Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

SALISBURY, a city, having separate civil jurisdiction, locally in the hundred of Underditch, county of WILTS, 82 miles (S.W. by W.) from London, containing 8763 inhabitants. This city owes its origin to the ruin of Old Sarum, where the bishops of the diocese of Wiltshire had fixed their seat; which place being very inconvenient, from its exposed situation on an eminence, want of water, and from its military tenants, who not only levied contributions on their property, but insulted the priests in the exercise of their devotions, they solicited permission to transfer the see to a more appropriate situation. Bishop Poore having obtained license from Pope Honorius, selected the site of the present city, which lies in a pleasant vale, about two miles from the remains of Old Sarum, and laid the foundation of the present magnificent cathedral in the year 1220.

The completion of that edifice was soon followed by the removal not only of the members of the establishment, but also of the inhabitants, who gradually deserting the old town, and building houses near the new cathedral church, Salisbury soon increased in extent, and grew into importance. Its progress was much accelerated by a charter of Henry III., constituting the new establishment a free city, and conferring on the inhabitants the same privileges and immunities as were enjoyed by the inhabitants of Winchester. This monarch also empowered the bishop to surround the city and the cathedral close with walls and ditches, to repair the roads and bridges, and to levy tallage for the completion of the walls.

Disputes, however, arising between the bishop and the citizens respecting these aids, in the reign of Edward I., both parties appealed to the king in council, and that monarch, deciding in favour of the bishop, deprived the citizens of their charter, which was subsequently restored to them upon an amicable arrangement of the dispute by the parties themselves. About this period, Bishop Bridport built a bridge at Harnham, and thus changing the direction of the great western road, which formerly passed through Old Sarum, that place was completely deserted, and Salisbury became one of the most flourishing cities in the kingdom.

Edward I. assembled a parliament there, to deliberate upon measures for recovering the province of Gascoigne, which had been seized upon by Philip of France; at which parliament none of the clergy assisted, the king having suspended them from the exercise of their secular functions for having refused him aid. In the reign of Edward III., a second parliament, for enquiring into the state of the kingdom, was held at Salisbury, at which Mortimer, Earl of March, and his partisans, were attended by their followers in arms; the Earls of Kent, Norfolk, and Lancaster, who, on being summoned to attend this parliament, were prohibited by Mortimer from appearing with an armed force, finding, on their arrival, that his own partisans were armed, retreated for the purpose of assembling their retainers, and, returning with an army, were about to take vengeance on Mortimer, when the quarrel was compromised through the intervention of the clergy.

From the time of Edward I., the bishops and the citizens appear to have lived in a state of mutual harmony, till the reign of Richard II., when the prelate requiring the corporation to concur with him in his efforts to suppress the meetings of the Lollards, who assembled here in great numbers, the latter refused, and the bishop, appealing to the king, obtained an order in council compelling them to assist him in that object. In the reign of Richard III., the Duke of Buckingham, who had headed an unsuccessful insurrection against him, was taken prisoner in his retreat, and, being brought hither, was immediately executed, in 1483, without any trial. No event of historical importance appears, in connection with this city, till after the close of the parliamentary war, when, during the interregnum, Col. Wyndham, with other gentlemen of this county, marched into Salisbury with two hundred armed men, and proclaimed Charles II. king; but they were not supported by the inhabitants of the surrounding country.

The city is pleasantly situated in a spacious valley, near the confluence of the rivers Nadder and Willey with the Avon, and consists of several principal streets regularly formed, and intersected at right angles by smaller ones, dividing the town into a number of squares, called Chequers, which derive their form from the original grant of the bishops of a certain number of perches in front and in depth allotted for building; the areas, round which the houses have been erected, are laid out in gardens. Most of the houses are built of brick, and of modern erection, many of them being of handsome appearance, but there are some of a more ancient date, constructed of timber and brick-work plastered over, of irregular form and size.

