Old Salisbury: Topography

Pages 63-65

A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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Leland said that outside each of the two gates of the old city there had been 'a fair suburbe'. (fn. 1) It seems reasonably clear that the eastern suburb had been in some kind of occupation in early times, for beside the present Old Castle Inn (fn. 2) excavation has revealed a building possibly a church, and cess pits of 11thcentury date. (fn. 3) The cess pits, however, may have been dug in this quarter to keep them away from the main centre of settlement, so it should not be inferred that the suburb was then populous. Leland notes that houses in this suburb had been inhabited within the memory of people living in his time, but all were deserted when he wrote. (fn. 4)

Early references to the lands of the old borough are so scanty that the only hope of identifying them lies in the attempt to extract the information from later sources. An Exchequer suit of 1596–8 implies that the 'borough land' or lands, some of which seem to have been inclosed, lay in the two King's Furlongs. Their area, however, was uncertain, two deponents computing it at 40 a., another at 32 a., and another at 24 a. (fn. 5) Fortunately the maps attached to the inclosure award for Stratford and Milford (made in 1800) and to the tithe commutation award (1839) give more substantial help. (fn. 6) The inclosure map distinguishes the old inclosures from the lands allotted by the commissioners: and the tithe map shows that embedded in a larger area of varied ecclesiastical ownerships there is a core of lands belonging to James Alexander, who had acquired the Old Sarum estate by exchange with Lord Caledon. Comparison of the two maps makes it possible to identify — very broadly — the old inclosures which were in lay ownership, and which therefore undoubtedly represent the borough lands. All round them were lands held in 1800 by Lord Camelford under leases from the Dean of Salisbury, the dean and chapter, and the succentor, and by others as lessees of the Prebendary of Stratford and the Chancellor of Salisbury. These are evidently the lands appropriated by the Bishop of Salisbury for the endowment of the cathedral church, and subsequently allotted by the chapter either to individual prebends or retained for the common fund of the canons.

The lands thus identified as borough lands consist of plots to the east of the castle, mostly between the castle gate and the network of roads beyond, with perhaps some plots across the road, and certainly including an inclosure known later as 'Turrell's Three Acres' which was one of the nine surviving burgages in the 18th century. On the west side of the castle there are inclosures flanking a road leading south-west from the castle towards the present bridge over the Avon, and a few plots south of the bridge, and between the village street and the river, intermingled with plots in ecclesiastical ownership. The western part of the borough is found, however, concentrated chiefly along both sides of the road called the Portway in 1596–8 (fn. 7) and 1800, (fn. 8) and Inckleton Way in 1839. (fn. 9) This led south-west from the castle. All, or almost all, of this area was later in lay ownership. A large field nearest to the castle defences, and crossed by the Roman road, bore the revealing name of King's Field. (fn. 10) This is part of the borough referred to by Benson and Hatcher as being within the boundary diverging from the rampart to take in a considerable open space in the declivity, and abutting on the road leading to Stratford. (fn. 11) They arrived at this conclusion by inspection and discovery of the foundation of a wall, and they did not realize that the borough lands went further. At the point at which the Roman road met the river lay the bridge that once carried the Roman road to Wilton.

It can be no surprise to find that the western part of the borough was gathered for the most part along the Portway, for the military considerations, which prompted the building of the castle, pointed as insistently to the control of communications, and in particular of the bridge; and when lands in the future Stratford were granted by a pre-Conquest king or lord to a bishop of Sherborne or Ramsbury, it was these key points which were reserved to the royal control.

An inquest of 1289 shows that there were then three bridges belonging to the old borough. The first of these lay between the king's mill and the castle, and half of it was repairable by the king. (fn. 12) Meadows, called Kingsbridge Meadow, lying beside the water, at the point where the line of the Portway cuts the river, (fn. 13) fix the location of it. The other bridges lay between the mill on the west side of the castle and the castle itself, (fn. 14) probably the present Stratford Mill. One of them may have carried across the river the road that runs downhill in a direction slightly south of west from a wind pump below the castle into the Stratford-Woodford road; in 1839 there was a Bridge Meadow on the west of the Avon at the point where this track would have debouched. (fn. 15) These two bridges were repairable by communitas patrie. (fn. 16) In 1320 a jury, sitting at 'Kingsmill', found that the townships of Bemerton and Quidhampton, west of the river, were bound to repair half of 'Kingsmill' bridge. The township of Stratford was responsible for the other half together with the king's road itself, and other little bridges over the mill troughs in that roadway, as far as the bridge nearest to Stratford. The latter bridge, however, had always been the responsibility of the commonalty of the borough. (fn. 17) The second of these bridges is presumably either the bridge that, as suggested above, debouched upon Bridge Meadow, or else another a little further upstream. About 1380–4 Kingsmill bridge was repairable by Stratford, Quidhampton, Bemerton and the borough of Old Salisbury. (fn. 18)

