Old Sarum Castle

Old Sarum Castle, Wiltshire

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Castle Road, Salisbury





Old Sarum is a unique ancient site covering the Iron Age period through to successive invasions by, Romans, Danes and the Norman's. It's final demise following the clergy's move to Salisbury and the demolishment of the cathedral in the early 13th century, being King Henry VIII granting its very stones to be allowed to be removed.

A facinating place well sign-posted with plenty of parking and easy access.

~ History ~

400 BC ~ A great hill fort covering some 29 acres is built to serve a a site of refuge in times of war and key trading point during peace time.

43 ~ Following the Roman Conquest of England the great hill fort, recorded as Sorviodnum, is occupied by Roman forces in order to control the key roads, rich countryside and native inhabitants.

522 ~ Anglo~Saxon forces put the Britons to flight from Seaobyrg, Old Sarum. They occupy the hillfort to maintain control in the same way as the Roman invaders had done centuries earlier.

909 ~ The huge estate of Sarisberie, which includes Old Sarum is granted to the bishops

1003 ~ Sweyn, King of Denmark, destroys Exeter and nearby Wilton and is 'betaken to Seaobyrg, and from here went back to the sea'.

As as result the royal mint at Wilton is moved to Old Sarum.

1069 ~ Following the Norman Conquest, King William soon recognises the defensive qualities of Seresberi, Old Sarum and issues a charter for a castle to be built. A new motte is created within the old hillfort.

The Sheriffs of Wiltshire establish themselves at Old Sarum and create a new cathedral there.

1100's ~ Bishop Roger of Sarum obtains the castle, 'which properly belonged to the King'. He set's about building a courtyard house as part of his new bishops palace in the midst of Old Sarum's cathedral community.

1120's ~ Roger quickly rises to the inflential position as chief minister to King Henry I, and during his absence Regent. He later also built castles at Kidwelly in Wales, Sherborne in Dorset and Malmesbury and Devizes in Wiltshire.

1135 ~ King Henry I dies.

1139 ~ Roger is summoned, along with his nephews, to attend te new King Stephen at Oxford. Here they are arrested and Roger forced to forfeit his castles. he is later released by dies months later. Old Sarum reverts to the Crown and with it, the importance of Old Sarum declines.

1171 ~ King Henry II orders that improvements are made to Old Sarum which continue for the next eighteen years, including a new gatehouse, drawbridge, inner bailey walls and a treasury constructed witht the keep. In addition to this work refurbishment of the quarters for Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine are completed for the period of her house arrest at Old Sarum, following her inciting her son's to rebel against their father. The period of house arrest would last for the next sixteen years.

1201 ~ Following continued repairs and maintenance under her son's King Richard I and later King John, a new hall, kitchen and bakehouse are built for the sheriff.

1215 ~ As King John's relationship with his Baron's and clergy deteriorate, the old passage between keep and cathedral is blocked up. Within the next ten years the clergy abandon Old Sarum and with it is royal interest declines.

1226 ~ The clergy order the cathedral to be demolished and its stone used for the new cathedral at Salisbury.

1240's ~ The outer bailey is recorded as being in ruins and castle in need of repair. The vast majority of the population having already relocated from Old Sarum to New Sarum (Salisbury).

1350's ~ King Edward orders £700 to be spent on repairs and maintenance of the castle within Old Sarum, although the additional £600 required to repair the keep is never spent.

1514 ~ King Henry VIII grants 'the stones called the castle or tower of Old Sarum' to Thomas Compton, one of his officials, together with the right to carry away the materials. The resulting ruins of Old Sarum are left to decay.