Malmesbury Abbey's Architecture

Inside the AbbeyThe definitive description of Malmesbury abbey was published by Harold Brakspear as long ago as 1912 in Archaeologia LXIV.

The building is a fine example of the late and local Romanesque. This is a west country form of Anglo-Norman. Stone vaulting was just being introduced and Malmesbury seems to have been designed to have a stone vault.

There are early gothic influences discernable; the shallow pointing of the arches in the bay divisions in the nave and the hollow walling in the west wall of the south transept.

Malmesbury appears to have been the first in a series of west country churches. In the later churches the Romanesque had given way entirely to Gothic.

Inside the AbbeyThe original abbey built in the 12th century was approximately one and a half times the size that remains. The 14th century additions made the footprint twice that of today; the spire must have soared into the sky. To the north lay the cloisters and all around would be other buildings, dwellings, stores, workshops - a whole complex of religious activity.

What an achievement with the limited resources of Saxon and mediaeval England. What proportion of the local economy went into building the abbey?

The museum collection contains numerous drawings of architectural features of the Abbey.