That was lucky – being in Salisbury Cathedral to see the 1215 Magna Carta before it goes for repair tomorrow (February 1).
Not that it would have spoiled the visit, the cathedral is one of England’s most beautiful buildings and even more exceptional for the vast green space around it.
Even on a dull winter morning the stonework had an unusual warmth with pink and reddish hues - there’s about 70,000 tons of stone, mainly Chilmark and the rest Purbeck, so no wonder it took 38 years to build.
Once inside, the 365 windows for every day of the year, ensured light poured into the pristine building and the visit was all the better for underfloor heating!
The stained glass was particularly intense in the octagonal Chapter House where the Magna Carta is displayed which, incidentally, is the best-preserved of the four surviving copies (the others are in Lincoln Cathedral and the British Library).
As a journo who was trained to consider our trade as 'the first draft of history' I felt moved looking at the power of these 3,500 words - a medieval shorthand in the Spirit of Justice.
A copy of the original Magna Carta will be in place during the repairs but it is unlikely that an untrained eye would know the difference.
The cathedral was in built in the early part of the 13th century and the city grew up at the confluence of the wonderfully named rivers Nadder, Ebble, Wylye and Bourne which meet the Hampshire Avon and go on to the sea at Christchurch. It’s the most lovely place to visit and Stonehenge is just eight miles north-west if you can spare a weekend.
The Salisbury Museum was the main focus of my visit for the preview of an exhibition featuring 20th century artist John Craxton – A Life in Art from Cranborne Chase to Crete.
Craxton was a wanderer and the exhibition’s curator Dr Ian Collins explained that Craxton spent long periods near Farnham in Dorset with his aunt and uncle, artists Cecil and Amy Waller. The couple’s cottage was close to the Pitt-Rivers Museum and it was here Craxton was inspired by the archaeology of Wessex and the Mediterranean.
Those antiquities are now on show in the Wessex Gallery at Salisbury Museum so it was fitting to see such a thoughtfully curated display of Craxton’s work in the same building.
Some of Craxton’s paintings of the local area during were on show for the first time thanks to generous lenders, the Craxton Trust and support from Lark Insurance Group.
It was, though, the Greek way of life that fully entranced Craxton and sun-drenched paintings of the Cretan landscape brought warm into the gallery and delight to the huge gathering of visitors.
Note to diary: Must stay longer next time.
The Mercure White Hart Hotel, with its friendly and helpful staff led by manager Amanda Dolan, is a five-minute walk from the cathedral or museum and makes for a comfortable stay in this quintessential English city.
* John Craxton – A Life in Art from Cranborne Chase to Crete runs until May 7, 2016.