Malmesbury - England's Oldest Borough

Leaving the M4 motorway as a distant memory the road to Malmesbury wanders through small villages.  Picture perfect with their Cotswold stone and cottage gardens full of summer colour these villages are some of the most beautiful in England.

Sited on a flat topped hill encapsulated by the River Avon, sits Malmesbury, the southern entrance to the Cotswolds.  An old town with 1000 years of history and the title of being the oldest Borough in England.

 In the Middle Ages these borough towns were self governing and by Mediaeval times they could appoint their own members of parliament.  The abbey, still in use today, was a centre for learning during Anglo-Saxon times and was significant even earlier when Æthelstan, the first king of England was buried in the abbey in 939.  At one time this Abbey, which partially survived the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, had a spire taller than Salisbury Cathedral.  Today it is partially ruined but is still in use as a parish church, a conversion that prevented its total destruction in the 1500's.

As well as being the oldest borough in England and the longest continually inhabited town, Malmesbury also has the oldest hotel in England - The Old Bell.  That is an awful lot of 'old' for one small town in Southern England.

The honey coloured buildings are a jumble of 17th and 18th Century shops and public houses with the 7th Century Abbey standing dominant, watching over the town as it has grown through the centuries.  

The nearby Abbey Gardens provided for the needs of the Abbey and today are a space of tranquility and calm from the bustle of the town centre beyond the high walls and hotch-potch of buildings that surround the lawns.

Even the market cross has history being one of the oldest and best preserved in England.  This sits at the top of the high street just before the Abbey.  

There is no need to find a route around this town.  Everything is so close that wandering will take you from one place to another. The Almshouses, the Tower House and the Old Courthouse are all within sight of each other and between each landmark are smaller details not to be missed.  

 
 

Photography Notes

Malmesbury really is a photo walk in one small town. Whilst the Abbey and Abbey Gardens are easy to find, just wandering with a camera will produce lasting memories of this small town. Remember to look down alleyways and around corners at the smaller details.

All of the photographs on this page were taken with a phone. Nice and easy for a day of wandering.

 
 

Getting to Malmesbury

Malmesbury is located on the A429 just a few miles north of junction 17 of the M4. Road is the easiest way to get here as there are no nearby train stations. There are options with buses from Bath, Tetbury and Swindon but all take a while to get to the town.

Parking in Malmesbury is only possible in pay and display car parks which are clearly signposted. Make sure you do display a ticket or pay online as the inspectors are active!