On the western facade of Salisbury Cathedral, you will find, in stone, the likeness of Richard Poore. He’s the one clutching a model of the cathedral. Poore oversaw the construction of the new cathedral to replace the one in nearby Old Sarum. Old Sarum was one of England’s earliest settlements, and the decision to move the cathedral to the Salisbury plain proved fatal for the town. As a new settlement grew up around Salisbury Cathedral’s construction site, the stones of Old Sarum were absconded one by one and absorbed into the new town, leaving Old Sarum absolutely bare.
Whether by good governance or luck, Richard Poore’s oversight of Salisbury’s construction went surprisingly well. The multi-generational construction schedule of many cathedrals meant that technology and styles moved faster than construction, causing an evolution in a cathedral’s character from start to finish. Not so at Salisbury. With a construction schedule of just 38 years — lightning speed at the time — Salisbury was able to remain faithful to its original early Gothic plan from start to finish, resulting in a cohesive motif and singular identity.
Another pitfall for many cathedral construction projects was their reliance on some earlier construction or constraints due to other structures. The selection of the open and flat Salisbury plain provided an unobstructed site for building and nothing impeded its speedy erection. Because of a high water table, the foundations are uncharacteristically shallow for a cathedral of such height, only about 4 feet, but this was surely known early on and accounted for in the original plan.
For both the town and cathedral, Salisbury is one of the great sights to visit in England, with an abundance of eye-opening attractions to amaze and delight: The tallest spire in Britain (404 feet), the oldest working clock in Europe (since 1386) and one of the four best-preserved original copies of the Magna Carta, one of the most celebrated documents in English History.
As at most important British landmarks, a tearoom can be found on site at the cathedral. Signage gives the tearoom equal billing with another of Salisbury’s attractions, the Magna Carta — Magna Carta to the left, tearoom to the right. In small challenges or major world events, there’s nothing that cannot be fixed with a nice cup of tea.
On the way from the cathedral to the village, keep an eye out for a blue plaque commemorating Sir William Golding, author and former teacher at the adjacent St. Bishops Wordsworth school for boys. Golding taught Philosophy and English here between 1945 and 1961. St. Bishops Wordsworth school today is one of the top performing boys-only schools in England, and it might also have been the inspiration for Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies”.
For directions and opening hours go to; www.salisburycathedral.org.uk
Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger
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