600 year old sculpture discovered at Salisbury Museum

A MEDIAEVAL arch has been found during building works at the Salisbury Museum.

Earlier this year, builders were adding a new render to the north side of the museum when they came across a piece of stone facing outwards.

They quickly realised it had an engraved face and carefully extracted it from the wall.

The object is a label stop, found at the bottom of an arch, often in a pair.

The carved face has exaggerated features, suggesting it was found in a raised position, designed to be viewed from below.

Director of Salisbury Museum, Adrian Green, 50, has the hard job of working out where the label stop came from and why it was reused in the construction of a wall.

Historical records state the museum site was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. “It’s tempting to think it came off and was rebuilt in.”

However, he states the label stop could be over 100 years older than this redevelopment.

From the 13th to the 16th century the site was owned by the Abbot of Sherborne, and the label stop is made from Somerset hamstone, indicating it was from the period. But this is yet to be confirmed.

“As you can see, I’m tentative. It’s certainly late mediaeval.”

The building work that led to the discovery began following a £4.4 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, on the condition the museum raised £2.2 million in match funding.

This was successful, but in 2022, the project was pushed £700,000 over budget by inflation, which the National Lottery granted them, increasing the total funding to £5.1 million.

Green was very grateful, “It was something they didn’t have to do.”

More discoveries were made during this period, including mediaeval roof tiles with the paw prints of two different dogs, and a piece of slate graffitied with someone’s name from 1877.

Green praises the building contractors who went “above and beyond” to preserve the items.

Cliveden Conservation specialise in work on heritage sites, such as their restoration of the Elizabeth Tower, better known as Big Ben.

More research needs to be conducted into the discovery, but Green is confident that after 16 years at Salisbury, he is in a strong position to do this.

“We’ve got some of the best archaeology connections for a regional museum.”

Salisbury Museum is a fully independent charity that relies on grants, members, and admissions to operate.

The label stop is available to see now in the museum, alongside an exhibition with photos from the last 50 years of the Salisbury Journal.

Find out more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *