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Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most popular Cathedrals in England to visit and the spire, the tallest in England, dominates the skyline of Salisbury as you approach the city.
Every year over 600,000 visitors come from all over the world to the Cathedral and Close, the largest and best preserved Cathedral Close in Britain.
The Cathedral sits within the Close, one of the few left intact. The only way to enter the Close is still through one of the two main gates, impressive in their own right. They look like gates that are part of old medieval city walls, but the walls and gates are to keep the towns people out, not to protect the city.
The Cathedral was begun in 1220, and finished, with the exception of the tower and spire, in 1258.
Salisbury Cathedral was built after the clergy abandoned the Cathedral at Old Salisbury (Old Sarum) on the hill above modern day Salisbury. Moving down into the valley by the River Avon.
Because of the relative speed in which the Cathedral was built it is unusually complete in one style. One of the amazing facts about the Cathedral is that the foundations are only 4 feet deep. Astounding when you stand next to the immense stone structure.
The Cathedral was built as a Catholic Church but after Henry VIII the Cathedral it became Church of England.
Today it is very much a working Cathedral, opening hours are frequently changed for religious events so do check in advance.
Especially for US visitors, the highlight of a trip to Salisbury Cathedral is often seeing the Magna Carta in the Chapter House.
Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta is one of only four surviving original documents from 1215. The Magna Carta is over 800 years old and is still today a powerful symbol of social justice.
An original document drawn up to proclaim the freedoms and rights of individuals under the rule of law; this practice went on to be adopted across the globe. Magna Carta established the right of trial by jury and ensured that no one, including the crown, was above the law.
In the nave you can see what is probably the oldest working mechanical clock in the world, dating to 1386. There are no hands and no clock face; rather, it rings a chime of bells every hour. It was originally built to call the bishops to services.
For visitors this is not a Cathedral that you just wander in, there is an admission fee, (officially a donation). Most people just wander through the Cathedral, ending up at the Chapter House for the Magna Carta.
There is a good sized gift shop and restaurant by the cloisters.
Volunteer guides are very good and enthusiastic and worth taking advantage off, though on Sundays probably won't be available.
Tower Tours (extra charge) are very popular, lasting up to 2 hours and should be booked in advance.
Sundays are not a great day to visit with services, non availability of volunteer guides and often closed off sections. Access to the Chapter House and Magna Carta is not always as advertised.
Most people who just walk through the Cathedral take up to an hour, but some stay a bit longer. There is a reasonably priced self guided walking tour book available on entrance.
Allow enough time to absorb the architecture, learn a bit about the history of the cathedral and make time of course to see the Magna Carta and the oldest mechanical clock.
Just as there is more to the cathedral than the spire, so there is more to the city than the cathedral. A wide green space, The Close, surrounds the Cathedral. The Close, essentially a walled city within the city, is ringed by wonderful period houses, many of them now museums you can enter.
A perfect example of Queen Anne architecture and was built for Charles Mompesson in 1701. It is noted for its elegant and spacious interior, especially the magnificent plasterwork and fine oak staircase. See the important Turnbull collection of 18th century drinking glasses, fine period furniture and charming walled garden with its garden tea room.
Mompesson House featured as Mrs Jennings' London home in the award-winning film `Sense and Sensibility.'
Mompesson House is now owned by the National Trust.
This popular museum displays with a vast collection of artefacts from the Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiments. The Wardrobe dates from 1254 and was known as the Wardrobe having been used as a clothing and document store by bishops in the 14th century.
In addition to the museum there is a lovely mature garden with established trees, planted areas and a lawn flowing down to the river.
You can buy a ticket just to enter the garden, and an annual garden membership (for just a few pounds) is used by many locals so they can take time out in the beautiful surroundings.
The Rifleman's Table Cafe is situated next to the museum offering coffee, cake, lunches and more.
Salisbury Museum is the home of the award-winning, redesigned Stonehenge Gallery, the Monkton Deverill gold torch, and the now famous Warminster Jewel and the famous `Amesbury Archer.'
Displays include Early Man, the Romans and Saxons, history of Old Sarum and Salisbury (with the renowned Giant and Hob Nob), the Pitt Rivers collection, pottery, porcelain and Wedgwood in beautiful 17th century rooms, a pre-NHS surgery, costume, lace and embroidery.
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