St Edmund’s in Salisbury


The story of the Collegiate Church of St Edmund very much reflects the story of Salisbury. It was the first new church in the city, both St Martin’s and even St Thomas’ having aready existed in some form before the Cathedral was started in 1220.

The city was immediately successful in many respects, after the move from OLd Sarum. As the Cathedral grew in its south western corner and as the chequer-board pattern of streets began to be laid out between 1220 and 1260, becoming crowded with homes, shops and workshops, so it soon became clear that a new parish would have to be formed in the north east corner. An open space, between Bedwyn Street and the northern city boundary, was possibly the only space left in that area, and in 1269 Bishop Walter de la Wyle founded the church “for the increase of Divine Worship and in honour of the blessed Edmund, Confessor and Prelate, formerly Treasurer of our (cathedral) church.”

In addition to the parish church there was a college for up to 13 priests which put it on a par with the friaries on Bugmore and with De Vaux College (by Harnham Gate) which was for a while a nascent university. Their courtyard of domestic buildings was where the Bourne Hill Council Offices are now.

An etching of St Edmund’s dated 1834 (copies of this etching available from

The streets leading from the Market Place to the city boundary and beyond would have been, for obvious reasons, the earliest to be settled, prospective owners and tenants vying for the best plots, especially for their businesses. Weaving had long since been important in the county, and many weavers settled in the north east corner, close to the ramparts where, via Bedwyn Street, they were quickly on the route out to London or up Milford Hill to Winchester. Unlike the dyers they didn’t need copious supplies of flowing water to get their work done. St Edmund’s became their church, which was, perhaps, to seal its future.

The building we see today, and even the one in the etching from 1834 (above), is not the building from 1269. More about the history of St Edmund’s and the surrounding area soon.

Meanwhile, let us remind ourselves that, although the last service was in 1974 and the building is now an Arts Centre, it is still a delightful place to be, especially on a sunny day, sitting eating their wonderful cheese scones in the peace and quiet of that corner of the city.

The Council Offices on Bourne Hill, built on the site of the early priests’ domestic buildings

The Milford Street Bridge Project website is, as always, so interesting in its content about this part of the city, and there are some lovely memories of St Edmunds, from local residents, are here.

Information from John Chandler ‘Endless Street’ 1987, Newman and Howells ‘Salisbury Past’ 2001, ‘A Short History and Guide to St Edmund’s Church Salisbury’ and other sources.

I’ve Got Mine!


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Richard Henry was Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire until a very few years ago, and our colleague here at The Salisbury Museum.

His new book, Hoards from Wiltshire (Amberley Books, 2021) is a lavishly illustrated account of some of the very best of finds from the county, and reminds us of the fabulous Hoards Exhibition of 2018. Many items in the book are on display in the museum.

Answers to Recent Quizzes


Now we know….!

Christmas Day 1066
  1. On which day of the year was William the Conqueror crowned? CHRISTMAS DAY
  2. Which English king is this jingle about: “The cat, the rat and Lovell our dog, rule all England under a hog” RICHARD III
  3. Which trade was regulated by the Staple in the 14th century? THE WOOL TRADE
  4. What form of transport is associated with “roses and “castles”? CANAL/NARROW BOATING
  5. Which Iron Age castle is hidden here? ENID CAME LAST MAIDEN CASTLE
  6. What number links the Battle of Hastings to the Fire of London? 1066 1666 66!
  7. Off which Dorset beach was the Dam Busters’ bouncing bomb tested? CHESIL BEACH
  8. Who was general of Cromwell’s New Model Army? THOMAS FAIRFAX
  9. A halberd is a hybrid of two weapons…what two? AN AXE AND A SPEAR
  10. Which King brought the Stone of Destiny to England? EDWARD I

  1. ARMIGEROUS. IT MEANS (c) entitled to display heraldic arms

2. BYRNIE. IT IS (a) a Medieval long mail shirt

3. GONFALON. IT IS (c) a flag with ‘tails’ as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry

4. SARSENET. IT IS (b) a fine, soft-textured fabric

Personal gonfalon of William the Conqueror

The Further Story of Sobraon



Alan Clarke and I agreed recently that one of the most exciting things about historical research is that it often takes you to unexpected places, both literally (especially if undertaking family history) and in every other way also. He sent me an email recently, soon after I put up a piece about his lovely talk on the Salisbury family of Oglethorpes, and their trip to Australia on the Sobraon.

Alan wrote:

“You can see (series of emails below) what you started here! I emailed the Sobraon website you had found and received a reply from the book’s author.

