We took a recent trip all the way down South, to see Texas in concert, one that had been postponed for some 3 years and when you say it out loud, it sounds completely mad. With a 3 1/2 hour road trip when needed a break on the return leg and opted to head towards Old Sarum.
Sarum was a place I had noted on another trip to see Stone Henge and Avebury a few years ago, but we did not have the time and needed to book, but with us being so close it was an easy option for a quick explore.
Sarum has seen human habitation for some 5000years, which is immense to think that at the earliest stages of man (prehistoric), this site was always deemed an important feature of the landscape. If you have ever been this way, you will notice that it has its fair share of flatness and Sarum sticks out above the surrounding landscape.
Around 400bc, early Britons built the first of many fortification upon it, consisting of enormous ditches and banks that surrounds its roughly oval shape, being close to other notable hillforts and also two of the largest stones circles on the UK, Sarum was an important settlement, looking over and controlling an import intersection of trade routes.
With the arrival of the Romans, as with most hillforts, Sarum was taken and became what is thought to be a Roman fort with a settlement outside the defended walls, this was common in the Roman period for the living and working areas to be on the outside of Roman forts, leaving the inside largely to the military, there is little known about this period of its life though. It is thought that the need for a hill fort became less and the site was slowly disused by the military, during the end of the Roman and start of the Saxon period, it is known that a mint was built on the site some evidence of a small Anglo-Saxon settlement was also found outside the ramparts.
With the arrival of the Normans, the site became once more an important site of activity and power, the Normans quickly built a motte and bailey castle, the castle now sported two sets of defenses, the inner castle and the large outer ramparts and ditch, the large scale of the outer defense meant that it could house a large number of troop, the Normans keenly spotted that as with the Iron age period, Sarum sat and at a critical intersection of trade routes.
During this period, the inner section became home to a number of buildings, mainly built of timber, with the only stone sections being the outer keep/tower, a cathedral was also built at this time and its importance as a center of power became, the Sheriffs of Wilshire setting up residence and the Cathedral becoming home to a body of clerks and scholars.
For a short period, the site was left in charge of Bishop Roger, whilst king John I was away doing kingly type business abroad. After his death around 1139, Sarum became less popular as the king lavished money on his new fancy hunting lodge by the new King John II, how ever by around 1220s with the Royals failing to maintain its upkeep and the church and crown no longer getting on (think neighbor’s from hell), the clergy moved into Salisbury and built and even grander Cathedral.
Habitation of the site hung on for a further few years, but by 1540 the castle and the dwellings outside the ramparts were no more, the castle mighty stone walls taken apart and used for other building projects.
It is said that Salisbury (new Sarum) was built founded on the aim of an archer, who stood atop Old Sarum and let an arrow fly. One theory as to how an arrow could of reached that far, is that the archer struck a deer which then ran off and died at the site of New Sarum.
Old Sarum and New Sarum has been identified and laying directly in line with the famous stone henge, leading to the theory that it sits atop a ley line.
The first cathedral had to be rebuilt after only a few weeks of being constructed, after having been struck by lightening.
The site is currently run by English Heritage, admission is £5.90 per adult and £3.50 per child, no toilets on site currently as these are being revamped.
there is a small shop that serves hot drinks from a machine, it is windy up there most ofm the