Covering over 80 acres, Salisbury has the largest Cathedral Close in Britain. It is a wonderful green space to escape the busy streets of Salisbury and to just explore and relax, with 21 Grade I listed buildings surrounding the magnificent cathedral, as well as museums and gardens.
Salisbury’s Cathedral Close is as old as the cathedral itself, being laid out in 1220 and used as a building site for the early part of its life and into the 14th century when the spire was added. It has always been somewhat separate to the rest of the city, with the construction of a wall on the north and east sides in 1327 – 1342, which is still there, with the River Avon acting as a natural boundary on the west.
While the cathedral was still being built, the land around it was divided into plots and given to the canons to build their ‘fair houses of stone’.
In the 18th century, James Wyatt was given the controversial task of transforming the Close.
He pulled down the bell tower, removed all of the gravestones as well as altering the interior of the cathedral. Originally, the population of the Close was originally completely ecclesiastical; now it is also home to the very wealthy as well.
There are several buildings in the Close which are open to the public; others you can only stand and peer through the wrought iron railings and admire their moss covered gabled roofs, mullioned windows and beautiful gardens. A mixture of architectural styles and designs, narrow alleyways that lead off to mysterious places and grassy lawns dotted with benches, the Close is a delightful place to spend a day immersed in history and beauty.
Locations of the venues are given using what3words.
BUILDINGS YOU CAN VISIT IN THE CATHEDRAL CLOSE
Owned by the National Trust, this 18th century, Grade I listed house is open to the public. It was built for Sir Thomas Mompesson, who was MP for Salisbury on three occasions at the end of the 17th century. In classic Queen Anne style with a facing of Chilmark stone, which is the same stone used in the building of the cathedral, the house was finished in 1701 by Thomas’ son, Charles.
The cartouche over the front door is a replica of the coat of arms of Charles and his wife Elizabeth. The house passed into the hands of Charles’ brother in law, who added the elaborate plasterwork and the oak staircase.
The house was lived in by a succession of tenants, including Barbara Townsend who lived there for nearly a century, keeping the house much as it was without adding any 20th century ‘modcons’. The house came into National Trust ownership in 1975, who inherited an empty house.
The house has been furnished and now houses an important collection of 18th century drinking glasses as well as 18th and 19th century porcelain and furnishings. There are regular events and exhibitions, and the small enclosed garden has a tea room at the bottom. The house is open daily from 11am – 5pm during the summer season.
Originally a 13th century canonry built around 1291, the last canon who lived here, Leonard Bilson, was imprisoned for practising magic and sorcery in 1562. Since then, the building has been altered and extended many times over the centuries.
The frontage is Georgian, the work of John Wyndham who lived there from 1718 – 1750. The house got the name of Arundells after James Arundell, the son of Lord Arundell who lived there from 1752 – 1803. In the 19th century the house was a school and was in use during World War II as a library and wool depot. It fell into a state of disrepair until it was restored in 1964.
Sir Edward Heath, British Prime Minister from 1970 – 1974, bought the house in 1985 and lived there until his death, with Arundells hosting many vistors and grand parties during his time there.
After his death, the house passed to a trust who have opened it up to the public. The house remains much as it was during his lifetime, reflecting his passions of music, sailing and politics. He had an extensive art collection which includes political cartoons, paintings done and given to him by Winston Churchill and works by Augustus John, LS Lowry and John Singer-Sargeant.
A Steinway grand piano and a writing desk which once belonged to Lloyd-George both sit proudly, but it is the less formal objects like his ‘teapot’ chair, where he would sit and listen to his music collection, which show the human side of him.
The house has a lovely landscaped garden which backs onto the River Avon.
The house is open from March – November, 11am – 5pm or you can book a guided tour for a Wednesday.
The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum
Once a Medieval canonry, it was occupied by canons from 1227 until around the 15th century, when it passed to the Bishop of Salisbury and was used as a storehouse and administrative building, being known as ‘The Wardrobe’ from around 1543.
From 1568 it was let out to a series of tenants, who altered it over the years, dividing the halls and creating extra rooms. In the 1830s, gables and a gothic portico were added, and the house was rented out to a family who remained there until 1941.
Used as an ATS hostel in World War II, then rented by the nearby college until 1969, the building suffered some neglect until 1980 when the museum took it over, with the help of the Landmark Trust.
The museum houses over 36,000 objects relating to the Rifles and their previous regimental incarnations. With regular guided tours, events and talks and a restaurant as well as extensive gardens, the museum is a popular place for visitors. You can even stay in the flat at the top of the building, with its amazing views of the cathedral >>
The museum is open from February to November, 10am – 5pm every day except Sundays.
Known as Sherbourne Place from the 13th – 16th century, this Grade I listed building has been reconstructed several times over the centuries. It gets its name of ‘King’s House’ from when King James I was a guest there in 1610 and 1613. It originally would have had a great hall, and a chapel was added in 1899.
For a time it was home to the Godolphin Girls School, and then was part of a teacher training school, the College of Sarum St. Michael, until 1979, when it was acquired by Salisbury Museum who had outgrown their original premises.
It now holds thousands of artefacts and objects relating to the history of the area from the Neolithic onwards, with extensive archaeological collections which include Stonehenge, the Pitt-Rivers Collection and medieval Salisbury, as well as a ceramics and costume collection. There are regular exhibitions which relate to the area and after a recent lottery grant it is up to date with plenty of interactive activities for all ages.
Open Monday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm and tickets can be bought at the museum or online.
Sarum College is a theological college which provides courses, conferences and events focusing on the study of Christianity up to postgraduate level. The red brick