Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society
Northgate & West Walk – The Wardrobe & Rifles Museum
The original house here, dated 1254, was a canonry. A note from 1543 says it ‘now is called Le Warderobe’ which has been taken to mean that it changed use then, perhaps to storage, rather than residential, maybe because of the reduced number of Canons granted residences by the Bishop. In 1586, Bishop Jewel gave it to the Chapter, in exchange for another property, and it was then divided up and leased to various tenants for more than three hundred years.
The present building is mainly 15th century, but has been altered in the intervening centuries. In England’s Thousand Best Houses, Simon Jenkins describes the façade as ‘enticing’.
The War Office took over the Wardrobe in 1939 as a base for the Auxiliary Territorial Services. It provided accommodation for the Diocesan Training College for Schoolmistresses from 1945 to 1969, when it was left empty. When the architectural historian Sir Nicolaus Pevsner visited in 1975 he noted it was disused and ‘Its future is uncertain’.
In 1979, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment Wardrobe Holding Charity (now the Rifles Wardrobe and Museum Trust) leased the building to provide a regimental museum and offices. The Museum was opened by the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, the Duke of Edinburgh, in July 1992. After army reorganisations, The Wardrobe became the base for the Rifles in the Counties of Berkshire and Wiltshire in 2007. On 1 May 2012, the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire hosted the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh there to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.
The Museum is open to the public. The peaceful rear garden is also used for open air events.