Old Sarum

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Old Sarum (sâr´əm), site of a former city, Wiltshire, S England, just N of Salisbury (New Sarum). Excavations and scanning technologies have revealed remains of a British Iron Age fort, the Roman station Sorbiodunum, and a later Saxon then Norman town in the old settlement's mound. The bishopric, moved to Old Sarum from Sherborne in 1075, was transferred to Salisbury in 1220. Old Sarum's cathedral was torn down and parts of it were used in the construction of the cathedral at Salisbury. At Old Sarum the Use of Sarum (or Salisbury), a liturgical variant of the Roman Rite adopted in S England, was compiled.

Old Sarum was an important city until strife between the men of the castle and garrison and the men of the religious institution arose. It was that turmoil which led to the cathedral's removal and eventually to the decay of the old city; water shortage and harsh winds may also have been causes of its decline. Henry VIII ended the use of the castle in 1514. The "rotten borough" of Old Sarum continued to be represented in Parliament until the Reform Bill of 1832 was passed.

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Old Sarum was the original site of the city of Salisbury, abandoned in 1220 for the situation closer to the river Avon. By Tudor times it was totally deserted. It continued to return two members of Parliament until 1832 and became a symbol of the old regime, having, by the 18th cent., no more than a handful of voters and not knowing a contest between 1728 and its abolition in Schedule A of the Great Reform Act.

J. A. Cannon