Whole-School Residential Trip to Salisbury (Day 3 & 4)

by Sophy Haig

We’ve had a pretty fantastic time, but Day 3 was my favourite so far.  We were studying art and architecture in the cathedral this morning, and looking at the library and trying our hand at calligraphy this afternoon.  We managed to squeeze a couple of other things in as well…

Day 3 - Master builders and decorators

We started our learning this morning with a practical lesson about how the master builders built the cathedral, using 6,000 tons of stone.  Whereas the cathedral at Old Sarum was Norman in style, the cathedral in Salisbury was Early English Gothic (pointed arches as opposed to rounded).  But how did the 13th century builders map out a plan for design? We re-capped our learning about the Fibonacci sequence yesterday and found out that they designed the arches using the principles from the golden ratio.

Master builders rectangle


Our students then took over a section of the cathedral floor and, using similar instruments to the master builders’ beam compasses, they scaled up their drawings exactly as the master builders would have (but with pens instead of clay!)

Sally, a volunteer at the cathedral, then gave a presentation on the art and architecture of the cathedral, including why the cathedral was built, who it was built by and why it had a particular saint attached to it (St Mary).  We also had the opportunity to do some floor rubbings.

Stone rubbing JT


After lunch, we were given a tour of the cathedral library by Emily.  The library dates back to 1445, and contains bookcases made with 30 royal oak trees.  It houses 10,000 books, with the oldest from the 9th century and includes 250 manuscript books from before the printing press was invented. Originally, books were chained to the shelves because they were so valuable – and certainly for the books that were written by hand, there was usually only one copy.


12 century book

Library quill

9 century book

We learned what parchment was and how it went from being animal hide to writing material, how ink was made, and about the writing implements that were used (quills and reed pens).  We also found out the origin of the word pen-knife.  The feathers of a female swan, or pen, would be used to make quills, and a knife was used to sharpen the keratin at the end of the feather – pen-knife, simple!

We also found out another use for books (animal welfare campaigners please look away now) which was really rather gruesome – as you can see!

Mouse book

We then went to a calligraphy workshop with another volunteer, Rosemary.  Our students really excelled at this!

Caligraphy SF

Caligraphy K words

Caligraphy LF

Caligraphy KC

Caligraphy NC

Caligraphy AB

After this, we went to see the Magna Carta (all 3,500-ish words of it, written in approximately 50 hours).  Then we had some time exploring more of Salisbury, fitting in a football match before we attended Evensong in the cathedral.  We witnessed the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire awarding 750 volunteers a collective MBE from the Queen, in recognition of their amazing volunteer service in all aspects of cathedral life.

NC girls

We were pretty hungry after that, and Mr Parkin-Haig had organised a meal at Pizza Express for staff and students.  Needless to say, we had a fabulous evening.



Then it was back to the Youth Hostel for the last quiz of the trip, which was won by Team Mompesson, captained by Mr Perfectbrain Parkin-Haig (the team also won overall) before making our way to bed.  And tomorrow – our last day…

Day 4 - Language and music

And so the trip ended as it began – with lashings of rain!  Our spirits weren’t dampened however, as the first learning experience today was fun, fast and furious.  The name of the session – Due Process – gave us no clues, but it was in fact a discussion-based game where debating, voting and protesting gained points.  Fantastically won by Serena, Aline, Max and Alex V, we were wide awake and ready for anything by the end of the game.

Due process

DP questions


Next, we had a session on art and iconography.  The cathedral holds many treasures, and we were asked to discuss and analyse why different images, tapestries, stained glass windows and artefacts were significant, how they made us feel, and why.

This was followed by a session on medieval and 16th century liturgy, where we learned about the difference in power, language, status and dress of the priest in medieval church services compared with a priest taking a Eucharist service in the 16th century.

Liturgy talk




We then had the opportunity to hear about the purpose of the Vestry, courtesy of one of the cathedral’s vergers.  Visitors aren’t usually allowed in the Vestry but we got a glimpse of vestments (a 16th century chasuble) and vessels (communion cups used in Holy Communion services).



Safe vessels

To round off our afternoon, we had an organ demonstration by the Assistant Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral, John Challenger.  The Victorian Willis organ has approximately 4,000 pipes, the biggest of which is 32 feet long.  We learned that no sound comes from an organ unless you pull out a specific ‘stop’ – and we also learned how much sound comes out when you pull out all the stops!

With special permission of the Director of Music, Mr Parkin-Haig sang the bass solo of Henry Purcell’s Jehovah, quam multi sunt, accompanied by John, to our students (and some visitors).  Most of our students have never heard Mr P-H sing before, and were pretty impressed that he could reach a bottom E!

Organ demo


We then had the opportunity to visit the organ loft (tiny!) where John showed small groups of students the console, and how an organ works.

Then, having said our thank yous and good byes, we bundled into the bus and made the journey back to Newland College.  A special thank you to Mr Parkin-Haig for master-minding the trip, and to all the staff who worked tirelessly throughout the week.  We’ve truly been inspired!



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