Wessex – Places of Interest


Gloucester Street, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16-9BA

Malmesbury Abbey was built in the 12th century for the glory and worship of God.

Admission is free, but donations are welcomed.

Over the centuries the Abbey has been a centre of education and creativity, a community of prayer and healing, and a place of battle and burial. Its worship has been shaped by Celtic Pilgrims and Benedictine monks, and since the Reformation nearly 500 years ago. Malmesbury Abbey is now a parish Church of England church. Since the re-emergence of Christianity to this region in the 6th century, Malmersbury has long been a place at the forefront of history. Thought to be the first capital of England (King Athelstan the Glorious), the first man to fly (Brother Eilmer), the father of modern English hstory (William of Malmesbury) and the father of English philosophy (Thomas Hobbes).

This building is the third abbey to stand on this site. The first was St. Aldhelm’s earliest church, before overseeing the construction of a large, stone complex of churches located where the current graveyard lies. The present Abbey dates from 1180 and added on over the next 200 years to have the highest spire until it fell down, together with the tower later, only the knave of this huge abbey remains and within this lies the tomb of King Athelstan.


Athelstan was the son of Edward the Elder and grandson of Alfred the Great, unfortunately he was illegitimate, at the time of his birth, his mother was Egwina the king`s mistress although she later became his queen.

William of Malmesbury records how fond the king was of Athelstan  and he made him a knight at an early age giving him a sword with a golden scabbard. He also describes how handsome he was ‘A boy of astonishing beauty and graceful manners’.

When his father King Edward died in 924 A. D. Athelstan was not the first in line to succeed: he had an elder brother. Aelfweard. Opportunely, Aelfweard died within a fortnight of his father`s death and Athelstan was crowned king on 17th July 925 at Kingston upon Thames in Surrey, being a market town, importantly having a bridge which crossed the Thames to the county of Middlesex, so was an important crossing point of the river.

He soon displayed the strong character and leadership qualities that enabled him to unite England. He is recorded as never having lost a battle and was called ‘Athelstan the Glorious’. He subdued a rebellion in Cornwall/West Wales and similarly subdued the Welsh who paid him an annual tribute of gold, silver and 25,000 oxen. At Eamont Bridge near Penrith on 12th July 927 Kings of Scotland and Strathclyde/Welsh, acknowledged him as overlord by swearing allegiance. However, their memories were short and with the Danish King Olaf they rose against Athelstan. At the battle of Brunanburth Athelstan defeated them decisively.

He could now claim to be king of all England.

He was determined to forge links with Europe which he did by marrying his four half-sisters to European royalty. He sent two sisters to Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor telling him to choose which he fancied. Otto chose Eadgyth. Her tomb is in the cathedral at Magdeburg. A lead sarcophagus bearing her name has recently been found and opened and is currently being examined.

Athelstan is remembered for his piety: he founded many monasteries such as the Abbey of St. John at Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire and he was a generous bestower of holy relics.

Duke Hugh of the Franks, when seeking the hand of Eadhild, Athelstan’s half-sister, sent Athelstan relics which included the Lance of Charlemagne which had pierced the side of Jesus. He also gave him the sword of Constantine which had fragments of the Cross including a nail set in crystal in the hilt. Athelstan gave these relics to Malmesbury Abbey. Others, more bizarre like the head of St. Branwaladr or St. Samson’s arm he gave to other churches.

Athelstan oversaw the translation of the Bible into English. He established a formal organization  for masons which may have led to Freemasonary in England. He encouraged the establishment of burhs where trade would become concentrated. This discouraged fraud and laid the foundation of a rural economy based on the market town. Although keen to promote commerce he banned Sunday trading. He reformed the currency which had become badly debased. Athelstan`s head would be on silver pennies cast at the many mints around the country.

Athelstan is reputed to have one of his palaces at Brokenborough, Wiltshire. There is a Saxon complex towards Foxley, A road still called ‘Kingsway’ passes through these and goes onto Hullavington before returning  to Malmesbury. A railway bridge crosses the A249 is named ‘Kingsway Bridge’.

Malmesbury remembers this great king for the grant of land of five hides to the south west of the town (about 600 acres or 260 hectares). This land is held by the Warden and Freemen of Malmesbury to this day. And he confirmed the charters from his father. Edward and his grandfather, Alfred.

‘I, Athelstan, King of the English, on behalf of myself and my successors grant to my Burgesses and to their successors of the Burh of Meidufu that they may have and hold always all their, tributes and free customs, as they held them in the time of King Edward, my father, fully and in honour.                                                                                                         And I rejoin on all beneath my rule that they do no wrong to these Burgesses, and I order that they be free from claims and payment of Scot. And I give and grant to them that royal heath land of five hides my Vill of Norton, on account of their assistance in my struggle against the Danes.’

