Harnham Bridge and Mill, south-west of the cathedral and city centre, provide views across to the Cathedral and city that have been celebrated in literature and art.
In his Autobiography (1883) Anthony Trollope recalled how when ‘wandering one midsummer evening round the purlieus of Salisbury Cathedral’, he ‘conceived the story of The Warden, from whence came the series of novels of which Barchester … was the central site….'
Whilst Barchester was based more on Winchester, and the county of Barset is, of course, imaginary, The Warden (1852) was inspired by Trollope's view of Salisbury from the ‘little bridge’ near the cathedral.
John Constable famously painted the view from the Mill in 1824. There is a road near Harnham Mill that is named after that other painter of Salisbury and the Cloisters: J.M.W. Turner.
The bridge was built in 1245 by Bishop Bingham and widened in 1774. It was here that William Golding, a master at Bishop’s Wordsworth School, leant over the bridge a century later and found it difficult to imagine how his predecessor had not written about its most dramatic and symbolic feature - the Cathedral spire. Built between 1285 and 1300, it is the tallest spire in England. Golding’s The Spire appeared in 1964.
In March 1913 the poet Edward Thomas ‘crossed over Harnham bridge where the tiled roofs are so mossy, and went up under that bank of sombre-shimmering ivy just to look from where the roads branch’, on his literary pilgrimage by bicycle from Clapham to the Quantock Hills.
Thomas’s journey has a potent relevance in the early twenty first century. Although, on the surface, it is a journey searching for signs of spring and observing what is present through earlier poetic responses, it is also a journey of self-discovery, written against the threat of a World War, and a probing of identity, purpose and landscape looking for rebirth.
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