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Plans are under way to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in the town linked to the most famous conflict in English history.
The events aim to mark the significance of the battle which altered the course of history in medieval England and led to the Norman Conquest.
William the Conqueror established a royal castle at Old Sarum (Salisbury, Wiltshire), in the middle of the earthworks, shortly after 1066. This, says English Heritage, transformed the site, effectively dividing the hillfort in two: an inner set of fortifications, which became William’s castle, and a huge outer enclosure, within which a cathedral was built in 1075
Here, we tell you everything you need to know about Old Sarum in Wiltshire…
1) Old Sarum is the site of the earliest settlement of Salisbury. It is two miles north of where the city now stands
2) The Romans, Normans and Saxons all left their mark there: Old Sarum was used as an Iron Age hillfort between about 400 BC and AD 43 – one of the largest in England – before being occupied shortly after the Roman conquest of Britain, when it became known as Sorviodunum. The Romans occupied the site until about AD 410.
William the Conqueror established a royal castle at Old Sarum, in the middle of the earthworks, shortly after 1066. This, says English Heritage, transformed the site, effectively dividing the hillfort in two: an inner set of fortifications, which became William’s castle, and a huge outer enclosure, within which a cathedral was built in 1075
3) The royal castle, created shortly after 1066, was “a major administrative centre”, says English Heritage. The sheriffs of Wiltshire were established in the castle, and the cathedral later provided a body of clerks who assisted with major projects
4) Old Sarum is historically important as the site of the Oath of Sarum of 1 August 1086. Facing revolt and invasion, William I [aka William the Conqueror] gathered the powerful, landholding men of the realm to a ceremony in which they swore allegiance to him. The ceremony, described by English Heritage as “a striking assertion of royal power”, underlined William’s position as the source of tenure of all land across England.
5) Between 1173 and 1189 Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, was kept under house arrest at Old Sarum for having incited her sons to rebel against their father
6) The cathedral was demolished during the medieval period: dissatisfaction with the site and poor relations with the garrison in the castle caused the cathedral to be moved to its present site in Salisbury (New Sarum) in the 1220s. After this time, royal interest in the castle waned. English Heritage explains: “The castle seems to have limped on as an administrative centre into the 15th century, the end finally coming in 1514, when Henry VIII made over the ‘stones called the castle or tower of Old Sarum’ to Thomas Compton, together with the right to carry away the materials.”
7) Old Sarum lived on as a famous ‘rotten borough’ that continued to elect members of parliament until the Reform Act 1832. The parliamentary constituency had a very small electorate and could be used by a patron to gain unrepresentative influence within the unreformed House of Commons. Thomas Pitt became the owner of the site, and the votes attached to it, in 1691. Arguably, had it not been for this, Pitt’s famous grandson William might never have entered the House of Commons, because he first sat in parliament as a member of Old Sarum.
8) Today, people visiting Old Sarum can see the earthworks of the Iron Age hillfort, the inner stronghold of the Norman castle on the motte at its centre, and the remains of the cathedral
Source: English Heritage
A great year to visit Old Sarum Castle Website
Old Sarum can be visited independently or it is easy to arrange a private guided tour from Salisbury with the local experts.
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
The story of a dragon-slaying hero is legendary, but how much do we really know about the man behind the myth?
The Real St.George.
Much of St George’s life remains shrouded in mystery and mingled with myths and legend, so it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction.
◾It is thought that St George came from Cappodocia in Asia Minor, and lived at the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD 245 – 313), and became a high-ranking cavalry officer in the Army of Rome
◾To Christians, George is a historical figure who was beheaded in Lydda, Palestine (in AD 303) for refusing to carry out Diocletian’s orders for Christian persecution
◾He was canonised in AD 494, with Pope Gelasius proclaiming that he was one of those “whose names are justly revered among men but whose acts are known only to God”
So Where Did the Dragon Come From?
The dragon-slaying hero we celebrate every year didn’t actually become well-known until the 14th century, during the reign of Edward III. The story goes that St George rode into the city of Silene (modern day Libya), to find the people terrorised by a dragon which was fed daily with one of the citizens. St George rose out, slew the dragon and freed the people from their oppressor.
It is highly unlikely that St George ever visited England, but he was known here from as early as the eighth century. His reputation for virtue and chivalry became the spiritual inspiration for the Crusaders, and by 14th century the story had gained widespread popularity.
Did You Know?
◾St George is also the Patron Saint of Bavaria, Beirut, Portugal and Hungary, to name but a few. He’s also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and sufferers of leprosy, the plague and syphilis.
◾Baden Powell also named St George is also the patron saint of Scouts, as “St George was typical of what a scout should be.”
◾At the Synod of Oxford in 1222, St George’s Day was declared a public holiday.
◾Shakespeare died on St George’s Day 1616, and if the story is to be believed, was born on St George’s Day, 1564
English Heritage Events
Calling all knights, dragons and jesters… come and cheer on St George this April as he battles his dastardly fire breathing foe at a historic place near you.
Immerse your family in the action as you learn about England’s heroic patron saint and enjoy the range of fun and games on offer. History hunters of every age will enjoy getting hands-on and cheering our champion as he battles a mighty dragon in a quest to save the fair maiden.
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours