Undertaking an immersion course at Abbey Communication is as much about the experience of living in our home town of Malmesbury as it is about learning English in the classroom.
Famous for its beautiful twelfth century Abbey, its historical buildings, tranquil riverside setting and rich heritage, the picturesque Cotswolds town of Malmesbury is an unspoiled blend of the old and the new, providing a perfect backdrop to your stay.
During your course you will have plenty of time to explore the locality, either on your own or in the company of your trainers and host family. As well as enjoying social activities arranged by Abbey, you’ll be able to further develop your English skills by chatting to local people and taking part in the daily life of the town.
Malmesbury’s unique history
Rightly described as the ‘the Queen of hilltop towns’, Malmesbury has a long and rich history stretching back over 1,300 years.
Malmesbury is said to be the oldest inhabited borough in England, with a charter dating back to Saxon times. The ancient Benedictine Abbey was founded in the late 7th century and a scholar and holy man called Aldhelm – later St Aldhelm – became its first Abbot.
Malmesbury’s reputation as a centre for learning and culture grew rapidly, with the Abbey attracting scholars and religious pilgrims from all over the country.
One of the town’s most famous benefactors was Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great and the first King of England. Malmesbury became his spiritual home and he gave lands and gifts to the town and the Abbey, where he was buried on his death in AD 939.
By the time of the Norman invasion in 1066, Malmesbury had become one of the most important towns in England and was described as a borough in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Malmesbury’s famous Abbey was rebuilt several times – in the Middle Ages it had a spire taller than Salisbury Cathedral’s. Dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, it is still used as a parish church today. Its romantic ruins, solemn witnesses to the turmoil of the centuries, continue to attract visitors from all over the world.
A town made for exploring…
Wander up the lively high street, with its array of interesting shops, pubs and eating places, and you’ll come to the intricately engraved 15th century Market Cross, which is one of the best preserved of its kind in the country.
Go past the 14th century spire of St Paul’s church, which houses the parish bells. Ahead of you is Malmesbury Abbey’s show-stopping Norman porch, with its three sculptured bands telling a unique ‘cartoon strip’ story of the Bible.
Walk on through the Abbey churchyard and you will find the Old Bell Hotel, reputed to be England’s oldest hotel, with a history of hospitality dating back to 1220.
There’s also an interesting museum, an old courthouse and a maze of medieval streets to explore. On fine days, many visitors simply stroll along the banks of the gently flowing River Avon and take in the unique views and landmarks, many of them hardly changed over the centuries.
From the ancient… to the modern
Malmesbury isn’t just a living museum though – it’s a thriving hub of creativity and innovation. One of our most celebrated innovators is Sir James Dyson, who runs the international technology and design company, Dyson, famous for cutting-edge vacuum cleaners and other household devices. Dyson’s head office and engineering research facilities are based in Malmesbury, attracting talent from all over the world.
The town is also proud to host the world famous international music festival, Womad, which is held every summer in the grounds of Charlton Park.
The Abbey Gardens is another famous attraction, drawing visitors from around the world to its five acres of beautiful landscaped gardens, nestling beside the River Avon.
In bloom of Life
She’s snatchd from hence,
She had not room
To make defence;
For Tyger fierce
Took Life away.
And here she lies
In a bed of Clay,
Until the Resurrection Day.
With a somewhat happier ending, the 11th century monk Eilmer of Malmesbury is thought to be the first person on record to attempt to fly. Legend has it that after attaching ‘wings’ to his hands and feet he leapt off one of the Abbey towers, landing (with a crash) over 200 metres away, breaking both his legs but, miraculously, surviving. This early attempt at human flight by the intrepid ‘Flying Monk’ has become a well-known part of Malmesbury folklore.
Did you know…?
The scenic ruins of the original Malmesbury Abbey, dating from the 12th century, were painted by JMW Turner during a visit to the town in 1791. Turner also drew other local landmarks, such as the Market Cross.
Places to visit near Malmesbury
Cirencester: Cirencester – often referred to as the Capital of the Cotswolds – was the second largest town in Roman Britain. The town museum has an impressive collection of artefacts from Roman times, using reconstructions to recreate daily life in ancient Corinium. Cirencester contains many interesting historic buildings, including an impressive Parish Church dating back to the 15th century.
Bath: With its honey-coloured Georgian architecture, smart shopping streets and vibrant cultural scene, the beautiful city of Bath is a must-see destination for any visitor to the South West of Britain. The city’s many attractions include the Roman Baths, the Thermae Bath Spa, the Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge, the Jane Austen Centre and the botanical gardens in Victoria Park.
Bristol: The largest city in the South West, Bristol has something for everybody, from Georgian architecture and a rich historical heritage to a thriving creative, musical and arts scene. Sights and attractions include Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first great steam-powered ocean liner, and the world-famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the spectacular Avon Gorge.
Tetbury: Located just 5 miles from Malmesbury, Tetbury was an important market town for the Cotswold wool trade in the Middle Ages and the pillared Market House, built in 1655, still dominates the town centre today. The town is well known for its antique shops and is home to Highgrove house and gardens, the estate of HRH Prince Charles, and Westonbirt Arboretum, arguably the most important arboretum in the UK.
Stonehenge: Walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge, the best known and best preserved prehistoric monument in Europe. As well as being a masterpiece of engineering, the iconic Stone Circle is an inspiring and spiritual place and one of the true wonders of the world. Visitors can discover how the site was built and learn about how people lived 4,500 years ago.
Dyrham Park: A short drive from Malmesbury along the M4 motorway, the stunning estate of Dyrham Park near Bath is the perfect place to unwind after a week’s English study! The magnificent 17th century country house is surrounded by 270 acres of formal gardens and ancient parkland, in which a herd of historic fallow deer roam freely. The estate is owned by the National Trust.
Lacock: Much used as a period film location due to its historic buildings and unspoiled appearance, the ancient village of Lacock in Wiltshire is a popular tourist destination. Owned almost entirely by the National Trust, its notable buildings and structures include Lacock Abbey, founded in 1232, the 15th century Sign of the Angel inn and an imposing 14th century tithe barn.
How to Travel to Malmesbury
Important: All Train Travel – Please note that train doors in the UK are often opened by lowering the window and operating the handle from the outside.