The first part of this blog was published last week. We had left Frank’s route at The White Hart in St John Street.
Carrying on to the corner of St Ann Street we turned left which Frank says “would be worth coming to Salisbury for this street alone”. Which is an odd thing to say as there was not a cafe or fish and chip shop in sight, but perhaps his needs are purely aesthetic. “Here you will find Georgian red brick, Victorian stucco, slate roofs, tiles, shutters and an abundance of Ivy. ” I’m not sure that I understand his excitement about slate roofs (or tile, or ivy if it comes to it) but we were very impressed by several of the buildings.
From the top of the street by the medical centre, there was a fine view to the cathedral. Frank wanted to go into the post office-cum-sweetshop but found it closed for lunch. We found no trace of it, though a closed chemists in a poor state on a corner did conjure up fantasies of buying to rent.
On the way back down St Ann Street (which appears to have been mostly cleared of Ivy) we followed Frank’s direction to turn into The Friary to have a look at Friary Court.
The plaque on its brick wall says that around 1225 Franciscan Friars established a religious house near this place, the foundation being dissolved in 1538 as part of Henry VIII’s drive against the monasteries. Whatever the date of this building it was interesting to see that tie plates where it joins an adjacent building had been half covered by that buildings’ walls, suggesting at least that this is older than its neighbour.
Returning to St Ann Street, Frank counsels to prepare oneself for a treat. How does one do that? I saw no one proffering chocolates or any other edibles, so his idea of a treat and mine must differ. What we found was St Ann’s Gate which was certainly a pleasing sight.
To the left of the gate is a plaque (see below) which records that in 1331 Edward III granted permission to the Bishops to plunder the stone of the cathedral at Old Sarum (I’ll tell you more about this in the next post) to establish these walls and the tower of the new cathedral.
Frank tells us this is his favourite of the three possible ways into cathedral Close, the High Street Gate (by which we will eventually leave cathedral Close) being “more touristy”. He doesn’t comment on the third way in. He also offers the fascinating snippet that in the room above the gate nearly 400 years after its construction, Handel gave his first public concert (clearly a very selected public, as the room is obviously fairly. small). Further to the left of the gate at No.14 is the house that Henry Fielding wrote Tome Jones. A very cultured vibe around here, then.
Just inside the gate on the right is Malmesbury House and up on the wall is a beautiful sundial dated 1749.
After passing Malmesbury House we saw the first full view of the cathedral, sitting in the middle of a wide lawn. Frank writes: ” The surroundings are so impressive, the greensward around the cathedral so pristine and the Wiltshire sky so wide and clean that there can be no serious challenge to Salisbury’s claim that this is the handsomest cathedral setting in Britain” .
I haven’t seen all the country’s cathedrals (and I bet Frank hadn’t either). But I would suggest that St David’s setting is a contender. I can’t speak for the cleanliness of the sky , but I agree that the mostly Georgian houses make a very sympathetic backdrop to the cathedral. There is a preservation society that intends to keep it so.
During our visit Anne and went into the cathedral twice. Once for Evensong – a daily occurrence here- and once to do a tour. Both were most enjoyable.
In the latter we were most entertainingly and ably guided by a rather camp guy who had the fun approach of quizzing us on our relevant common knowledge. He took a shine to Anne who knew most of the answers.
I tried to mildly suggest that the ubiquitous William Pye water feature (otherwise known as the font) that had been plonked in the middle of the nave since Franks time rather interrupted the view but I was more subtle than usual in my criticism and I think he missed my point.
We really enjoyed taking more time than we would otherwise done to linger over points of interest and chuckle at our guides indiscretions. The beautiful Prisoner of Conscience window was a highlight of our visit.
We spent an hour on our tour, by which time the nave had been set up for a talk by Kate Adie and we popped across to the cloisters and to see a copy of Magna Carta in the Chapter House. It’s not very big or long, but you probably knew that.
On leaving the cathedral we took Franks advice to walk down West walk and admire Myles Place.
Many of the houses in the walk are impressive and two of them house museums. One of them –Arundells– was lived in by prime minister Edward Heath for many years – I am surprised that Frank doesn’t mention this – he was certainly living there at the time of his visit, though by then he was ex-prime minister.
(Heath’s constituency was Bexley, where I went to school – Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar, since you ask – he gave the prizes at one of our speech days).
Beyond The Close we walked though Choristers Green where Frank managed to get his photographer to take a pic of the little lads playing football. I would guess that this is banned now. The space is rather dominated by a white sculpture.
On the side of the Green is Mompesson House. Frank suggests that “if you only have time to see one of The Close properties that are open, make it this one”. Sadly we couldn’t as it was closed.
We left the close as instructed by the High Street gate, pausing just before it to admire the The College of Matrons.
Frank tells us that it was built-in 1682 to house 12 poor widows and that it still does (it now also welcomes unmarried daughters of the clergy).The insignia and coat of arms was especially pretty.
After passing through the gate, Frank noted a second-hand bookshop of department store dimensions, but it is no more. It wasn’t obvious which of the current shops had replaced it. Frank turned left into Crane Street (we were staying in No 95 which was pretty neat as we were, once again, ready for tea and Toasted Hot Cross Bun Loaf).
For your benefit, I will stick with Frank’s directions a little longer. He takes the reader to Queen Elizabeth Gardens and suggests walking from there to Harnham Mill, some half a mile distant. But the river was at the top of its banks and the path to the Mill submerged.
The gardens remained under water for the entire fortnight that we were in Salisbury, providing many an opportunity to passers-by for beautiful photographs of the cathedral reflected in the water.