Salisbury: St Thomas's parish

Pages 81-83

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

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This parish developed quickly after the foundation of New Salisbury, for its position on level ground on the direct route from the cathedral to Old Salisbury made it better suited for a market place and town centre than the higher land near St. Martin's church. The parish as defined in 1269 included in the north the houses on the west side of Castle Street as far as the line of Scots Lane. The boundary then ran diagonally across the Market Place from Blue Boar Corner to the corner of the modern Queen Street and Milford Street, along part of the latter, down part of Brown Street and back along St. Ann Street to the Close wall. On the south and west it was bounded by the Close and the Avon. (fn. 1)

The two main parallel routes crossing this parish and that of St. Edmund from south to north were at first known as Minster Street and High Street. The former followed the most direct way from the cathedral to Old Salisbury and included the whole of the present High Street, Minster Street, and Castle Street. The High Street included the way along Drakehall Street (said in 1396 to be part of the High Street), (fn. 2) the present St. John's Street, Catherine Street, Queen Street, and Endless Street (said in 1348 to be part of the High Street). (fn. 3) It appears that the High Street was intended to be the chief thoroughfare through the city in the 13th century, especially after the building of the bridge to Harnham at its south end. (fn. 4) The fact that parts of it acquired other names in the 14th century, while the description High Street was transferred to the present street of that name, suggests a shifting of the city centre westward toward the direct line between St. Thomas's church and the cathedral. The changes in the nomenclature of both these main routes were well established by the 15th century. (fn. 5)

The present High Street, leading from the North Gate of the Close to the churchyard of St. Thomas, was laid out when the cathedral was built, and still has 14th- and 15th-century work in many of its houses, although many have been much altered since the 18th century, especially by the addition of shop fronts. The corner of High Street and New Street is called Mitre Corner and is traditionally said to be the site of a house built by Bishop Poore as a temporary residence while the cathedral was being built. In later centuries the house was part of an inn called successively 'The Lamb' (1455), 'The Holy Lamb' (1620) and 'The Sun and Lamb' (1649, 1742). (fn. 6) The custom of the bishop robing here for his enthronement and then being conducted to the cathedral by the dean and chapter was established by 1451, and is still maintained. (fn. 7) The present building on the site (no. 37) is a tall gable-ended house with overhanging second floor, much altered in the 18th century. The Old George Hotel in the present High Street was the most important of the city's medieval inns; the present half-timbered building includes parts which date from the 14th century. In that century it belonged to the family of Teynturer, of whom William the elder and William the younger both held the office of mayor. The name of the inn may have been connected with the activities of the guild of St. George, to which William Teynturer the younger left property in 1376. (fn. 8) After the deaths of his widow and her second husband the inn was purchased by the mayor and commonalty in 1414. It was then called 'Georges Ynne' and comprised laundry houses, chambers, solars, cellars, and shops. Later in the century its thirteen guest chambers each had a distinguishing name. (fn. 9) Samuel Pepys stayed there for two nights in 1668. (fn. 10) Its size caused it to be used also for other purposes: from about 1590 to 1624 the Free School was held in a room here; on the removal of the school the commonalty ordered that all players, who had resorted to various inns, were to confine their plays to the George Inn, 'the size and form of the inner courtyard being well adapted for that purpose'. (fn. 11) The importance of this short street is shown by the number of other medieval inns built here. On the site of Woolworth's store stood buildings which in the first years of the city belonged to William Pinnock and his son Richard, who represented Salisbury in the Parliament of 1295. From the 14th century the property was known as Pinnock's Inn, and later, after it had been given to the commonalty, 'The Helm'. In 1491 the commonalty had it demolished and built four shops with dwelling houses in its place. (fn. 12) To the north of this stood 'Countewelle's Inn', at one time owned by Geoffrey of Warminster, mayor in 1335. (fn. 13) To its south, on the site of the present nos. 42–44, was an inn called Tarent's, which had changed its name to 'The Angel' by 1455. It was still so called in the 18th century, and in 1751 was the inn from which the Bath coaches started. In 1761 the landlord went bankrupt, and the building was let for use as a dwelling-house and timberyard. (fn. 14) The Crown Hotel (nos. 46–48) stands on the site of a 15th-century inn called 'The Rose', which became the Rose and Crown in the 17th century. (fn. 15)

Silver Street, where the road from the Close turns east to skirt St. Thomas's churchyard, was so named by 1716. (fn. 16) It was called Old Poultry in 1424, and Poultry Street alias Minster Street in 1549. (fn. 17) The name Minster Street is now confined to that part of the original way passing northwards east of the churchyard to the north-west corner of the Market Place. The houses on the north side of Silver Street and the south end of the west side of Minster Street back upon the churchyard, and, although some have been much restored, still form one of the most picturesque groups in the city. Most date from the 15th and 16th centuries, some with exposed timberframing and others tile-hung.

