Athelney Abbey

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Athelney Abbey
Stone obelisk surrounded by railings set in green fields and trees
Monastery information
Order Benedictine
Established 888
Disestablished 1540
Founder(s) King Alfred
Location Athelney, Somerset, England
Grid reference ST346293
Athelney Abbey is located in Somerset
Athelney Abbey
Athelney Abbey shown within Somerset
(grid reference ST346293)

Athelney Abbey, established in the county of Somerset, England, was founded by King Alfred in 888, as a religious house for monks of the Order of St. Benedict. It was dedicated to our Blessed Saviour, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Egelwine.


Originally Athelney was a small island in swampland, in what is now the parish of East Lyng, covered with alders and infested by wild animals. It was inaccessible except by boat, according to William of Malmesbury. Here Alfred found a refuge from the Danes; here he built the abbey.[1] The dedication to St. Egelwine suggests that it may have been an enlargement of a hermitage or monastery already in existence.[2]

He peopled it with foreign monks, drawn chiefly from France, with John the Old Saxon (known as Scotus) as their abbot. The original church was a small structure, consisting of four piers supporting the main fabric and surrounded by four circular chancels. Little is known of the history of the abbey from the eleventh century up to the time of its dissolution except that monks of Glastonbury Abbey attempted to annex it or have it placed under the Glastonbury jurisdiction.

It was not a rich community. An indulgence of thirty days was given in 1321 for those who should assist in the rebuilding of the church, and the monks humbly petitioned Edward I of England to remit corrod for which they were unable to find the means of payment. The last abbot was Robert Hamlyn. With eight monks of his community, he surrendered February, 8, 1540, receiving a pension of £50 per annum and retaining his prebend of Long Sutton. The revenues (26 Hen. VII) were £209. 0s. 3/4 d.

Following the dissolution it was acquired for use as his private residence by Lord Audley. This did not happen and the church was demolished and other buildings fell into disrepair, leaving nothing visible at the site today.[3] Several geophysical surveys have been carried out to explore the remains which still exist below ground level.[4]

The site of the Abbey is marked by King Alfred's Monument which is a Grade II listed building,[5] and Scheduled Ancient Monument.[6] The monument was built in 1801 by Sir John Slade of Maunsel House, who owned Athelney farm.[7]


  1. ^ Havinden, Michael. The Somerset Landscape. The making of the English landscape. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 94. ISBN 0-340-20116-9. 
  2. ^ "The abbey of Athelney". British History Online. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  3. ^ "Athelney Abbey". Somerset County Council. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  4. ^ "Athelney Abbey". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  5. ^ "King Alfred's Monument with railings". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  6. ^ "King Alfred's Monument". Listed Buildings Online. English Heritage. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Byford, Enid (1987). Somerset Curiosities. Dovecote Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0946159483. 

Coordinates: 51°03′33″N 2°56′04″W / 51.05930°N 2.93458°W / 51.05930; -2.93458