Abbey House & Gardens
The Abbey House Malmesbury, SN16 9AS, Wiltshire, Wiltshire
Info about Abbey House & Gardens
Malmesbury's hill-top has been inhabited for centuries. Evidence of an Iron Age fort was uncovered in 1999. Material from the excavation of a coffin found in the grounds of The Abbey House in 1997 is the first recorded evidence that the Romans were in Malmesbury.
A religious site was established by Maelduf around 642, and his pupil Aldhelm became the first abbot of the Benedictine Monastery in 675. Athelstan, Alfred's grandson and the first king of all England- crowned at Kingston - was buried at Malmesbury Abbey in 935. William of Malmesbury writes 200 years later that Athelstan's body was removed from The Abbey and placed in the Abbot's garden to avoid Norman desecration.
By the 12th century the current Abbey was completed and enjoying its status as the third most important religious centre in England after Canterbury and Winchester. With the arrival of Abbot William of Colerne in 1260 a building programme began, which included the new Lady Chapel, a new shrine to St. Aldhelm, and a new Abbot's lodging with herbarium and vinery – now Abbey House. The garden walks and yew hedging in the upper garden you see today, have all been laid out and positioned to replicate the exact footprint of the missing parts of the original Abbey, and the Lady Chapel, which extended in its heyday far beyond its current footprint.
Just before the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Lady Chapel was severely damaged when the Abbey spire fell around 1500. William of Worcester recorded the spire as 431 ft. high. 28 ft. taller than Salisbury Cathedral's spire and six times higher than the remaining ruined arch today.
Malmesbury Abbey was one of the last Monasteries to close during the Dissolution in 1539. William Stumpe, a wealthy clothier, bought numerous properties from Henry Vlll including Abbey House and was instrumental in the acquisition of the Abbey building itself for the people of the town to use as their Parish Church. William built the central part of the house you see today after 1542 using the 13th century former Abbot's House as it's foundations.
During the English Civil War strategically important Malmesbury changed hands six times. A painting called the 'Bird's Eye View' of 1648, lists The Abbey House as Mr. Ivey's house but it was used a Governor's residence during the war.