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Statutory Address:

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Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 93280 87320



ST9387 MARKET CROSS 758-1/4/239 (North side) 18/01/49 Abbey Church of St Mary and St Aldhelm


Benedictine Abbey church, now parish church. Church founded c637 by Irish hermit Mailduib, monastery founded during abbacy of Aldhelm (c675-705), though no pre-C12 work survives; church probably begun under Bishop Roger (c1118-1139), and mostly dates from c1160-80 with a 9-bay aisled nave, transepts with E chapels, chancel, ambulatory with 3 radiating chapels, and S porch, rebuilt 1350-1450 above gallery level with clerestory, vault, crossing spire and W towers, a lengthened chancel and Lady Chapel; spire fell 1479. After Dissolution nave altered by William Stumpe of Abbey House (qv) and damaged W parts walled for the parish church, W tower fell c1662, W window by Goodridge 1830, restored W end 1903. MATERIALS: limestone ashlar with stone tiles. STYLE: late Romanesque style C12 work, Decorated Gothic style C14 extensions. PLAN: reduced since the Dissolution to 6 E bays of nave, with short lengths of transept walls and S corner of W end. EXTERIOR: the E end has a single N chancel bay and matching chancel arch with paired half shafts set in square piers with quarter round capitals, beneath the 2-centre arched line of the vault, and tas-de-charges with sunken mouchettes; the jambs of next E bay has matching aisle and triforium semi-circular jambs with chevron mouldings. Inner wall of N transept has blocked 2-centred aisle arch containing a C16 doorway and 3-light mullion window, and a blind round-arched doorway to the right; 6-bay N elevation has a blind former cloister wall along the aisle divided by buttresses, with a roll-top coping, and round-arched windows above a cill band containing C14 tracery, with a steep gable in the fourth bay containing a 3-light Decorated tracery window; at the left end is a blocked, round-arched C12 doorway with an archivolt of relief palmettes, and a cusped cinquefoil arch set within. The C14 clerestory has flying buttresses with tall pyramidal pinnacles between 3-light 2-centre arched windows, 2-light at the E end, with paterae to each side of the three E windows. S transept as N, 2 bays after the aisle arch, an incomplete arcade of interlacing round arches with a chevron moulding

beneath 2 storeys of round-arched windows with splayed reveals, the lower windows flanked by narrow round-arched recesses containing inner arches open to a passage through the walls. The arcade continues along the former external side of the S transept and to the 9-bay S elevation, otherwise as the N side with a Decorated cusped openwork parapet to aisle and nave, and with second and third bays from E containing C14 2-centre windows with Decorated tracery. C12 porch rebuilt externally in C14 with angle buttresses, has a very fine splayed round-arched entrance of 3 orders, without capitals, richly carved with iconographic Biblical scenes set in oval panels, and separated by richly carved mouldings, and a hood with dog head stops. Inside is a similarly-moulded doorway and C14 door, beneath a tympanum of Christ in Glory supported by 2 angels, with along both sides the round-arched arcade above a bench, beneath finely-carved lunettes each of 6 Apostles with a horizontal flying angel above. In the E re-entrant is a square stair turret with a pyramidal roof. The incomplete W end has a massive clasping buttress stair turret to the S corner in 4 stages separated by moulded strings, blank from the ground, a pair of blind round-arched panels containing lower arched panels to the second stage, an arcade of narrow interlacing round-arches to the third, and a taller arcade to the fourth stage with square section mouldings; the bay to the left as the S aisle, with a pair of round arches with flanking half arches at the second stage enriched with chevron moulding, containing pairs of round-arches; above is an arcade of 5 round-arches, and a blind wall topped with a C20 parapet. The S side of the central entrance bay has the jamb of a round-arched entrance with 2 orders carved as the S porch and plain capitals, beneath the jamb of a large C14 W window with the springers of 4 cusped transoms. INTERIOR: nave arcade has round shafts with scallop capitals to sharply moulded 2-centre arches, with billet mouldings to the 2 E arches, and billet hoods with dog head stops; the triforium has blind round arches with attached shafts to cushion capitals, a chevron moulding, with an arcade of 4 similar arches within; splayed clerestory windows have rere arches. An attached shaft extends up from the piers to C14 tas-de-charges, and a lierne vault with carved bosses. A 'Watching Loft' is corbelled out above the fourth pier on the S side of the nave, with plain openings and billet moulded cornice. The C12 aisles have pointed quadripartite vaults and benches,

