There’s no denying that the Cathedral and its Close are the main attractions in Salisbury, but the small city centre is worth exploring in its own right, and so I’ve devised this short walk with the aim of helping visitors get acquainted with what else there is to see.
For the most part, the points of interest on this walk are places that can be taken in without spending too much time on them, but it will obviously depend on the individual’s personal interests. To give you some idea on how long it will take, it could probably take somebody who was on a mission no more than 45 minutes, but I recommend at least double that.
The walk starts from the Guildhall in Market Square, but before starting off take a look along the row of buildings next to it. If you look up on the wall above Reeve the Baker you’ll see that this is known as Ox Row. Formerly known as Pot Row, this was one of many rows of stalls that originated in the Middle Ages and which later became more substantial permanent fixtures. Other names around here included Cordwainer Row, Ironmonger Row and Wheeler Row.
Between the Guildhall and Reeve the Baker there’s a small passageway which, if you can tear yourself away from the pies, pasties and cakes in the shop window, will bring you out into Fish Row with the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) on the left. If you want any information on Salisbury and the surrounding area this is the best place to get it.
Turning right out of the TIC and past Reeve the Baker continue along Butcher Row, which is in fact the back of Ox Row. At the end is the Poultry Cross, a survivor from the Middle Ages with the top added in 1852. Ahead there is a row of black and white half-timbered buildings including The Haunch of Venison, the oldest pub in Salisbury. Walk up Minster St past the pub, and then turn left at the HSBC Bank and follow the path round into St. Thomas Square.
If the Cathedral hasn’t already exhausted you where religious buildings are concerned, it’s worth popping into the church dedicated to St Thomas a Becket. The thing that most people come in here to see is the Doom Painting on the chancel arch which was painted by a pilgrim as a gift of thanks for his safe return in 1475. It looks in remarkably good condition for something that old and I must admit I did have a suspicion that it wasn’t quite what it seemed. It appears that it was whitewashed over in 1593 and re-discovered in 1819, but not restored until 1881. It was restored again in 1953, so no wonder it looks in good condition.
In the Lady Chapel there are three medieval wall paintings, which also look in good condition for their age, but I’ve not read anything about them being restored, but they must have been. I’ve often pondered the question “When does something that’s been restored stop being authentic?”
After visiting the church take the path opposite which leads to the attractive setting of a former flour mill and now the small ‘Maltings’ shopping centre. It was here on March 4th 2018 that Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench. Subsequent tests came to the conclusion that they had been poisoned by a nerve agent known as Novichok in a targeted murder attempt. The British government blamed the Russian state for the incident, and although the Skripals have now recovered from the incident, relations between the two countries most definitely have not, especially as two innocent local people came across the nerve agent by accident, one of whom has subsequently died.
The Skripals went for a drink in the Mill pub before being taken ill and the area was cordoned off, but assuming that the area opens back up again, take the small bridge across to Bridge St, cross the road, turn right and then left down a path that follows the river down to the Grade I listed Crane Bridge.
Turn left into Crane St and then right towards the Cathedral Close, passing under the North Gate.
At the Close take the first left along North Walk towards St. Ann’s Gate and then walk through the gate into St. John St. Turn left and walk up to the busy crossroads, where if you carry on straight ahead you will find yourself in Catherine St.
At the next crossroads walk straight over into Queen St and back to Fish Row. See! I said it wasn’t far.
You would have seen several half-timbered buildings on your way round, and there’s another good example here on your right-hand side known as John a Port’s House. This powerful city merchant was mayor of Salisbury six times.
You are now back at the Guildhall, Market Place, and Reeve the Baker, who I hasten to add I have no affiliation with other than the fact that I can’t walk past the damn place, so excuse me while I pop in and get one of their freshly baked Wiltshire Ham sandwiches. Gert Lush!