Population: 44,450 (2004)
Ordnance Survey
OS grid reference: SU145305
District: Salisbury
Shire county: Wiltshire
Region: South West England
Country: England
Ceremonial county: Wiltshire
Historic county: Wiltshire
Police force:
Post office and telephone
Post town: SALISBURY
Postal district: SP
Dialling code: 01722
UK Parliament:
European Parliament: South West England

Salisbury (pronounced 'Solsbree' or 'Sauls-bree') is a small cathedral city in Wiltshire, England. It is the main town in the Salisbury district. It is also sometimes called New Sarum to distinguish it from the original site of settlement at Salisbury, Old Sarum. A native of Salisbury is known as a "Sarumite".

Salisbury railway station serves the town, and is the crossing point between the West of England Main Line and the Wessex Main Line making it a regional interchange. It is also at the confluence of several main roads. The town is located in the south-east of Wiltshire, near to Salisbury Plain and has a population of around 45,000 residents (2006 estimate).

It is at the confluence of five rivers: the Avon, Nadder, Ebble, Wylye (pronounced 'Why-lee') and Bourne. The resultant river is the Avon (old Welsh for 'river'), which flows to the south coast and out into the sea at Christchurch, Dorset. This Avon is sometimes referred to as the Hampshire Avon, in order to distinguish it from the many other rivers of the same name in the United Kingdom.

In 1990, Salisbury was twinned with Saintes in France.

On the 23 April 2006, Salisbury was twinned with Xanten in Germany.


The city's origins go back to the Iron Age, and the Romans called it "Sorviodunum". There was a battle between the West Saxons and the Britons here, after which the place was called "Searoburh". The Normans built a castle and called it "Searesbyrig" or "Seresberi". By 1086, in the Domesday Book, it was called "Salesberie". The site of the castle is now known as Old Sarum and is uninhabited. The bury element is a form of borough, which has cognates in words and place names throughout the Germanic languages.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Cathedral Close. At 123 metres (404 feet), the spire is the tallest in the UK.
Salisbury Cathedral from the Cathedral Close. At 123 metres (404 feet), the spire is the tallest in the UK.

The name "Sarum", which is often mistakenly taken to be the Roman or Norman name for the old city and castle, came into use when documents were written in contracted Latin and it was easier to write Sar with a stroke over the "r", than write the complete word "Saresberie". That mark of contraction was also the common symbol for the Latin termination "um". Hence "Sar" with a stroke over the r was copied as "SarUM". One of the first known uses of "Sarum" is on the seal of Saint Nicholas Hospital, Salisbury,which was in use in 1239. Bishop Wyville (1330-1375) was the first Bishop to describe himself "episcopus Sarum". (A full description of this is given in "The Victoria History of Wiltshire", Vol. VI, pp. 93-94).

Great West Front of Salisbury Cathedral
Great West Front of Salisbury Cathedral

The first cathedral was built at Old Sarum by St Bishop Osmund between 1075 and 1092. A larger building was subsequently built on the same site in c.1120. However, deteriorating relations between the clergy and the military at Old Sarum led to the decision to resite the cathedral elsewhere. Thus the city of New Sarum, known as Salisbury, was founded in 1220, and the building of the new cathedral begun by Bishop Richard Poore in that year. The main body was completed in only 38 years and is a masterpiece of Early English architecture, the stones which make up the cathedral came down from Old Sarum. The spire, which is 123 metres tall, was built later and is the tallest spire in the UK. The cathedral is built on a gravel bed with unusually shallow foundations of 18 inches upon wooden faggots: the site is supposed to have been selected by firing an arrow from Old Sarum, although this is clearly legend due to the distance involved (although it is sometimes claimed the arrow hit a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where the Cathedral now exists).

The cathedral's library contains the best surviving of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta.

In 1386, a large mechanical clock was installed at Salisbury Cathedral. It is the oldest surviving mechanical clock in Britain and probably anywhere.

The city wall surrounds the close and was built in the 14th Century. There are five gates in the wall, four are original a fourth was created in the 19th Century to allow access to Bishop Wordsworth's School located inside the Close. They are known as the High Street Gate, St Ann's Gate, the Queen's Gate, and St Nicholas's Gate. A room located above St Ann's Gate is where the composer Handel is known to have stayed, and whilst there wrote several works.

