“You are an under-dog while I am a top-dog, my son” – building the tower at Salisbury cathedral

The history behind Salisbury Cathedral is quite remarkable, not because someone was murdered or lost their life during building works, but because the main body of the cathedral was erected within 38 years (!), and this gave people who actually worked on the side from the start the chance to see the whole project in its full glory.

Looking inside the cathedral from the balcony

It was 28th April 1220 when the first foundations stone was laid. Builders finished on 29th September 1258 and by 1266 West Front, the Cloisters, the Chapter House, and the (now demolished) detached Bell Tower, which stood between the High Street Gate and the Cathedral were completed. However there was no Spire tower you can see today as yet and there was not much going on around the building as the town was just about to be born – starting with the foundation of De Vaux College in 1261. Salisbury town grew rapidly since then and within two centuries it became seventh largest town in England.

Admiring Salisbury from the top of the spire today.

Between 1300 and 1320 the spire was erected. Blacksmiths, carpenters, stone cutters, roofers’ hard work helped created the tallest building in England in XVI century, standing at 404 ft/123 m. Unfortunately the spire was damaged within a few years of completion and the internal scaffolding  which was erected to repair the tower became its permanent feature. Probably because of that the spire is still standing.

The tower scaffolding
Scaffolding – permanent feature inside the tower


Creating the spire was a hard work for everyone – probably the most time consuming was actually to get the materials up to the top – some of the stones were dragged up by using this simple but very smart mechanism – the wheel was supported by four people, two of them were pushing, two of them were applying breaks with their own bodies and the stones were delivered to the top within 35 minutes!

The medieval wheel


The life of master carpenter was good. He was the top-dog, teaching his son how to carefully cut the wood.  His son, under-dog, stood knee-deep in water (there was a very rainy week before the carpenters could start their part and a lot of water gathered on the uneven roof top), trying not to swallow splints and wood dust. They did the majority of their work up here, cutting the wood in half to put the same shapes as supporters for the ceiling on both sides.

The trees used to create the supporting structure were not bend but cut out of the tree with disarable shape


The tower tour, costing only £10, will allow you to discover much more about history of the Spire. It will give you a remarkable opportunity not only to see something what is not available to the general public but to learn an unique story about the creators of this magnificent building. There is a small fox on one of the walls, beautifully carved by hand of a young lad who was trying his skills as a carpenter and later as a blacksmith to finally settle down as a stone cutter. Why would he put this marvellous little fox so hidden, no one could admire it? But the God could…

Fox’s head hidden inside the Spire

You can try to squeeze between very narrow corridors and climb steps spiraling so tightly all the way up, it’s going to make your head spin…

Narrow corridors…
Narrow corridors
Spiral stairs in the middle of the Spire leading to its heart

There is a medieval clock and the bells resonate for at least 20 seconds so the ear plugs handed in before the tour came quite handy.

Ear plugs handed in before we started the tour
Medieval clock
Bells on the tower

 When the need to rescue the Spire occurred in 1990 – the £6 million were collected by selling small parts of stained glass work located on the tower so people could buy a part of the cathedral to put their message on it.

Stained glass work sold to support the renovation of Spire


The work of medieval craftsmen allowed this amazing building to stand to this day, so you can see all the parts of the town from above, even have a cheeky look towards Old Sarum.

Admiring the view


I am in love with England, with people who could create such a beauty and proudly present history of their country to the others, taking care to show their fascination and love. I travel throughout England as much as I am able to and I do not think I will ever get bored, ever stop as there is more and more to see and experience. 


3 thoughts on ““You are an under-dog while I am a top-dog, my son” – building the tower at Salisbury cathedral”

    1. I have never been to the Anglican carehdtal,however i have been to the Catholic carehdtal(which i think is a ghastly building)i saw a tv programme about gilbert scott and the construction of the anglican carehdtal,it is a building i intend to visit at some point,


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