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A new start - Building the Cathedral

Chicksgrove Hood Mould stone ready to be added to Cathedral

The foundation stones were laid on 28th April 1220. The first part to be completed was the three eastern chapels named for St Stephen, Trinity, and St Peter. The building of the new cathedral was greatly helped by the energy of the bishop and the patronage of powerful people, including King Henry III, who donated trees from Ireland and estates in Wiltshire for the roof timbers, doors, etc., and Alice Brewer, who gave marble for 12 years from her Purbeck quarry, which provided capitals, shafts, columns and bases inside, and some shafts outside. The Bishop, Dean, and 52 Canons also each made substantial donations from income derived from their estates, or prebends. 

The main body of the cathedral was finished by the consecration on 29 September 1258. But the whole project also included the West Front, the Cloisters, the Chapter House, and the (now demolished) detached Bell Tower, which stood between the High Street Gate and the Cathedral. All of these were probably completed by 1266.

The great energy being released in Salisbury was not confined to this building project. The new town also became a notable centre for education, with the foundation in 1261 of De Vaux College, and then of St Edmund’s College. Cathedral clergy were required to give theological lectures to their students.

Since the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were only just developing at that point, there was some chance that Salisbury would be their rival.

By the later 13th century the Bishop’s town of New Salisbury, around its huge new market place (still in use on Tuesdays & Saturdays) was a great success, and many new shops, houses and businesses were built in its ‘chequers’ (blocks). Within two centuries it was the seventh largest town in England.