During the Great Plague of London, Charles II held court in the Close.

The novel Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd, is an imaginary retelling of the history of Salisbury.


The 15th century Poultry Cross in the Market Place originally marked the section of the market trading in poultry.
The 15th century Poultry Cross in the Market Place originally marked the section of the market trading in poultry.

Salisbury holds a market on Tuesdays and Saturdays and has held a regular markets since 1227. In the 15th century the Market Place was dotted with stone crosses marking the centres for certain trades and goods. Today only the Poultry Cross remains, although the addition of flying buttresses was made in 1852.

In 1226, King Henry III granted the Bishop of Salisbury a charter to hold a fair lasting 8 days from the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (15 August). Over the centuries the dates for the fair have moved around, but in its modern guise, a funfair is now held in the Market Place for three days from the 3rd Monday in October. However, there is still an ancient law stating that the fair can move to the Cathedral close.

Salisbury High Street
Salisbury High Street

Salisbury has a strong artist community, with many galleries situated in the city centre. In the 18th century, John Constable made a number of celebrated landscape paintings featuring the cathedral spire and the surrounding countryside. Salisbury's annual International Arts Festival, held in late May to early June, provides a varied programme of theatre, live music, dance, public sculpture, street performance and art exhibitions.

The world famous Stonehenge site adds greatly to the local economy. Stonehenge is about 8 miles (13 km) northwest of Salisbury.

Major employers include: Salisbury General Hospital, Friends Provident and Pains Wessex.

Nearby towns and villages


  • Salisbury has many unique shops in the city centre. Shopping centres include The Old George Mall, The Maltings, and Winchester Street.
  • Many public gardens. Most of the gardens have rivers running through them and are safe and shallow enough to enter.
  • The Bishop's Walk on the edge of the city providing excellent views.
  • Old Sarum Castle ruins and the remains of the original cathedral.
  • Many museums and galleries. A gallery is located within Salisbury Library.
  • Salisbury Arts Centre provides the opportunity to take part in many creative activities. It is also a venue for live music performances.
  • A huge variety of restaurants and pubs.
  • Due to the age and mysticism of the city, many buildings are reputed to be haunted. Ghost tours are very popular.
  • The local Odeon cinema is located in the House of John O'Gaunt, an example of Salisbury's rich historic architecture. It is the oldest building in the UK that has a cinema in it.
  • The Five Rivers Leisure Centre and Swimming Pool is located just outside of the ring road and was opened in 2002.
  • The Playhouse is the local theatre, many plays are staged here.
  • The City Hall is a multi-purpose entertainment venue and hosts comedy, musical performances as well as seminars and conventions.


Salisbury is served by its own radio station, Spire FM. BBC Wiltshire is a regional station for the whole of the county. The Salisbury Journal is the local newspaper.

Salisbury falls into the BBC's southern region. Commercial TV is supplied by Meridian.

Areas within and around Salisbury

  • Bemerton Heath
  • Bishopdown
  • Bishopdown Farm
  • Bodenham
  • Britford
  • Churchfields
  • Clarendon
  • Constable Court
  • East Harnham
  • Ford
  • The Friary
  • Fugglestone Red
  • Homington
  • Laverstock
  • Lower Bemerton
  • Milford
  • Netherhampton
  • Nunton
  • Odstock
  • Paul's Dene
  • Petersfinger
  • Riding's Mead
  • Quidhampton
  • Shady Bower
  • Solstice Park
  • Spire Views
  • Stratford-Sub-Castle
  • West Harnham


  • The local Debenhams department store is said to be haunted by the Duke of Buckingham. The store is located on the site where he was beheaded.
  • Many other Salisburys exist in the world. The Zimbabwean capital Harare was formerly named Salisbury.
  • The BBC TV series Archer's Goon was filmed in Salisbury.
  • There is a sundial in St Thomas's Square.
  • Old Sarum was the first place William the Conqueror visited having defeated King Harold at Hastings.
  • At night there is a red light on top of the Cathedral. It is possible to buy postcards titled "Salisbury at Night". The cards are plain black with a red dot.
  • After London and Bath, Salisbury's house prices are the highest in the UK.
  • The restaurant The Haunch of Venison formerly contained a mummified disembodied hand that was stolen recently. The hand was severed from its owner's body during a rather heated game of cards.
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