Outing to Salisbury

  It was raining as we left Marlow but as we drove south we left it behind and arrived in a dry Salisbury well ahead of time. Straight into the glorious refectory for a coffee and meet the Cathedral guides. I was slightly put out when the head guide said that we were not expected despite a number of emails and telephone calls confirming our day and arrival time (and receiving confirmations) from the tours manager. No problem however. The guides were brilliant. We had three groups of about 15 each so we able to see and hear everything. Our guide spent almost two hours with us despite not expecting to be on duty after 12noon. After a brief introduction we went to view the clock. Not just any old clock but the WORLD’S oldest (1386) working mechanical clock. It has ticked more than 4.4 billion times since it was built. It doesn’t have a face but rings the bells for the hours. It’s still in excellent working order. Then on to the font, situated just beyond the clock in the centre of the Nave. The font is of a very modern design by William Pye (2008) and it celebrates the 750th anniversary of the cathedral’s beginning. It’s an amazing piece of architecture/sculpture and is approximately six feet across and has four ‘corners’ with four filaments of water that pass through spouts back into grids on the Nave floor from which the water is re-circulated back into the Font. It’s amazing, rather like a sacred infinity pool. As a reminder, the cathedral has the highest spire in Britain, which weights some 6,500 tons. The cathedral took some 38 years to build (quite quick by most cathedral standards) and used some 60,000 tons of stone and 2,800 tons of oak. They made a glorious job of it and it does look magnificent inside and out. Passing on to the Quire, which has 106 stalls, which date from 1236 and is the oldest complete set in the country. Preceding the Quire is the Transept and the Spire crossing which bears the full weight of the enormous spire. There are lots of internal flying buttresses which are unusual enough in itself but most interesting is the effect of the Spire weight. The weight of the Spire has distorted the supporting columns of the cathedral and when looking down the Nave into the Quire the ‘zig-zag’ effect is most apparent. It’s quite safe we are told. Too much of interest to cover all but the Prisoners of Conscience Window (1980) deserves a mention. Better in a good light, which we didn’t have, but stills looks magnificent. The amnesty International Candle burns nearby for those still suffering oppression throughout the world today. Lastly but certainly not least is the Chapter House, which houses an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta. This is the best preserved of the four existing copies (others being; two in the British Library and one at Lincoln Cathedral). The page of Latin script is fascinating (very well written) and incorporates the basis of human rights law, i.e. no man can be imprisoned, outlawed etc., except by judgement of his equals and the law of the land. After the visit we all went our different ways until meeting up for the coach home. We made good time again thanks to a traffic free Saturday....Hurrah. A very enjoyable day out was had by all.
Roger Smith