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Malmesbury St. John’s almshouses

Old Silk Mills

Malmesbury- Old Silk Mills

Being surrounded on 3 sides by rivers, Malmesbury has been a fortified town since the Iron Age.

In 642 a monk named Mailduib, who had been exiled from Ireland built a hermitage below the castle. To support himself he established a school. This in turn attracted craftsmen to provide for his community. The name Malmesbury is probably derived from his name.

Aldhelm, a relation to King Ina of Wessex, studied under Mailduib.

Malmesbury Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey in the 12th century. Only Canterbury and Winchester were more important at this time.

Market Cross

He became a preacher and scholar of great influence and with his royal connection brought prestige to the school. Founding the Abbey and becoming the first Abbot in 675. He died and was buried in the Abbey in 709, being canonised.

In the 9th century the now established town was made a royal borough by King Alfred. The defences were rebuilt after its recapture from the Vikings. His charter of 880 makes Malmesbury the oldest borough in England.

The grandson of King Alfred, King Athelstan, made Malmesbury his capital. He held court here and is buried in the Abbey. He is claimed to be the first King of all England and coins minted in Malmesbury state this. The men of Malmesbury played a great part in defeating the Danes so King Athelstan gave the freemen 700 acres of land, still known as the Kings Heath, to the south-west of the town.

The Abbey attracted much talent to the town, including two monks, one Eilmer, the other William. Eilmer became famous around 1010 for strapping wings to his hands and feet and attempting to fly from the Abbey. He bloke both legs, but went on to live to a good age. Around 100 years later William of Malmesbury built up a fine library for the monastery and wrote several histories of Britain.

In the Doomsday Book under Wiltshire, Malmesbury is listed first (listed in order of importance). Bishop Roger of Sarum seized the monastery in 1118 and built the town walls and castle.

After the dissolution of monistaries in 1539, the economy of the town changed to wool, a booming industry at the time and become a centre for the manufature of cloth.

During the 17th century Civil War, Malmesbury changed hands 6 times due to its position. The Roundheads in Bristol and the King in Oxford. The town walls were pulled down after Parliament ordered it in 1646.

The wool industry declined in the 18th century and Malmesbury's influence declined. Not on main routes and missed by the mainline railways, Victorian expantion passed it by. Todays advantage is that there are about 400 listed properties, making it an exiting place for visitors to marvel at.

Market Cross Malmesbury Abbey

51°35'02.4"N 2°05'55.7"W

Malmesbury, Coordinates