The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin, Salisbury Wiltshire

St. Martin's Church Street




01722 503123

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Sarum St. Martin

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The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin History

Rectors of St. Martin - click here to view the Roll of Incumbents

St Martin’s was in place even before St Osmond began an older cathedral, to the north of the present city - and only sixteen years after William the Conqueror ordered the very first cathedral at that same ‘Old Sarum’.

In fact St. Martin’s played a very important role in local ecclesiastical terms. All the rectors of the day, from Walter in 1091 up to William Ruffate 1309 to 1310, were all Deans of Sarisberiense (Sarum). This included Richard Poore, Rector of Sarum St Martin, 1198 to 1215, who went on to become Bishop of Chichester in 1215 and then later Bishop of Salisbury in 1217. He persuaded both the King and Pope to support the building of the present Cathedral in his old parish - that of St. Martin’s!

Richard Poore was not the only Rector of St. Martins to become a Bishop. Robert Chichester, 1112 to 1140 went on to become Bishop of Exeter in 1155, Henry de Braundeston, 1284 to 1287 became Bishop of Salisbury in 1287, and Nathaniele Spinckes became Bishop of Thetford in 1713.

Most of these Deans resided in a canonry in the Close, Henry de Braundeston lived at 59, which is now Arundells, the former home of Sir Edward Heath (Prime Minister from 1970 to 1975). Some lived a life, some might say ‘’risqué’’ when William Osgodby, Rector 1454 to 1458 occupied Braybrooke House and was said to have entertained (too frequently) a certain Mistress Alicia Hoskyns, an immodest lady of the City, to the

misgivings of the Close constable of the time.

The Church

Sarum St Martin is likely to have been founded some years before 1091, when it is mentioned in an existing document. Some hidden foundations dating to c.1100 were excavated in 1956. They suggest that an earlier church on the site had a ‘South Transept’, this around 1100. From inside the present South Aisle we can see that the western wall is oddly angled and that, imbedded in its rough flint-work are items of carved limestone - almost certainly taken from Old Sarum following the demolition of the Castle and earlier Cathedral.

Most of the body of the church is 15th century with a 13th century chancel which was given spacial unity in 2006 when a modern finely designed altar was set forward of the east wall, allowing the priest to face the congregation throughout the service and giving ample space for the congregation to approach the altar to receive the sacrament.

The present Rood Screen was pre dated by one which was probably removed in the 16th century. Its existence and position can be seen by a stone stairway found in the south wall within the Lady Chapel.

Most visitors are struck by this current finely carved rood screen. Apart from the usual ‘Calvary’ or ‘rood’, the gallery shows an array of figures associated with the ecclesiastical history of the Salisbury Diocese. This beautiful rood screen was dedicated by Dr Frederick Ridgeway, Bishop of Salisbury (1911-1921), on 17th October 1918 as a memorial to Cecil George Rawlings who was killed in action during the first world war, at Ypres on 15th February 1915. To see this screen illuminated by evening sunlight is often very moving. Three fine windows by Christopher Webb stand out amongst some good modern glass.

There have also been major changes to the porch and Church Office. On entering the west door, welcomed by light, one can now look up through a finely crafted glass pyramid to the 14th century spire. It is this feature which so powerfully echoes the cathedral and which reminds us of the ancient link that has existed from the first, and which the congregations at both St. Martin’s and the Cathedral are keen to foster. The parish office and toilets occupy what was the Corpus Christi chapel which was connected to the 15th century altar tomb and up to the end of the 20th century was used as a vestry.

The Bell Tower and Spire

The 12th century tower pre dates the spire which was added later, some thoughts indicate a designer link to the architect responsible for the Cathedral spire. The ringers have to descend to a lower floor level through either a choice of steps from the west end porch or via the south aisle.

