England Travel

Malmesbury Abbey and Athelstan Museum

Malmesbury is best depicted by the Abbey and the Athelstan Museum. Malmesbury is a market town in Wiltshire, southern England. The town is home to the very well known technology company Dyson.
Once the site of an Iron Age fort, the place where now the Abbey stands was a monastery during the Anglo-Saxon period. It was renowned for its learning and it was also one of Alfred the Great’s fortified burhs for defence against the Vikings.

Malmesbury

The Old Bell Hotel, just beside the abbey claims to be the oldest hotel in England.

Malmesbury Abbey. Exterior

The Abbey looks very interesting and it has a fascinating history. It’s remarkable it is still in place after everything that happened in its history, from the dissolution to being used as stables by Oliver Cromwell’s men. You can see more about the history on the abbey’s website.

 Malmesbury Abbey. Ceiling

The ceiling is stunning, like one can expect from an old and gorgeous abbey.

 Malmesbury Abbey. Athelstan's tomb

This was the reason of me visiting Malmesbury, to see the tomb of Athelstan. He was the first king of England and was buried in the Abbey when he died in 939. I’ve read about him in Crown and Country by David Starkey, a book about the Kings and Queens of England.

He was King of Mercia from 924 and of Wessex a year later. Two years later he conquered York, the last remaining Viking kingdom. In 934 he invaded Scotland and Constantine II submitted to him. The Scots made an alliance with the Vikings to invade England, but they were defeated.

During his reign he centralised the government, and was recognized as overlord by the Welsh too. He married his sisters to continental rulers and went on with the reforms started by his grandfather, Alfred the Great. As you can imagine, from my very short description, his reign and struggles for power are fascinating. I’m going to read more about him, given the chance.

Malmesbury Abbey. Athelstan's tomb. Detail

Malmesbury Abbey. Bible

At the abbey is a display with a few very old bibles and their decorations are stunning. These old bibles are like a work of art and it’s wonderful they still exist and they are on display so we can have the opportunity to see them.

Coin at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury

This coin is on display at the abbey. It dates back to 1042 CE, the first year of the reign of Edward the Confessor, and it was minted at Malmesbury.

Malmesbury Abbey. Entrance

Malmesbury

The second part of my post is about Athelstan Museum, check their website if you fancy to know more. Despite the name, there aren’t as many details about Athelstan as I hoped for. But, the museum is still nice, the staff is friendly and they told us a few things about the history of Malmesbury too.

I’ve picked two items from the museum to talk about.

Ring at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury

This unusual ring is an engagement ring. The two hands symbolizing faith and love. The ring is 24 carat gold and it might be from around 1500 to 1650. It has an inscription on it: “Let this present my good intent”.

Grenade at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury

The second item I picked is this grenade, a standard one from the First World War. What is unusual about it is that it was discovered in the museum a few years ago and the staff had no idea if it was disarmed or not. I can imagine the scare they had after founding this.

Malmesbury Abbey is on Gloucester St, Malmesbury SN16 9BA, Wiltshire. The entrance is free, but donations are welcomed.
Athelstan Museum is at 12 Cross Hayes Ln, Malmesbury SN16 9BD, Wiltshire. The museum is free to visit, but, like at the Abbey, they accept donations.

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