See also Sherborne Almshouses
Sherborne Abbey was founded by St Aldhelm in 705. It served as a Benedictine monastery from 1066. Rebuilt by Bishop Alfwold, it retains a doorway dated c1050. A Norman doorway, dating from c1140, caused a dangerous fire. In 1437 the monks, who jealously guarded their own part of the abbey from the townspeople, decided to narrow the door as it led to the parish church, All Hallows (demolished after the dissolution of the abbeys). In doing this they created strong ill feelings with the parishioners. In fact the parish priest set fire to the thatched roof over the naveís east bay, creating much damage, some of which can still be seen.
A porch dates from 1180. Its columns are topped with grotesque heads. What the visitor to the abbey sees today dates mostly from the period of 1475-1504 and was the work of Abbot Ramsam. He recreated the Norman nave in the Perpendicular style. He is also responsible for the most famous feature of the abbey, its fan vaulted ceiling, the most elaborate of which is found in the north transept. Each bay has 27 sculpted bosses, repainted in Victorian times. . An organ, dated 1856, is located here.
There are 10 surviving 15th century misericords located under the seats in the Victorian choir. 19th century stained glass is found in the windows here. The high altar at the choirís east end has an ornamental screen of Caen stone. In 1997 the stained glass great west window was added. Its theme is the incarnation and it depicts the Virgin Mary, who is the abbeyís patron saint.
In the south choir aisle is the tomb of a 13th century abbot. In the north choir aisle is a piece of a Purbeck marble tomb belonging to Abbot Clement (c 1165). It is important for being one of Englandís oldest surviving tomb portraits. In the same aisle is a stone coffin, purported to have held the bones of the older brothers of King Alfred. The south transept is home to a Baroque memorial to the 3rd earl of Bristol, John Digby and both his wives. The window dates from 1850.
In the Wykeham chapel are the 16th century tombs of Sir John Horsey and his son. It was he who purchased the monksí property after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries; he then turned around and sold the abbey to the parish to use as the parish church. Bishop Rogerís chapel (not open to the public) was designed in the 13th century when a north and east wall were added to the Norman walls of the aisle and Wykeham chapel.
The Lady chapelís entrance is an early English archway of Purbeck stone. One of its columns is original. The chapel of St Mary le Bow dates from the 14th century, was altered in the 15th, and then in 1560 the east wall and Tudor windows in the south wall were designed to form the headmasterís house. The Sepulchre chapel probably dates from Norman times but was also redesigned to reflect the Perpendicular style. The stained glass window is modern. St Katherineís chapelís two stained glass windows date from medieval times. The chapel also holds the altar tomb of John Leweston (1584) and his wife.
Tel. 01935 812452
Open: 8am-4pm in winter, until 6pm in summer; guided tours, open to everyone, on Tue at 10.30am and Fri at 2.30pm, April-Sep, check with the Parish Office 01935 812452 as they are sometimes cancelled; office hours 9am-12.30pm and 2-4.30pm, Mon-Fri
The abbey shop is located in the close.
Web: Sherborne Abbey
Sherborne has a large carpark (fee charged) within a few minutes walk of the TIC, almshouse, and abbey.
Sherborne Tourist Information Centre
3 Tilton Court
Digby Road (opposite the abbey)
Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3NL
Tel. 01935 815341
Open year round
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