Old Sarum


Old Sarum hillfort, is like a fine piece of abstract art in the landscape of Britain. It sits a small distance from Salisbury, the cathedral city of Wiltshire, though not the county town This fort is celebrated by I think most would agree by the greatest painting of a hillfort in terms of looks and history. So Constable as you see on this page, made that watercolour. Though possibly it is not the hillfort element that makes it so unusual, it is the fact it is a hillfort, and how there was a Norman motte and bailey castle, placed on it, and a Roman fort, that made it so unique and extraordinary. If anything this is what makes it have a very unusual appearance.

So then also in that it was occupied as a major site in the Iron Age, then in the Roman era it had a Roman fort, and the Anglo-Saxon era saw it become a major fort for the Saxons, unusual for a hillfort, indeed they used it against the Vikings. Then it was important as a cathedral site in the Medieval era of England. Strangely then it declined afterwards, and was famously a deserted hill, that had the most rotten borough in Britain before the Great Reform act, with 2 MPs, for no inhabitants. There were many sites like that, so nobody has any ill will towards it. 
It has seen more population in recent eras, as occurs across Southern England, and has houses and streets nearby, but there are plenty of fields around for what has in the past been a great urban centre.

Maybe the unusual history, has added to the preservation of the site, and it's quirky in a good way appearance

Anyway these are my slingshot points regarding it. 

* Old Sarum is the most multi role hillfort there is, in the amount of roles it had, well among that so, 

* Among it's MPs was William Pitt the Prime minister, William Pitt the elder, but not his son, Pitt the younger. So Pitt the elder sat here as a Member of parliament, and became PM. The Elder was PM in the 1760s, and the younger for almost a combined 2 decades between the 1780s and 1810s. So a amazing achievement for the family there we can all agree. 

It seems Pitt The Elder became MP for Old Sarum when he was 27 or so, in the 1730s, it was a borough with 2 MPs, one of 7 or 8 boroughs that the Pitt family owned. With the seven plots of land or houses there each having a vote, whether someone lived there or not. It was owned by older brother, and previously by his grandfather, who was Diamond Pitt, who was famed for selling a diamond for tens of thousands to a French regent, after serving as a merchant in the East India Company in the early 18th Century. Indeed this fellow who made such a fortune also sat at Westminster at Old Sarum, as did the older brother of Pitt the Elder, who as of inheriting the constituency could nominate the MP of his choice. At the same time, the whole county of Yorkshire elected 2 MPs. Though I am unsure if it had boroughs as well. Good things that was sorted out in the 19th Century reform acts. 

* So Old Sarum, became the worst example of a rotten borourgh, as by the 17th Century it was likely quite depopulated, and certainly by 1830 it's 2 MPs for what were now no inhabitants, were a big comparison, as before the Chartists and co, over 90% of the population had no MPs they could vote for. Thus was the story of Old Sarum rotten borough. Today it is usually part of the Salisbury constituency, a normal sized seat for the house of Commons, in voter numbers, but which of course with all it's residents did not have a vote in the Old Sarum constituency ironically, when it was a rotten a borough. 

* Old Sarum had been occupied from at least 400 BC as a defensive settlement with exterior ramparts there to keep protected animals and such like. 

* It then expanded into becoming a hillfort, pretty much the shape you see today, oh than the motte bit. that some could call Old Sarum Castle. 

* The Romans had the site from soon around their conquest of South Eastern Britain around 43 AD, and had a continual settling of the area, with a town outside the well protected site. 

* Wessex and then England as a whole, used the site to help protect their burgh. 

* The Normans turned Seresberi into a very unusual sight, by putting that motte on it. The name Seresberi later mutated into Salisbury which is why you can say Old Sarum, Salisbury, as this is where it is. 

* Then a cathedral appeared, and this began to decline in the 13th and 14th Century, when Salisbury nearby, was a better option of where to live, and the cathedral was demolished. Thus was the story of Old Sarum Cathedral. 

* It seems Henry VIII allowed all the remaining stonework to be used for building, so it declined a lot after that. 

* Another interesting site near here, is Figsbury Ring only 4 miles north east of Salisbury a very round hillfort from above, as indicated by the name ring. The site is 6.4 hectares in size. It may have been a hillfort, but there is a case it was previously a henge as of a inner ditch, with no rampart behind it. 

So they are my facts on Old Sarum's hillfort. 

Old Sarum Fort.png