The materials for reconstructing the rest of the topography of Old Salisbury are very scanty. In 1353 the bishop leased to John Everard a dovecot in 'Nyweton Westyate', and a watermill called Coleman's mill. (fn. 19) Newton Westgate is not expressly stated to be situate in the borough, though the 'aldermanry of Newton' mentioned in the will of John atte Stone (1361) (fn. 20) must have been. A Robert Cheke of Newton Westgate was living in 1424. (fn. 21) Newton Westgate was probably a street in the borough, perhaps the Portway itself, which leads westwards, and lay in a district which might once have been given the name of Newton. The high cross in or beside the king's highway of Old Salisbury is mentioned in 1400. (fn. 22) 'Uptonlond', mentioned in 1423, (fn. 23) probably preserves the memory of the Upton family, who were dealing with lands in the old city in 1270, (fn. 24) 1271 (fn. 25) and 1321. (fn. 26) It was possibly this land, which, having once belonged to Alan Upton, a clerk convict, was successively committed for terms of years to John Compton in 1510 and Chideock Wardour in 1570, (fn. 27) and granted to Lord Salisbury in 1606 with the castle and borough. (fn. 28)

One mill was shared in Domesday Book by the king and the bishop; (fn. 29) there presently appear two mills, and there may have been more along the river. (fn. 30) In 1204 the vill of Salisbury and the mill there were granted with the custody of the castle. (fn. 31) In 1241 the sheriff was ordered to make the king's mill under the castle, (fn. 32) presumably the mill on the western side of the Avon on the line of the Portway. Ten years later it had been overthrown by a thunderstorm, and the sheriff was bidden to buy timber, millstones, and other things for its repair. (fn. 33) Timber for repair was ordered again in 1270; (fn. 34) and six years later the sheriff was granted four oaks for rebuilding the mill which had lately been thrown down by the force of the river. (fn. 35) In 1315, the mill being broken down, the sheriff was excused 4 marks of its farm. (fn. 36) Repairs were again authorized in 1320, (fn. 37) 1348, (fn. 38) 1359, (fn. 39) and 1360, on the last occasion to a limit of £30. (fn. 40)

It appears that Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, described as 'the true lord and possessor of the mills', had given a mill to the Prior and Convent of St. Denys of Southampton. He gave it to the intent that they and their successors should have only the multure of malt of the men of the vills thereabout: he reserved the multure of all other corn of the men of those vills to his other mill. Malt went to the one mill, and other corn to the other mill both when the earl had the castle, and when later it came into the king's hands. When Walter of Stirchley was sheriff he caused the malt to come to the royal mill, and similarly his successor did not allow the convent's tenant, Walter of Wilton, to enjoy the multure of malt. The king therefore issued a commission of oyer and terminer in 1265 and a writ to inquire in 1277. The jurors found that the prior's mill was entitled to the multure of malt of the men of Old Salisbury on the condition that the mill tenant provided carriage and took for it one barrel of ale of each brewing. As to the multure of malt of men of adjoining vills, however, the prior's mill was only entitled to that of those who came freely and of good will. The prior's tenant, Walter of Wilton, had made a fulling mill next to his malt mill in the same course, to the damage of the king's mill and fishery: and it was because of this damage that Walter of Stirchley, the sheriff, had caused the malt to be brought to the king's mill. (fn. 41)

With the mill the prior and convent evidently acquired some land, held of the Bishop of Salisbury, for they granted it (situate in Stratford vill) 'from the highway to the water up to the piece of meadow on the water'. The meadow they retained to themselves, but granted a right of pasture in it after they had taken their hay, until the feast of the Purification when they closed it. They also granted pasture for an ox in the common pasture of Stratford. (fn. 42)


St. Peter's church is first mentioned in 1229 when the king, its owner, gave it to Wymund the clerk. (fn. 43) In 1249 it was valued at 2s. (fn. 44) In 1268 it was assessed at 1 mark, and what was called the service of the chapel, (fn. 45) in 1281 at 20s., (fn. 46) and in 1289 at ½ mark. (fn. 47) It was never appropriated; a reference to the resignation of the 'vicarage' in 1405 (fn. 48) is presumably an error. Royal patronage is implied in 1229, and claimed from 1249. (fn. 49) The last presentation that has been noted was in 1437. (fn. 50) Clerks presented between 1298 and 1412 were instituted by the bishop. (fn. 51) In 1343–4 escaped prisoners sought sanctuary in the church, which was therefore presumably standing at that time. (fn. 52)

In 1327 the parson of St. Peter's claimed that all his predecessors before the foundation of New Salisbury received tithes and oblations of the men dwelling in the castle, which was within his parish; also tithes of wool and milk of beasts pasturing in the castle; and that they received them until a chaplain celebrating in Holy Cross chapel took possession of the tithe. On enquiry a jury of men of Old Salisbury and the neighbourhood returned that it was notorious that the castle was outside the parish of St. Peter; that when the cathedral church was situate in the castle it received the tithes, and after its transfer to New Salisbury the chaplain of Holy Cross had received them. (fn. 53)

There is a single reference to the church of St. Aldreda, Old Salisbury, in 1351, when the king presented to it. (fn. 54) In 1361 there is a bequest to the church of St. Ethelred. (fn. 55) The dedication, presumably to St. Ethelreda, suggests a pre-Conquest foundation.