Athelstan died on 27th October 939 in his palace of Gloucester after only fourteen years. He was on the throne – what a lot he achieved. He was buried at his beloved Malmesbury, where exactly is not known. The tomb in the Abbey is fifteenth century and is empty, but his name lives on in Malmesbury.


Reading Museum, The Town Hall, Blagrave Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1-1QH.
Telephone : +44(0)118 937 3400


The first evidence for Reading as a settlement dates from the 8th Century, where the town became known as Readingus, an Anglo-Saxon tribe whose name means “Redas People” ‘The Red One’ in Old English or possibly the Celtic name Rhydd-inge “Ford over the river”.                                                                                                                               In the late 870 an army of Danes invaded the Kingdom of Wessex and set up camp at Reading on 4th January 871, the first battle of Reading took place, when an army led by King Athelred and his younger brother Prince Alfred attempted unsuccessfully to breach the Danes defences. The battle described in The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and this account provides the earliest known written record of the existence of the town of Reading. The Danes remained in Reading until late 871, when they retreated to winter quarters in London. The next time Reading had any dealings with the Danes was in 1006 when they attacked and burned it down to the ground. In 1086 the Domesday Book records it as having six mills, four of these on land, much of the land within and without Reading had been given over to Battle Abbey, having a population of around 600 people.


The replica was the idea of Elizabeth Wardle, an accomplished embroideress and the wife of Staffordshire silk-dyer Thomas Wardle. After viewing a set of hand-panted photographs of the original Eleventh Century original, Elizabeth decided to make a full size replica “So that England should have a copy of its own” Thomas produced the woollen yarns dyed to match the originals and in 1885, thirty-five ladies of the Leek Embroidary Society began to work on the `tapestry` (in fact an embroidary) work was completed in about a year. The replica was exhibited across Britain, and travelled abroad to the U S A and Germany, before finding its final home in Reading.
The Wardles made great efforts to ensure that their copy was as authentic as possible by using the right dyes, wools and stitches, however, there are some uniquely Victorian additions to the copy. In the borders of the original there are several naked men but in the copy their modesty has, been protected! The ladies of Leek were not responsible for these prudish alterations; they had simply copied the details from hand-coloured photographs that had been `cleaned up` by the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert).
The original was made by English ladies who were known for their skill in needlework, ordered by the Duke of Normandy to create this work. They should their skill in this work.
The Reading copy is well-travelled between 1928 and 1986 the tapestry was lent for exhibitions at museums and galleries across the U K and worldwide, including South Africa. In 1996 it was displayed at Battle Abbey to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings/Battle of Senlac Ridge. In 10993 the current purpose-built gallery was created so it could be permanently displayed as a whole at Reading Museum for the first time since it was acquired in 1885.


This is free all that is asked for is a donation, possibly £2.00


Tuesday – Saturday 1000hrs – 1600hrs
Sunday 1100hrs – 1600hrs
Closed on Mondays except Bank Holidays and during Berkshire`s school half-terms. 1100hrs.


Palmers Cafe at the museum

Tuesday – Saturday 1000hrs – 1600hrs
Closed on Monday & Sunday.


There are 6 disabled parking spaces in front of the building.
Car-parks are nearby at Garrard Street & Queens road.

Reading station is a few minutes walk from the museum.

The buses stop near the museum, the route Numbers are not known.


Harewood Forest, Longparish, Hampshire.

Landranger 185 448409


The monument consists of a stone cross, on the south side of the plinth an inscription in Gothic script reads.

About the year of our Lord DCCCLXIII upon this spot beyond the time of memory called Deadman`s Plack, tradition reports that Edgar, surnamed the peaceable, king of England, in the ardour of youth love and indignation, slew with his own hand his treacherous
and ungrateful favourite, owner of this forest of Harwood in resentment of the Earl`s having basely betrayed and perfidiously married his intended bride and beauteous, Elfrida, daughter of Ordgar, Earl of Devonshire, afterwards wife of King Edgar, and by him mother of King Ethelred II, Queen Elfrida, after Edgar`s death, murdered his eldest son, King Edward the Martyr, and founded the nunnery of Wor-well.

An inscription on the north side of the plinth reads. “This monument was erected by Col William Iremonger AD MDCCCXXV”

The monument is situated in woodland on a south facing slope, it is just off the path.

The memorial/monument was erected in remembrance of a tale of murder and deceit in Anglo-Saxon/English times.

