- Wymondham Abbey
Wymondham Abbey (pronounced "Windham") is situated in the town of
Wymondhamin Norfolk, England.
It is the Anglican
parish churchof Wymondham, but it started life as a Benedictine priory.
The monastery was founded in
1107by William d'Aubigny, Chief Butler to King Henry I. William was a prominent Norfolk landowner, with estates in Wymondham and nearby New Buckenhamwhose grandfather had fought for William the Conquerorat the Battle of Hastings. The d'Albini (or d'Aubigny) family originated from St. Martin d'Aubigny in Normandy. Later, the founder's son, William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, in 1174 founded Becket's Chapel close by in the town, to be served by two monks from the Priory. William d'Albini's monastery was a dependency of the Benedictine monasteryat St Albans, where his uncle Richard was Abbot. Wymondham Priory was relatively small, initially for some twelve Benedictine monks, but grew in influence and wealth over the coming centuries. Disputes between the Wymondham and St. Albans monks were quite common, and in 1448, following a successful petition to the king, the Pope granted Wymondham the right to become an Abbeyin its own right. A notable abbot was Thomas Walsingham.
to face the walls. The central tower was rebuilt in about 1376 by a tall octagonal tower (now ruined), which held the monks' bells. In 1447, work on a much taller single west tower began. This replaced the original Norman towers and held the townspeople's bells. From the start, the church had been divided between monks' and townspeople's areas, with the nave and north aisle serving as parish church for the town (as it still is). This, too, was from time to time the cause of disputes which occasionally erupted into lawlessness, though the Vicar of Wymondham was appointed by the Abbot.
King Henry VIII's
Dissolution of the Monasteriesbrought about the closure of Wymondham Abbey, which was surrendered to the King in 1538. The monks had, apparently willingly, already signed the Oath of Supremacy, and were given generous pensions - Elisha Ferrers, the last Abbot, became Vicar of Wymondham (the fine sixteenth century sedilia on the south side of the chancel is said to be his memorial). The years following the dissolution saw the gradual demolition of the monastic buildings for re-use of the stone. The eastern end of the church (blocked off from the nave by a solid wall since about 1385) was destroyed, leaving the present church (at 70 m.) only about half its original length. Repairs to the church were carried out following Queen Elizabeth I's visit in 1573 (date and initials may be seen on exterior stonework).
Notable features of the church are the twin towers (a landmark for miles around), the Norman nave, the splendid 15th century angel roof in the nave and fine north aisle roof. The church is also remarkable for its high quality fittings such as the 1783 organ by James Davis [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
] and 1810 chamber organ [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
] (also by James Davis) and the splendid gilded reredos or altar screen [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
] , one of the largest works of Sir
Ninian Comper. This was dedicated in 1921 as a war memorial, though the gilding was not finished until 1934. Note also the early Tudor terracotta sedilia (see above), the Georgian candelabrum and Royal Arms of George II, the carved medieval font with modern gilded font cover, and many smaller features such as angels, musicians and figures carved on the roof timbers and corbels. The west tower houses a peal of 10 bells, re-cast and re-hung in 1967. Hung in the bell tower are six well-preserved 18th century hatchments.
The year 2007 sees the 900th anniversary of the foundation of the church, marked by a series of special events. The church is open daily.
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/content/images/2005/11/09/wymondham_mark_fairhead_400x300.jpgAbbey Church]
* [http://www.wymondhamabbey.nildram.co.uk/images/BecketPanel.jpgAbbey's Thomas Becket Icon]
* [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/fd/NormanPillars.jpgNorman pillars in Abbey nave ]
* [http://www.wymondhamabbey.nildram.co.uk Wymondham Abbey Homepage]
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