Old Sarum Hillfort / Castle

Stonehenge is a Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monument located near Amesbury in the English county of Wiltshire, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. It is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones and is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world. ~ HOME

Across the British Isles can be found prehistoric remains which date from the period 3,000 BC to 1,500 BC, and take the form of a number of stones standing in a circle. The reason for their construction, and the role they played in the society of the time are now unknown. The most famous stone circle is Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, but in all there are almost 1,000 other stone circles.

PLANS for the new £27.5million visitor centre and facilities at Stonehenge have been given the go ahead by Wiltshire Council. More.......

The Blue Stones were from the Prescelly Mountains, located roughly 240 miles away, at the southwestern tip of Wales. More......

Many early historians were influenced by supernatural folktales in their explanations. Some legends held that Merlin the wizard had a giant build the structure for him or that he had magically transported it from Mount Killaraus in Ireland, while others held the Devil responsible. Henry of Huntingdon was the first to write of the monument around 1130 soon followed by Geoffrey of Monmouth who was the first to record fanciful associations with King Arthur which led the monument to be incorporated into the wider cycle of European medieval romance.
Old Sarum hillFort

An important stop on the itinerary of the thousands of tourists who flock to the Salisbury area every year is the windswept site of the original city at Old Sarum, and it would be no surprise if some of these visitors feel somewhat disappointed at what they find and seek solace in the 'Old Castle Inn' which is conveniently situated immediately opposite the object of their pilgrimage.
Old Sarum is exactly what it appears to be, a rather large and desolate hill fort, yet it has, in its chequered past, played an important part in the shaping of British history, with effects felt as far away as Western Europe. It is uncertain which ancient tribe was the first to annex this natural vantage point as a settlement, but is generally agreed that, well before the

beginning of the first century AD, Iron Age man occupied the site, exploiting in full its potentialities of good visibility and elevated position, which meant he was within sight of other similar camps, such as those at Badbury and Yarnbury. Subsequent occupants included the Celts, who were alleged to have named the fort 'Caer Saflog', or Citadel of the Service Tree, which has been taken to mean the Whitebeam that thrives in chalky soil and, later, the Romans, who translated the name as Sorviodunum. They, however, preferred to construct their settlement a little further down towards the river, probably in what we now know as Stratford-sub-Castle. Several Roman roads can be traced from this area, radiating to Badbury Rings, Dorchester, Winchester, the Mendip lead mines in Somerset and, finally, there is Port Way, which still runs north-eastwards to Silchester and carries modern motor traffic, although Silchester is no longer the important settlement that it was in those days.
In AD552, Saxons arrived on the scene after ousting the occupying Britons. The name now became Saerburh (place of battle) and they proceeded to unite their southern kingdoms to form Wessex, with a capital at Wilton and Old Sarum was now important enough to start minting its own coinage. The Normans arrived shortly after their success at Hastings in 1066, fortified the hill and built a timber castle, later reinforced with stone. It was decreed by the new King William that a cathedral should also be built at the fort, which now became Sarisberie so, in 1075, Bishop Hermann moved the See of Sherborne, which covered a large part of Southern England, to Sarisberie and built a cathedral in a style rather reminiscent of his Rhineland home.
On the death of Hermann, the cathedral was completed by Bishop Osmund in 1092 and it was he who inaugurated the 'Sarum Use', which was employed for various rites and procedures in church services in many parts of Europe. Unfortunately, almost as soon as the building was finished, it was struck by lightning, partially destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
Osmund died in 1099, but it was 1457 before he was made patron saint of Salisbury. Around 1087, William the Conqueror ordered all British noblemen to travel to Old Sarum to acknowledge the fact that he was King and the growing population now expanded outside the wall. The decline of the city was accelerated in the 12th Century when Bishop Roger, an opportunist and empire-builder, reconstructed the cathedral inside the bailey in a vain attempt to solicit the protection of the military against increasing unrest between populace, clergy and garrison.
Old Sarum was seized by King Stephen in 1139 and the bishopric eventually taken over by the Poore brothers, who, faced with the continuing disenchantment of the community, applied to the Pope for permission to move the cathedral to a more suitable place, listing many problems ranging from the reasonable (lack of an adequate water supply, services inaudible to worshippers because of constant high winds) to the ridiculous (chalk glare caused blindness). Old Sarum had obviously outgrown its isolated position and their request was sanctioned, so the Poores asked the Abbess of Wilton for a donation of land on which to build New Sarum, but the Abbess refused and they turned their sights southwards, selected the water meadows of Salisbury and thus, presumably, fuelled the growing animosity between Wilton and the City.
By 1258 the splendid new cathedral was complete and Old Sarum, for the first time in hundreds of years, returned to its previous solitude, while Salisbury henceforward became known as New Sarum for all municipal purposes.
In the 14th Century, stones were removed from the hilltop to provide walls for the new Cathedral Close and some of these are still in position today, while a further indignity for Old Sarum was its use as a prison for Salisbury's wrongdoers!
The ultimate depth of shame was, however, reached when Old Sarum became one of the 'Rotten Boroughs' with zero population that could be bought and sold to enable ambitious politicians to enter Parliament and Prime Minister William Pitt reached his position by this means, as records show that his family sold Old Sarum for £65,000 in 1805. The old elm under which MPs were elected became known as the 'Parliament Tree' and it seems fitting that this tree was blown down in a storm shortly after the Reform Act of 1832 had put a long overdue stop to the Rotten Borough system. Today a plaque now stands where the tree once stood.
Old Sarum, with the remains of its ancient buildings, now broods in splendid isolation, except for the steady stream of tourists in the summer who gaze at the hill fort that became a city of national importance and then fell from grace.

