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Adventures Abroad

3 September, Wednesday

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 3 September 2008 | Views [630]

Happy birthday, Wayne on this 69th anniversary of the start of World War II.

Well, the weather did permit and so Jean, Ron and I motored to Old Sarum, about an hour and half's drive from Crowthorne. We didn't know what to expect, except that this was the site of the original Salisbury Cathedral, and that it was in itself almost a city, on a hill surrounded by fortifications.

As you can see by the first few photographs, Sarum was well placed to defend itself. It was here that William the Conqueror paid off his army in 1070, after a bitter campaign in northern England and, in August 1086, he called together the land-holders of England so that they could swear allegiance to him.

Bishop Osmund's cathedral at Old Sarum had been consecrated in 1092 but tragically, five days later it was struck by lightning and badly damaged. It was quite small and between 1110 and 1135 Bishop Rogr doubled its size by enlarging the transepts and adding a huge new eastern extension, where more elaborate ceremonies could be held. Fifty years later, Bishop Joselyn de Bohun added a new west front with large corner towers.

Old Sarum cathedral was demolished in favour of a new one at Salisbury which was begun in 1220, but it wasn't until 1834 that people noticed marks in the grass that showed where the old cathedral had stood. Excavations in 1912-14 revealed the foundations seen today.

Sadly, many of the information boards, indicating what particular parts of the ruins represented, had been vandalised and it was difficult to determine what was where, especially as there wasn't a pamphlet available. However, a very helpful young lady in the ticket office/shop showed us some photos of the orignal excavations and these were very interesting.

After leaving Sarum, which had been incredibly interesting, we drove into Salisbury (New Sarum)itself, having lunch at the local bakery before descending on the Cathedral. The first sight of this beautiful building is amazing - its wonderful spire appears to stretch up to the sky and it makes you dizzy just looking up at it. Ron had brought his binoculars and it was possible to see, right up near the top, a door above which were several rungs. Apparently, when any work needs to be done to the top of the spire, the workman climbs up inside, comes out of the door, and then climbs the rest of the way up the rungs - what a job! But then again, what a view.The spire is 123m high; it was added between 1310 and 1330 and is the tallest spire in Brtain.

Inside, the cathedral does not appear as ornate as some but it has many very interesting features. One of these is the Medieval Clock, reputedly the oldest working clock in Eurpe, dating back to at least 1386. Further on are the old colours, or flags, of the former Wiltshire Regiment - they are all very tattered and torn, which makes them even more poignant.

Since the spire was added, the extra 6,500 tons of stone have caused the columns of Purbeck Marble to "bend" and it's possible to see this effect by standing beside one of the four columns supporting it inside the cathedral, and looking up. Because of this additional weight, the top of the spire has moved 75cm out of the vertical to the south-west - maybe a future leaning tower of Pisarum!!

Whilst we were in the cathedral, one of the lay preachers, Bill Camp, climbed up into the pulpit and asked those present to join him in prayer, which we did and afterwards we had a very interesting talk with him about the cathedral.

In the Morning Chapel is a screen which used to divide the Quire from the Nave and in the central arch of this screen is a memorial of Rex Whistler (no, not the one with the Mother, that was James McNeill Whistler!). The memorial is in the form of a glass prism, engraved by his younger brother Laurence and shows views of the cathedral. Also in this Chapel are two chairs on which carvings of the Green Man may be seen. Another is incorporated into one of the bosses in the ceiling, with others dotted around although we were unable to find them.

Also held at Salisbury Cathedral is the finest of only four surviving original (1215) Magna Carta, although we didn't realise this until we had left, unfortunately. Mind you, there is one copy in Parliament House, Canberra and we have seen that.

In the Trinity Chapel, behind the High Altar, is a beautiful stained glass window of mostly blue glass and above it is a Prisoners of Conscience Window, made of ceramic glass, whatever that is it is very beautiful.

This cathedral was very high on our list of "must do" and we were not disappointed; however, it was also the last of the cathedrals we have visited and that's a bit sad. We were very aware, on our way back to Crowthorne, that this had also been our last rural foray before heading back to Australia.

Tomorrow we're off to London for a tour of Buckingham Palace and that really will be our last hurrah.

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