Turner was there – or close by…

Visiting the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum just adjacent to Salisbury Cathedral (review in a later post) we saw a lovely view of the cathedral painted by JWM Turner around 1828-29 – so it just predates the John Constable views. But this was special as it was a view from Old Sarum – the ancient hill fort just to the north of Salisbury. Naturally we had to set off to see if we could find it 🙂

Old Sarum is actually a fascinating place – used and re-used over the centuries, it began around 400BC as a late Iron Age hill fort, though some evidence points to possibly early Roman period, and later – following the Norman defeat of Harold in 1066 – the Normans built a castle on top to command the local countryside.

Turner’s watercolour painting appears to have been painted from one of the low ridges around the outer ditch earthworks of the ancient site. We climbed to the top and I took a couple of photos from the embankment above where Turner was painting – I think we came fairly close to his spot, and anyhow it was a fun quest to see if we could find the view, and see what it looks like today.

You can be the judge of how close we came. Here is Turner’s version:

A Distant View of Salisbury Cathedral form Old Sarum by JWM Turner - source: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum
A Distant View of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum by JWM Turner – source: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum

And here is my version:

A view of Salisbury Cathedral form Old Sarum

A view of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum

Old Sarum is well worth a visit – it is a fascinating place with around 5000 years of history. But first, don’t forget to visit the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum – they have some great artworks and artefacts – many from nearby Stonehenge and from Old Sarum.

As you might guess from this – photo quests and challenges are a fun way to begin really looking at a place 🙂


Salisbury Cathedral – then and now

Salisbury Cathedral has been painted by several artists, including Turner and Constable. On finding a postcard of Constable’s painting “Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows” we thought it might be fun to try to find the same angle and photograph it – noting what may have changed in the intervening period since 1831 when he painted it one year after the death of his wife. The painting now hangs in the UK National Gallery in London.

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - John Constable

Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows – John Constable (Image credit: Wikipedia.com)

The water meadows are still around, but have moved a little further over. And the water is now mostly underground. In fact there is a small capstone in the cathedral beneath the tower where they lower a dipstick each day to measure the water level – which is only 27 inches beneath. So the water depicted in Constable’s painting is still there, as are the water meadows.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

Today the farmer’s dray is replaced by a white van, and green lawn and autumn leaves mark the path of the water course.

The building is amazing today – but imagine how it must have appeared to visitors in the middle ages, living in wooden houses and cramped conditions. It is simply breathtaking – there are more posts to come on this one!