Dearly beloved, I take as my text this morning “Short walks in English Towns” by Bryn Frank. Published in 1988 it covers 10 towns and cities, one of which is Salisbury, so having booked a holiday there I thought it would be fun to follow his route and see what has changed in the last 26 years.
Anne thought it might be fun, too, so despite my credit appearing on all these pics, a good many of them were taken by her (though I did all the processing afterwards to bring them up to my usual high standards).
It was a fascinating walk and to do it justice I have spilt it into two. Which is how we actually did it.
Our apartment was in 95 Crane Street which is on Frank’s route, but I wanted to keep as far as possible to his itinerary which starts in the Central Car Park. Frank considered it and its surrounding shopping precinct to be “very superior”; apart from the fact that it is next to the River Avon, we thought it very ordinary, though interesting that the “new” Sainsbury’s was still going strong.
I did like the sign at the barber’s.
The idea that the perfect Valentine’s gift might be a sausage was new to me. Am I missing something? (*innocent look*).
At the corner of the precinct we crossed the river and the mill race the back of the Town Mill which was clearly the favoured hang out for Salisbury’s pigeon population.
Just across the street Frank directed us to enter the church of St Thomas Becket.
Inside the most remarkable feature was a large painting of “Doom” above the chancel arch. Painted at the end of the 15th century (perhaps) it had been whitewashed over and only re-discovered in 1819.
Anne wanted to draw attention to the unsympathetic light bulbs.
Frank tells us that a few examples of the original stained glass remain and that the organ was presented by George III in 1792.
Leaving the church, Frank had passed a sweetie shop and a bakers in St Thomas Square but these are no more. I did find a 2 pence piece, though, sitting on top of a gate post to the graveyard, which I took (to be an omen of good luck).
Turning left from the back of the church we reached the library building, the entrance to which Frank finds “impressive”. I can’t say that I was that impressed. It seems that there was a clock above the library which was, apparently, presented by the Rotary Club to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and which Frank describes as quaint and which I would describe as absent (perhaps I was looking in the wrong place).
Frank rates the library steps as a good place to take in the Market Square but in fact it is better to walk to its middle to enjoy the views.
Frank has a lot to say about the square and its features so we paused while I read to Anne from the book ( I think she wandered off before I had finished).
There have been markets held in the square since the granting of the city charter in 1227. Sadly it was not market day but we had Salisbury City Council’s apology and Frank’s description as substitute.
It really is a rather lovely space with some fine buildings. Anne was very taken by Nuggs (1268).
Here are two of Frank’s rather contrasting snippets of history about the square. The Duke of Buckingham was executed here for treason against King Richard in 1483. In 1902, to celebrate Edward VII’s coronation, 4,000 guests sat down to a meal of roast beef and pudding; later in the day 4,000 more had tea and cake.
On the far side of the square is a shopping precinct called Cross Keys Chequer. Originally this was a 14th century development, the name “chequer” originating from the grid system with which the area was originally laid out. Frank found a good bookshop and several restaurants. We found TK-maxx…….
….. although on the way in there are more attractive remnants of an earlier architecture.
Frank directed us to turn left out of the Cross Keys Chequer down Queen Street, where John A ‘Port House is situated, built-in 1425. At the time of Frank’s visit this was a china and glass emporium and it was possible inside to see preserved parts of the wattle and daub wall construction.
Crew Clothing Co. occupy it now and we found an iron range and a brick fireplace, but no wattle and daub.
Shortly after passing this building we turned right up Fish Row. On the wall is a plaque commemorating the Trafalgar Way. This is the route from Falmouth to London (via Salisbury) that was taken by a Lieutenant of the navy carrying news to the Prime Minister of Nelsons death in 1805. It took him 37 hours to cover the 271 miles and involved 21 changes of horse. Erected in 2005, this was not there at the time of Frank’s visit.
Fish Row becomes Butcher Row and at the top of the street is the (mostly 14th century) Poultry Cross. We passed a Fish and Chip shop which we marked down for a future supper (OK but very small portions of fish).
Frank tells us that this is a copy of Chichester’s Cross and that there had once been other such crosses in the city.
On instruction we re-traced our steps a little way and crossed over to New Canal Street, passing a half-timbered building that was a Ratners in Frank’s time and is now a Goldsmiths jewellers.
This change may have had something to do with Gerald Ratner stating in 1991 that: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, “How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap.”
In New Canal Street Frank draws attention to the elaborately timbered 15th century building that had belonged to a wool merchant called John Halle. It had been restored by Pugin in 1834 and was in use in 1986 as an Odeon cinema (from the back and white photograph in the book, it was showing ‘Crocodile Dundee’ at the time). It still is an Odeon cinema, its entrance having been improved since Frank’s visit by a more sympathetic if totally inauthentic set of doors.
At the bottom of New Canal Street we followed instructions to carry on to have a look at The Red Lion.
Frank tells us that the pub is famous for its collection of unusual clocks but neither of us felt like stopping so I contented myself with being photographed by the red lion.
Frank says that the pub is festooned with “a rare variety of creeper” and that there are “very few known examples of this creeper in Europe”. It is Vitis coignetiae and we have one in the garden. The 2013 RHS Plant Finder has it as “widely available”. Times change.
Back at the crossroads with New Canal Street we turned left down Catherine Street where I spotted a beautiful waistcoat in a charity shop (which I went back for the next day – a perfect fit- Hurrah!). Catherine Street becomes St John Street where we paused to admire the Greek Revival facade of The White Hart which Frank says dates from around 1800. The effigy of the hart was erected in 1827 to rival something similar on another hostelry.
We had been out for a couple of hours by now, most of it in a bitterly cold wind, so we took the short cut back to Crane Street down New Street for some Hot Cross Loaf and a cup of tea back at the flat.
(now children, how many times does Anne appear in my pictures?)
The post completing this walk around Salisbury will be published on March 23rd.