On Saturday 9th July a group of 16 members, led by Clare Simpson, enjoyed guided visits to the Abbey Buildings and the Merchant’s House in Abingdon.
In the morning the group was briefed on the Abbey’s history and given a tour of the Abbey buildings with which the town’s history is closely intertwined. Once the Benedictine monastery was one of the most important in the country with extensive buildings and lands.
The Abbey was visited by many pilgrims who came to see its collection of relics, and various kings and queens stayed there over the centuries, including Henry VIII and his extensive entourage. Despite Henry staying at the Abbey for several weeks when fleeing from the spread of illness in London, it did not escape the Dissolution and was dissolved in 1539. Only some of the original buildings remain, including those visited – the Unicorn Theatre, the timber framed Long Gallery and the Exchequer building with its impressive medieval chimney. After the Dissolution, the Exchequer was used for storage by a malting business and later a brewery operated in the Long Gallery.
The Abbey buildings are now in the care of the Friends of Abingdon, to whom a donation was given on behalf of the Society.
After lunch at a nearby pub, the group visited the Merchant’s House in East St. Helen's Street. Built in 1431 it is the oldest medieval house in Abingdon and is owned by the Oxford Preservation Trust and is now divided into two dwellings. Rachel, the present custodian, briefed the group on the house's history and led a tour of the house, with its original beams, fifteenth century fireplaces and remnants of sixteenth century wall decorations. She is still researching its history and discovering new details about the house. One of the conditions of living there is to make the house available by request to the public. It clearly is of much interest as on one such occasion it attracted over 800 visitors!
A donation was made to the Oxford Preservation Trust on behalf of the Society.
The visits were free for members.