King Athelstan - 924 ~ 2024

What gifts did he give to Malmesbury?

Athelstan was undoubtedly generous to the religious community of Malmesbury because of the association of the place with Aldhelm. He gave land and precious gifts including vestments and a golden cross. Athelstan showered the Malmesbury community with holy relics, including a portion of the Cross on which Christ was crucified enclosed in rock crystal and a piece of the Crown of Thorns. Athelstan gave relics of Saint Paternus, sixth-century bishop of Avranches in France. The relics given by Athelstan- including the portion of the Cross and the bones of Paternus- were venerated in Malmesbury for six hundred years until the Dissolution of 1539.

A tradition going back at least to at least the 14th century also says that Athelstan gave the land that is now known as Kings Heath to the burgesses of the town in thanks for their help at the battle of Brunanburgh. This act of patronage was commemorated in a charter which survives in a late medieval version. While there is doubt about the authenticity of the charter there is no doubt that Malmesbury was a royal borough in the tenth century and that men from Malmesbury served in Athelstan’s army. During the struggle with the Danes Malmesbury was a garrison town with conscript soldiers drawn from the area by the ealdorman of Wiltshire Athelstan’s father and grandfather had established a network of fortified ‘burhs’ including Malmesbury along the northern frontier of Wessex. It is clear from the Domesday Book that the Crown was the dominant force in the town and owned far more property than the Abbey.