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Welcome to Malmesbury
MALMESBURY claims to be England's oldest Borough
and has a recorded history that goes back 1500 years. In its heyday, the famous Malmesbury Abbey was one of the largest buildings in the country and, as William of Malmesbury noted in 1143, 'fairer
than anything in England'.
St Michael's church was built on the highest part of the hill on which Malmesbury is located, on the site of the current Malmesbury Abbey, by Aldhelm, a kingsman of the West Saxons who soon became the first Abbott of the newly formed monastery. The abbey and the town became a place of pilgrimage and it is largely due to Aldhelm's burial here and the rebuilding of subsequent abbeys that Malmesbury features so often in the early history of England.
In medieval times, a wall was built around the town. The warring Bishop Roger of Sarum built the wall to encircle the hill top town in the early years of the 12th century. Fragments of these walls still exist. Holloway on the road to Cirencester still has part of its gateway which cuts into the pavement and forces pedestrians into the roadway.
Another fragment in Mill Lane behind the abbey is a bastion which stands some thirty feet high, above the pathway leading to the abbey mill.
Like other Wiltshire towns Malmesbury was a flourishing weaving centre in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. It continued to have two markets each week until the end of the 19th century, although by that time the traditional fairs had all lapsed. Sadly today, even the market has ceased.
The magnificent abbey and its gardens make a dleightful day out, and there are pleasant walks around the town.
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Things to see and do
Abbey House Gardens
Castle Combe Circuit