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Waltham Abbey - A Bit of History

Waltham Abbey - A Bit of History

waltham abbey church 

What is now known as Essex in the East of England has a very long and varied history.  The name, of Anglo Saxon origin, dates back to about 500 AD, when it was known as the Kingdom of the East Seaxe, one of the original 7 areas which went on to form the Kingdom of England.  The area became part of the Kingdom of Wessex until it fell under Danelaw, and was the site of the defeat of the Anglo Saxons by the Vikings in the Battle of Maldon in 991AD.  Essex gained its first Earl after the Norman Conquest in the 12th century, with Geoffrey de Mandeville, and the titles of Essex were to go on to hold vital importance throughout the reigns of later monarchs, particularly during the Tudor period.

Waltham Abbey, one of the areas best known places of historical interest, has been the site of religious building since around 1030 AD.  The Abbey was originally founded to home a Holy Rood, that is cross, which was a object of pilgrimage in the middle ages.  This cross was reputed to have found a large, flint cross buried at Glastonbury, which he then loaded onto his cart; the oxen he was driving would go in only one direction, on to Waltham.  King Harold, he of the Battle of Hastings, rebuilt the Abbey, and is said to be buried there; a fitting resting place since he is also said to have stopped to pray for luck inn battle on the way to Hastings.

   waltham abbey in essex
The Abbey was destroyed and rebuilt in Norman style, and continued to be refurbished by subsequent rulers.  It was the final Abbey to be closed after the dissolution of the Abbeys under Henry V111, during which further parts were demolished, leaving behind the parts which remain today.

The Abbey was extensively refurbished in the 19th century by noted architect William Burges, who undertook the project with enthusiasm, remodelling as well as restoring, creating a new chancel and a redesigned interior.

The Abbey is still a centre for religious worship, but welcomes visitors - it is worth checking the website for times of services and recitals before going, but there is a Visitors Centre which is situated in the crypt, with a wealth of information and a shop.
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