One of the later Saxon/English kings, King Edgar, King of England who is at the centre of this intrigue who committed a murder over a beautiful woman here in Harewood Forest, close to the village of Longparish.

Lieutenant Colonel William Iremonger who erected this monument in 1825 to commemorate this event which supposedly took place in Harewood Forest in the year of 963 A.D.

The character of King Edgar

He was a womaniser and there are many tales of his amorous encounters with women, including a nun who borne him a child, when St. Dunstan the Archbishop of Canterbury heard of this affair he admonished the king and made him take a vow of repentance, Edgar allegedly set aside his crown and fasted for several years.

Edgar had already been married twice when the rumour of Elfrida, daughter of the Earl of Devonshire reached his ears, who it said was beautiful and charming so to find whether true or not he sent his Earldoman, Ethelwold to find out the truth of this, if so bring her to court. Ethelwold found on meeting her that she was beautiful and charming and instead of sending her back to court he married her and settled down for a life in Devon, to make it worse for him, he sent back the message that contrary to what was said she was actually unattractive unworthy of the king!

Unfortunately for Ethelwold, Edgar heard contrary to what was said and so he ordered them to the court. Ethelwold begged Elfrida to make herself look unattractive as possible, but she knew what she wanted to do and so made herself look the most attractive and alluring as possible to the king.

Edgar seeing her in her full beauty and how his Ealderman had deceived him, who was drawn into Harewood Forest on the pretext of a day of hunting, where the king in his anger murdered him with a spear.

Elfrida aware of her attractiveness to the king knew this would possibly be the consequence and with the deed done quickly married the king, but her scheming did not end there, as she bore the king a son, so when Edgar died in 975 A.D., although Edgar`s other son was crowned king by the witan, she wanted her son Ethelred to be king, so she convoluted with magnets to the murder of their king, unfortunately for the young king he said he would carry on with the reform of the Church with Dunstan, the new millennium was coming up and the Church was proclaiming the risen Christ would come with this, so hence the effort of reform of the Church, but this caused bitter anger and resentment amongst the magnets who had land taken from them and sometimes with deeds which had been manufactured by the Church itself, so the former queen took full advantage of this unrest, to further her plot, until the day came when the king arrived at her home at Corfe Castle, he came alone from hunting on the Isle of Purbeck, and asked for a drink this was handed to him and as he bent down to receive it, he was stabbed, his horse bolted and he was carried away with a foot still in the stirrup, no one was ever charged for this heinous crime, the murder of the King of England.

Her son was later crowned when he came of age, he was 12 at the time, when he witnessed the murder of his half-brother by his own mother`s scheming, who later retired from the world to found a nunnery at Wherwell which is only a few miles/kms south from the place of her husband`s murder, it is said she clothed herself in hair cloth and slept upon the open ground, undertaking every kind of penance, in order to expiate her crimes! or did her son order it so? as he had his half-brother`s body taken under great procession from Wareham to Shaftsbury Abbey to be interned before the altar, Dunstan assisted the king in this action. His relics were found at Shaftsbury and after lawful judgement now rest at St. Edward the Martyr brotherhood at Brookwood cemetery in Brookwood, Surrey.

The intrigue continues, Ethelred became known as the Unready and married Emma of Normandy who bore two sons, Edward and Alfred, Ethelred`s reign was not a smooth one, with Vikings returning to attack the country and him being forced to live in Normandy but returned later, on his death Canute king of Denmark became king after the untimely death of Edmund Ironside, was he murdered? Emma married him and bore him a son who became king of England on the death of Canute, Edward and Alfred lived in Normandy with his mother`s relatives, several of the Danish ruled England, but died out, Alfred was invited over but with his entourage was murdered with the finger pointing at the Godwinson`s family. Edward later was invited over and became King Edward the Confessor and married the daughter of Godwin, Edward encouraged his mother into a nunnery as she had caused so much trouble, like his grandmother! he never consumated his marriage maybe he was thinking of what happened to his brother Alfred!

What was the reign of king Edgar like?

He was the younger son of Edmund I, crowned King of England in 959 A.D., to be known as Edgar the Peaceful. He strove to unite the English and the Danes and by a show of strength both on land and sea, persuaded the northern kings to submit to his Lordship. He made St. Dunstan Archbishop of Canterbury and Dunstan became the king`s advisor. The reign seems to have been a peaceful and prosperous one and under him the English Church was nurtured and thrived, the trouble was it caused resentment among the magnates, as he and Dunstan was getting ready for the coming of Christ on the new millennium (1,000A.D.) and it seems his weakness for women was the fault that drew him towards murder, if of course the tales are true?


there are restaurants in the two services on the A303 which is near the place, and there are pubs in Longparish and the surrounding area.



