48 Hours in... Salisbury for Wiltshire magazine
PUBLISHED: 16:22 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 February 2013
With beautifully restored buildings around every corner, the compact city centre is a photographer's paradise, as Caroline Rippier discovers
48 Hours in... Salisbury
With beautifully restored buildings around every corner, the compact city centre is a photographers paradise, as Caroline Rippier discovers
A surprising number of visitors to Salisbury ask the way to the Cathedral. We can see it but we cant work out how to get there, they say, looking rather sheepish. Sure enough, that wonderful spire, soaring 404 feet into the sky, is visible from miles around, as well as in the city centre, but you probably need a sixth sense to find it without the aid of a map. Spend a couple of days in the city, however, and you can really get to know your way around.
Where to start?
First-time visitors to the city would do well to head straight for the award-winning Tourist Information Centre, situated at the rear of the 18th-century Guildhall, where walks led by qualified Blue Badge guides are available.
Ensuring your visit coincides with one of the twice-weekly market days (Tues and Sat) will set you on the path to finding out about Salisburys heritage. Held in the magnificent Market Square for more than 700 years, the markets character has evolved over the years but at least there is no chance of a bullock running amok nowadays because the livestock section was relocated in the 1950s.
The central part of the city is compact. Contained within the 1960s ring road on the northern and eastern sides, there are medieval half-timbered houses and shops, as well as many buildings whose Georgian faades hide their medieval origins. When the city was founded in the 13th century, it was laid out in a grid pattern and each section was called a chequer. These chequers were often named after the pubs within them, hence the Cross Keys Chequer, for instance, which is now a small shopping centre minus its pub.
Once there were more than 100 pubs in the city. Many have closed but their names live on. Another example, the Old George in the High Street, was a well-known coaching inn that numbered Samuel Pepys among its patrons. It became a shopping mall in the 1960s, although some of the original timbers can still be seen at the entrance. Queen Street has the House of John APort, Minster Street has its Haunch of Venison, a venerable pub with a spooky mystery inside, and then there is the cinema in New Canal. There can be few cities whose multi-screen cinema is housed in the former home of a 15th-century merchant.
Shopping and Entertainment
From niche shops like Dauwalders stamps and comics at 42 Fisherton Street, to Dinghams kitchenware just
to the west of the Market Place, there are shopping opportunities galore. There is a huge variety of small antiques in the three-storey Catherine Street Antiques Market, and do make the effort to visit Fisherton Mill at 108 Fisherton Street. It not only houses a wonderful caf but is also one of the largest galleries in the south of England with artwork arranged over two floors. Salisbury has a great musical heritage and, of course, the Cathedral choir is world-famous. There are also many amateur choirs and ensembles, and a handful of orchestras based here. Time your visit right and you could include a visit to a concert by Sarum Orchestra, Salisbury Symphony Orchestra, or Salisbury Sinfonia. If you prefer choirs, choose a weekend when Salisbury Musical Society (large choir), the Farrant Singers, Sarum Consort or Sarum Voices are performing.
It is not just music that generates life in the city for there is also Salisbury Playhouse, the repertory theatre with a national reputation, the City Hall and Salisbury Arts Centre in the former St Edmunds Church where a wide variety of performing and visual arts are staged.
Heritage and Treasures
As you wander the city youll come across Civic Society plaques. In Catherine Street, high on an opticians front wall, and vying with a burglar alarm box, Benjamin Banks (1727-95) is remembered. He gained a national reputation for the quality of his stringed instruments.
City son Henry Fawcett (1833-84), the blind Radical politician and postmaster general, is commemorated in a larger-than-lifesize bronze
in the Market Place, although somewhat shrouded by trees most of
Once you make your way into the Cathedral Close head east along
the North Walk until you reach No 11, part of Bishop Wordsworths School. Here is the blue plaque that remembers William Golding (1911-93), author of Lord of the Flies. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1983, he taught English at the school from 1945-62.
It would be easy to spend a whole day in The Close because there is so much to explore. Three hundred yards west of the Golding plaque there is one of my favourites, the early 18th-century Mompesson House and garden, owned by the National Trust. Nearby, on the West Walk, is the Rifles Museum housed in The Wardrobe, and further south, at No 65, is the Kings House, home to Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. It contains magnificent permanent collections, including the Stonehenge Gallery, and an ever-changing programme of one-off exhibitions and free workshops for all the family.
The Cathedral itself is a veritable treasure house. Well-informed guides will supply you with the essential historical facts and figures, and you will see for yourself Europes oldest working clock and the beautiful font by William Pye that was installed in 2008. Contemporary creativity plays
a big role in the Cathedral and its surroundings, with 20th- and 21st-century sculptures, glass engravings and stained glass windows.
Dont leave before visiting the Chapter House where you will see the Magna Carta and the priceless and beautiful collection of diocesan silver. A visit to the shop and restaurant is also a must, if only to appreciate the wonderful view of the spire through the glass roof.
One of the best ways to appreciate Salisburys setting is from the
top of the Cathedral tower. From just below the spire, 225 feet up,
you can clearly see the surrounding rivers, the world-famous water meadows and the site of the old city, Old Sarum, to the north. Guided tower tours are available throughout the year and advance booking is recommended.
Ready for something to eat?
There is no need to go hungry anywhere in Salisbury. Try The Lemon Tree in Crane Street, Charter 1227 in the Market Square, Anokaa (contemporary Indian) in Fisherton Street, or perhaps try some delicacies at Thai Sarocha in New Street or The Jade Chinese restaurant in Exeter Street.`
For light refreshments as you explore the city, make a bee-line for Bird & Carter, the deli and coffee shop in Fish Row. Take home a jar of Annies home-made relish (just delicious) and try Joffs baklava (too good to be missed). There are also good cakes and ptisserie available at the Salisbury Chocolate Bar & Ptisserie in the High Street and at the Polly Tearoom by St Thomass Church.
Suitably refreshed, and after a day or two in the city, you will not only be well placed to direct confused visitors to the Cathedral but you will want to come back again yourself.
St Thomass: the city centre church with its ancient Doom Painting and contemporary oak Peoples Vestry serving refreshments on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
Queen Elizabeth Gardens: affectionately known to locals as Lizzie Gardens, with daffodils and magnolias in spring, swans and little egrets nesting, and the River Nadder and River Avon flowing on either side.
The Town Path: walk across the water meadows to the Old Mill, Harnham, to appreciate Constables view of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral: seek out the heart-rending memorial plaque in the St Edmund and St Thomas Chapel, and (until mid-April) see Charlotte Mayers sculpture, The Thornflower, in the Morning Chapel.
The Guildhall: includes the Grand Jury Room upstairs, and a display of city silver including the massive basting spoon and unique ceremonial maces. The Victoria Cross awarded to Thomas Adlam of Salisbury in the First World War is also displayed here and his portrait hangs on the stairs. Essential to call first: 01722 412144. Closes April for refurbishment.
Salisbury International Arts Festival: 21 May 5 June. 0845 241 9651.
Tourist Information Centre & guided walks: 01722 334956
Salisbury Cathedral (tower tours): 01722 555156
Salisbury Cathedral (general enquiries): 01722 555120
Mompesson House: (opens Good Friday) 01722 420980
Forthcoming concerts: www.musicinsalisbury.org
Salisbury Playhouse: 01722 320333
City Hall: 01722 434434
Salisbury Arts Centre: 01722 321744