April 2010 to March 2011 Opening Times Opening Days
1 Apr-30 Jun 10am-5pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
1 Jul-31 Aug 9am-6pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
1-30 Sep 10am-5pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
1 Oct-1 Nov 10am-4pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
2 Nov-31 Jan 11am-3pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
1-28 Feb 11am-4pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
1-31 Mar 10am-4pm Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, & Sun.
24-26 Dec and 1 Jan CLOSED

How much does it cost?

£3.30 until 31 Mar 2010 / £3.50 from 1 Apr 2010
£1.70 (5-15yrs) until 31 Mar 2010 / £1.80 from 1 Apr 2010
£2.80 until 31 Mar 2010 / £3.00 from 1 Apr 2010
English Heritage Members:

How do I get there?

Wiltshire - SP1 3SD
Road Access:
2 miles N of Salisbury, off A345
Train Access:
Salisbury 2 miles
Bus Access:
Wilts & Dorset/Stagecoach in Hampshire, 5-9 from Salisbury
Map Location:
Cycle Routes:

Find the site on the National Cycle Network

REFERENCE ^ "Ancient Wilts," --Sir R.C. Hoare, speaking of Stonehenge, expresses his opinion that "our earliest inhabitants were Celts, who naturally introduced with them their own buildings customs, rites, and religions ceremonies, and to them I attribute the erection of Stonehenge, and the greater part of the sepulchral memorials that still continue to render its environs so truly interesting to the antiquary and historian." Abury, or Avebury, is a village amidst the remains of an immense temple, which for magnificence and extent is supposed to have exceeded the more celebrated fabric of Stonehenge; some enthusiastic inquirers have however, carried their supposition beyond probability, and in their zeal have even supposed them to be antediluvian labours! Many of the barrows in the vicinity of Sarum have been opened, and in them several antiquarian relics have been discovered. In short, the whole county is one of high antiquarian interest, and its history has been illustrated with due fidelity and research. This has led more recent scholars to doubt the original inhabitants were actually Celts. It is now believed they may have been the much earlier "Beaker People", so named for the beaker-shaped pots they made.

Sarum (Paperback)

by Edward Rutherfurd (Author)
In a novel of extraordinary richness, the whole sweep of British civilization unfolds through the story of one place, Salisbury, from beyond recorded time to the present day. The landscape - as old as time itself - shapes the destinies of the five families. The Wilsons and the Shockleys, locked in a cycle of revenge and rivalry for more than 400 years. The Masons, who pour their inspired love of stone into the creation of Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. The Porters, descended from a young Roman soldier in exile. And the aristocratic Norman Godefrois, who will fall to the very bottom of the social ladder before their fortunes revive.



Stonehenge gift shop souvenirs


English Heritage provides Managed Open Access to Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice and works closely with the many agencies, and people from all sectors of the community, in order to create a peaceful occasion - ensuring an event that can be safely enjoyed by all and protects Stonehenge and its surrounding Monuments. Further details on the entry conditions are available from English Heritage. Each year on the 21 June visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge overnight to mark the summer solstice and to see the sunrise above the stones. At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast. Stonehenge is definitely one of England's greatest icons. Its original purpose is still somewhat unclear, but some have speculated that it was a temple made for worship of ancient earth deities. It has also been called an astronomical observatory for marking significant events on the ancient prehistoric calendar. Others claim that it was a sacred site created by Merlin and King Arthur for the burial of high-ranking citizens from societies of long ago. Falling on June 21st or 22nd, the Summer Solstice is a time of light and of fire. It is a time to reflect upon the growth of the season: the seeds that were planted in the earth and the seeds planted in our souls. It is a time of cleansing and renewal. It is a time of love and growth as well.


Stonehenge. Mystery surrounds this 5,000 year old monument in the centre of the World Heritage Site. Visit this prehistoric South West site and decide for yourself whether Stonehenge was a place of sun worship, a healing sanctuary, a sacred burial site, or something different altogether!