The cathedral city of Salisbury is justifiably popular as a tourist destination. Its a cosmopolitan city, with many intriguing older buildings, museums and places to visit including the lovely Cathedral itself. But just 2 miles up the road from Cricket Field House towards Stonehenge lies Old Sarum, the original site of Salisbury!
Old Sarum is approached via an opening in two high Iron Age banks, which obscure the site from outside, and give it the air of a mysterious hidden castle. The banks were begun almost 5000 years ago, and remained intact until the Roman invasion. The Romans installed a garrison in the river valley below the site and it was probably used as a market centre. At this time it was called Sorviodunum.
Following the departure of the Romans the Saxons may have used the site, but when the Normans came they quickly realised its strategic importance and constructed a motte and bailey castle within the old earthworks.
This was replaced by a stone keep in 1100, and a royal palace was erected within the banks in 1130. In the meantime the first cathedral on the site was completed in 1092, but it burned down only 5 days after it was consecrated. A new, larger cathedral was completed around 1190.
Relations between the clerics of the cathedral and the castle guard were punctuated with outbreaks of petulance and occasional violence. The churchmen became so exasperated that in 1219 Bishop Richard Poore decided that enough was enough, and he decided to build a new cathedral at a location several miles to the south. Legend has it that he asked an Archer to let fly an arrow and where it landed would be the new site for the new cathedral. However it is assumed that the arrow must have hit an animal like a deer, and that this animal ran, wounded, until it finally laid down and died at the site where Salisbury Cathedral can be found. Otherwise the Archer must have had super human strenth and a bow the size of a small car!! Anyway a settlement grew up around the site of the new cathedral, and it is this settlement that is the modern city of Salisbury.
With the shift of settlement away from Old Sarum to New Sarum (Salisbury) the old site lapsed and the castle fell into disuse. Despite the fact that the site was derelict, Old Sarum continued to send a representative to Parliament until the mid 19th century.
Today, visitors can see remains of both the castle and the second cathedral, though little of that building exists beyond an outline of the walls on the grass. English Heritage, who administer the site, will arrange special guided tours for groups who book ahead.
Alternatively, I can help you organise a tour of the site as well as The Cathedral and Stonehenge. It is a fantastic day out and you will get a real sense of the history of the area around our beautiful city.