Service No C4 which goes from Andover Bus Station.
Mon, Wed & Sat
10.00 – 13.00 – 15.10hrs
De-bus at Forton the take the footpath to the monument.

Stagecoach Service 86 Winchester, Andover, Whitchurch & Basingtoke.

De-bus at Andover Down.


There is train station at Andover and Whitchurch were you can connect with the bus.
The line is on the Waterloo – Salisbury route.


You can park by the side of the road, near where the footpath starts, make sure your car is secure as it is quite an isolated place.


Park Walk, Shaftsbury, Dorset, SP7-8JR. Tel 01747 852910.


For some seven hundred years Shaftsbury Abbey stood here – a complex of buildings with a church at its centre. Five times larger than the Victorian church that stands on the slope above, the Abbey church would have loomed in front of you, filling the whole of the long grassed area in the centre of the garden and stretching beyond the wall on the left.

built by King Alfred `the Great` in around 888 A.D., it was the first religious house solely for women. until then those who wanted to lead a religious life joined a “double house” which was shared by both monks and nuns. Alfred installed his young daughter Aethelgifu as its first Abbess and it became the model for other royal nunneries. we do not know whether Alfred`s church was built in timber or in stone, though the easy availability of the latter in the area, the exposed position and the presence of Anglo-Saxon stone carving from the site make such a building of that period a possibility.

with its wealth Shaftsbury Abbey grew and prospered. royal patronage and St. Edward`s shrine made it very rich. grander Norman buildings replaced the Saxon ones between 1080 A.D. and 1120 A.D. and through grants of land over the centuries, the Abbey came to own large estates in Dorset, Wiltshire and beyond. when leaving the Abbey most of the land you see before you would have been owned by it. its wealth and power attracted royal visitors – including king Canute who died here in 1035 A.D. Perhaps he had come on a pilgrimage, as did thousands of others, to worship at the shrine of the Saxon king, Edward `the Martyr` – for Edward`s remains, which were brought to the Abbey after his murder at Corfe castle, by his step-brother King Athelread `the Unready` in 978 A.D., were said to perform miracles.

with its wealth and fame the Abbey seemed set to last forever, but in 1539 the Abbey was destroyed – by order of King Henry VIII. here nuns lived happily, until that terrible day in March 1539, when they were forced to leave. Henry had commanded that all religious houses to be closed. shaftsbury, the oldest nunnery, was the last to do so – and six hundred and fifty one years of continuous worship ended when the gates slammed behind them. soon the Abbey – once glorious building was in ruin.

Daily life in the Abbey – after attending lauds in the church nuns gathered in the chapter house. there was a reading from the rule of St. Benedict, then the Abbess gave them their tasks for the day. complaints and grievances were aired and sometimes punishments were meted out – perhaps for bickering, sadly, human nature is such that disputes occasionally arise between people living together. Indeed, in the 13th century, when Shaftsbury Abbey was home to a large number of nuns, there was such dissension between two senior members and their factions that the Pope himself stepped in, decreeing that the number of nuns dwelling here at anyone time should not exceed 100. In the next century this rule was ignored, the number rose, breaking the rule of complete obedience. Friction broke out between the Abbess and the nuns, causing the bishop to order that no more than 12 should live there. After that the number dwindled – and there were only 53 remaining when the Abbey was closed.
To return to sins. Vanity was another meriting punishment. All wore the plain black habit of the Benedictine, though in Medieval times some disregarded the rule of poverty. Their habits were fashioned from silks and fine spun wool; they wore jewellery and, on occasion, brought with them their pets – dogs, cats, monkeys, rabbits – even taking them into church!
For some it was the sin of gluttony. Not that they ate more than their fair share but had a healthy appetite – even though the food was plain. Only the sick were allowed to eat meat, though they ate fish brought from the fishpond at the bottom of the hill. There were springs down there, too, for water carriers – and there was a well in the Abbey grounds. They ate around midday, after completing their tasks, many of which were performed in the cloisters. They made herbal preparations and tended the old and infirm; did needlework and embroidery for wall hangings and vestments; copied and illuminated manuscripts – and taught, for wealthy women had always been educated. Indeed, in earlier centuries it was usual for them to be fluent in Latin and French as well as their own tongue.

