Sherborne Abbey images by Chris hotton

Sherborne Abbey is one of the oldest and most magnificent religious buildings in England. Located in the centre ancient Market Town of Sherborne there has been religious activity on this site since AD 658.

Sherborne Abbey - South Elevation and Main Entrance

Sherborne Abbey founded by St. Aldhelm in AD 705, evolved from Saxon Cathedral to one of England’s most beautiful parish churches. The Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin, usually called Sherborne Abbey has been a Saxon cathedral (705–1075), a Benedictine abbey (998–1539), and is now a parish church.

St Johns Almshouses

Adjacent to the Sherborne Abbey are the 15th Century St Johns Almshouses, which have provided shelter and care for the people of Sherborne for over 500 years. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, the building was founded in 1437. The original building provided accommodation for “12 poor men and 4 poor women” and is now home to 18 elderly residents.

South Elevation, Main Entrance and Digby Memorial

The Abbey is approached from Sherborne's main street Half Moon Street turning west into Abbey Close on the south side of the Abbey. On entering the Abbey site you pass the Digby Memorial and on to the Abby's main entrance, approached by a magnificent Norman Porch.

The Digby Memorial is a memorial to George Digby a great benefactor to the Abbey in the 19th century. Built in 1884 it features statues of St Aldhelm, Bishop Roger of Salisbury, Abbot Bradford and Sir Walter Raleigh.

From the Crossover looking East via the Choir to the Alter and East Window

The See of Sherborne was created in AD 705 when the great Diocese of Winchester was divided in two, and Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury, was appointed as the first Bishop of the West Saxons. Aldhelm chose Sherborne as the site for his new Cathedral.

St Aldhelm and twenty-six succeeding Saxon Bishops were appointed Bishop of Sherborne. However, soon after the Norman Conquest the Bishop’s seat was moved to Old Sarum, and later Salisbury. Earlier, in 998, St Wulfsin threw out the community of secular canons who served the Cathedral, and invited monks of the Order of St Benedict to replace them.

Sherborne remained a Benedictine Abbey until 1539 when Abbot John Barnstaple and his sixteen fellow monks surrendered it to King Henry VIII.

From the Nave and splendid Stone Alter Screen

Once installed the Monks set about building a smaller church to be called All Hallows, attached to the west end of the Abbey. All Hallows was to be used by the townsfolk instead of the Abbey, whose access to which would become very resrtictive .

Needless to say the townsfolk were not happy with being denied access to the Abbey, access which they had enjoyed for several centuries. Tensions between the monks and the town came to a head in 1437 when the townsfolk decided they had had enough of having to go to the Abbot every time they wanted to use the abbey font for a baptisms and erected a font of their own in All Hallows. The Abbot was outraged and according to the contemporary chronicle sent a ‘stout butcher’ armed with a hammer into the smaller church to breakup the font.

This caused a riot, during which a burning arrow was shot into the east end of the Abbey, which at that time full of wooden scaffolding for the rebuilding of the roof. It took the Pope himself to settle the conflict – and the people had to pay for the repairs!

The earliest and possibly the finest Fan Vaulted Roof in England

In 1593, during the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Abbot John Barnstaple surrendered Sherborne Abbey and all its lands to King Henry VIII.

Sir John Horsey purchase the Sherborne Abbey estates from the King and sold on the Abbey to the townsfolk to be used as their Parish Church, a situation that remains to this day.

Mary and Child Icon of Sherborne Abbey

Sherborne Abbey contains the heaviest peal of eight bells in the world. At the dissolution of the Monastery the parishioners purchased the bells and roof lead for £260.

A Jesus Icon at Sherborne Abbey
The Principal Organ located in the North Trancept

The Abbey's magnificent pipe organ occupies a loft in the North Transept. It was originally built in 1856 by Gray & Davison to a specification similar to their gold medal-winning exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

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Created By
Christopher Hotton


Creative Photographer

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