Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours

Cathedrals and Abbeys of England on 7 September 2019


Today we visited 2 sites, Romsey Abbey and Wimborne Minster, but before I take you through our day, I apologise for leaving something very interesting out of my notes yesterday. As you read yesterday, we visited St Mary’s Saxon Church at Bermore, and we noted that visit and meeting the Warden etc. However, even though there was a photo of a Yew Tree in front of the Church, I failed to tell you that the tree was 100 years old on 964 when the Church was dedicated!! Amazing to realise that this tree is over 1000 years old and still going strong.

Now for today which was an excellent day with the 2 visits and a couple of unintended adventures. The Christian roots for Romsey Abby run deep, probably embracing a Saxon double monastery of the 9th Century, so we were told by our wonderful guide LLoyd. Romsey started as an Anglo-Saxon village and was first established on a reed island as there were many rivers running through the area and being on an island was good for protection, a safe place. Romsey got its name from Rom (reed) and Ey (island).

Alfred the Great's son established a Nunnery there in 907 but it was wooden, and the raiding Vikings burnt it down. However, in 967 a stone Abbey was built The Normans arrived in 1066 and were responsible in uniforming the country. The Abbey was a place where Kings and the aristocracy sent their daughters for safety and in 1100 2 daughters of a Scottish King were sent to Romsey Abbey for their protection as war was happening up north. He put them in the hands of his Aunt who was the Abbess.

William 2nd was a rough fellow who was only interested in drink and hunting and was hated by many of his nobles. He tried to marry one of the girls but the Abbess told him she had taken the veil. Being very religious he accepted that and proceeded with his wild life only to be killed by an arrow when hunting, an accident?? He was nothing like his father but his brother, Henry 1st was a gentle man and well liked by all. He approached the Abbey and asked for the hand of one of the girls as he was aware of the ruse that had kept his brother away. He was accepted and as the girl had a Saxon name, she changed her name to that which could be Saxon or Norman, Matilda. Henry thought so much of Matilda that in 1120 he started building a bigger Abbey as we see it today and it was finished in 1280.

All went along well at the Abbey until the Reformation when the Commissionaires from Henry 8th arrives to steal or the treasure and then to pull down the Abbey. So, at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Abbey was bought by the Town for £100. There is a Bill of Sale on show in the Abbey. It is interesting that England finds itself in a similar situation today as in 1544. Then Henry 8th did not want to pay money to the Pope and did not accept the rules put on him so he left the Catholic Church, an old time Brexit? To stop Catholics reforming he pulled down the Churches.

Next stop was our appointment at Wimborne Minster. The origin of Wimborne Minster lies in the Saxon monastery founded here by Cuthburg in 705. At this time it was a Convent with 400-500 Nuns trained as Teachers, Doctors and Nurses and sent abroad to Germany to help establish Churches and Monasteries there. Later, a Benedictine abbey church probably occupied the same site as the present minster. King Alfred the Great buried his brother in the minster in 871 and the Saxon church survived until it was burned by the Danes in 1013. In 1043, Edward the Confessor established a new foundation of secular canons on the site.

Next call was to the Chained Library which had to be entered by a circular staircase that was very narrow and had 26 steps to climb before entering the Library. From 1300 most Cathedrals and Abbey had the chained libraries. They were used by students but one had to stand to read them. This Library was originally the treasury. In 1686 there was a bequeath by the Reverend William Stone, a previous Clergyman there but as Cromwell didn’t allow him to teach as he was known as a Papist, Stone gave all his books to the Library and in 1696 it was created as a free Library for all, on money from Roger Gilliam. 1450-1500 printed books were known as Incanabula but after 1500 they were known as books .Also interesting are the tombs of Daniel Defoe's 2 daughters which are found in the St George's Chapel.

Our 2 adventures followed our visits. Firstly we intended going down to the Royal Signals Museum where they have a lot of the Signal Intelligence gear that has been used in counter espionage etc. However, when we arrived we were told that due to the time it will take to sign us in, with photos and Passport checks, there would not be time for us to see the exhibition so we left and started on our way “home”. But, as we had not had any lunch and the few cakes that I bought in a shop near the Abbey was not enough, we started to look out for a country pub.

Driving north Michael saw an advert for a pub at Tarrant Monkton that was 3 kilometres away off the highway. We turned down the road to the pub and it was only wide enough to take our coach. We arrived at this beautiful village with many thatched cottages and there was the Pub. Lunch there and a walk around the village for some shots of the cottages. Following our time in Tarrant Monkton we head ed back out along the very narrow road and then on the Salisbury. At dinner tonight we had a small cake for Sarah’s birthday, the surprise went down well. Tomorrow we leave Grasmere House and head to Exeter to visit the Cathedral and then to our accommodation at Buckfast Abbey.

Graham Fleeton


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