The waters of the rivers run through most of the streets of the city, in canals lined with brick, and contribute greatly to their cleanliness, and to the health of the inhabitants. The city is connected, by two stone bridges of six arches each, with the suburb of Fisherton, including which it occupies an area nearly three quarters of a mile square, and, with the suburb of East Harnham, by an ancient bridge of ten arches; this bridge is divided into two parts by a small islet, on which was formerly a chapel, dedicated to St. John, where three chaplains were appointed to say mass, and to receive the contributions of passengers towards the keeping of it in repair. Some improvement has lately taken place in paving and lighting the town, which is amply supplied with water.

The Salisbury and Wiltshire library and news-room was established in 1819; the library amounts to more than two thousand volumes, in the various departments of literature, and annexed to it is a small museum, containing a collection of various fossils peculiar to this neighbourhood this institution is supported by a proprietary and by annual subscriptions. A small neat theatre is opened for some months in the winter, and assemblies and concerts are held during the same season, in rooms well adapted to the purpose, though, as public buildings, not entitled to architectural notice. Races take place annually in August, and are in general well attended. The environs are pleasant, containing, in addition to several villas with which they are ornamented, the seat of Wadham Wyndham, Esq s on the north-east; and, on the bank of the Avon, Longford castle, the seat of the Earl of Radnor, originally built in the reign of James I., and subsequently enlarged and considerably improved.

Salisbury was formerly celebrated for its manufactures of flannels, druggets, and the cloths called Salisbury Whites; but these branches of trade are now almost extinct, and what remains is confined to a very inconsiderable number of persons: the town, is still noted for its manufacture of the more select articles of cutlery of superior quality, but the sale is very limited. The Salisbury canal, joining with the Andover canal near Romsey, was originally intended to be continued westward to Bath and Bristol, connecting the Bristol and English channels, but the design has been abandoned, barges at present proceeding no further in this direction than Romsey, though it has a communication with Southampton and the English channel. The market days are Tuesday and Saturday; the former for corn, of which there is an abundant supply, and the latter for cheese and all kinds of provisions; there is also a large cattle market every alternate Tuesday. The fairs, which are falling into disuse, are on the Tuesday after January 6th for cattle, Tuesday after the 25th of March for cloth, Whit-Monday and Tuesday for horses and pedlary, and October 20th for butter and cheese. The poultry cross, which appears to have been built in the reign of Edw. III., and of which only the lower part is remaining, where butter, eggs, and poultry are sold, is situated without the south-west corner of the marketplace; this is an extensive quadrilateral area, well arranged for the general uses of the market.

The government of the city, by charter of incorporation granted in the reign of Henry III., and confirmed by successive sovereigns till that of Anne, is vested in a mayor, recorder, deputy recorder, twenty-four aldermen, and thirty common council-men, assisted by a town clerk and two chamberlains, with three Serjeants at mace, and other subordinate officers. The mayor is elected annually by the corporation at large, and sworn into office by the bishop, at his court, or, in his absence, by the late mayor, recorder, and aldermen. The high steward and the recorder are usually noblemen possessing influence in the county, and hold their offices for life.

The mayor, recorder, late mayor, and ten of the aldermen, are justices of the peace within the city, and hold quarterly courts of session for all offences; the corporation, by their charter, have the power to try for capital offences, but generally transfer prisoners charged with such crimes to the judge travelling the western circuit. On the part of the bishop are a bailiff and deputy bailiff, who are empowered to hold a court of record, for the recovery of debts to any amount, on the first Saturday in every month, the jurisdiction of which extends over the city and the cathedral close; they also hold a court leet for the bishop, as lord of the manor. The bailiff and deputy bailiff are both appointed by the bishop, and, by charter, are chosen for the same offices on behalf of the corporation: their powers resemble those of the sheriff of the county, and it is their duty to summon the juries for the sessions held in the city.

The Close of Sarum is a corporation, consisting of the bishop, the recorder, and the canons residentiary, who are justices; they may hold sessions of the peace for the liberty of the Close, either in the guildhall of the city, or the Close itself, at the pleasure of the bishop. The bishop is not entitled to a place in the chapter when it consists of the dean and the residentiary canons only, that is, a common chapter; in an extraordinary, or what is commonly called a general, chapter, which is composed of all the members, the bishop is entitled to a seat, as prebendary of Pottern. The assizes and the Lent quarter sessions for the county are regularly held here.