Castle Street, the northernmost part of the old Minster Street, was so called by 1339. (fn. 18) By 1269 it already included houses both within and without the bars, for St. Edmund's parish was extended outside the city ramparts to include them. (fn. 19) By the 18th century only slight extensions had taken place northwards. A print of that period shows many gabled houses in the street; (fn. 20) one group of timberframed houses, nos. 79–91, including the George and Dragon Inn remains little altered. Otherwise the street consists largely of 18th-century frontages, some concealing older work, intermixed with more modern commercial premises. Nos. 41–47 are a group of large 18th-century houses; nos. 57–61 are small timber-framed houses refronted then. Behind no. 61 are workshops said to have been built for a clothier in 1738, (fn. 21) and a long row of 18th-century cottages called Ivy Place. The Post Office was moved to the present building on the corner of Castle Street and Chipper Lane in 1905. (fn. 22)

The part of the old High Street in St. Thomas's parish was known in the later Middle Ages as Carter or Carterne Street, probably meaning street of the carters; it was later associated with St. Catherine and so arose the name of the present Catherine Street. (fn. 23) The southern part has been called St. John's Street since the 18th century. (fn. 24) In Catherine Street the frontages are chiefly of the 18th and 19th centuries, some concealing older buildings; the east side of St. John's Street has a notable group of buildings including the half-timbered 'King's Arms' and adjoining premises (nos. 3–7), and the late 18th-century 'White Hart', of cream brick with its projecting Ionic portico of three bays crowned by a full-size figure of a hart.

Two streets cross the parish from east to west. The most southerly, New Street, occurs in a 13th-century deed, (fn. 25) and was probably so-called in contrast to the earlier St. Martin's Street. Until the 15th century the name applied to the whole length of street from Crane Bridge to Payne's Hill. (fn. 26) The western and eastern parts of New Street in St. Thomas's parish subsequently took the names of Crane Street and Ivy Street respectively, leaving the original name to the street still so called. Crane Street derives its name from a residence known as 'the Crane', which was held by John Lisle, knight, in 1455. This stood on the site of nos. 91 and 93; 91 is a timber-framed building with two hipped gables of the 18th century and, on the ground floor, two large projecting bays with stone mullions. Nos. 93 and 97 are both brick houses of c. 1700. Nos. 95, 97 and 99 are used as the diocesan Church House. No. 99 is the stone house built by the Webb family in the 15th century. The history of this property has been traced from four separate holdings next to Crane bridge listed in the bishop's rental of 1455. The main dwelling on the site was owned successively by intermarriage by such notable leading citizens as the wealthy Thomas Coke, mayor in 1491, Thomas Chaffyn, mayor in 1547 and M.P., who reconstructed the dwelling house, and John Bailey of Bishopsdown. From the Bailey family it was bought in 1630 by Mervyn, Lord Audley, Earl of Castlehaven. On his attainder and execution in the following year the property was equally divided between the bishop as lord of the manor, and the earl's heir. In 1637 the city bought one moiety and the bishop leased the other moiety to the city so that the building could be used as a workhouse. The block of buildings at the south was added in 1728; the whole remained in use as a workhouse until 1879, and was taken over for its present use in 1887. (fn. 27) On the site between Church House and the Avon stood the Close workhouse, demolished in 1847. (fn. 28) New Street has at its eastern end a large Georgian house with projecting porch room supported on pillars. It was built by William Hussey c. 1751–58 and formerly called the Hall; (fn. 29) in 1960 it was used as an annexe to the School of Art, which stands on the south side of the street in a building of 1871 on the site of the New Playhouse opened in 1771. (fn. 30) The street also contains several medieval buildings, including the timber-framed New Inn and the adjoining 'Old House', with front wall of flint. Eighteenth-century houses include nos. 31–35, 61–63 and 73–75. The name of Ivy Street may be derived from the family of John Ivie, mayor in 1627. (fn. 31) Nearby stood Ivy Bridge, frequently mentioned in the 15th century. (fn. 32)

