Wiltshire is rich in History:
- Salisbury Plain is steeped in history, both ancient and modern and can justifiably claim to be the cradle of English civilisation. In prehistory, tribes from Europe migrated north and settled on Salisbury Plain.
- Remains of defence earthworks, burial and ceremonial grounds are scattered throughout Wiltshire. Many of these sites have public access. The most world renown is Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site, north of Salisbury and close to Amesbury. Also a World Heritage Site are the Avebury stone circles (both an outer and a smaller inner circle), not so famous as Stonehenge but equally impressive. Avebury is a few miles west of Marlborough in the north of Wiltshire.
- From Overton Hill, near Avebury, the famous Ridgeway begins. This is thought to be Britain’s oldest road, used by prehistoric man, herdsmen and soldiers, and follows the northern escarpment of Salisbury Plain north-eastwards through the ancient landscapes of Wiltshire into the Chiltern Hills of Berkshire. The Ridgeway is 85miles (139km) in length, accessible to the public, and has National Trail status.
- As well as the more ‘modern’ Roman Roads that criss-cross the Wiltshire countryside, Roman and Norman settlements continue very much in evidence, often developed on earlier Iron Age hill fort sites such as Old Sarum. This location was the original Salisbury site, a hill fort occupied by the Romans then latterly by Normans following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The exposed nature of the Old Sarum site and disagreements between the clergy and the military led to the building of the new Salisbury cathedral in 1220 A.D. to the south. The townspeople soon followed and medieval Salisbury grew to the city it is today. Old Sarum, rich in history, with its ruined fortifications is open to the public throughout the year.
- The Middle Ages were a time of great prosperity for Wiltshire with sheep grazing the chalk downlands and the handwoven woollen cloth in great demand. Many famous buildings, villages and even towns were built from the proceeds. The Industrial Revolution changed everything as mechanical production took over and the weaving industry moved north into the West Riding of Yorkshire.
- In more recent times much of Wiltshires rich prosperity has come from the many military establishments scattered over the Plain. Wiltshire airfields and army garrisons have trained and deployed troops and aircraft across the world on both fighting and peace-keeping operations and played pivotal roles in the great military campaigns of both World War I and II.
Places to see
Bowood House & Gardens
The family home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne. Built during the 18th century to the designs of Henry Keene and Robert Adam. The Chapel and famous Italianate terraced gardens were added in the 19th century. The Exhibition Rooms contain Victoriana, costume, jewellery, miniatures and fine porcelain. Among the most interesting items are the Napoleonic Collection, including Napoleon´s death mask and Imperial porcelain, and one of the finest private collections of British watercolours especially notable for works by Bonington, Roberts, Lear and Turner. The gardens were landscaped by Capability Brown between 1762 and 1768.
Bowood House, Calne, SN11 0LZ
Nestling within 900 acres of Capability Brown landscaped grounds, Longleat, built by Sir John Thynne, is one of the best examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. On display are priceless collections of furniture and paintings, including works by Tintoretto, Wootton and Italian Old Masters, with magnificent ornate gilded and painted ceilings by John Dibblee Crace and exquisite 17th century Flemish tapestries. The Murals in the private apartments have been painted by the present Marquess of Bath. Other attractions include the Safari Park with many magnificent animals, the Longleat Hedge Maze
Warminster, BA12 7NW
Be inspired by the peace and beauty of one of Britain´s finest medieval cathedrals, Salisbury offers a warm welcome to all who visit. Set within eight acres of lawn and surrounded by historic buildings and museums within the spectacular Cathedral Close, the Cathedral is unique in being built almost entirely in one architectural style – Early English Gothic. Britain´s tallest Spire was added a generation later. Inside the Cathedral discover nearly 800 years of history including the finest preserved Magna Carta (1215), Europe’s oldest working clock (1386) and most stunning font.
33 The Close, Salisbury, SP1 2EJ
Mystery surrounds this 5,000 year old World Heritage Site. Visit this pre-historic South West monument and decide for yourself whether Stonehenge was designed as a place of sun worship, or as part of a huge astronomical calendar, or something different altogether! An awe-inspiring family visit, Stonehenge is a powerful reminder of the once-great Stone and Bronze Ages. Each phase of Stonehenge was a circular structure, aligned with the rising sun at the solstice. Erected between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC, the stones were carried hundreds of miles over land and sea, while antlers and bones were used to dig the pits that hold the stones.
2 miles W of Amesbury on junction of A303 and A344/A360, Wiltshire SP4 7DE
Avebury Stone Circles
One of the largest, most impressive and complex prehistoric site in Britain. Built and altered over many centuries from about 2850 BC to 2200 BC, it now appears as a huge circular bank and ditch, enclosing an area of 281⁄2 acres (111⁄2 hectares), including part of Avebury village. Within this ‘henge’ ditch is an inner circle of great standing stones, enclosing two more stone circles, each with a central feature.
In Avebury, 7 miles W of Marlborough, Wiltshire, SN8 1RF
Old Wardour Castle
Beautifully sited beside a lake, Old Wardour Castle was built in the late 14th century by John Lord Lovel as a lightly fortified but showy and luxurious residence. A hexagonal tower house ranged round a central courtyard, its form is very unusual in England.
Located off A30 2 miles SW of Tisbury. Also accessible from A350(narrow rural roads), Wiltshire – SP3 6RR
Swindon & Cricklade Railway
Based on the site of Blunsdon Station between Swindon and Cricklade, the line uses part of the trackbed of the former Midland & South Western Junction Railway. Today, visitors can enjoy all the facilities they expect from a Heritage Railway centre.
Blunsdon Station, Tadpole Lane, Blunsdon, Swindon, SN25 2DA
STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway
Housed in the beautifully restored Grade II railway building in the heart of the former Swindon railway works, which was once one of the largest railway engineering complexes in the world, STEAM tells the story of the men and women who built, operated and travelled on the Great Western Railway
Kemble Drive, Swindon, SN2 2TA
See the Fun Kids review on STEAM
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