Bath Abbey till the Norman Invasion

The first Christian King of the Hwicce was Eanfrith (c.650s – c.674) and it was his son, Osric (c.675 – 679) that granted the Abbess Berta 100 hides (a hide was originally a unit of land capable of supporting a household) near Bath for the establishment of a convent, so starting the Christian building tradition in Bath.

The second abbess of the Nunnery in Bath was Bernguida. She was left lands by a man called Ethelmod, in the time of King Aethelred. The original nunnery may have been destroyed by King Offa in 775 AD. Alternatively, it may simply have been redeveloped. The Bishop of Worcester may have assigned the monastery of Bath to King Offa as a compensation for land lost to the church in other places. Either way, a church dedicated to St Peter was raised. There may have been a couple of churches built on the site and destroyed by Danish invaders in the middle of the 9th century (the first Viking raids having taken place between AD 786 and 802 in Wessex). Wessex, Hampshire and Somerset were resistant to the Danes and King Alfred defeated them at the Battle of Edington in May 878, in Wiltshire, some 26 miles south of Bath. King Athelstan in 931 AD gives more land being fifteen manses – land belonging to a householder from the latin mansa “Dwelling”. In return he wants prayers and masses said for him. In 956AD King Edwy granted yet more land to Wulfgar who presided over the church in Bath. Edgar then further increases the wealth and land in 956 and 970. Aescwig is mentioned as Abbot in this period at “Achumanensi” or “Hatum Bathum”. Around these times St Dunstan replaced the canons of Bath with Benedictine monks, the first abbot being Elphegus or Elphege. It was he who over saw the coronation of King Edgar.  The Saxon Chronicle describes the coronation thus: “Mickle bliss was enjoyed at Bath, on that happy day… a crowd of priests, a throng of monks, in counsel sage, were gathered there.”

The Domesday Book mentions Vlward as being abbot in Bath during Edward the Confessor’s reign (1042- 1066) who was succeeded by Stigand, a favourite of William the Conqueror. At the time of the Domesday survey Bath Abbey had a Mill and lands outside of Somerset. It produced 71l 13s 6d and had “twenty Burgesses” or freedmen who paid tax.

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