Mizmaze Hill is a name that is no longer much used. As far as I’m aware it has never been used as the name of a road, but it was the name of the hill at the Salisbury end of Bishopdown, where roads such as Ridgeway Road, Wordsworth Road and Moberly Road are now.

The name ‘Mizmaze Hill’

The name ‘Mizmaze Hill’ appears in a few documents:

  • An archaelogical article from 1865 says that ‘Milford Hill proper [is] a continuation of Mizmaze Hill’[1]
  • There is a pdf which I don’t have access to, on the Antiquity Journal website. The description in Google search tells us that ‘the name Mizmaze Hill occurs there on the Ordnance map of. 1806-8′
  • The Victoria County History of Wiltshire says that, in the 1850s, ‘Waterworks were to be built on Mizmaze Hill to the north of the city’[2]

You can see the name Mizmaze Hill on the 1810 map below, which I’m using with the kind permission of Wiltshire Council Libraries, Heritage & Arts:

1810 map of Salisbury, showing Mizmaze Hill

1810 map of Salisbury, showing Mizmaze Hill

What is a Mizmaze?

Possible spoiler: I haven’t had to do a spoiler alert on one of these pages before – it perhaps makes it seem more exciting than it actually is!

Why does my page on ‘Mizmaze Hill’ need a spoiler alert?

Well, the first time I visited the Breamore Mizmaze, as a child, I wasn’t told what ‘a Mizmaze’ was. This made it more fun at the time, and curiousity probably encouraged me to keep walking.

Whilst this doesn’t really compare with the tradition of entering Saint Mark’s Square in Venice for the first time blindfolded, it is quite a nice idea, so if you would prefer to see your first mizmaze before reading about it….stop reading here.

A mizmaze is a maze cut out of turf. There are surviving Mizmazes at Breamore, which is on the road from Salisbury to Bournemouth, and at Saint Catherine’s Hill, near Winchester.[3]

In other parts of the country the same sort of maze are known as Troy-towns or the Walls of Troy.[4]

As far as I am aware nobody knows who built the mizmazes or why.

As a child, I remember being told that monks did penance by crawling around them, but I’ve never read anything that corroborates this.

Etymology of the word ‘Mizmaze’

The derivation of the word ‘maze’ itself is uncertain.

The Online Etymological Dictionary says that it is possibly from:

O.E. *mæs, which is suggested by the compound amasod “amazed” (see amaze). Perhaps related to Norw. dial. mas “exhausting labor.”[5]

A 1922 book ‘Mazes and Labyrinths’ by W.H. Matthews has a longer discussion, but broadly concurs:

The word maze is probably of Scandinavian origin. Its oldest significance seems to be that of a state of bewilderment or confusion, or of being wrapped in thought¿a use which we nowadays regard as metaphorical [6]

I’ve found no derivation of ‘Mizmaze’. I’d assume the ‘Miz’ is another version of the word ‘Maze’ – so a Mizmaze is doubly complicated!

Where is the Salisbury Mizmaze?

I don’t know where the mizmaze on Salisbury’s Mizmaze Hill was.

As you can see from the old map above, although the hill is marked, the Mizmaze itself isn’t.

I’ve spent a few minute’s using the ‘satellite view’ on Google Maps to see whether there is some faint outline visible from the air, but sadly there’s nothing as far as I can see.

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.

An odd circle on Mizmaze Hill

I was really grateful to exchange emails with Ian Woodward on this. Mr Woodward found a circular outline in a ploughed field on Mizmaze Hill on Google Maps.

Neither he nor I would suggest that this is the Mizmaze but it’s interesting. It would be great to be able to investigate further, or to have some professional investigation done.

This view shows the general area, but you can’t see a circle:
Salisbury Mizmaze - circular outline in ploughed field - general area

In the image below, you can make out a faint circle:
Salisbury Mizmaze - circular outline in ploughed field - visible circle

This is a closer view – the circle here is filling the image
Salisbury Mizmaze - circular outline in ploughed field - close-up

My first reaction on seeing these images was that the circle would be too big to be related to the Mizmaze, but on second thoughts that is just because it’s much bigger than the only one I’ve visited (the one at Breamore). There’s no reason at all why it shouldn’t have been on a larger scale

As Mr Woodward put it:

While something circular can be seen in those images, I have no idea what it was nor how old it might be. It is the coincidence of the old ‘Mizmaze Hill’ name that suggests it could be a labyrinth of some kind – nothing more.

Footnotes

  1. On the Discovery of Flint Implements in the Drift at Milford Hill, Salisbury — Blackmore 21 (12): 250 — Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society []
  2. Salisbury – City government since 1836 | British History Online []
  3. Mizmaze – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  4. Troy Town – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia []
  5. Online Etymology Dictionary []
  6. Mazes and Labyriths: Chapter XX. Maze Etymology []

1 Comment for this entry

  • Ashley Thompson says:

    It may be possible to locate the Mizmaze by geeting archaeologists to conducting a geophysical survey and if that fails some test pits in the area might pick up the trace of the soil disturbance where the maze would of been cut.

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