The council-house, erected in 1795 (the former building having been destroyed by fire) under the provisions of an act of parliament, at the expense of the late Earl of Radnor, on the site of the ancient guildhall, is a substantial and handsome building of white brick, ornamented with rustic quoins and cornices of stone, and consisting of two wings, connected by a central vestibule, to which is an entrance through a receding portico of four Doric columns, supporting an entablature enriched with triglyphs, and surmounted by an open balustrade, with a tablet in the centre, inscribed with the name of the founder, and the date of its erection. The right wing is occupied entirely by the council-chamber and other offices, in which the business of the corporation is transacted, and the public entertainments are held: the council-chamber is seventy-five feet in length, twenty-four in breadth, and twenty-four feet in height, and is ornamented with a whole-length picture of Queen Anne, by Dahl; and half-length portraits of the Earl of Radnor, and William Hussey, Esq., one of the members for the city, by Hopner.

The left wing comprises the courtrooms, in which are held the sessions for the city, the assizes and sessions for the county, and the bishop's court above is a grand jury room, and other offices; the grand jury room is decorated with portraits of James I.; John, Duke of Somerset; Seth Ward, Bishop of the diocese Sir Robert Hyde, Chief Justice of England; Sir Samuel Eyre, also Chief Justice; and several other distinguished characters. The building at first erected, being found too small for holding the assizes, has been enlarged by public subscription.

The county gaol and bridewell, a substantial and spacious edifice, erected in 1818, at the western extremity of Fisherton-Anger, at an expense of about £30,000, comprises ten wards, ten day-rooms, and ten airing-yards, for the classification of prisoners, Who are employed in cultivating the land within the boundary wall of the gaol, and receive a certain sum of money on their discharge; the buildings contain apartments for the governor, a chapel and two infirmaries, and the regulations are judicious and humane. The city exercised the elective franchise in the 23rd of Edward I., since which time it has regularly returned two members to parliament: the right of election is vested in the mayor and corporation; the mayor is the returning officer.

The seat of the diocese was originally established at Wilton, in this county, about the beginning of the tenth century, where it remained under the superintendence of eleven successive bishops, of whom Hermannus, the last, having been appointed to the see of Sherborne, annexed that bishoprick to Wilton, and founded, for the united sees, a cathedral church at Old Sarum, which was afterwards completed by Osmund, who, having accompanied William the Conqueror into England, was, by that monarch, appointed bishop. The see remained at Old Sarum till the year 1217, when Richard le Poore transferred the episcopal chair to Salisbury in 1220, where it has ever since remained.

The establishment consists of a bishop, dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, six canons residentiary, who are also prebendaries, three archdeacons (for Berks, Sarum, and Wilts), subdean, succentor, thirty-eight prebendaries, four priest vicars, six singing men, eight choristers, organist, and other officers. The cathedral, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, begun by Richard le Poore in 1220, and completed in 1258, is one of the most magnificent and interesting ecclesiastical edifices in the kingdom. It is in the form of a double cross, with a highly enriched tower and lofty spire rising from the intersection of the nave and larger transepts, to the height of four hundred feet from the pavement, being the highest in England: the whole building, with the exception only of the upper part of the tower, and the spire, which are of a later date, are in the purest style of early English architecture.

The west front is divided into five compartments by buttresses ornamented with canopied niches filled with statues: between the two central buttresses is the principal entrance through a richly moulded arch of spacious dimensions, with a smaller on each side: above the entrance is a large and beautiful window, and at the angles of the front are square embattled towers beautifully enriched, and crowned with angular pinnacles surmounted by spires. The north front is of considerable beauty, and the end fronts of the transepts, projecting boldly from the sides of the main building, and displaying, in successive series of arches, a pleasing variety of composition, corresponding with the general style, are a fine relief to the exterior.

The interior, of which the perspective is impressively striking, is exquisitely beautiful, from the loftiness of its elevation and the delicacy and lightness of its construction; the nave is separated from the aisles by a handsome range of ten clustered columns and finely pointed arches; the roof, which is plainly groined, is eighty-four feet high, and the space above the columns is occupied by a triforium of elegant design, and a range of clerestory windows of three lights, of which the central is higher than the rest, and which is continued round the whole extent of the building; the larger transepts, of the same character with the nave, consist of three arches of similar arrangement, and the smaller of two arches.

