28th to 30th April - President’s Weekend to Salisbury
This weekend was full from start to finish with wonderful and interesting visits and walks. However, the greatest highlight of the weekend was indeed the fact that President Peter and Barbara were able to join us and enjoy a brilliant time. Leaving Royston at 9.30am on Friday gave us a gentle coach trip down to the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Park near Thatcham. Although a little chilly and breezy, we had a really lovely time relaxing beside or walking around the lake which was home to many resident and visiting birds. Binoculars suddenly appeared from the depths of pockets and handbags. It’s surprising how many bird lovers we have in our midst. A very tasty and light buffet lunch was served before we continued our journey to our hotel, The White Hart, situated right in the heart of the City of Salisbury. As everything was close to the hotel, we had time for a brief wander around the city before an excellent three course dinner at the hotel. Needless to say, the meal was well supported by liquid refreshment and would you believe that some of it, in fact most of it contained alcohol? After a good night’s sleep and leisurely breakfast, we were met by our two City Guides, both of whom gave us all a superb tour packed with so many interesting and indeed intriguing facts. Salisbury is built in a grid pattern locally known as The Chequers. It’s a little like Milton Keynes only much older and with character! In the centre is the Market Square which at one time was dominated by two Guildhalls, one for the Bishop and one for the Council. The Council Hall was destroyed by fire and the Bishop’s Hall was considered too small, therefore both were eventually replaced with the one new and beautiful Guildhall and the Bishop and Council had to learn to work together in harmony. The market was always a hive of activity and there are several streets named after the merchants. We found, Fish Row, Butchers Row and Poultry Street where many other events apparently took place too. Whilst repairing the Memorial structure after a crazy driver parking his car through the side of it, a severed hand was discovered. To whom it belonged and what he did to deserve that has never been unveiled. The oldest building is now home to the Cinema of all things. We were told the story of the original businessman John Halle and how he found himself captive in the Tower of London and offering a deep and sincere apology to the King, hence ensuring his release. An intriguing story if you want to read more. Many pubs were built and now renovated, with The Old George having been host to the travelling Shakespeare company of actors who gave a performance of ‘As You Like It’ for King James. At the central church of St Thomas we were made very welcome and again revealed another surprise. It is beautifully light and airy inside with the addition of the Doom painting often simply referred to as a ‘Doom’. A Doom painting is that of The Last Judgement. Placed on the front Chancel Arch, if your eyes strayed, you were quickly brought back to focus on the sermon as it is a striking warning of what would befall you if you did not follow your religious instruction. It is the largest and best preserved in the UK painted around 1470. It was covered with limewash during the Reformation and not seen again until 1819. Fully restored in 2019, it is now back to vibrant and detailed glory. The River Avon runs through the city and is a chalk stream. It has provided water for the original flour mill which then became the mill for Fulling Wool and then for production of electricity in the New Age of lighting and power. Heading towards the Cathedral but not entering it, we were shown the various surrounding properties designed by Christopher Wren. Ten were built for the widows of clergymen to ensure they had continuing support and homes. Maitlin College also stands within the Cathedral grounds. The houses within the walls of the Close were built using recycled bricks and stone from Old Sarum so many have the appearance of patchwork quilts but are really quite charming. Wren also designed the school building for the choir boys with windows placed extremely high so the boys couldn’t gaze outside during lessons. Surrounding The Close is the city wall which has stood since 1300 built from the stone of the original Sarum Cathedral and the gates are still locked every night. After lunch we travelled a short distance to Wilton House, the home of the 18th Earl and Countess of Pembroke and of course, Wilton Carpets. It has been home to the Wilton family since 1544 when the land and buildings were granted to them by Henry VIII. Recently renovated and now open to the public, it holds many extraordinary sculptures and a wonderful art collection by many very famous artists. The house has also been the centre of many films and TV series including The Crown, Bridgerton, Emma, Young Victoria and many more. We had a lovely sunny day and couldn’t resist ice creams and teas out in the garden. On Saturday evening we were wined and dined by a private caterer in the Crown Court Room in the Guildhall. A really great evening with a good deal of jollity and laughter. We also raised a toast, not only to our amazing President but we also sang Happy Birthday to our excellent coach driver Derek who celebrated his 65th birthday by driving Royston Rotary Club to and around Salisbury. What a Star !! Sunday morning under a rather threatening sky, we packed our bags and marched off to Old Sarum Fort which was an iron Age Fortification from around 400BC. Built on top of the highest hill and with super views over Salisbury, it was quite a challenge for some of us, but most of us managed to view the remaining walls and cathedral site while being almost blown away in a strong breeze and a little drizzle. Old Sarum (now Salisbury) contained both the Royal Castle and the Cathedral until 1226 when the Cathedral was moved stone by stone to the new site of Salisbury. The castle remained both the Secular and Ecclesiastical Governing Body well into the 14th Century. The new city was essential for the provision of water and better sanitation as Old Sarum lived on as a Rotten Borough until1832. Just as rain started to pitter patter, we headed to the nearby Harvester for lunch. Well fed and watered, we then made our way homeward. What a great weekend, brilliantly organised by Peter and Jonathan who made sure everything went to plan and that we all had a good time, and we most certainly did. The friendship and commitment in our club is second to none. Words by Linda Berks, To see photographs of the weekend click here
President: Peter Mitton
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