It is lovely to have even more information; I didn’t know it was her final ocean passage.….

I wonder what vessel the Oglethorpes came back on a few years later?

If we undertake an online search for Sobraon all sorts of good things are revealed as the ship had an interesting history right until its end.

From the Sydney Living Museums site, we can read this, and much more….

In 1891 the Sobraon was sold to the NSW State Government for use as a reformatory, or Nautical School Ship, for underprivileged boys found by the courts to be destitute or for other reasons requiring a “disciplined environment”. Moored off Cockatoo Island, over 4,000 boys were hosted and trained in trade or maritime skills across a 20-year period. In 1911 it was bought by the Australian Commonwealth Government, renamed HMAS Tingira and became the first naval training ship in the fledgling Royal Australian Navy. In 1927 Tingira was paid off and laid to rest in Berrys Bay where she remained moored. Resold twice, an attempt by one owner, a retired British officer, to restore the ship to its past glory, along with a proposal to turn her into a floating museum, sadly proved unachievable. She was broken up in 1942.”

HMAS Tingira as a training ship

Photographers: Edward William Searle and Mary Elizabeth Elmslie

A bit of fun…from Volunteer Mary Crane


Still playing with words…..

  1. ARMIGEROUS. IS IT..a) a word meaning “up for a fight” used by Pepys; b) deserving of poor relief; c) entitled to display heraldic arms?

2. BYRNIE. IS IT…a) a Medieval long mail shirt; b) a small byre for cattle or sheep; c) a warm woollen garment worn in the Highlands in the 17th century?

3. GONFALON. IS IT…a) a young hawk being trained to the lure; b) a type of helmet with protection for the nape of the neck; c) a flag with ‘tails’ as depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry?

4. SARSENET. IS IT…a) a type of battering ram used in the Crusades; b) a fine, soft-textured fabric; c) a small sarsen stone often found in isolation from a main monument?

Mary says she likes doing these because she loves making up the lies….!




With respect to a blog of 29th May, I was mildly disappointed that, arguably Salisbury’s most colourful medieval character, the astrological physician Simon Forman, did not receive a mention.

Described by a biographer of Simon Forman, Barbara Howard Traister, as ‘”he notorious astrological physician of London”, Simon was born in Quidhampton in 1552 and according to his Autobiography and Diary lived at several premises in and around Salisbury, including Fisherton parsonage and a house in St Thomas’ churchyard.

The reasons for Forman’s notoriety are well summarised on the dust cover to Judith Cook’s book, ‘Simon Forman -A Most Notorious Physician’, which describes his battles with the College of Physicians who labelled him a quack, a crank, a practitioner of black magic, and tried constantly to have him thrown into gaol. (Forman was an ‘irregular’, unlicenced by the College of Physicians). He was also a compulsive womaniser who kept an intimate coded diary of his sexual conquests with patients. These include Emllia Lanier, a strong contender for Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’. Forman has also been linked with Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘School of Night’ and, posthumously, with the notorious Overbury murder following which four minor accomplices were executed, but the beautiful Frances Howard, Countess of Essex, later confessed. On the plus side, Forman claims to have cured himself of plague during the 1592 epidemic and remained in London, after the wealthy had fled, in order to treat others so afflicted.

However, it is his earlier life in Salisbury which I have been trying to unpick. Thus it was while he was living in the parsonage at Fisherton that he claimed to have first gained his miraculous powers, writing, “This year [1579] I did prophecie the truth of many things which afterwards came to passe, and the very sprites wer subjecte unto me; what I spake”.

Whilst living in Salisbury, Forman was tutor to the children of John Penruddock MP, the grandson of Edward Penruddock of Arklebury, who was Great Great Grandfather of Col. John Penruddock of the Penruddock Uprising through a different line.

Whilst living in Salisbury Forman was frequently being thrown into gaol and having his books confiscated, principally by his bete noir, Giles Estcourt JP. Indeed, one of Formans biographers, Professor Lauren Kassell, speculates that the reason Forman eventually left Salisbury for London (in 1589) was due to a scandal. He had been seen to go with his girlfriend of the time to the aisle of St Thomas’ Church containing Estcourt’s recently-laid tomb and there they ‘had their pleasure on of thother and had carnall knowledge eche of others bodie’.

Nowadays Simon Forman is also renowned as having written first-hand accounts of four of Shakespeare’s plays. Ironically, seeing as he was an ‘irregular; Forman’s meticulously recorded case-histories are now one of the main sources for knowledge of Elizabethan medicine.

