About this church
Discover over 1,000 years of history in the Abbey, founded by King Athelstan. This historic building and its unique environment and setting attracts visitors from around the world and provides a warm welcome to all.
The first church was established in 934AD by the Saxon King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great. Whilst camping on the hill overlooking the area, he had a vision that he would defeat the Danes. The vision came true, and in gratitude he founded the church. Thirty years later King Edgar installed monks in place of the secular priests and made the church an Abbey.
In the 11th century St Catherine's Chapel was built on the spot where Athelstan is said to have had his vision. It is a plain building built by monks as a pilgrim's chapel. A short but steep walk will take you there.
After centuries of use, the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 led to the Abbey and estate being bought by John Tregonwell, a lawyer for Henry VIII in his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The estate was again sold in 1752 to Joseph Damer, afterwards Lord Milton and Earl of Dorchester.
Lord Milton employed 'Capability' Brown to create a new landscape to encompass a new mansion, the Abbey church, St Catherine's chapel, and the new village of Milton Abbas (which replaced a medieval village, considered to be an intrusion and demolished). The breathtaking landscape is one of the finest and most extensive Capability Brown landscapes in England.
In 1852, the property was bought by Charles Joachim, Baron Hambro of Denmark. He restored the church in 1865 with the help of Sir George Gilbert Scott and Augustus Pugin.
The Abbey church is spacious and filled with light, thanks to huge stained glass windows. The most impressive feature is wonderful vaulting, decorated with carved bosses. There is also an early 16th century rebus (naming pun) and a striking white marble tomb erected by Damer in memory of his wife.
The Abbey’s medieval treasures include a 15th century reredos in the Presbytery. It is highly embellished, and one of the finest in England. The lower sections retain traces of original paint. There is also a 14th century sedilia, and a wooden Hanging Tabernacle, or pyx, which is thought to be unique.