Shaftesbury Abbey Museum & Garden
Explore the site of Saxon England’s foremost Benedictine nunnery, founded by King Alfred, and described as one of England’s best-kept secrets.
Perched on a hilltop with extensive views over the gentle undulating Blackmore Vale, Shaftesbury is one of England’s most scenically located and charming historic market towns. In the centre of the town, in a peaceful setting near to Gold Hill, lie the excavated foundations of Shaftesbury Abbey’s Church.
After the Battle of Eddington in West Wiltshire in 878AD, when King Alfred the Great successfully defeated the Vikings, he set about reforming the country. Alfred was a lawmaker, administrator, scholar and religious reformer. Two of his innovations were directly responsible for the existence of Shaftesbury.
In 888, Alfred founded the Abbey, which was the first community for nuns not to be connected with a male community, and it became the model for other royal nunneries. His young daughter, Aethelgifu, who had been brought up to convent life, was the first Abbess.
For 650 years the Abbey was the most important in the country, with links to the Royal House of the day. Patronage and pilgrims to the shrine of St. Edward, King and Martyr, (the boy-king murdered by his stepmother and brought to the Abbey to rest) helped to make the Abbey rich and famous. Royal visitors include King Canute, Elizabeth, wife of Robert the Bruce and Catherine of Aragon.
Up to 350 people lived in the Abbey precinct including the nuns, novices and all those employed by the Abbess. The only remaining part of this wall can be seen on Gold Hill.
The award-winning Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Garden tells the story of this important Abbey from its’ early beginnings through to the Abbeys’ abrupt end in 1539 when it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII. Within a few years the Abbey was all but forgotten. Excavations on the site in 1931 saw the chance discovery of a casket of bones, identified as the possible relics of St. Edward the Martyr and with this came renewed interest in the Abbey and its’ history.
Start your journey inside this award-winning museum. Experience the interactive virtual tour showing how impressive the Abbey church would have looked. A fascinating audio tour, helps to bring this unique story to life. The history of the Abbey is told with the help of carved stonework, tiles and objects found on the site, illustrations from ancient manuscripts and the remarkable example of polychrome statuary depicting the Mass of St Gregory, which dates from the 15th Century.
Outside the foundations of the Abbey Church lie in a peaceful walled garden, with the unique aromas of the Anglo-Saxon herb collection of over 100 plants, and a medieval orchard.
There are activities for children to do as part of their visit. You can finish your tour by visiting the Museum shop where you will find a selection of interesting books, unique gifts for all ages and lovely cards. A coffee machine is available for refreshments. See our website for events held at The Abbey.
|2013 Season (23/03/2013 - 31/10/2013)|
|Ticket Type||Ticket Tariff|
|Adult||£3.00 per ticket|
|Child (16 and under)||Free|
|Concession||£2.50 per ticket|
Note: Prices are a guide only and may change on a daily basis.
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