Who were these women who lived there?
As well as those who had a religious vocation and chose to come here, the importance of Shaftsbury Abbey attracted noble families, who entered their young daughters in the monastery, sometimes as an offering to ensure they would be remembered in their prayers. “Monastery” was the term used then, the word “Convent” was not used until much later.. The Abbey was also popular with widows, for their husband`s death left many of them with little standing in the world outside, and the Abbey offered a safe refuge. not all renounced the world, some brought with them their retinue of servants! they all came however with dowries which were given to the Abbey, for were some not coming to be wedded to Christ? For those who declined to take the veil – lifetime commitment can be a daunting prospect – funds were needed for their board and lodging, for sometimes there were upward of 100 nuns here.

Throughout its history, attending to the civil affairs of the Abbey occupied a large part of the Abbesses`s time. This business was conducted in a building near the Abbey gate, to the north west of the church. she had a bailiff – a steward – who acted for her in collecting rents and tolls, managing land, in legal matters and in dealing with the town. Amongst the tenants were knights, who the Abbess could require to fight on behalf of the Abbey when required. Indeed, the Abbesses ranked as barons and were entitled to sit in Parliament, though as women, they may have sent a male representative.
The Abbey owned many dwellings in Shaftsbury, as did the Crown, and it held the right to hold a fair in the town, for four days every June. The town`s pillory stood to the east of Gold Hill, but keeping it in good repair was the Abbey`s responsibility. In 1461 Abbess Margaret St. John – a high born lady – was summoned, as the Abbey`s representative, for allowing the pillory to become dilapidated! And twenty years later she was prosecuted for failing to clear rubbish that had accumulated outside Abbey property. The life of an Abbess was not an easy one!
The Dorset Natural history and Archaeological Society visited the Abbey in 1931. They had an enjoyable day and later reported.
“other excavations had been carried out at different times… and if the earlier… had followed the system and orderly method that are being carried out today, the old Abbey would have yielded up many more treasures of its wonderful past.”
The first … was in 1746 A.D., when some gold rings were found, but nobody knows where they are. In 1761 A.D., the second excavation unearthed a good deal of masonary…some attractive pieces were found in the 1820`s … and … in 1861 came the discovery of the crypt, probably built in the 13th century… Some perfect tiling was also discovered, as well as many more gold rings which were doubtless buried with the Abbesses. The crypt was closed in … until 1902, when Mr Doran Webb began further excavations … He cleared a further patch, put in a great many trenches; and also made a plan of the Abbey … Unfortunately … they ran out of funds and were not able to finish the work. The tragedy of it all was that the beautiful tiles, many of them perfect specimens, were left insufficiently protected from the weather, and allowed to go to rack and ruin.
More excavations took place in the 1930`s – and it was then that relics were discovered by the Claridges, the then owners. They sold the Abbey in the 1950`s, but before that they had wanted to re bury the relics of King Edward `the Martyr`this was confirmed later by tests, but there was difference of opinion between the brothers which was concluded in a judgement in 1980, where the relics should be interned, this being the church of The St. Edward Brotherhood which was set up for this purpose and the relics now repose in this fine setting in Brookwood, Surrey, GU24-0BL, tel 01483 487763, this is an Orthodox monastery, which you will be welcomed, but please let them know, if wish to visit. To carry on the site was bought by Laura Sydenham and Phyllis Carter, who restored and re-excavated the site, set up a museum and laid out the gardens. The Abbey is now run by the Shaftsbury Abbey and Museum Preservation Trust and relies entirely on volunteers.
Little investigation into the site has taken place since the 1960`s – although the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments carried out a detailed survey in 1971, and small-scale professional investigations and surveys took place in the 1990`s. In 2004 a geophysical survey was carried out by Bournemouth University, which will one day lead to further excavation work.
Sadly, some of the earlier excavations added to the damage already caused by the demolition and the elements. Relatively few tiles have been left in situ – but many of the objects found on the site during the various excavations are now housed in the Museum.


Is free donations are welcomed.

Opening times

1st April – 31st October

10.00hrs – 17.00hrs

Shop & Museum

You can browse in the shop without entering the Abbey, the Museum gives the story of the Abbey, plus a collection of artefacts of the period, the Museum leads out into the Abbeys garden.

Places to eat

There are plenty of places to eat and drink.


There is plenty of parking space within the town.

The nearest railway station is Gillingham approx 4 miles / 5.5kms, there is a bus service from here.

Bus services from Salisbury, Yeovil, and possible other routes.



