The stunning market town of Malmesbury sits in the Southern Cotswolds within the county of Wiltshire. Malmesbury has an incredible history and heritage and is the oldest continually inhabited town in England, being created around 880 AD by Alfred the Great.
Malmesbury has a hilltop position and is almost completely surrounded by the River Avon and one of its tributaries known as the Ingleburn. The strong defensive position of Malmesbury led to it being occupied by the Saxons as early as the 7th century.
Historically Malmesbury has always been a centre for learning with the Irish Monk Maildulph establishing a School & Abbey with one of their first students being Aldhelm who was a close relative of King Ina of Wessex and later became the Bishop of the Western half of Wessex. He also went on to become the head of the school he attended and founded several churches including a church at Bradford-on-Avon that can still be seen today and is ranked as one of the most complete examples of a Saxon church.
The beautiful ruins of the Abbey stand in the centre of the town, although sadly only a third of the Abbey has survived excluding the tall centre spire which in the 14th century was said to be 427 ft high which was 23 ft taller than Salisbury Cathedral. Malmesbury Abbey is also one of very few English churches to have a completely separate free-standing bell tower.
One of the most famous names associated with Malmesbury was William Somerset, aka William of Malmesbury who attended the Abbey School and later joined the Monastery as a monk. He was one of the most influential and widely read historians of medieval England and was also one of the most accurate. It was William who first let the world know of Eilmer, an 11th century Monk who flew a primitive hanglider from a tall tower at the Abbey, the flight lasted for 200m before he crash landed and broke both legs. As well as Eilmer’s image being documented in the stained glass window of the church he also gave the Kings Arms’ Restaurant its name.
There is plenty to do in Malmesbury and its surrounding villages, why not start with a visit to Malmesbury Abbey whose historical architecture draws visitors from far and wide. One of the most notable features of the Church is the tomb of Athelstan, the tomb is quite ornate but rumoured to be empty with the body having been dug up and reburied in the Abbot’s private garden.
Next to the Abbey stands Abbey House Gardens which were constructed not long after the Abbey had been dissolved around 1542 by William Stumpe. During the 20th century the building was sympathetically extended and then after several sad years of neglect a five acre garden was built by gardening enthusiasts Ian & Barbara Pollard. The gardens now encompass formal, informal and woodland areas along with an ornamental pond and rose gardens.
From the Abbey why not take a stroll down the Abbey steps where you will find nine bronze plaques depicting interesting times in Malmesbury history. When you reach the river, the river walk takes you on a circuit along the banks of the River Avon and its tributary the Ingleburn.
Malmesbury also has plenty of shops to entice you to spend your money including a tasty bakery, outdoor shop and plenty of gift shops to help you remember your visit to Malmesbury.
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