Monday, November 8, 2010

Old Sarum

The eeriest site we visited, older than Stonehenge, with layers of history and a countywide view that is daunting. The wind was fierce, and has been for centuries. The cathedral built here before Salisbury had its roof blown off 5 days after it was consecrated. I was afraid to climb any higher on the Royal Palace remains, and took this picture of the interior with my cousin Brian holding onto my coat, the camera strap whipping in and out of frame. You can feel the history shrouding you among the stones; dark clouds raced in, scowled and moved quickly away. Neolithic hunters roamed the bailey and slept here, Roman soldiers quartered in its walls, and Henry II kept Eleanor of Aquitaine prisoner in the cold rooms. Peter of Blois (Latin secretary to Eleanor after Henry's death) wrote "It is a place exposed to the winds, barren, dry, and solitary: a tower is there as in Siloam, by which the inhabitants have been for a long time enslaved." The top of the windy hill became too crowded and the local nobles too contentious, and the whole place moved to Salisbury (New Sarum) over the next couple centuries. Old Sarum became one of the rotten boroughs, in the 1800s electing two members to the House of Commons, despite the fact that the eleven landowners all lived elsewhere. One of these was William Pitt the Elder, whose home you'll see soon.

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