The choir, separated from the nave by a screen of modern workmanship supporting the organ, which was the gift of his Majesty George III., consists of seven arches, and, by the removal of the altar-screen, has been connected with the Lady chapel, of which the roof, being lower than that of the choir, in a great degree destroys the effect: the bishop's throne, the pulpit, and the prebendal stalls, are of finely executed tabernacle-work, and harmonise with the prevailing character of the building; the floor is of black and white marble; the east window is embellished with a painting of the Resurrection, by Eginton, from a design by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the choir is also ornamented with a painting of the Elevation of the Brazen Serpent in the Wilderness, from a design by Mortimer, executed by Pearson, the gift of the late Earl of Radnor; and many of the other windows are painted in Mosaic.

The cathedral was repaired, under the superintendence of Mr. Wyatt, at an expense of £26,000. The chapels in the transepts have been removed, and their principal ornaments have been distributed in various parts of the building. In the nave, choir, and transepts are numerous monuments to the bishops of the see, among which are those of Bishops Joceline and Roger, the latter being perhaps the earliest specimen of monumental sculpture extant; also of a chorister bishop, one of the children of the choir, who died while personating the character of a bishop, according to custom, during the festival of St. Nicholas; exclusively of several to the Earls of Salisbury, and the neighbouring nobility and gentry.

The length of the cathedral, from east to west, is four hundred and fifty feet within the walls; and the breadth, along the greater transept, two hundred and five feet. The cloisters are the largest and most magnificent of any in the kingdom, and the cathedral close has some entrance gateways of ancient character and of beautiful design. The chapter-house, of an octagonal form, of which the roof is supported by one central clustered column, is a beautiful building lighted by lofty windows; the frieze is ornamented with subjects from the sacred writings in bas relief, which are in tolerable preservation.

The episcopal palace is the work of different times, and combines various styles of architecture; a considerable portion was added by the late Dr. Shute Barrington: it contains portraits of nearly all the modern prelates of the see. The city comprises the parishes of St. Edmund, St. Martin, and St. Thomas, in the jurisdiction of the Subdean, and diocese, of Salisbury; the Cathedral Close is extra-parochial, and under the jurisdiction of the Dean.

The living of St. Edmund's is a rectory not in charge, endowed with £1600 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the church, formerly collegiate, is a handsome structure, in the later style of English architecture, with a tower, which, having fallen down in 1653, was rebuilt in a style of appropriate character: the interior is neatly arranged, but the chancel has been modernised; at the east end is a beautiful painted window of the Ascension, by Eginton, the gift of the late Samuel Whitchurch, Esq.: the churchyard, which contains many monuments, is finely planted with lime-trees, which, interweaving their branches, form avenues of great beauty.

The living of St.Martin's is a discharged rectory, rated in the king's books at £11. 3. 1., endowed with £1000 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of Mr. Wyndham; the church is a spacious structure, combining different styles of architecture, with a tower surmounted by a spire; the chancel is in the early English, and other parts in the decorated and later styles of English architecture.

The living of St. Thomas' is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £1200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter; the church is a spacious and handsome structure, in the later style of English architecture, with a tower on the south side of the south aisle; the nave is lighted with a handsome range of clerestory windows; the chancel and other parts are specimens of considerable merit: among the monuments is one supposed to be that of the Duke of Buckingham, who was executed here, in the reign of Richard III. There are two places of worship for Independents, and one each for Baptists, Wesleyan Methodists, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics.

The grammar school, in the Close, for the education of the choristers, is under the superintendence of the Dean and Chapter: among the scholars educated in it was Addison, the poet and essayist, who was a native of Milston, near Amesbury, in this county, of which parish his father was rector. The city grammar school was founded by Queen "Elizabeth, for the education of the sons of citizens, and is under the control of the mayor and commonalty. A school, in which eight orphan females are maintained and educated, was founded by a member of the Godolphin family: a school is also supported by the bishop, in which twenty boys and twenty girls are clothed and educated; and National and Sunday schools are supported by subscription.

