Since returning from Portugal a weekly walk has been one of our goals. Well last week we couldn’t see how we could fit one in, until a moment of inspiration struck us.
We would divert to Old Sarum and squeeze in a quick stroll before continuing our drive down to my parents in Somerset.
Old Sarum was the original ‘Salisbury’ settlement, and there is evidence of settlement on the hill dating back to 3000BC. It was here the Roman town of Sorviodunum once stood, and where in 1086 the powerful English lords swore their allegiance to William the Conqueror. There was once a grand cathedral before it was demolished in the 13th century. A new cathedral was built in New Sarum (Salisbury) 3 miles away and as that cathedral grew so did the community around it. By the 14th century Old Sarum was virtually abandoned and in the 15th century the castle sold. They did however retain parliamentary representation until the 19th century. Old Sarum with its 3 houses, 7 voters and 2 MPs was one of the more infamous rotten boroughs!
Old Sarum is not just remembered for once being rotten. It was here the first base-line was measured by the Ordnance Survey in 1794 which enabled accurate mapping of England. Old Sarum also was one of the first historical sites in England to be protected by the new ancient monument law in 1882 and the historical records don’t stop there! The airfield opposite, which shares its name, has been in continual use since 1917 when it opened as one of the World War One training aerodromes for the Royal Flying Corps.
These days all that is left on Old Sarum hill are the cathedral foundations, castle ruins, the enormous ramparts and below ground a royal palace. It is a wonderful place to experience history, a favourite haunt for local dog walkers and offers stunning views across to Salisbury and Salisbury Plain. We didn’t have time to go inside the castle ruins but did enjoy two circuits of the hill on two different paths, and spotted more paths for a return visit. So hopefully Jo will accept Old Sarum for her Monday Walks tomorrow!
And thanks to this post I have identified a few more villages and towns to add to my ‘places to visit’. I thought I’d have a go at visiting all of the rotten boroughs. There are 57 rotten boroughs in total (a real number unlike the 57 Heinz Varieties!) and I have been to quite a few of them already. However only two – Aldebugh in Suffolk and Newtown on Isle of Wight – did I know at the time of my visits that they were once rotten. So does this mean I still have to visit 54 or can I just focus on those I’ve never been to?! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.