Malmesbury is a small market town located in the southern Cotswolds in Wiltshire County next to a number of freshwater springs. It has ancient roots as a Neolithic fort but after being chartered by Alfred the Great it became a significant town in the Middle Ages. Alfred granted the charter in 880 AD, which makes it the oldest borough in England. It is believed to be possibly the oldest inhabited town in the country.
The famous Malmesbury Abbey was constructed in 675 AD by a poet and musician named Aldheim and has survived over thirteen centuries of warfare, neglect and politics. Henry VII’s Dissolution Act spelled destruction for many of the monasteries in England, but the Malmesbury survived. The city claims to have been passed back and forth seven times during the English civil war and the Abbey survived that ordeal as well.
The Abbey guest house has been converted into the oldest hotel in England, The Old Bell Hotel. The Abbey was believed to have contained the very first organ in the country and now it boasts a Dobson pipe organ. King Athelstan is buried there. The most well known trivia about the Abbey concerns a monk named Elmer who in 1010 built himself a pair of wings and attempted to fly off the Abbey tower. Unfortunately he crash landed and crippled his legs for life. Nonetheless he was planning a second attempt for the sky before the Abbot put a stop to it. He lived in the Abbey for the rest of his life.
There are a number of lovely bed and breakfasts and hotels in which you can enjoy your evenings in the peaceful Cotswold town of Malmesbury. With such an idiosyncratic and rich history, you will be sure to find much of historical interest to entertain and enlighten you during your stay!