Wymondham Abbey

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Wymondham Abbey (pronounced Windham) is situated in the town of Wymondham in Norfolk, England.

Contents

Background

It is the Anglican parish church of Wymondham, but it started life as a Benedictine priory.

The monastery was founded in 1107 by William d'Aubigny, Chief Butler to King Henry I. William was a prominent Norfolk landowner, with estates in Wymondham and nearby New Buckenham whose grandfather had fought for William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. The d'Albini (or d'Aubigny) family originated from St. Martin d'Aubigny in Normandy. Later, the founder's son, William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, in 1174 founded Becket's Chapel close by in the town, to be served by two monks from the Priory.[1]

William d'Albini's monastery was a dependency of the Benedictine monastery at St Albans, where his uncle Richard was Abbot. Wymondham Priory was relatively small, initially for some twelve Benedictine monks, but grew in influence and wealth over the coming centuries. Disputes between the Wymondham and St. Albans monks were quite common, and in 1448, following a successful petition to the king, the Pope granted Wymondham the right to become an Abbey in its own right. A notable abbot was Thomas Walsingham.

The monastery church was completed by about 1130, and originally was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Later, following the murder of Saint Thomas Becket in 1170, Becket's name was added to the dedication. A modern icon panel by the late Rev. David Hunter is on display in the church and tells the story of Thomas's life in pictures. In 1174, the founder's son, also called William d'Aubigny, established a chapel in the town dedicated to Becket and served by two monks from the priory. The church was originally cruciform in shape, with a central tower and twin west towers. When it was built, stone from Caen in Normandy was shipped specially across the English channel to face the walls. The central tower was rebuilt in about 1376 by a tall octagonal tower (now ruined), which held the monks' bells. In 1447, work on a much taller single west tower began. This replaced the original Norman towers and held the townspeople's bells. From the start, the church had been divided between monks' and townspeople's areas, with the nave and north aisle serving as parish church for the town (as it still is). This, too, was from time to time the cause of disputes which occasionally erupted into lawlessness, though the Vicar of Wymondham was appointed by the Abbot.

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