A few years ago I stayed in the charming town of Malmesbury for a few days. The town is on the edge of the Cotswolds and is a particularly quaint example of an English “Olde Worlde” town.
The hotel I stayed in was in the centre of town next to Malmesbury Abbey making it was easy to explore the Abbey’s grounds. The Abbey building is very impressive and can be seen for miles around. The Abbey was founded nearly 700 years after the birth of Jesus Christ as a place of prayer and Christian community by St. Aldhelm, who was originally a member of the Wessex royal family.
Today, the Abbey is a third of its original size. During the middle ages it had a tall central spire which William of Worcester recorded as being 431ft high making it even taller than the spire on Salisbury Cathedral, which is the tallest spire in England today. Unfortunately the spire was unstable and collapsed destroying part of the Abbey as it fell.
When the Monastery closed during the Dissolution in 1539, a wealthy clothier called William Stumpe purchased the Abbey from Henry VIII for £1517. William Stumpe used the building as a factory for his weaving looms before giving it to the people of Malmesbury in 1541 for use as their parish church. It is still the parish church today.
Just behind the Abbey and its cloister garden are the delightful Abbey House Gardens. The current owners, Ian and Barbara Pollard, bought Abbey House in 1994 as a family home. In 1996 they decided to create a garden and open it to the public with a view to attracting visitors from all around the world. The garden was started with 2,000 roses but it now contains more than 10,000 different species of plants and trees, which gives it interest throughout the year. There are many different areas (rooms) in the garden and even a riverside walk. There is much of interest in the garden so I recommend you visit the official website to see how wonderful the garden is. I would rank it in my top three gardens alongside Powis Castle and Hodnet Hall.
On the day I visited the garden, it had rained heavily overnight and it was quite chilly first thing in the morning but as I entered the garden, the sun came out making the garden look fresh and bright. Perfect conditions for a garden visit.
The town of Malmesbury has a lot of historical interest including many other historical buildings such as a very fine example of a market cross that was built at the end of the 15th century and a rather curious lone spire which is all that remains of what was once St Paul’s church. The spire houses 8 bells for the Abbey.