Stonehenge early in the morning and then settled into a cozy pub for lunch after tramping 3 miles across the fields. Then, it was on to find and explore the ruins of Old Sarum. As we nosed around the crumbling walls, threatening clouds lent a sombre atmosphere to the site of the Iron Age hill fort.
After crossing a wooden footbridge, we found ourselves at the heart of a once bustling medieval castle built by William the Conqueror. Looking northeast toward the Wiltshire Plains, we could discern the footprint of the original Salisbury Cathedral where it stood in the outer bailey. Sadly, that cathedral was damaged during a severe thunderstorm in 1092, just days after being consecrated.
Old Sarum is historically important because it was the earliest settlement established in Salisbury.
Prehistoric remains dating to 3000 BC underlie the hill fort.
Over the centuries, Romans, British, Saxons and Normans each took their turn holding the fort.
It was even used as a stronghold against marauding Vikings.
The decision to move the cathedral to nearby Salisbury Plain in 1220 spelled the start of the decline for this once thriving settlement. The above sketch of Old Sarum, done by John Constable, displays the site of the abandoned hill fort in 1829.
Old Sarum was dismantled, and the stones were used in the construction of New Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral on nearby Salisbury Plain.
Today, Old Sarum is still considered one of the most important historical sites in southern England.