Sunday, 10 August 2014




Salisbury is the only city in Wiltshire with a population of around 40,000 and is dominated by its lovely cathedral.

As the cathedral was built before the town, a walled square was built to contain houses for the clergy and this cathedral close is the largest and finest in the country.

Matron's College was built in 1682 to house clergymen's widows.

The splendid Early English cathedral was founded in 1220 and took just 38 years to build.  The magnificent landmark spire was added  from 1280, and at
404 feet is the largest spire in Britain.


The cathedral contains many treasures, not least one of four surviving copies of Magna Carta and a 600 years old clock said to be the oldest
working clock in existence

In former times the choir boys at Salisbury Cathedral elected their own 'Boy Bishop' during the feast of St Stephen and he was afforded all the duties of a Bishop, except for Mass. If the Boy Bishop died in office he was buried with the same honours due to an adult prelate with mitre and cope. The story goes that in the 17th century the choristers would tickle their Bishop when he was sad. On one occasion they overdid it and tickled him to death! A recumbent statue, thought to be the Boy Bishop, can be seen in the cathedral near to the west doors.
It should be said that a plaque records that it is thought to be the Boy Bishop but it may be that the statue covered the heart of Bishop Richard Poore (1217-1228) founder of the Cathedral whose body is buried at Tarrant Crawford in Dorset.

In the city centre St Thomas' Church, dating from 1238, has an early 16th century Doom painting showing Christ seated in judgement with
demons seizing the damned

The River Avon flows through Salisbury. A Victorian clock tower beside the bridge in Bridge Street at the commencement of Fisherton Street, rises above an unusual plinth .This was the corner of the former gaol and is all that remains of the building which dated from 1631. This remaining portion with a tiny iron barred window overlooking the river may have been used as a lock-up following the demolition of the remainder of the prison.

 The village of Great Wishford lies in the delightful Wylye Valley to the north of Salisbury.  The prices of bread since 1800 are recorded on the churchyard wall. At one time bread was sold in the semi-fluid state of dough.
Devizes is the a charming market town in the heart of Wiltshire.
Divine retribution may well have been the result of an incident in the market place at Devizes in the 18th century.  A curious inscription on the old market cross tells us that :
‘ On Thursday the 25th January 1753, Ruth Pierce of Potterne in this county,
agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat in the market,
each paying her due proportion towards the same.
One of these women, in collecting the several quarters of money discovered a deficiency, and demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum which was wanting to make good the amount.  Ruth Pierce protested that she had paid her share
and said she might drop dead if she had not.
She rashly repeated this awful wish, when, to the consternation of the surrounding multitude, she instantly fell down and expired,
having the money concealed in her hand.'
 Malmesbury is an ancient town on the River Avon in the north-west of the county.  It was granted a charter in AD880 by King Alfred the Great, making it one of England's oldest boroughs. The present parish church  is all that is left of
Malmesbury Abbey which was founded in the 7th century

Elmer, an 11th century monk at Malmesbury Abbey, thought he would be able to fly and with wings fixed to his hands and feet, he launched himself from the abbey tower.  Sadly his initiative was unsuccessful and he was lamed for life.   He is depicted in a stained glass window at the abbey.

A poignant gravestone in the churchyard is a stark reminder of the days when the Circus came to town, in this case as far back as 1703. 
33 years old Hannah Twynnoy was a maid at the White Lion Hotel in Malmsbury. 
She died on October 23rd, 1703, after being savaged by a lion.  
The epitaph on her gravestone reads :
In the bloom of life
She’s snatchd from hence
She had not room
To make defence
For Tyger fierce
Took her life away
And here she lies
In a bed of clay
Until the Resurrection Day.


The curious inn sign at  The  Smoking  Dog  Inn  at Malmesbury  depicts a dog smoking a pipe!   So what is it all about?  Apparently the inn was so named after the owners of the building found a picture of the smoking dog in the cellar.


Stourton village in the far west of Wiltshire is now part of the Stourhead estate.
Stourhead Park is amongst the finest examples of 18th century landscape gardening in the country. 
London banker, Henry Hoare 1, known as the ‘Good’ bought the old Stourton Estate in 1717, demolished the old manor house and built himself a fine new house in the Palladian style which he named Stourhead.  The family bank and the estate were subsequently inherited by his son, Henry 11 when he was only 19 years of age and, inspired by the ‘grand tour’, he commissioned paintings and sculpture to add to his fine house. True to his name of the ‘Magnificent’ he also turned his attention to creating a wonderful landscape garden in the steep sided valley alongside the house when he dammed the River Stour to create a huge lake and surrounded it with an ever changing vista of mature woodland often referred to as ‘Paradise’ which indeed it is. His masterpiece however, was to place neo-classical buildings around the lake depicting the likes of The Pantheon, The Temple of Apollo, The Temple of Flora and other Gothic ruins and caves, enhanced by a fine Palladian bridge.
The Pantheon
The Temple of Apollo
Lots of wild life
In 1763, Henry acquired the Bristol High Cross of 1373 and had it erected on a grassy mound at the head of the lake opposite Stourton church of St Peter
The much moved Bristol High Cross was originally erected in 1373 at the junction of High Street, Broad Street, Wine Street and Corn Street in the centre of Bristol. Niches contained statues of various British monarch’s. Originally guilded and coloured, it was repaired and altered in 1633 when it was repainted vermilion, blue and gold.  In 1733, because it was an obstruction in the busy streets it was move to College Green and then in 1763 it was moved into obscurity to a corner of land owned by the cathedral.  In 1763, the Dean of Bristol gave the cross to his friend Henry Hoare

A truncated replica of the cross, made in 1851, stands in Berkley Square, Bristol.



Another magnificent building on the estate is the spectacular red brick folly known as King Alfred’s Tower begun in 1762.  The Saxon King fought the Danes with his small army and won an outstanding victory to maintain England’s freedom.  Henry Hoare 11 decided to commemorate the victory by building the tower on the very spot where he believed Alfred has raised his standard in AD 878, as well as marking the accession of George 111 to the throne and peace with France at the end of the Seven Years War.  Whilst the 150ft high tower has no specific purpose, should you fancy climbing the 205 steps inside this triangular building ,the view from the top at 1000ft above sea level gives a spectacular panorama of the area.  The tower is some 2 miles from Stourhead and is reached by retracing the family’s terrace ride behind the house, a very pleasant walk above the valley of Six Wells, one of a number of way marked walks.  The tower can also be reached by road and there is a car park close by.

Somewhat overshadowed by the magnificent grounds, the house itself was designed by Colen Campbell in 1721 and contains a beautiful art collection and exquisite furniture by a young Thomas Chippendale whilst the magnificent Regency library is of particular interest.   Perhaps the greatest treasure of the house is the Pope’s Cabinet which has been recently restored to its original glory.  Acquired by Richard Hoare 1 in the mid 18thcentury, this unusual bejewelled cabinet was built in the late 16th century for Pope Sixtus V. Thirteen feet tall, it is made from marble and alabaster in the style of a Roman church and contains 150 secret drawers. The cost of restoration was £50,000  and it has been described as one of the most remarkable pieces of furniture in Europe with an estimated value of £8-12m.
There is also a walled garden with glass houses close to the house and a nearby ice house is of interest. 
The estate remained in the Hoare family until 1946 when it was bequeathed to the National Trust and much of the estate is now managed for
nature conservation.

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