4. Norman Sarisberie

With the coming of the Normans, more written records augment the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and our fairly sparse archeaology. William the Conquerer visited Sarisberie at least twice; first in 1070 when he reviewed and paid off the army which had invaded England, and secondly in 1086 when he held a "Great Council" which, it is said, 60,000 people attended. The Domesday Book was presented to King William at this Council, and all the principal landowners, the prelates, nobles, sheriffs and knights, then swore fealty to him becoming his vassals and introducing the feudal system to England.

The Domesday Book, which was partially written at Sarisberie, does not specifically mention Stratford and it is impossible to establish who was living here are that time (c1085). However, the name Stratford first appears in a document in 1091 (4). The name refers to the point where the Roman road crosses the Avon. This has generally been assumed to be at Tadpole Island, implying that the manor of Stratford referred to the Portway area. Recent research by John Chandler (5) throws doubt on this however. He has suggested that the Portway area was probably called Newtown and he believes that the term Stratford refers to a crossing further up the valley at, or near, what is now Stratford Bridge.

Old Sarum flourished under the Normans. A royal castle was built inside the old hill fort and it became the seat of the bishop when, in 1075, the Council of London decreed that sees should be transferred from smaller places (in this case Sherborne) to towns of importance. Bishop Hereman (or Herman) started to build a cathedral in 1078 but died before it could be completed. His successor, Bishop Osmund, consecrated the new cathedral on 5th April 1092. It is said to have been struck by lightning 5 days later but was quickly repaired and remained in use for nearly 100 years. Bishop Osmund set up a chapter of canons and he ensured their livelihood by providing them with income from land. Hoare tells us in his History of Wiltshire (6), "The manors of Stratford and Stratford Dean were apparently the lands which, by the liberality of Osmund, were vested in the Dean and canons. These were lands occupied by tenants of the church who established their dwellings .... especially in the space between the fortress and the river, forming suburbs, possibly more extensive and certainly more commodiously situated than the burgh itself."

Although it was the smallest cathedral in England, Osmund appears to have attracted a considerable number of learned men to Sarisberie (7) and the output of manuscripts far exceeded that appropriate to the size of the cathedral. One of Osmund's major contributions was the new order of service which became known as the "Use of Sarum". This integrated the English and Norman forms of worship and became the model for the Prayer Book in use today. Osmund died in 1099 and was canonised in 1457.

Osmund's successor, Bishop Roger, managed to gain control of the castle (by being appointed sheriff) as well as the church and set about extending and enhancing both. He built the wall around the castle and started to enlarge the cathedral. Unfortunately he then threw in his lot with Stephen in his war with Maud (Matilda) but the ungrateful king had him arrested and thrown into Devizes castle where he died soon after. Maud eventually seized Old Sarum and appointed Jocelin as Bishop. On Stephen's death, Maud's son became Henry II and Jocelin later supported him in his dispute with Thomas Beckett, being twice excommunicated for his action.