The story of Salisbury began 2,500 years ago when an iron age fort was built on Salisbury Hill about 2 miles north of the modern town centre. In the 6th century AD the Saxons invaded Wiltshire. In 552 Saxons and Celts fought a battle at Salisbury Hill. The Celts were defeated and fled westwards. The fort probably lay abandoned for centuries.
However by the early 11th century a settlement had grown up on the site of the old fort. In 1003 the Vikings raided Wilton some of the survivors may have fled to the safety of Salisbury Hill and founded a new settlement. The new town had a mint and a market.
About 1069 William the Conqueror built a wooden castle to overlook the settlement and keep the inhabitants in line. In 1075 a bishop moved his seat there. However Sarisberie, as it was called, was a small settlement, much smaller than nearby Wilton. It probably only had a population of a few hundred.
SALISBURY IN THE MIDDLE AGES
The modern town of Salisbury began about the year 1217 when the Bishop decided to move his seat to land owned by the church south of the hill. Perhaps there was friction between the clergy and the soldiers in the Norman castle. A shortage of water on the hill may have been another reason for the move. He created a new town on the plain. The Bishop laid out streets in a grid pattern and leased plots of land for building houses. So a new settlement grew up at Salisbury but the town at Old Sarum continued for centuries.
The new town of Salisbury was given a charter in 1227 (a charter was a document granting the townspeople certain rights). By 1219 Salisbury had a market and an annual fair. In Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year. People would come from all over Wiltshire to buy and sell at a Salisbury fair.
The new town of Salisbury was very successful. This was partly because it was on the road from Wilton to Southampton. It was also on the road from London to Exeter. (In those days Exeter was a large and important town and much traffic went between those two towns). In 1244 a stone bridge was built across the Avon, which increased the traffic flowing through Salisbury. Obviously travellers would stop at Salisbury and spend money in the town.