Winchester Cathedral, 9.The close, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23-9LS & Hyde Abbey Gardens, River Park Leisure Centre, Gordon road, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23-7DD

The Old Minster, built of stone in 648 A.D. for King Cenwalh and Saint Birinus, becoming the dioceson Cathedral in 660 A.D. Winchester became the capital of Wessex in 686 A.D. replacing Dorchester-on-Thames.
The Minster was demolished in 1093, to make way for the new Norman Cathedral which had been just completed, part of the Minster can be seen as an outline of bricks in the grass, NW of the Cathedral.
There is an old legend saying that the Old Minster was built in the 2nd century by King Lucius of Britain, but this is not so. Over the years it was enlarged and redecorated, with St. Swithun being buried outside in 862 A.D. around 880 A.D. King Alfred the Great refounded the royal city of Winchester, the Old Minster/Cathedral with the royal palace stood in the heart of the city, so with this expansion, a new lease of life and so in the last year of King Alfred reign, land was purchased by the Old Minster, so to build a New Minster, as By the 10th century, the Old Minster was by then the priory church of a community of Benedictine monks, who had been recently installed there, taking over from the
so in 901 A.D. King Edward the Elder had a New Minster built next door to the Old Minster, which was so close that on completion to it the singing by the monks from inside each Minster became hopelessly intermingled. so in 903 A.D. when it was sufficiently completed, the New Minster was consecrated, and the bodies/relics from the Old Minster were re-interred within, these included Abbot Grimbald (who had died on 8th July 901) being a learned monk of St. Bertin at St. Omar in Flanders, King Alfred plus other members of the royal house.
Saint Athelwold of Winchester and his successor Saint Alphege, with their building work which almost rebuilt the Minster, in what was to become a vast church, this was done during the monastic reforms from the 970s, during which St. Swithun`s relics were placed within the Minster, to held in shrine, as the church had become the largest church in Europe, the Old and New Minsters became one church on an impressive scale.
There was several notable events which took place within the Minster.
973 – The signing of the Regularis Concordia by King Edgar the peaceable.
1041 – Queen Emma, widow of King Canute and of the previous king, King Aethelred the Unready, being mother of King Edward the Confessor, gave a gift of the head of St. Valentine which became a cherished and valuable possession of the now reformed Benedictine house.
1043 – The coronation of King Edward the Confessor.
1045 – The marriage of King Edward to Edith, daughter of Earl Godwinson.
1068 – Coronation of Matilda of Flanders, as Queen consort.
After the Norman conquest great changes were to take place, Bishop Walkenlin built a new cathedral alongside the Minster, which was demolished in 1093, many of the kings of Wessex and England, as well as Bishops were re-interred within the new cathedral of Winchester.

With the Minster now demolished, King Henry i ordered a new Minster to be built at Hyde Mead, a suburb north of the city walls, by the gates, the new abbey church was consecrated in 1110 A.D. and the relics of King Alfred the Great, his wife Queen Ealhswith and their son, King Edward the Elder, were re-interred from Winchester Cathedral to Hyde Abbey, carried in state through Winchester being placed in front of the high alter, because of this it became a popular pilgrimage destination.
In 1141 A.D. the church suffered damage in the reign of King Stephen and the conflict with Matilda, its final end came with the reformation of King Henry VIII, with his dissolution of the monasteries and the selling off of land and materials, the monks were pensioned off.
Today all the remains is the gatehouse that commanded the entrance between the inner and outer precincts of the abbey,an arch that used to span the abbey millstream and the church built for the use of pilgrims and lay-brothers,now being the nave and chancel of St. Bartholomew`s Parish church.
Hyde Abbey Gardens
In 1997-1999 a community dig lead by Winchester City`s archaeologists succeeded in finding the foundation of the east end of the church, together with the presumed sites of the graves of King Alfred the Great, Queen Ealhswith and their son King Edward the Elder.
With this very important find Hampshire Garden Trust felt the site, should not once again disappear, and suggested a garden to mark the spot, a group of friends was formed under the Trusts guidance with city council approval, who gave substantial funds, together with Heritage lottery fund, Hampshire County Council, and many other local organizations and individuals, there is now a garden which does real justice to what this was, designed by a well known landscape architect, Kim Wilkie. An engraved glass panel at the entrance from King Alfred street, shows what the abbey most probably looked like, engraved by a local resident, Tracey Sheppard.
thanks to these people, we now have a place to remember an important time in English history, and one of our greatest kings, King Alfred the Great.



King Alfred`s Statue, 1877, By Margaret Prentice,

Thanks to : Vale & Downland Museum – Local History Series.

