AAAND here is the Torch, arriving in Salisbury! I haven’t been able to find out who this gentleman is, but he had the biggest grin as he moved past. Naturally, the rain showed up at the same time as he did.
I’ve lived in Salisbury all my life, give or take a couple of years in South Wales. It’s offically a city, altbough it’s little more than a small market town in size, but its roots go back many centuries. The city and its history have always been an important part of my life, and much as I love travelling, I’m always happy to come home. Some of my stories are set in the area – Fox Hunt, a vampire story, is set in Wilsford, a small village a few miles away. The Psychic’s Tale is set near the Wiltshire/Dorset border, a few miles south of Salisbury, in a fictional village. The hero’s grandmother lives in Wilton, close to Salisbury.
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The Torch left Reading and headed towards Wiltshire, passing through part of Salisbury Plain, famous for Army training areas and ancient monuments. My area of Wiltshire is packed with history and legend. Stonehenge is six miles away, Durrington Walls and Woodhenge even closer.
Salisbury itself began life over five thousand years ago on the hill overlooking the present city, where Neolithic hunter/gatherers dug the ditch and bank of a causewayed enclosure. Later in the Bronze Age and again in the Iron Age, the ditches were deepened, and a defensive hornwork built across the entrance.
The Romans came along and booted out the locals, and built them a small settlement in the valley below, alongside the River Avon where the village of Stratford-sub-Castle now sits. As usual, the Romans constructed roads for the swift passage of the legions, and constructed a small fort or way station behind the ramparts. Five roads met beside the hill, and one is still used. The footpath, locally called Portway, leads straight down to Stratford-sub-Castle.
When the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, the British took back their hillfort, but didn’t keep it long. A century or so later, Saxons turned up and defeated the locals, and settled down in the rich farmlands below the fort, leaving it deserted behind its mighty earth walls.
What happened in the following centuries is admirably summed up by Moira Allen HERE, and it’s a pretty fascinating tale, including the imprisonment of Queen Eleanor, conflicts between castle folk and the clergy – ending in the resiting of the cathedral to its present location, Parliamentary history and misdeeds and Rotten Boroughs. Interestingly enough, the name of Salisbury can be traced all the way back to its Romano-British name of Sorbiodunon, via a medieval scribe’s ‘typo’.
In more recent times, ex-Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath lived in Arundells, a magnificent old house dating from the 13th century, in The Close of Salisbury Cathedral. He was a noted musician as well as a scholar and yatchsman, and often played the massive organ in the Cathedral. A neighbour of his was Leslie Thomas, an internationally acclaimed author of many best-sellers. Another world-famous author lives not far from Salisbury – Terry Pratchett – now Sir Terry Pratchett!
In 1995, Mompesson House, a beautiful eighteenth century town house in the Close, was used in the filming of Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman. The last owner of Mompesson House, Denis Martineau, left it in his will to the National Trust, who have restored much of it to its Georgian splendour.
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Robert Rees, full-time librarian, part-time art restorer, is called in to finish a commission when his father goes into hospital – a pair of Elizabethan portraits on oak panelling, Adam Courtney and Ann Darcy. Trouble is, there’s more interest in the paintings than Rob ever bargained for; a lot of people want to get their hands on such priceless treasures, and they’re not always particular about their methods. Just as well he’s got his brother’s mysterious friend Fox on hand to look out for him, then, isn’t it? Or, for that matter … is it?
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THE PSYCHIC’S TALE – Part 1 of The Fitzwarren Inheritance