Salisbury and democracy. The news of an attack on the Magna Carta display last week reminds of what a wonderful destination Salisbury is to visit.

See the Magna Carta, climb the tallest spire

The centrepiece like so many of our historic towns is the cathedral. It is a Gothic marvel and boast the tallest spire of all the cathedrals. What makes it unique and most memorable is that it houses an original copy of the Magna Carta; the first draft of our democratic system.

Salisbury and Democracy: History

The connection with the Magna Carta is as old as the cathedral itself. At Runnymede, in 1215, King John was urged to accept the demands of the barons and agree Magna Carta by his half-brother, William Longspeé, whose effigy is in Salisbury Cathedral. Also present at Runnymede was Elias of Dereham, who at the time was steward to one of the key players in the crisis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton.

Elias himself was a skilled negotiator and was at the very centre of the discussions between the king and the barons. Once Magna Carta was agreed and sealed, he was entrusted with delivering ten of the thirteen copies made, one of which was given to the original cathedral at Old Sarum. Elias later became a canon of Old Sarum before masterminding the building of the present Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral’s copy is one of four which survive from this original issue. It was written in Latin by hand, by an expert scribe, on parchment (animal skin, in this case sheepskin). Medieval documents like this were not signed, but sealed, and at the bottom of our Magna Carta you can see the marks where King John’s seal was once attached.

2020 is its 800th anniversary and they have upped their game to celebrate. In the early 1220s Bishop Richard Poore, the medieval bishop of Salisbury, moved the cathedral and its community from Old Sarum to its present site.

Driven by the need to access fresh water, and desperate to escape bad weather, royal supervision and regular harassment by soldiers stationed at Old Sarum Castle, his actions changed the community and landscape of South Wiltshire forever.


By April 1220 the foundation stones for what was to become an iconic national landmark were laid and expansion started of the city.

In February (18th to 22nd) they are creating an immersive sound and light spectacular. They will be using the light show to tell the story of the cathedral.

From 1st April to 25th October is the ‘Spirit and Endeavour’ Exhibition. Contemporary artworks by 20 world renowned artists will be on display. Names include Henry Moore and Grayson Perry.

In early autumn, 15th to 20th September is the Festival of Flowers. A feast of both traditional and modern arrangements of thousands of blooms.


The Tower Tour is a favourite for those with a head for heights and the puff to make it to the top. Climb 332 steps in easy stages and explore the ancient roof spaces. You’ll reach the foot of the iconic spire, 68 metres above ground level, and get a chance to see up inside. After the climb, you’ll be rewarded with an aerial view of the inside of the Cathedral and panoramic views of Salisbury and the surrounding countryside. There are experienced guides who can explain all there is to know about the construction of this architectural masterpiece

Whilst it is 2 hours coach journey from here in this part of West Sussex to Salisbury, it may well be worth the time.

To hire Holt’s luxury 19-seater coach for an excursion to Salisbury, the cost is just £350.

Contact Holt Service to book the coach for the Salisbury and Democracy experience