19, Church Street, Wantage, Oxfordshire, OX12-8BL

Tel : 01235 771447

e-mail : museum@wantage.com

July. 14. 1877, saw the fulfillment of the aspirations expressed in 1849 at the millennium celebrations of the birth of Alfred the Great in Wantage, Martin Tupper, the Victorian `do-gooder` who instigated those festivities (Vol. iv, 30-33). had proposed that a statue of King Alfred be erected in Wantage. Although a subscription fund was opened with a donation of £10- from Philip Pusey of Pusey House, very little money was forthcoming. Perhaps the people of Wantage preferred to support the refounding of the Grammer School which was the other proposal emanating from the 1849 celebrations?
Col Robert Loyd-Lindsey decided to commission a statue of King Alfred and to donate it to the town of Wantage. He chose Count Gleichen (Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Longenburg) as the sculpture and an eight-feet/two.four Metres piece of Scilian Marble was purchased. It was decided that the statue should be placed on a granite block, positioned in the centre of Wantage Market Place. This necessitated the removal of the hideous Market House which stood near the centre of the Square Col Loyd-Lindsey also paid fora new Town Hall to be built on the corner of the Market Place and Mill Street, on the site of the Falcon Inn. This opened in 1878 and is now the Midland Bank.

Their royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales were invited to unveil the statue. Col. Loyd-Lindsey was a friend of the Prince, having been his Equerry, and Count Gleichen the sculpture, was a relative of the Royal Family. Their Royal Highnesses travelled on the afternoon of Saturday July 14th on a special trainof saloon carriages from Paddington to Wantage Road Station. They were met at the station by Col. Loyd-Lindsey, the Earl of Abingdon (Lord Lieutenant of Berks), Mr W.G. Mount (High Sheriff), the Bishop of Oxford, and Mr Walter, MP, and Mr Wroughton, MP. The waiting carriages conveyed the royal party the two miles/three.two km to Wantage with an escort of the Royal Berks Yeomanry. Crowds lined the streets and many triumphal arches and banners spanned Grove Street on the approaches to the Market Place.

On arrival in the Market Place, the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra were welcomed by the Hon. Mrs Loyd-Lindsey and her other guests from Lockinge House. The band of the Grenadier Guards played `God Save The Queen` as the Royal Party took their places on the dais, covered with a canopy, close to the statue which wsa draped in a blue and white cloth, Mr H.D. de Vitre, the chairman of the Reception Commitee, then welcomed their honoured guests and read an address, a copy of which was presented to the Prince of Wales. The address had been beautifully illuminated by the Sister`s of St. Mary`s Home.

The Prince of Wales than gave the following reply:-

“GENTLEMEN, – It gives me the greatest satisfaction to receive your address, and the Princess of Wales and I thankyou for the expressions of loyalty therein contained. I feel I cannot visit this town – ever memorable as the birthplace of my illustrious , though remote, ancestor, King Alfred the Great, without calling to mind his eminent virtues, his noble deeds, and his devoted patriostism. The fine statue which we inaugurate this day is indeed a splendid gift, and the presentation of it to Wantage redounds to the credit of the generous donor, our gallant friend, Colonel Loyd-Lindsey. Let me add that the pleasure I have experienced in unveiling it is enhanced by the knowledge that it has been executed by my cousin Count Gleichen. In conclusion, gentlemen I beg to thank you for the hearty reception which you have given us on this occassion.”

The Rev Canon Butler, Vicar of Wantage, then led forward five girls, each representing a different parish school, and Miss Emily Jotcham presented Her Royal Highness with a bouquet. The many school children present, (Nicholas` Directory for 1878 numbers them as a thousand) then sang `God Bless the Prince of Wales.` According to `The Illustrated London News`, July 22 1877, their Royal highnesses then planted a lime tree in the Market Place, as a token of their visit. Nicolas`Directory of 1878 states that the Prince and Princess each planted a memorial tree on either side of the statue. The Prince then touched a chord and the blue and white cloth draping the statue fell away to reveal the marble stone of Alfred the Great, to the cheers of the assembled crowd and the playing of the National Athem.

The statue shown King Alfred holding a battle-axe in one hand and a roll of parchment in the other typifying the monarch`s two-fold character of warrier and lawgiver, he wears on the head a close fitting helmet, encircled by the plain band that was the Saxon emblem of royalty, and by his side hangs a sword. The costume consists of a tunic ornamented with crosses of raised work, showing the Saxon King`s Christianity, and a long mantle hangs over his left arm. On the feet are buskins fastened by strips of hide. As no one knows what Alfred looked like, the face on the statue is reputed to be a likeness of Robert Loyd-Lindsey.

Soon after the unveiling, the Royal Party remounted their carriages, as Wantage Rifle Volunteers presented arms and the band of the Grenadier Guards played . The carriages then drove out of the Market Place towards Lockinge House. The bandsmen continued to play for the entertainment of the crowds and Wantage resounded with, the noise of people out to enjoy themselves in spite of the grey day and wet afternoon.

