ACOUSTIC TRIANGLE 2005 TOUR
ROMSEY ABBEY, HAMPSHIRE
A Romsey Festival event, promoted by Audio-B Ltd. in association with
<I>Music in Romsey</I>.
The Abbey Church of St Mary and St. Ethelflaeda is a jewel of an early
Norman building which retains some rare Saxon remains. Situated in the
centre of the delightful market town of Romsey, the building can trace
its origins back to 907 AD, the year in which King Edward the Elder, son
of King Alfred the Great, first brought nuns here under the charge of
his daughter Elflaeda. The first stone church and nunnery were built
around 1000 AD. Work began on the present building in around 1120 with
the choir, transepts, a Lady Chapel at the East end and the first three
bays of the Nave, a fourth being added in 1150-1180. The last three
arches, in the Early English style, at the West end of the Nave were
added in 1230-1240, at which time over 100 nuns belonged to the
In 1349, the Black Death decimated the population and the number of nuns
declined to just 19. In the fifteenth Century, a second aisle on the
North side of the Abbey was built to accommodate a church (dedicated to
St. Lawrence) for the townspeople. Were it not for this shared use of
the building, Romsey Abbey probably would have been demolished under
Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s. The Abbey
was suppressed, its nuns dispersed and the Lady Chapel demolished in
1539. In 1544, however, the townspeople were allowed to buy the building
for use as their parish church. The sum of £100 was paid and the
magnificent building was saved. The townspeople later demolished the
extra aisle which had previously been built for them because the Abbey
was too large for their needs.
In 1643, during the English Civil War, Parliamentary troops entered the
Abbey, pulling up the seats and destroying the organ. A Puritan form of
worship was imposed under Oliver Cromwell's regime. The Eighteenth
Century witnessed a long period of neglect. In the Nineteenth, however,
the Abbey began a renaissance which has continued to this day.
Romsey Abbey, with its wonderful acoustic, has two superb resident
choirs, and hosts regular classical music concerts under the guidance of
Music in Romsey.
Special thanks to Edna and Mike Rowland.
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