Erratic engineeress

Salisbury cathedral and Magna Carta


The home of civil liberties.

Salisbury is a small city in Wiltshire county, UK, famous for its majestic cathedral, which houses one of the four original Magna Cartas, which is also the best preserved one. I spent an afternoon there in 2017, as part of my trip to Stonehenge and Bath.

Obviously, the focal point of my visit was the esteemed Salisbury cathedral and the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta or the Great charter is the first official document granting certain civil liberties to free subjects of the English King at the time and subjecting the king to the rule of law. King John signed the document in 1215 after the famous revolt of the barons, with the threat of a full scale civil war hanging over his head. The Magna Carta was the world’s first step towards civil rights, the rule of law and democracy, which makes it a quite important document. As far as old manuscripts go, it’s not particularly impressive in person, but its historical significance and the incredible cathedral make Salisbury well worth a visit.

As an engineer I also have to mention, that Salisbury cathedral houses the world’s oldest working clock mechanism (similar claims have been made elsewhere, but of course I saw the authentic one and I even bought a postcard).

The oldest clock mechanism in the world.

The Salisbury cathedral dates back to 1220, when the first foundation stones were built. Building the cathedral was a huge project, supported by the bishops and the English king, which is why it is one of the finest English Gothic churches today. The iconic spire was added after 1300 and is now the tallest spire in Britain, because it has lasted the longest – the taller spires in London and Lincoln gave in before the 16th century, but the Salisbury spire is still standing strong.

The Salisbury cathedral

After I’d had enough of the cathedral interior and its beautiful stained glass, I ate lunch at the cathedral refectory, where an elderly nun gave me a free cookie (hurray!). Besides the Salisbury cathedral, I also explored the small medieval city centre, encountered a magical sweets shop and a beautiful park. The streets in the old part of Salisbury have kept their medieval names which originated from the professions practised there, such as the Butcher’s row, Fish row etc.. I found it adorably amusing and it’s worth strolling through the town centre for that alone.

It was one of those rare sunny English Sunday afternoons, with not a lot of people about in the centre, which almost made it feel like I’d stepped back in time, so I ended up spending a whole hour sitting on a park bench in the sun and people watching before it was time to go. To be honest, there is not much to do in Salisbury besides the cathedral, so an afternoon there was more than enough for me.

Impressions of Salisbury

I’d brought study material for the train journey back to Leeds, but the book I bought in Bath turned out to be way more interesting. Although that resulted in a late night cramming session after I eventually got back to my house in Leeds, the whole trip was well worth it!


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