One of my very favourite authors is Susan Howatch. Susan wrote a series of novels based around the Church of England and its clergy, and having lived and studied in Salisbury, set the stories there, calling it Starbridge.
She writes in Glittering Images, the first book in the series: “So I came to Starbridge, radiant ravishing Starbridge, immortalized by famous artists, photographed by innumerable visitors and lauded by guide books as the most beautiful city west of the Avon … medieval streets, flower-filled parks and the languid river …”
Well, after all that, I absolutely had to come and look for myself and so, on a rainy Monday morning, I boarded the train in Bath to take the, this time direct, journey to Salisbury.
I knew nothing about Salisbury, as I know nothing about most places I head for. It turns out it is indeed a medieval town, pretty, though I thought it could have done with a tidy-up in some areas. The street leading from the station was littered with cigarette butts, and various shops were empty and graffitied. Right in the middle of this was the Town Hall. Strange that they walked past that every day without wanting to polish it up a bit.
Some of the locals could have done with a bit of a polish up too, though that’s being awfully judgmental. It’s just that I’d spent the last week in Cambridge and Bath. I’m pretty sure you’d be drawn and quartered if you left a graffiti tag on a wall or a cigarette butt on a pavement in the tourist areas of either of those places.
From the Town Hall on, though, it brightened up and it was a delightful walk along the river into town.
Built between 1327 and 1342, the High Street Gate is the main point of entry into the Cathedral Close. I just love these ancient gateways. This one housed a small prison for anyone convicted of misdeeds in the Close.
At the junction of Silver and Minster Streets is the Poultry Cross, the only remaining one of four market crosses that once stood in Salisbury. Built in the 15th century, it’s still in use today as part of the Salisbury market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
As night began to fall, I wandered back along the river and over the bridge to the Salisbury Playhouse. The play was Night Must Fall, by Emlyn Williams, a tale of mystery, murder and a body without a head. Great fun.
The streets were dark by the time the show finished and, what with that and my total lack of any sense of direction, it was quite a challenge finding my way back to my accommodation in St. Ann’s Street. I made it though, as I always do in the end.
My room could have doubled for a large broom cupboard but with everything I needed squeezed in. I forgot the size when I saw the view from my window.