The interior of St Thomas – with the mural depicting Doom above the aisle!

Alan has included mention of Simon Forman in earlier contributions to this blog, particularly this one from 2017. He is quite right – how could we have missed mentioning Simon Forman in “More Odd Facts About Salisbury” when Simon gets odder and odder! Thank you Alan….

St Edmund’s



We have had a request for some information about, and particularly photographs of, St Edmunds, now the Arts Centre, Salisbury. Just as a ‘taster’, here are two great photos ‘dug out’ of the archives by Volunteer Alan Clarke.

More to come…

An aerial view. An enjoyable few minutes can be spent working out where this view was taken from and what, if anything has changed.

And a view of the interior…

Even More Odd Facts about Salisbury – the early Modern Period

Walton Canonry, near the museum, was so-called as it was once the home of the famous angler, Canon Isaac Walton (died 1683 in Winchester).

The room above St Ann’s Gate was used for concerts, including possibly one by Handel himself, during the eighteenth century.

St Ann’s Gate showing the room above

In 1700 a document claimed there were over one-thousand lace-makers in Salisbury (there is an interesting site re Wiltshire lace-makers here).

In 1741, Salisbury Cathedral spire was struck by lightning and set on fire.

Lord Nelson was given the freedom of the city of Salisbury in 1800.

A Model School was set up in association with the Diocesan Training School, which itself was set up in 1841 in the King’s House (today The Salisbury Museum). Women training to be teachers could practise there. By 1859, 60 to 80 girls were under a certificated mistress and 2 pupil teachers. The building, furniture, books and apparatus were excellent, and “the discipline and instruction very good”.

In 1889 the Kilburn Sisterhood had built an infants’ department for a Ragged School (opened earlier in Milford Street) on a plot of land at Gigant Street. Led by an Emily Ayckbowm, this order set up places of worship and schools for the poor and for unemployed men in various parts of the country.

By 1904, when compulsory registration was set up, there were twenty-two motor cars and 40 motorcycles owned in Salisbury. Five of the motor cars around this time were owned by doctors. The first tarring of streets took place in 1908.

The Scout motor car, manufactured in Salisbury in 1912 (now in the care of Salisbury Museum)

Laurence Olivier and Peter Ustinov entertained troops in Salisbury in WW2.

Starting in January 2021, the Sarum South Primary Care Network team and their volunteers (around 90 people in all) vaccinated over 35,000 people in Salisbury Cathedral, before closing there in early May.The final jab was given to 58-year-old Gerard Henderson, administered by Dr Rob Hewetson.

Thanks, once again, to various sources, including John Chandler ‘Endless Street’ 1987, and Newman and Howells ‘Salisbury Past’ 2001.

Another Quiz of Random Questions!


Thank you Mary Crane!

  1. On which day of the year was William the Conqueror crowned?
  2. Which English king is this jingle about: “The cat, the rat and Lovell our dog, rule all England under a hog”
  3. Which trade was regulated by the Staple in the 14th century?
  4. What form of transport is associated with “roses and “castles”?
  5. Which Iron Age castle is hidden here? ENID CAME LAST
  6. What number links the Battle of Hastings to the Fire of London?
  7. Off which Dorset beach was the Dam Busters’ bouncing bomb tested?
  8. Who was general of Cromwell’s New Model Army:?
  9. A halberd is a hybrid of two weapons…what two?
  10. Which King brought the Stone of Destiny to England?
Hants Cultural Trust

Answers to the last quiz:

  1. What is the name of the canal which links London and Birmingham?The Grand Union Canal
  2. In which country of the UK would you find a ‘broch’? And what is it? Scotland – a hollow circular stone tower
  3. In 1988 archaeologists declared they believed they knew the site of Boudicca’s grave. Where? Under platforms at King’s Cross Station!
  4. What is the right order (earliest to latest) of these English kings? 3rd Stephen; 2nd Henry; 5th John; 1st W illiam; 4th Richard
  5. Which King asked to be “rid of the turbulent priest”? And who was the priest? Henry II and Thomas Beckett
  6. About which king did York City Council write “was piteously slain and murdered to the great heaviness of this city”? Richard III
  7. In which year did the Dam Busters’ raid take place? 1943
  8. Whose reign are each of the following associated with ? Piers Gaveston (Edward II); the Peasants’ Revolt (Richard III); Warwick the Kingmaker (Edward IV); Simon de Montford (Henry III); the Black Prince (Edward III)