Sunday, 19 July 2009

Malmesbury Abbey

Went to Malmesbury again yesterday as the shop where we get our spices and sauces was closed last Sunday and we were running desperately short of Lingham's chili sauce, sambal manis and Ras El Hanout.

While there I thought I'd have a quick shuftie around Malmesbury Abbey, which is one of those places that Henry VIII dissolved in 1837 in order to pay off his cronies. Half the abbey is in ruins, not because of Henry's predations, but because the tower collapsed in 1500, taking half the building with it. What's left has been restored - and it's free to go in and look around. Well worth the effort if you're in the area and like a bit of history.

Athelstan, the first king of all England, was buried there. His half-brother, Edmund, was killed just up the road from us in Pucklechurch, probably on that nasty bend in the road that I've mentioned in a previous post. Edmund took over the throne when Athelstan died, but lost most of the kingdom that Athelstan had built up.

A magnificent vaulted roof.

The wall at the end marks the limit of what's left standing, the tower having been beyond the wall. The wooden contraption at the end is where the mullah casts his spells, although I'm not that familiar with what goes on in these buildings.

The box above - or watching loft - looks for all the world as if it's a '60s addition constructed of breeze block. It's apparently where the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer.

This is a set of magic wands used by the mullahs. I think they keep them in a glass case to stop the magic leaking out. Recipe for disaster, if you ask me - any old passing warlock could easily nick them.

In the middle of the picture is where the collapsed minaret stood.

This magnificent doorway is covered in delicately carved protective ritual symbols and magical incantations.

This is a peek through a gate into the Abbey Gardens, which cost £6.50 to enter (hence I didn't go in) and apparently quite an attraction. There was a notice forbidding photography, so I was wary of being approached by a pack of habit-clad Plymouth Brethren in wrap-around sunglasses with shoulder holsters and communicating by bluetooth.


  1. I've never been to Malmesbury, indeed I had to look it up on the map to find where it is. But it looks like it is well worth a visit.

  2. Like AB, I had to check where Malmesbury is (and noted that Westonbirt Arboretum is on the way there and could, judging by the Panoramio photos, be worth a visit). I was reminded of the Duke of Clarence and his unfortunate swimming incident.

    I hardly ever buy Ras El Hanout - they usually bulk it out with too much cumin and turmeric - I grind my own spices (I have an electric coffee grinder that I use only for spices and only buy whole spices and grind as I need them - the taste is much fresher than the ready-ground stuff which always fades quickly).

    I'll bet it was a rival group of wizards that used a spell to make part of the Abbey fall down. Probably the group from Wells Cathedral (another very fine building) on a day trip.

  3. Alan: The whole of the Cotswolds is worth a visit.

    Kapgaf: There was a gig at Westonbirt last night that the Caravans attended. Classical music. It finished at 10:30, but it took them till near midnight to exit. Bit like Glasto for the old.

    We are tempted to make out own Ras El Hanout and will doubtless do it in future. It was cheaper in this instance to buy a jar rather than fork out for all the makings.

    Possibly Druids were behind the tower collapsing. Britain as turned its back on paganism, and is life any better because of it?


  4. I thought you might like to add a bit about Eilmer of Malmesbury. He sounds like he's just up your street...

  5. Paul: You mean he lives on Badminton Rd? What number?

  6. Nice pics. Looks like worth a visit. £6.50 IS bit much, isn't it...with two kids we couldn't possibly do it, although we'd want to...

  7. Louise: Half price for kids. The Abbey itself is free.

  8. As a Pagan myself, Sir, could you just post me one of them thar magic wands - Break the glass and make a spell... It's that easy!