St Edmund’s Church, now Salisbury Arts Centre has had a most interesting history. Long ago it relied on generous financial help to prevent possible closure because of the heavy expense of maintenance.

In 1613 the church, which was founded in 1270 as a collegiate church with a Provost and a college of about 12 canons, was bought by the parishioners. They found the upkeep of the building a great burden and it gradually fell into disrepair.

In 1407 the church had been almost completely rebuilt. It must have been very imposing with its nave of 78ft., a choir of equal length, transepts and a central tower and steeple.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, the church, which also served as a parish church, and the college, were seized by Henry VIII for the crown and the canons dispersed. It passed into the hands of William St Barbe who, although a layman, became its first rector.

By 1613, the steeple had long since been removed. On Sunday, June 26, the tower was in such a dangerous state that it swayed when the bells were rung. Next day, fortunately when no one was near the church, the tower collapsed and the nave was demolished. The fact that the tower was rebuilt almost immediately is remarkable as it was one of the few pieces of church building done during the commonwealth.

As can be seen in our photograph, on the wall of the tower is an ingenious chronogram “praIse hIM o yee ChILDren,” the date of the collapse being given by adding together those letters which could be used as Roman numerals.

Many changes took place in the subsequent years. There was at one time a three-decker pulpit and numerous pews, one of which had its own fireplace!