(The following account I had from the right reverend, learned, and industrious Seth Ward, Lord Bishop of Sarum, who had taken the paines to peruse all the old records of the church, that had been clung together and untoucht for perhaps two hundred yeares.) Within this castle of Old Sarum, on the east side, stood the Cathedrall church; the tuft and scite is yet discernable: which being seated so high was so obnoxious to the weather, that when the wind did blow they could not heare the priest say masse. But this was not the only inconvenience. The soldiers of the castle and the priests could never agree; and one day, when they were gone without the castle in procession, the soldiers kept them out all night, or longer. Whereupon the Bishop, being much troubled, cheered them up as well as he could, and told them he would study to accommodate them better. In order thereunto he rode severall times to the Lady Abbesse at Wilton to have bought or exchanged a piece of ground of her ladyship to build a church and houses for the priests. A poor woman at Quidhampton, that was spinning in the street, sayd to one of her neighbours, “I marvell what the matter is that the bishop makes so many visits to my lady; I trow he intends to marry her.” Well, the bishop and her ladyship did not conclude about the land, and the bishop dreamt that the Virgin Mary came to him, and brought him to or told him of Merrifield; she would have him build his church there and dedicate it to her. Merrifield was a great field or meadow where the city of New Sarum stands, and did belong to the Bishop, as now the whole city belongs to him.
This was about the latter end of King John’s reigne, and the first grant or diploma that ever King Henry the Third signed was that for the building of our Ladies church at Salisbury. The Bishop sent for architects from Italy, and they did not onely build that famous structure, and the close, but layd out the streetes of the whole city: which run parallell one to another, and the market-place-square in the middle: whereas in other cities they were built by chance, and at severall times.
I know but one citie besides in England that was designed and layd out at once as this was; and that is Chichester: where, standing at the market-crosse, you may see the four gates of the city. They say there that it was built about the same time that New Salisbury was, and had some of those architects.* The town of Richelieu was built then by the great Cardinall, when he built his august chasteau there.
[Salisbury has little parallelism to its neighbour Chichester, which is of Roman origin: the former being truly English, and perfectly unique in its history and arrangement. Aubrey has omitted to notice the rapid streams of water flowing through each of the principal streets, which form a remarkable feature of the city. - J. B.]