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MALMESBURY ABBEY - A BRIEF HISTORY

The Abbey is at the centre of Malmesbury and can be seen for miles around. However the existing structure is about one third the size of the building at its greatest extent.

THE ORIGINAL BUILDING:
A Monastery was first established on the site around 676 by Aldhelm, but the present building dates from the 12th century, and was consecrated about 1180. One of the most notable features surviving from that period is the south porch with its magnificent Norman arch containing carvings depicting Bible stories. There is also a fine vaulted roof to the nave.

EARLY ADDITIONS:
During the next 2 centuries the building was expanded, including the addition of a spire which was even taller than that on Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately it fell down, probably during a storm, some time around the turn of the 16th century.

THE REFORMATION:
In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved the monastery for which this building was the centre of worship. It was bought by William Stumpe, who arranged for it to become the parish church, and it was consecrated as such on 20th August 1541. Since then it has been a place of worship almost continuously.

YEARS OF DECLINE:
As the years passed the building continued to decay, and successive artists’ depictions of it over the next centuries show less and less of the original still standing. The most significant event was the collapse of the west tower which left a gaping hole behind what is now the rear of the nave. Prints from the 18th century show that is had degenerated to a state of affairs where it was being used for storing hay and keeping pigs and donkeys.

Thankfully, this situation has been reversed, particularly by restoration work carried out early in the 20th century. The remaining part of the Abbey is now in regular use as the Parish Church.

FRIENDS OF MALMESBURY ABBEY
Since 1945 the Friends of Malmesbury Abbey (FOMA) have worked to promote the restoration and improvement of the Malmesbury Abbey buildings and services. You can find out more here.

2 Comments »

  • Princess Eadgyth? « Antiquarian’s Attic (author) said:

    [...] the Saxon and Celtic kingdoms following the battle of Brunanburgh in 937. His tomb survives in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, but is thought to be empty. Otto I - also known as Otto the Great - became Holy Roman [...]

  • The First Man to Fly? « Simon Dare's Blog (author) said:

    [...] he would be able to fly! He attached something akin to a hang glider and leapt from the then Abbey roof (not the current building but probably of a similar height). Supposedly he flew a good distance [...]

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