The other street crossing the parish from east to west is the New Canal, continuing the line of Milford Street as far as the High Street. During the Middle Ages this way was reckoned part of Winchester Street (now Milford Street), but houses there were frequently described as 'on the ditch' or 'on the canal', because through it flowed one of the city's main watercourses. (fn. 33) For example, in 1503, Thomas Hussey the elder owned a house and garden with twelve other tenements annexed 'on the trench or ditch in the parish of St. Thomas'. (fn. 34) An alternative name for at least a part was Avinch Street, used in 1613 and still in 1777, (fn. 35) but the name New Canal was in use by 1751. (fn. 36) The houses date mostly from the 18th century and have modern shop fronts inserted. The Gaumont Cinema, built in 1931, incorporates as its entrance the house of John Hall, merchant, built between 1470 and 1483. Restorations of the hall by Pugin in 1834 have preserved the fine timbered roof, the chimney-piece showing Hall's arms and merchant's mark, and some stained glass windows. (fn. 37) A new front, designed by F. Bath, was added in 1881. (fn. 38) On the same side of the street is a gabled timber-framed house of the 16th century with carved barge boards (no. 49). Opposite is an 18th-century brick warehouse. At the south-west end of the New Canal joining the High Street are the Assembly Rooms founded in the 19th century as the 'City Assembly Rooms and Literary Institute' on the site of the 18th-century Fountain Tavern, which had an assembly room of its own. It is thought that a medieval inn called 'la Ryolle' once stood on this corner. (fn. 39) The first city police station was established in 1838 in a house on the north side of the New Canal, and remained there until 1883. (fn. 40)


  • 1. Hatcher, Salisbury, 735–6.
  • 2. Ibid. 92.
  • 3. D. & C. Sar. Wills, Wm. Hupewell, 1310; Sar. Corp. MSS. Deeds B. 10, vii, 1331.
  • 4. See.p. 88.
  • 5. Hatcher, Salisbury, 92; W.A.M. xxxvii. 69.
  • 6. Haskins, Guilds, 310–11, 330.
  • 7. Ceremonies and Processions of Cathedral Church of Salisbury, ed. C. Wordsworth, 127.
  • 8. See p. 97.
  • 9. Haskins, Guilds, 288–96. For much information about subsequent leaseholders, repairs, and alterations, see Sar. Corp. MSS. Ledger Bks. and Chamberlains' Accts.
  • 10. Haskins, Guilds, 296.
  • 11. Ibid. 295.
  • 12. Ibid. 296–9; Sar. Corp. MSS. Swayne, Scrapbk., p. 22.
  • 13. Haskins, op. cit. 311–12.
  • 14. Ibid. 308–9.
  • 15. Ibid. 309–10.
  • 16. Naish, Map, 1716.
  • 17. Hatcher, Salisbury, 94; Ch. Com. no. 136777, f. 174.
  • 18. P.N. Wilts. (E.P.N.S.), 19. Much of the building in this street lay in St. Edmund's parish.
  • 19. See p. 83.
  • 20. Reproduced in Shortt, Salisbury, pl. 8.
  • 21. F. Stevens, Festival Bk. of Salisbury (1914), 70.
  • 22. Sar. Corp. MSS. Gen. Purpose Cttee. mins. 28 Nov. 1904.
  • 23. P.N. Wilts. (E.P.N.S.), 20.
  • 24. W.R.O. 451/1, Deeds etc. relating to property in Brown Street.
  • 25. Cart. St. Nicholas Hosp. ed. C. Wordsworth, 142 (c. 1265–8); see also D. & C. Sar. Deeds 1/1/9.
  • 26. Hatcher, Salisbury, 93.
  • 27. C. R. Everett, 'Notes on the History of the Diocesan Church House, Salisbury', W.A.M. xlix. 435–79.
  • 28. Sar. Corp. MSS. Local Bd. Min. Bk. 1852–54.
  • 29. Ex inf. Hist. Mons. Com.; Edith Olivier, Four Victorian Ladies of Wilts., 36.
  • 30. Jowitt, Salisbury, 76; Shortt, Salisbury, 89, 117–18.
  • 31. Jowitt, Salisbury, 67.
  • 32. See p. 89.
  • 33. See p. 90; in 1609 a house near the west end of the Canal was described as 'upon the watercourse called the town ditch, and of ancient time called Winchester Street': W.R.O. 492/133.
  • 34. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, ii, p. 459.
  • 35. Ch. Com. no. 136776, f. 265d.; no. 136779, p. 62.
  • 36. Naish, Map, 1751; on the 1716 edn. the street is marked 'The Ditch'.
  • 37. Shortt, Salisbury, 106; E. Duke, Prolusiones Historicae, 41–52, 87–8; Hatcher, Salisbury, 595–6, where the building is described before alteration.
  • 38. W. A. Wheeler, Supplemental Sarum Chronology 1881–1900, 4.
  • 39. Haskins, Guilds, 315.
  • 40. See p. 113.