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Work on the new cathedral building—the present Salisbury Cathedral—began in 1221.

The site was supposedly established by shooting an arrow from Old Sarum, although this is certainly a legend: the distance is over 3 km (1.9 mi).

(The legend is sometimes emended to claim that the arrow struck a white deer, which continued to run and died on the spot where the cathedral now rests.) The structure was built upon wooden faggots on a gravel bed with unusually shallow foundations of 18 inches (46 cm) and the main body was completed in only 38 years.

(The 123 m or 404 ft tall spire, the tallest in the UK, was built later.) With royal approval, many of the stones for the new cathedral were taken from the old one; others came from Chilmark.

New Sarum was made a city by a charter from and, by the 14th century, was the largest settlement in Wiltshire.