Malmesbury is steeped in rich history. An attractive town built to a Saxon road plan on the site of a 2,800 year old Iron Age hill fort, places to discover include the 12th Century Abbey, exhibits in the Athelstan Museum, the Market Cross dating back to 1490, England’s oldest hotel, the world famous Abbey House Gardens and much more. Interesting old Malmesburians include King Athelstan, first king of all England, Eilmer the flying monk, Thomas Hobbes, the renowned philosopher and Walter Powell MP who vanished at sea in a hot air balloon.
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Saint Aldhelm was appointed the first Abbot of Malmesbury Abbey (c.671-675) and remained there for thirty years. He was well known across Europe for his scholarship ability, and even had miracles attributed to him! (One of which involved a levitating cloak…) He established the Benedictine monastic order in the town, was a famous writer and his grave even became a place of pilgrimage after he was buried in our very own Abbey.
Grandson of Alfred the Great, King Athelstan was made king of all England in 925 and reigned until 940. He forged links internationally through the marriages of his half-sisters to European royalty, founded monasteries and bestowed enchanting relics. Under King Athelstan, currency was regulated and law codes were strengthened all over the country.
William of Malmesbury
Immortalised in the beautiful Abbey stained glass, William of Malmesbury (1095-1143) is well known for his writing. After being educated at the Abbey School, he took the position as librarian at Malmesbury Abbey. His writings about stories and history became extremely popular and are still enjoyed today, especially the famous tale of our very own flying monk!
Born in our very own Malmesbury in 1588, Hobbes became well respected as a philosopher. He was educated here and was soon able to speak four languages before the age of fourteen, when he left to continue his education in the town of Oxford. Well versed in both English and Latin, he translated many works and produced the famous works, Leviathan, or the Matter, Form and Power of a Commonwealth which he wrote in Paris in 1651. Click here to visit the society website
Eilmer the Flying Monk
Perhaps one of the most memorable tales in our town is the captivating story of Eilmer the flying monk. Documented in William of Malmesbury’s Deeds of the English Kings, Eilmer is known to have fixed handmade wings to his hands and feet and jumped from the top of our world famous Abbey. His flight took him over an impressive 200 meters – though this isn’t something we’d recommend trying at home!
Aged 33, Hannah Twynnoy became the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger in Britain. Known to have been working as a waitress, she was attacked after one of the animals escaped from the menagerie which had been visiting the town. Now a famous cautionary tale about the dangers of provoking tigers, the story has been well-told. You can find her grave in our very own Abbey.
Find out more at the Athelstan Museum Website
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