Their Royal Highnesses spent the weekend as guests of the Loyd-Lindsey`s at Lockinge House. Because of the persistent rain, the garden party planned for the Saturday afternoon took place inside a large marquee and among the entertainers was a troupe of Indian jugglers. In the evening there was a dinner party given by the Prince for over eighty guests from all over Berkshire.

The following day being a Sunday, the Prince and Princess of Wales with Col and the Hon. Mrs Loyd-Lindsey attended Divine worship at the Wantage Parish Church. The Rev William Butler preached from the well-chosen text. “The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance”. He spoke about King Alfred`s character – “the wise, the pious, the brave and single-hearted king, whose name that day was in the minds and hearts of all.”

These sentiments are echoed in ,the words on the plaque, which is now attached to the granite blocks on which the statue stands. Originally the plaque was on the three supporting steps.

Alfred found learning dead
and he restored it.
education neglected
and he revived it.
the laws powerless
and he gave them force
the church debased
and he raised it,
the land ravaged by a fearful enemy
from which he delivered it.
Alfred`s name shall live as long as
mankind shall respect the past.


There is car-parking within the town.

There is service No X1/X32
Oxford city centre / St. Aldates stop H5 – Abingdon town centre / stop H5 – Didcot / Parkway station – Harwell / Campus bus station – Wantage / Market Place.

This is 7 days service, but times vary with Sunday a less frequent service.

There are stations at Oxford or Didcot, on the Great Western line from Paddington, London, also west country, Wales, Midlands and beyond.



This imposing statue of cast bronze stands upon a plinth of Cornish granite, situated at the east end of The Broadway, close by the city`s Medieval East Gate, the King`s eyes, views the city centre up to the West Gate by the old Peninsula Barracks.
The statue is 17`/5m in height and added to this the plinth it towers over the surrounding area, the statue was modeled in clay where a mold was made out of sand which when joined together molten bronze was poured into it creating this magnificent statue, the sword was created separately as it was easier to cast on its own. The statue is periodically cleaned and waxed every 7-10 years to protect it from deteriorating.
The statue was created to remember the 1,000 years since the death of King Alfred the Great, being designed by Hamo Thornycroft and erected in 1899, at the time of the unveiling there was a great procession to the statue, with the streets thronging with people in celebration, where the Bishop of Winchester addressed them, this was widely reported even in the New York Times who themselves acknowledge this great king who even claim he is the father of the navy of the U S A.
whether King Alfred had a beard or not is questionable, as any symbol of him has him with no beard, on coins or the Alfred jewel at the Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford, no doubt Thornycroft used artistic licence of this legendary king who divided his time between government and church.
His final resting place can be seen at Hyde Abbey Gardens where with his wife Queen Ealhswith and their son Edward the Elder are buried with him at the High altar.
A humorous myth of uncertain origin claims that a female virgin of at least 16 years of age walks around the statue three times in a clockwise direction, Alfred will lower his sword! possible to tell her to be off as she is making him dizzy!, and for those who like a liquid refreshment there is a public house nearby called the `Alfie` where you can toast one of the greatest kings that England has ever had.



Royal Brough of Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey.


The Coronation Stone which is a Sarsen stone, this is a hard rock created from sand bound by a silica cement making it a kind of silicified sandstone, on this stone it is believed that seven Anglo-Saxon/English kings were consecrated king whilst seated on this stone. The first was King Athelstan (grandson of king Alfred the Great) the true king of the whole of England in 925, King Eadred in 946, and King Ethelred the Unready in 979. There is some evidence that King Edward the Elder in 900, King Edmund I in 939, King Eadwig in 956 and King Edward the Martyr in 975 were also consecrated on the stone.

The name of Kingston itself is derived from a royal connection,as it comes from the phrase kings Tun, meaning a royal farm or estate. The very first reference to the town was made in 838 where details of a royal council presided over by King Egbert (the first named King of England and grandfather of King Alfred the Great) were documented.

The Coronation Stone up until 1730 resided in a Saxon Chapel of St. Mary in the grounds of the current All Saints church, in 1730 the Saxon Chapel collapsed and the stone was moved to various locations, including the Old Elizabethan Guildhall in the Market Place and then onto the Azzise Courts yard, in 1935 when the current Guildhall was built, the Coronation Stone was moved into the grounds next to the 15th century Clatton Bridge which spans the Hogsmill river.

Kingston upon Thames is the administrative town of Surrey and holds the County Council, even though Kingston is now a part of Greater London since 1965, whilst Guildford is the historic county town.


For information on train and bus services :-  https://www.thetrainline.com/