The infirmary, a spacious and commodious brick building, near Fisherton bridge, is more adapted to its use than calculated for ornament: it owes its origin to Lord Feversham, who bequeathed £500 to the first institution of the kind which should be established in] the county; it is further liberally supported by contributions. The College of Matrons was founded for the maintenance of the widows of ten poor clergymen, by Seth Ward, Bishop of the diocese, who endowed it with property producing £200 per annum; the income has been much augmented by the increased value of the original property and subsequent donations; the buildings are within the Close, and the establishment is under the direction of the Bishop and the Dean and Chapter, who elect the matrons, to each of whom a handsome pension is allowed. Bishop Richard le Poore founded, near Harnham-bridge, an hospital for a master, eight aged men, and four women, which was completed by his successor, Bishop Bingham; it is occupied by a master, six aged men, and six women, among whom the income arising from the endowment is divided.

Trinity hospital, founded in the reign of Richard II., still maintains twelve aged brethren; the mayor and commonalty exercise the office of master. Among other similar establishments are Bricket's hospital, in Exeter-street, founded in 1519, for six aged widows, who receive each three shillings and sixpence per week; Eyre's hospital, founded in 1617, for six men and their wives, who also receive each three shillings and sixpence per week; Blechynden's hospital, founded in 1683, for six aged women, who receive two shillings and sixpence each per week; Taylor's hospital, founded in 1698, for six aged men nominated by the corporation, and who have a weekly allowance of three shillings and sixpence each; and Frowd's hospital, in Bedwin-street, founded in 1750, for six aged men and six women, who have each four shillings and sixpence per week. There are also several unendowed almshouses for the residence of poor people, of which the principal are three in St. Ann's-street, the bequest of Mrs. Sutton; six in Culverstreet, supposed to be the donation of Bishop Poore; twenty in Bedwin-street, the gift of Mrs. Marks; and thirteen in Castle-street, presented to the corporation by William Hussey, Esq., M.P., for the use of the poor: these last were subsequently endowed by the will of the donor, and are occupied by men and their wives, who receive three shillings and sixpence per week.

There are various charitable bequests for apprenticing poor children, and for distribution among the poor; the principal is the charity of Joan Popple, who gave to the mayor and commonalty, for the use of the poor, considerable property in Basinghall-street London, producing, at present, a rental of nearly £400; she was interred in St. Thomas's church, in this city, in 1572, and the mayor and commonalty have lately erected a monument to her memory. John, Duke of Somerset, who died in 1671, gave to the mayor and commonalty a considerable sum for the purchase of an estate, the rental of which is applied to the apprenticing of poor children of the city.

A college was founded here by Egidius de Bridport, in 1260, in which many of the students who had retired from Oxford, in consequence of their quarrel with Otho, the pope's legate, in 1238, afterwards continued their studies; and there were formerly remains of a monastery of Grey friars, founded by the Bishop of Salisbury, in the reign of Henry III., on a site of ground given by that monarch; a convent of Black friars, to which.Edward I., if not the founder, was at least a considerable benefactor; and of the hospital of St. Michael, and the college of St. Erith.

The neighbourhood abounds with flints found in the alluvial soil, and in strata of chalk; these flints, both the nodular from the chalk, and the fractured found in the gravel, yield a variety of organic remains of the spongia and alcyonia genera; several valuable collections have been formed in the neighbourhood, and it has been reckoned that there are not less than twelve distinct species of that submarine substance. Among the eminent natives of this city were, Walter Winterton, Cardinal of St. Sabric; William Herman, author of several works in prose and verse; John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester; George Coryate, author of "The Crudities", Michael Muschant, an able civilian and poet; Sir Toby Matthews, a celebrated Jesuit and politician; Dr. Thomas Bennet, a noted divine and writer; Thomas Chubb and John Eden, distinguished controversial writers; John Greenhill, a celebrated portrait-painter; William and Henry Lawes, musicians and composers; Dr. Harris, an eminent historian and biographer; James Harris, author of "Hermes"; and John Tobin, author of "The Honeymoon", and other dramatic works. Salisbury gives the title of marquis to the family of Cecil.

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