The home page ‘Heritage’ image shows St Ann Street, probably the finest historic street in Salisbury, running westwards towards the cathedral. Within this scene, many of the characteristics which give the city its particular quality can be picked out. Each of these is developed further, under these headings:
The cathedral. Salisbury is a planned city, which owes its existence to the decision, taken early in the C13th, to move the cathedral from its former site on the Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum, two miles southwards to its present site. The city was then planned and developed round the new building, mostly to its north. The creation of the cathedral and its later history, including the crucial step of adding a tower and spire which can be classed among the great aesthetic and engineering achievements of world architecture.
The city’s grid plan. Salisbury’s C13th plan was a regular one, typical of planned medieval urban developments. It created square or rectangular blocks of buildings known as ‘chequers’, of which there are some 20 original ones, all named. St Ann Street is at the southern boundary of this planned area, and runs past three chequers, with the names Pound, Marsh and White Hart. The grid pattern is not entirely regular, as can be seen from the bend in St Ann Street in the photo on the home page.
Architectural styles. The two great periods of medieval design embodied in the cathedral are covered under that heading. Within the wider city, other styles predominate, several of them visible in St Ann Street. Half a mile north of it, the main parish church, St Thomas’s, is of exceptional quality, particular in its interior, and dates from the C15th, when the work on the cathedral was essentially complete. A few domestic buildings can be seen to be of similar age, but Georgian and later styles predominate within the city. Quite often, however, a Georgian appearance turns out to be only superficial, achieved by a recladding of a structure which is much earlier.
Materials. In exterior views, the great mass of the cathedral shows basically one material, Chilmark stone, a generic term which indicates the use of stone from the Chilmark/Tisbury area some dozen miles west of the city. Its interior makes major use of another stone, from Purbeck in Dorset. In the city, at least outside the Cathedral Close, Chilmark is relatively rare, with other stones tending to be preferred. The most common walling material is brick, though not all brick buildings are what they seem at first sight. Sometimes the effect was achieved by the use of ‘mathematical tiles’, a technique which enabled older buildings to be brought visually up to date without the expense of a total rebuild. All these materials are considered here…
The heritage which the Civic Society seeks to maintain and promote is not limited just to Salisbury. The Society’s area takes in a wide swathe of south Wiltshire, from Stourhead in the west to the Hampshire boundary in the east, and from Amesbury and neighbouring areas in the north to the Hampshire and Dorset boundaries in the south. Within this region are displayed building types, principally agricultural, not found in the city, and some materials which are also very rare in Salisbury.
This section of the website deals with the heritage which has come down to us, and how it evolved. Inevitably there are many challenges to the integrity of this legacy, and these are dealt with on the ‘Future’ page.