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 Location: Wiltshire, England. (O/S ST 137326)  Grid Reference: 51.09 N. 1.80 W.


      Old Sarum: (Neolithic Hill Fort).

Location of the original Salisbury. Inhabited since 3,000 BC (1).

This spectacular hill-fort was once one of the most important places in England. It's importance is highlighted by the fact that it was variously occupied by the Romans, Saxons and  Normans.

Old Sarum lies on one of the earliest recognised examples of leylines as determined by Sir N. Lockyer. It is connected to both Salisbury and Stonehenge, both sacred places on the Wiltshire landscape.




   Old Sarum: (Sorbiodunum)

Although not much is known of the earliest years of this important structure, archaeological remains of rough stone tools suggest people have occupied the hilltop area of Old Sarum since Neolithic times (around 3000 BC). (1) The banks of the structure were begun almost 5000 years ago, and remained intact until the Roman invasion. At this time it was called Sorviodunum.

Following the departure of the Romans, the Saxons are known to have used the site, arriving in 552 BC, they called the site Searobyrg but when the Normans came they realised its strategic importance and constructed a motte and bailey castle within the old earthworks.

After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William the Conqueror used Old Sarum as a base of operations. William moved the bishopric from the Anglo-Saxon Sherborne Cathedral to Old Sarum, appointing his nephew, Osmund de Sees, as his chancellor and Bishop of Salisbury. Osmund had the first cathedral at Old Sarum built, completed in 1092

The earlier castle was replaced by a stone keep in 1100, and a royal palace was erected within the banks in 1130. In the meantime the first cathedral on the site was completed in 1092, but it burned down only 5 days after it was consecrated. A new, larger cathedral was completed around 1190.


 old sarum, salisbury

Early Wood-cut of Old Sarum.


A contemporary observer, Peter of Blois (c.1135 � 1203) described Old Sarum as �barren, dry, and solitary, exposed to the rage of the wind; and the church (stands) as a captive on the hill where it was built, like the ark of God shut up in the profane house of Baal.�

In 1219 Bishop Richard Poore decided to build a new cathedral at a location several miles to the south. Stone from the old cathedral was used to build the new one. A settlement grew up around the site of the new cathedral, and it is this settlement that is the modern city of Salisbury. With the shift of settlement away from Old Sarum to New Sarum (Salisbury) the old site lapsed and the castle fell into disuse. Despite the fact that the site was derelict, Old Sarum continued to send a representative to Parliament until the mid 19th century.

According to legend, the bishop d'Avranches decreed that an arrow would be fired from the walls of the keep, and the new cathedral would be built wherever it fell. Miraculously, however, the arrow struck a passing deer, who fled a full two miles to the banks of the Avon


The Old Sarum Leyline.

It is a curious coincidence, in relation to the myth of the creation of new Salisbury to find that Old Sarum and New Sarum (Salisbury) both lie in an alignment with Stonehenge. It is significant in that it lies on the same azimuth as the Glastonbury Ley, and is approximately the same length.

(See both on the Leyline map of England)

This is another classic alignment originating with Sir Norman Lockyer. It runs for 181/2 miles NNW-SSE passing through Stonehenge.

The line starts N of Stonehenge at a tumulus (12004409) on Durrington Down, proceeds towards Stonehenge, which is just visible from the barrow, and crosses the Cursus on its way. It misses the sarsen circle at Stonehenge, but crosses ley SW7 on the edge of the earthwork just where the Avenue connects to it.

The ley continues SSE to Old Sarum (13823272) an impressive earthwork enclosure with extremely deep ditches. This is yet another example of an evolved site, having been an Iron Age hill-fort, then a Roman town which in turn was superseded by pagan Saxon occupation until finally, in medieval times, a hill town with a keep and a cathedral occupied the site. Legend has it that Bishop Poore had a vision of the Blesses Virgin, who told him to build at a certain place. He didn't know where this was to be until informed by local people.

So Salisbury Cathedral (14312954) came to be founded on its present site. The ley passes marginally to the E of the outstanding 404 foot spire which, according to the late Guy Underwood, marks an exceptionally powerful blind spring. The spire also seems to attract the mysterious White Birds of Salisbury Plain - large albatross-like birds, dazzlingly white, which are said to appear whenever a bishop of Salisbury is dying. They were certainly seen in 1911, accurately foretelling the death of the then bishop.

When the cathedral was transferred from Old Sarum, the body of St. Osmund was brought down and placed in a shrine within the new building. There is also a tomb in the cathedral containing the body of the murderer Lord Stourton, who was hanged with a silken noose. For a long time a wire noose hung over the tomb but was removed in 1780. However, its luminous outline could still be seen, even 'within living memory by unimpeachable witnesses'.

Crossing Salisbury, the line goes through a crossroads near Odstock and on to Clearbury Ring (15132443), where it passes through the NW corner of the earthworks. This Iron Age camp is wooded and can be seen for great distances as a clump, but the earthworks themselves are not particularly impressive visually.

Michell has observed that the line from Stonehenge to Clearbury is 19,800 (660x30) yards in length, exactly 30 times the length of twin geomantic circles he discovered over Glastonbury. The fact that this ley is virtually at the same angle as the Glastonbury ley reinforces this correspondence.

(More about Ley-lines)


Old Sarum: Gallery of Images.

Old Sarum by Constable

Old Sarum By John Constable. (1776-1837). Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


(TheSalisbury Complex)

(More about English Geodesy)

(Other Prehistoric English Sites)




1). Old Sarum, English Heritage (guidebook) London (2003) p.22.


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