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Old Sarum in 1837

SARUM. We propose under this head to give an account of Old Sarum, and a notice of the bishopric now fixed at New Sarum, or Salisbury.

Old Sarum, situated about a mile and a half north of Salisbury, is generally regarded as the Sorbiodunum of the Romans. Its name, derived from the Celtic words sorbio, ‘dry,’ and dun, ‘a city or fortress,’ leads to the conclusion that it was a British post ; it probably belonged to the Belgae, who inhabited this part of Britain, and was perhaps one of the towns taken by Vespasian when engaged in the subjugation of this part of the island under the emperor Claudius. The number of Roman roads which met at Old Sarum, and the mention of the place in the Antonine Itinerary, show that the place was occupied by the Romans, but the remains present little resemblance to the usual form of their posts. The roads led to Calleva Atrebatum, now Silchester ; to Venta Belgarum, now Winchester ; to Durnovaria, now Dorchester ; and to the shore of the Bristol Channel.

In the Saxon times, Sarum, under the somewhat altered name of Searobyrig, Serasbyria, and Sarisberia, is frequently noticed by historians. Kenric, son of Cerdic, defeated the Britons in this neighbourhood, A.D. 552 ; and in 1003 the place was taken and burned by Sweyn, king of Denmark. Under the Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman princes, councils ecclesiastical and civil were held here, and the town became the seat of a bishopric. There was a castle or fortress, which is mentioned as early as the time of Alfred, and which may be regarded as the citadel ; and the city was defended by a wall, within the enclosure of which the cathedral stood.

Early in the thirteenth century the oppression of the castellans, or captains of the cattle, and their disputes with the bishops and clergy, led to the removal of the cathedral to its present site. Many or most of the citizens also removed, and the rise of New Sarum [Salisbury] led to the decay of the older place : so that in the time of Leland there was not one inhabited house in it. It returned members to parliament 23 Edward I, and again 34 Edward III, from which latter period it continued to return them until it was disfranchised by the Reform Act. It was commonly referred to as the most striking instance of a rotten borough, continuing to return members when it had neither house nor inhabitant.

The earthworks of Old Sarum are very conspicuous. They are on the right of the road from Marlborough to Salisbury, and consist of a circular or rather oval entrenchment ; a smaller entrenchment of similar form within the first ; and some earthen banks extending from the inner to the outer entrenchment, and subdividing the area between them. The outer entrenchment, consisting of a vallum or rampart surrounded by a ditch, encloses an area of twenty-seven acres and a half : the outer circumference of the ditch is just above seven furlongs, or nearly one mile. From the bottom of the ditch to the top of the rampart the height is 106 feet. The height of the rampart of the inner enclosure, measured in a similar way, is about 100 feet. There are a few fragments of walls. The outer enclosure has two openings or entrances; one, defended by a horn-work, towards the east, the other towards the west. The inner enclosure has only one entrance, namely towards the east. (Sir R. C. Hoare’s Antient Wiltshire.)

The diocese arose from that of Sherborne, which was formed, in the reign of Ina of Wessex, by dismemberment from the diocese of Winchester, previously the only one in Wessex. In the early part of the tenth century, the diocese of Sherborne was divided into three ; and the bishop of one of these had his seat successively at Ramsburv, not far from Marlborough, at Wilton, and perhaps at Sunning in Berkshire. In the time of Bishop Herman, in the reign of Edward the Confessor, this diocese and that of Sherborne were united, and the seat of the bishop fixed at Old Sarum, from whence, as already noticed, it was removed to Salisbury.

The diocese, before the late alterations, comprehended the counties of Wiltshire and Berkshire, the former comprehending the archdeaconries of Salisbury and Wilts, and the latter the archdeaconry of Berks. These were divided into thirteen rural deaneries, as follows : (I) Archdeaconry of Salisbury- 1, Amesbury ; 2, Chalk ; 3, Pottern ; 4, Wilton ; 5, Wylye. (II) Archdeaconry of Wilts- 6, Avebury ; 7, Marlborough; 8, Cricklade ; 9, Malmesbury. (III) Archdeaconry of Berks- 10, Abingdon ; 11, Newbury ; 12, Reading ; 13, Wallingford.

By the recommendation of the Church Commissioners the following changes have been made or are to be made. The whole archdeaconry of Berks is transferred to the diocese of Oxford ; and the deaneries of Cricklade and Malmesbury, in the archdeaconry of Wilts, to that of Gloucester. On the other hand, the archdeaconry of Dorset, comprehending the five rural deaneries of Bridport, Dorchester, Pimperne, Shafton, and Whitchurch, has been added from the diocese of Bristol. The number of archdeaconries is still three, that of rural deaneries twelve.

The cathedral clergy consist of the dean, precentor, chancellor of the church, treasurer, six canons residentiary, who are also prebendaries, sub-dean, succentor, thirty-eight prebendaries, and four priest-vicars; besides singing-men, choristers, organist, and other officers. The net yearly revenue of the bishopric, on the average of three years ending with 1831, was £3,939, but it was supposed that on a more extended average it would amount to £5,000, or from that to £6,000 per annum. It is not proposed by the commissioners to make any alteration in this respect. The revenue of the cathedral at the same period averaged £2,599, and was expected to decrease ; the corporation sharing this revenue consisted of the dean, who received two-eighths, and six canons, who received one-eighth each. The dean, chancellor, precentor, treasurer, and prebendaries had their separate revenues, and the four priest-vicars formed a corporation by themselves.