the blind arcade of the outside beneath the windows, on the S side without the middle columns; the E end bays have C15 stone screens with Perpendicular tracery. To the left of the entrance is a winder stair to the C14 parvis over the porch, which has C20 panelling. MEMORIALS: running counter-clockwise from the entrance, a wall monument to Joseph Cullerne, d1764, a marble panel with raised bracketed top section; wall monument to Robert Greenway, d1751, a marble shield; wall monument to Bartholomew Hiren, d1703, a panel with a broken pediment; at the W end, a wall monument to Dame Cyscely Marshal, d 162?, with a slate panel in a carved alabaster frame; to the left a late C17 cartouche with drapes; in the N aisle, a dresser tomb of King Athelston, d939, with narrow buttresses to the sides, with a recumbent figure of the King with his feet on a lion, and a vaulted canopy behind his head; wall monument to Elizabeth Warneford, d1631, a slate plaque set in a moulded alabaster frame with shields along the sides, a cartouche, and a segmental cornice over; wall tablet to Isaac Watts, d 1789, an oval marble panel set in slate; wall tablet to Johannes Willis, mid C18, a marble panel with gadroon beneath and a cornice; wall tablet to GI Saunders, d1806, with a round-arched top and moulded frame; wall tablet to Elizabeth George, d1806, a well-carved cartouche with putti below; wall tablet to Edward Cullerne, d1765, marble with yellow marble inserts and a pediment; wall tablet to Mary Thomson, d1723, a stone panel with draped surround including an hour glass; wall tablet facing the entrance to Willima Robernce (?), d1799, a stone frame including a small inscribed pointing hand in the corner. Set in the chancel floor are a group of 8 brasses from late C17 to mid C18. FITTINGS: include a round C15 font from St Mary Westport (qv), with a turned base and fluted sides; at the W end of the nave, is the font used since the C17; in the S aisle, a glass case containing a verge of 1615, carved with features of the Abbey; at the E end the S aisle is the parish chest dated 1638, panelled with 3 locks; communion rail of c1700 with twisted balusters. In the parvis are kept 4 volumes of an illustrated manuscript Bible of 1407. GLASS: mostly C14 glass in the N aisle; the Luce window in the S aisle designed by Burne Jones and made by William Morris. HISTORICAL NOTE: the use of pointed arches and vaults in the aisles is structurally advanced and transitional with Early Gothic, and links Malmesbury with subsequent West Country churches, but the carving is Anglo Saxon in character, and probably borrowed from manuscript illustrations. The conventual buildings stood on the N side of the church; for the reredorter and sections of the precinct wall, see

Abbey House, Market Cross (qv), and for the guest house, see Old Bell Hotel, Gloucester Street (qv). (Victoria History of the Counties of England: Crowley DA: Wiltshire: 1991-: 157; Archaeologia: Brakspear H: Malmesbury Abbey: 1912-; Smith MQ: The Sculptures of the S Porch of Malmesbury Abbey: Malmesbury: 1973-; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N: Wiltshire: London: 1963-: 321-327; Midmer R: English Medieval Monasteries 1066-1540: London: 1976-: 212).

Listing NGR: ST9328487322


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Crowley, B A, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire, (1991), 157
Midmer, R, English Medieval Monasteries 1066-1540, (1979), 212
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, (1963)
Smith, M Q , The Sculptures of the South Porch of Malmesbury Abbey, (1973)
'Archaeologia' in Archaeologia, (1912)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 07 Sep 1999
Reference: IOE01/00251/35
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr G Williams. Source Historic England Archive
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