In 2011, Salisbury Museum put on their most significant exhibition ever, displaying nearly 60 art works of John Constable (1776 - 1837), focusing on his works painted in and around Salisbury. In conjunction with this, they set up walking trails to show people where his works had been painted or to take them to the same views. Three trails were produced; a Wessex Trail, a Close Trail and this one of the Harnham Water Meadows.
Illustration by Clem Ali
We tried the trail on a sunny but blustery day this October. There are short posts at the stop points around the trail, eight of them in total, although we failed to find post 6 which seemed to have vanished.
1. The trail starts at Salisbury Museum in the Cathedral Close (what3words: prices.daring.added) with Salisbury Cathedral and Leadenhall from the River Avon painted in 1820.
It is no longer possible to visit the exact location he painted from, but the house you can see is Leadenhall, where Constable used to stay when he visited Salisbury. On the left is the grounds of King's House, which is now the museum.
Salisbury Cathedral and Leadenhall from the River by John Constable © The National Gallery
Constable had started visiting Salisbury in 1811, frequently staying at Leadenhall in the Cathedral Close, owned by Archdeacon John Fisher, with whom he had a great friendship.
Turn right out of the museum grounds, leave the Cathedral Close by the Harnham Gate (what3words: badge.money.herbs), turn right out of De Vaux place and walk on a short way. Stop on the first bridge. (what3words: loss.helps.take)
2. Point 2 is at Harham Bridge. This medieval bridge was built in 1244 and is divided by an island, which is still there. Harnham Bridge, painted in 1829, shows the 'Tall House' on the right, which you can still see today. Your view is from the bridge, as where Constable sat is now a private garden, but you can still get a good idea of his surroundings and see some of the same features.
Harnham Bridge by John Constable © The British Museum
3. Continue across the rest of the bridge into Harnham Road, where you will find the 14th century Rose and Crown (what3words: this.code.code).
If it is open then you can enter and find their gardens, which have beautiful views over the river and the cathedral, and you will see similar views to those painted by Constable in his Harnham Bridge of 1820.
Harnham Bridge © The British Museum
4. Leave the Rose & Crown and turn right back into Harnham Road.
Turn right when you meet the junction with Netherhampton Road. This is the least pleasant part of the walk, as you will be beside a busy road, but it doesn't last for long.
Turn right into the cricket ground at what3words: scar.leans.crazy. Walk along the right hand side of the ground until you reach post 4. (what3words: divide.slurs.mutual)
Salisbury Cathedral from the South-west © Victoria & Albert Museum
This is pretty much the spot where Constable painted Salisbury Cathedral from the South-west in 1823. There are a few benches here and it is a lovely spot to admire the views, although when the trees are in full leaf, it is hard to see the same buildings that Constable did.
5. Continue walking along the riverbank, towards the Old Mill, a building that has been little changed since Constable's time. Walk in front of the Old Mill, past the rather lovely Rose Cottage and onto the Town Path.
Water Meadows near Salisbury by John Constable © John-Constable.org
It is walking along the town path that you will find the best views of the cathedral across the water meadows and river, and which most closely resemble the famous Salisbury paintings of Constables.
6. At the end of the Town Path is Long Bridge, which crosses over the river and into Queen Elizabeth Gardens.
This bridge is the setting of his most iconic painting Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, painted in1831. (what3words: canny.slap.invent)
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable © The Tate
Constable painted this after staying in Leadenhall in 1829. John Fisher had suggested he produce a major work under the title of "Church under a Cloud", to reflect the deep political uncertainty of the time, particularly within the Church of England. His tempestous skies may well reflect the grief he was suffering after his wife's death in 1828. The rainbow was added for display in the Royal Academy Exhibition of 1831 and is thought to symbolise hope as he emerged from his grief. The rainbow ends over Leadenhall, the home of his great friend, John Fisher. Constable referred to this work as 'The Great Salisbury'.
The view today is not the same, being mostly obscured by trees, but a visit in winter would enable more of the same view to be seen.
7. If you leave the bridge and bear left for a few paces, you will find Post 7 at (what3words: hers.vocal.points).
Stand with your back to it. Constable painted Fisherton Mill here in 1829, but the view is very different now. The mill building in the left of the picture can still just be seen, but it is now a private house, and the rest of the mill buildings were removed in 1969 when the road was widened.
The parish church of St. Clements, which you can see the tower of in his drawing, was demolished in 1852, although you can still visit the graveyard, which is now known as The Secret Garden, and which is sometimes open to visitors.
Fisherton Mill by John Constable © The British Museum
8. Walk back into the park and follow the path through Queen Elizabeth Gardens, towards the children's play park. Pass the playpark, bear right and walking with the car park on your left, you will find post 8 at what3words: shop.pile.logic.
Turn your back to the post and you will see a building which is now Harcourt Medical Centre. This building was once Bowling Green House, and was painted by Constable in July 1829.
Salisbury Cathedral seen from the north-west, with cottages by John Constable © Victoria and Albert Museum
The building is recognisable from Constable's painting, particularly the chimney breast and small lower floor window. He added a stormy, blustery sky to create an atmospheric piece, a style he frequently used in his later paintings.
This is the last post in the trail.
If you walk through the car park, turn right onto Crane Bridge Road, then right again into the High Street, walk under the High Street Gate, you will find yourself back in the Cathedral Close.
Why not stop for a coffee at the Bell Tower Tearooms, visit Mompesson House to get a look inside one of the Close houses, or try our self-guided Cathedral Close walk?
You can read up about John Constable, his life and his works here >>
WALKING THE HARNHAM CONSTABLE TRAIL
How to get to the Cathedral Close (Start Point)
Postcode: SP1 2EJ
Public Transport: Salisbury train station is just a 10 minute walk away from the Cathedral Close. There are also plenty of bus stops in central Salisbury, just a few minutes walk away from the Close. Find timetable >>
Parking: If you are driving, park in one of the town centre car parks - they are all just a short walk away from the Cathedral Close. The central car park at Mill Stream Approach is the nearest.
When is the Harnham Walk open?
The walk can be done at any time, but if you wish to also visit the cathedral or any of the pubs on the way, then check their opening times before you set out. The majority of the walk has street lighting at night.
Are there any facilities on the Constable Harnham Walk?
There are plenty of facilities en route - the museum, cathedral and pubs on the way have bathrooms, food and drink.
Our Salisbury City Guide has all the information you could need with places to visit, walks to take, locally owned places to stay, eat and shop, and lots more.