The chapel of Holy Cross and other castle chapels have already been described. (fn. 56) Leland refers to a parish church of St. John in the east suburb, a chapel belonging to which still stood in his day. (fn. 57) This may be a confusion with the church of St. John's hospital, (fn. 58) or with St. Peter's church, one or other of which may have been the building excavated in 1933, beside which a graveyard lay. (fn. 59)


  • 1. Leland, Itin., ed. Toulmin Smith, i. 261.
  • 2. See p. 200.
  • 3. Antiq. Jnl. xv. 174–92, esp. 176, 186.
  • 4. Leland, Itin., ed Toulmin Smith, i. 261.
  • 5. E 134/39–40 Eliz. I/Mich 14.
  • 6. W.R.O. Stratford Inclosure and Tithe Awards.
  • 7. E 134/39–40 Eliz. I/Mich. 14.
  • 8. W.R.O. Stratford Inclosure Award. Perhaps the same as 'Buriwey' of 1423: Cat. Anct. D. iv. A 6279.
  • 9. W.R.O. Stratford Tithe Award.
  • 10. First named in 1405: Sar. Dioc. Regy., Reg. Chandler, f. 44d.
  • 11. Hatcher, Salisbury, 31, 604.
  • 12. J. I. 1/1011, m. 63.
  • 13. W.R.O. Stratford Tithe Award.
  • 14. J. I. 1/1011, m. 63.
  • 15. W.R.O. Stratford Tithe Award.
  • 16. J.I. 1/1011, m. 63.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1350–4, 133.
  • 18. Public Works in Medieval Law (Selden Soc.), ii. 234.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1354–8, 649.
  • 20. Hatcher, Salisbury, 63.
  • 21. Cat. Anct. D. iv. A 9217.
  • 22. J. I. 3/186, m. 3.
  • 23. Cat. Anct. D. iv. A 6279.
  • 24. C.P. 25(1)/252/22/13.
  • 25. C. P. 25 (1)/252/22/25.
  • 26. Feet of F. Wilts. 1272–1327 (W.A.S. Rec. Brch.), 109; see above, p. 63.
  • 27. Hatfield Ho. Mun. Legal 231/4.
  • 28. C 66/1708, m. 30.
  • 29. V.C. H. Wilts. ii. pp. 115, 121.
  • 30. e.g. Coleman's mill: see above.
  • 31. Rot. Litt. Claus. i. 6.
  • 32. Cal. Lib. 1240–5, 1.
  • 33. Ibid. 1245–51, 361; Close R. 1247–51, 467.
  • 34. Close R. 1268–72, 207–8.
  • 35. Cal. Close, 1272–9, 269.
  • 36. Ibid. 1313–18, 173.
  • 37. Ibid. 1318–23, 193.
  • 38. Ibid. 1346–9, 430.
  • 39. Ibid. 1354–60, 468.
  • 40. Ibid. 1360–4, 34.
  • 41. Cal. Inq. Misc. i. p. 328; Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1242–1326 (Index Libr.), 118. For the later history of mills in Stratford, see below, p. 209.
  • 42. Cat. Anct. D. iv. A 8734, A 8827.
  • 43. Cal. Pat. 1225–32, 242.
  • 44. Bk. of Fees, ii. 1423.
  • 45. J. I. 1/998A, m. 28.
  • 46. J. I. 1/1005 pt. 2, m. 152.
  • 47. J. I. 1/1011, m. 63.
  • 48. W.A.M. xix. 274.
  • 49. Bk. of Fees, ii. 1423.
  • 50. Cal. Pat. 1436–41, 425.
  • 51. Phillipps, Wilts. Inst. i. 2, 102.
  • 52. J. I. 2/195, m. 12d.
  • 53. Wilts. Inq. p.m. 1327–77 (Index Libr.), 16.
  • 54. Cal. Pat. 1350–4, 110.
  • 55. Hatcher, Salisbury, 63.
  • 56. See p. 60.
  • 57. Leland, Itin., ed. Toulmin Smith, i. 260.
  • 58. V.C.H. Wilts. iii. 341.
  • 59. Antiq. Jnl. xv. 180–4.