The Bells

We know that in 1580 there were four bells but little is known of them apart from the fact they were cast in Salisbury. Nothing more is recorded until 1843 when the ring was augmented to six bells, then in 1886 two new trebles were added and a new one-piece , two tier oak frame was constructed by a Salisbury bellfounder, Thomas Blackbourne, who was also a St.Martins ringer.

This gave the church a Treble and Second, both by Mears et Stainbank, London. Third, and Fourth, both by Thomas Mears, London. Fifth and Sixth, both by Richard Flory, Salisbury. Seventh and a Tenor, both by John Wallis, Salisbury. The last which was re-cast in 1582  with an I.D. on the crown which could refer to John Danton, another Salisbury bellfounder.

The bells are rung every Sunday, with practice usually on a Tuesday, and very often rung on a Saturday by visiting bellringers from various parts of the country.

The Organ

There was an organ in the church in 1567 when a sum of ‘xijs vd’ was paid for ‘ye repayring of ye organs’. A new organ was bought in 1603 for £3 6s. 8d. and was demolished in 1653, the church receiving 10s for the organ case. In 1778, another organ was installed by Samuel Smith and bought for £100. In 1824, 185 guineas were paid for a new organ built by Blyth of Isleworth.

The present organ in St Martin’s Church was built by William Hill in 1869. The organ was positioned in the north east corner of the church, as at present, but at ground level. Four stops that were ‘prepared for’ were installed by Thomas Hill in 1875. In 1897, Hill & Son were paid £90 for ‘taking down the Organ, re-erecting and adding stops’. In order to create a new choir vestry, the instrument was raised to its present position on the loft.

The instrument survived in essentially its 1897 form until its restoration in 1995 by Hill, Norman & Beard. Most recently, in 2002, Nicholsons added three new ranks to the Pedal organ, greatly increasing the flexibility of the instrument.

Robert Fielding, Director of Music

The specification of the instrument is as follows:


Bourdon 16 (1875)

Open Diapason 8 (1869)

Stopped Diapason 8 (1869)

Dulciana 8 (1869)

Principal 4 (1869)

Wald Flute 4 (1869)

Twelfth 2⅔ (1869)

Fifteenth 2 (1869)

Mixture III (1869)

Trumpet (1875)


Bourdon 16 (1875)

Open Diapason 8 (1869)

Stopped Diapason 8 (1869)

Salicional 8 (1897)

Voix Celeste 8 (1897)

Principal 4 (1869)

Flautina 2 (1897)

Oboe 8 (1869)

Cornopean 8 (1897)


Open Diapason 16 (1869)

Bourdon 16 (1875)

Principal 8 (2002)

Flute 8 (2002)

Trombone 16 (2002)

The Great and Swell have mechanical action with electric action to the Pedal.

There are three combination pedals to the Great and three to the Swell.

The instrument is tuned and maintained by Stephen Cooke.

The Churchyard

In the 17th century the churchyard was enclosed by a mud wall followed by a brick wall  built in 1667, with railings added at a later date. The first churchyard walk was made in 1757 and in 1792 an avenue of limes was planted leading from the church to a turnstile in the south-east corner. This path is still greatly used by the public today and now has the advantage of a smooth tar macadam surface.

The churchyard was closed for burials in 1854. A churchyard cross was demolished in 1653, but was restored and moved from the north to the south side of the church in 1871.

A tithe barn stood on the north side of the churchyard. It was sold in c. 1881 to the then incumbent, Calcraft Neeld Wyld, who pulled it down and used much of the timber for the rectory he built in 1890 at the junction of Rampart Road and Milford Street. This beautiful timber framed building was removed, being taken apart piece by piece and later reconstructed when the City ring road was built in the early seventies.


Almighty God, you have made us members of Christ and of his Church in this parish. May we as a congregation reach upwards to your throne in worship and adoration: inwards to one another in understanding and fellowship; and outwards to the world in evangelism and social compassion. Make us like a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hidden, so that men and women may find Christ as the Light of the World, and his Church as the family of the redeemed, and eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

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