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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 foundation.

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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Acoustic Triangle Sacred Tour

Friday July 15th

Time: 7.30pm
Tickets: £12/£10/£8
Phone: 01794 512987

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