Cathedral, Close & Cloisters

Cathedral, Close & Cloisters, Salisbury, England (A)

In Notes from a Small Island, American travel writer Bill Bryson wrote,“There is no doubt in my mind that Salisbury Cathedral is the single most beautiful structure in England and the Close around it the most beautiful space.” The architecture is undoubtedly beautiful, but it is also a place rich in history: the world's oldest working clock, the Magna Carta, and Handel's recital room are all to be found within its medieval walls.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Cathedral, Close & Cloisters
Guide Location: England » Salisbury
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: Sophie Ibbotson
Author Bio: Sophie Ibbotson is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She grew up in Salisbury and read Oriental Studies at Clare College, Cambridge before taking off to explore the world at large. Sophie travels 8-9 months a year with her partner, Max, and they take photos and write about every place they go. Footage, photos and blogs of their travels are online at
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • The High Street Gate
  • Mompesson House
  • Arundells
  • The King's House
  • Salisbury Cathedral
  • The Walking Madonna
  • Bishop Wordsworth School
  • Malmesbury House
  • St. Anne's Gate
The High Street Gate

1) The High Street Gate

Built in the mid 1300s, the High Street Gate (also known as the Porter's Lodge) is the main point of entry into the Cathedral Close. This medieval building has had many uses: a home to the porters (or watchmen), a lock-up for those caught misbehaving within the Close's walls, and even a tiny Roman Catholic chapel. This gate, and the two others which allow pedestrians and cars in to the Cathedral Close, close each night at 11 pm and don't re-open again until 6 am, which ensures that the Cathedral Close remains even today a quiet and pleasant place to live, regardless of the bustle outside.
Mompesson House

2) Mompesson House

Mompesson House is owned by the National Trust, a charitable organisation that protects important historical buildings, such as country houses, and sights of natural beauty within the United Kingdom. Mompesson House dates from the late 17th century when Sir Thomas Mompesson, Member of Parliament for Salisbury, acquired the site and built himself a home in the popular style of the period. The house, which has largely been restored to its former glory, has become famous as one of the settings for the film 'Sense and Sensibility'. It's a perfect place to fulfill your own Jane Austen fantasies, to play croquet on the lawn, or simply to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea in the beautifully maintained period gardens.

3) Arundells

Arundells is best known as the home of the former British Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath, who lived here until his death in 2005. He was the leader of the Conservative party and the predecessor to Margaret Thatcher. There has been a house on this site since at least 1291, and restorations and improvements were undertaken in the early 1600s and 1700s. An engraving was made of the house in 1745 by the English artist J. Lyons, and since it was made very little has changed in the appearance of Arundells. The house is open to the public only until the end of 2010.
The King's House

4) The King's House

The King's House is not only an attractive architectural site but it is also home to the important historical and archaeological collections of Salisbury Museum. It is one of the oldest buildings in the close as it was built to house Herman, the first Bishop of Salisbury, when he moved to the city from Sherborne in 1075 AD. The House has been known as the Kings House since 1610 when its owner, Sir Thomas Saddler, hosted James I here on his visit to Salisbury. The building has been used variously as a canonry, a private home, a girls' school, a teacher training institute and, today, as a museum.
Salisbury Cathedral

5) Salisbury Cathedral

Pilgrims have made their way to Salisbury Cathedral for well over 750 years. The cathedral has the tallest spire in England - 123 metres - and also the largest cloisters. The contents of the Cathedral are almost impressive as the building itself. The Cathedral clock, now housed inside the building, dates from about 1386 and is the oldest working clock in the world. Exhibited in the Chapterhouse, meanwhile, is the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, the 13th century declaration of the rights of the English people. Only three other copies are left in existence: they are kept in Lincoln Cathedral and in the British Library in London.
The Walking Madonna

6) The Walking Madonna

The Walking Madonna is a bronze sculpture made by the English sculptor and print maker Elisabeth Frink. Three other copies of this statue were made, one of which stands in the grounds of the Chatsworth stately home in Derbyshire. Frink studied at the Chelsea School of Art between 1949 and 1953, and she was part of the group of post-war British sculptors known as the 'Geometry of Fear School'. Elisabeth Frink worked in a variety of mediums (including print making) but is best known for her finely worked bronze statues of birds, animals and muscly male human forms with wings. It is thought that the Walking Madonna is her only sculpture of a woman.
Bishop Wordsworth School

7) Bishop Wordsworth School

Bishop Wordsworth School (BWS) was founded by John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1889, and during that first year the boys were taught in rooms in the Bishop's Palace. The Bishop himself later donated the £3000 for the current site and buildings. A blue plaque on the outside wall celebrates the school's association with William Golding, a master who went on to write 'Lord of the Flies' and win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Approximately 800 boys are educated at the school, all of whom have passed the grammar school entrance exam at the age of 11. They do not pay fees to attend: BWS is a state-run and state-funded institution.
Malmesbury House

8) Malmesbury House

Malmesbury House was a 13th century canonry, which was enlarged a hundred years later and then given its current facade by the renowned architect Sir Christopher Wren in the late 1600s. Christopher Wren is most famous for designing St. Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court, and the Wren Library at Trinity College in Cambridge. Charles II stayed here at Malmesbury House for a while after returning from exile in Holland in the wake of the English Civil War, as did the composer Handel when he first arrived in England from Germany. A memorial plaque on the front wall remembers three protestant martyrs who were burned at the stake in 1556.
St. Anne's Gate

9) St. Anne's Gate

St. Anne's Gate is one of the three gates out of the Cathedral Close. It is stone built and accessible only by pedestrians. The room above the gateway was originally the chapel of the Vicars Choral, a guild that lived communally nearby, but by the 17th century it had become the private music room of the Harris family. This is where Handel gave his recitals when he visited Salisbury.

Walking Tours in Salisbury, England

Create Your Own Walk in Salisbury

Create Your Own Walk in Salisbury

Creating your own self-guided walk in Salisbury is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Historical Houses Tour

Historical Houses Tour

Founded more than 800 years ago, Salisbury understandably has a great number of historical, architectural and cultural gems worthy of a visit. The medieval houses, churches, inns and hospitals blend harmoniously with the modern sites of the city. Trace the threads of Salisbury's past on this self-guided walking tour of the city's historic buildings.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
Salisbury Introduction Walking Tour

Salisbury Introduction Walking Tour

Salisbury is one of the UK’s oldest and most historic and cities. It is also a city surrounded by beautiful scenery and is often called the City in the Countryside. As there is so much to see in Salisbury, it makes an excellent choice for exploring on foot whilst you soak up its history. On this self guided walk, you will visit Salisbury Cathedral (which is home to the famous Magna Carta), see...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles
Cathedral Close Tour

Cathedral Close Tour

Salisbury Cathedral is renowned throughout the world. The Cathedral Close is a marvelous setting for the 13th-century Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, otherwise known as Salisbury Cathedral. Take this self-guided tour to stroll around Salisbury's most famous landmarks and appreciate the stunning architecture and craftsmanship of the Cathedral and Close.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles