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Salisbury Plain facts for kids

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Summer Solstice Sunrise over Stonehenge 2005
Stonehenge, the most famous antiquity on Salisbury Plain

Salisbury Plain is a chalk plateau in central southern England covering 300 square miles (780 km2). It largely lies within the county of Wiltshire, with a little in Hampshire.

The Plain is famous for its rich archaeology, including Avebury and Stonehenge, which are a joint World Heritage Site. The Plain is sparsely populated and is the largest remaining area of calcareous grassland in north-west Europe. The Plain also has arable land, and a few small areas of beech trees and coniferous woodland.

On the Plain is the British Army's largest training ground in England. It is suitable terrain for tank manoeuvres; buildings such as Imber are used for urban warfare training.


Stonehenge Total
Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain

Salisbury Plain is famous for its history and archaeology. In the Neolithic period Stone Age people began to settle on the plain, most likely centred around the causewayed enclosure of Robin Hood's Ball. Large long barrows like White Barrow and other earthworks were built across the plain. By 2500 BC areas around Durrington Walls and Stonehenge had become a focus for building, and the southern part of the plain continued to be settled into the Bronze Age.

Around 600 BC Iron Age Hill forts came to be constructed around the boundaries of the plain, including Scratchbury Camp and Battlesbury Camp to the south west, Bratton Camp to the north west, Casterley Camp to the north, Yarnbury and Vespasian's Camp to the south, and Sidbury Hill to the east.

Roman roads are visible features, probably serving a settlement near Old Sarum. Villas are sparse, however, and Anglo-Saxon place names suggest that the plain was mostly a grain-producing imperial estate.

In the 6th century Anglo-Saxon incomers built planned settlements in the valleys surrounded by strip lynchets, with the downland left as sheep pasture. To the south is the city of Salisbury, whose 13th and 14th century cathedral is famous for having the tallest spire in the country, and the building was, for many centuries, the tallest building in Britain. The cathedral is evidence of the prosperity the wool and cloth trade brought to the area. In the mid-19th century the wool and cloth industry began to decline, leading to a decline in the population and change in land use from sheep farming to agriculture and military use. Wiltshire became one of the poorest counties in England during this period of decline.

There are a number of chalk carvings on the plain, of which the most famous is the Westbury White Horse. The Kennet and Avon Canal was constructed to the north of the plain, through the Vale of Pewsey.

In September 1896, George Kemp and Guglielmo Marconi experimented with wireless telegraphy on Salisbury Plain, and achieved good results over a distance of 1.25 miles (2.0 km).


The boundaries of Salisbury Plain have never been defined, and there is some difference of opinion as to its exact area. The river valleys surrounding it, and other downs and plains beyond them loosely define its boundaries. To the north the scarp of the downs overlooks the Vale of Pewsey, and to the north west the Avon. The River Wylye runs along the south west, and the River Bourne runs to the east.

  • Google satellite map centered on Stonehenge: [1]
  • Access to military site: [2]

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Salisbury Plain Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.