The Oldest Hotel in England….
Often referred to as England’s Oldest Hotel, we hope you enjoy your stay with us in this historic and glamourous atmosphere and we look forward to hosting you. Our hotel and the historic, vibrant and charming Market Town of Malmesbury are steeped in rich history. Built to a Saxon road plan on the site of a 2,800 year old Iron Age hill fort, local places to discover include the 12th Century Abbey next door to the hotel, exhibits in the Athelstan Museum, the Market Cross dating back to 1490, the world famous Abbey House Gardens and more. Interesting old Malmesburians include the first king of all England, King Athelstan who reigned from 925 to 940, Eilmer the Flying Monk, Thomas Hobbes – considered the founder of modern political philosophy, William of Malmesbury the first English historian and Walter Powell MP who vanished at sea in a hot air balloon in 1881.
In 1220 Abbot Loring erected a hostelry for visiting dignitaries to Malmesbury Abbey, then an important and powerful seat of learning. The Old Bell Hotel, nowadays a mix of architecture which is mainly Edwardian, has welcomed guests continuously since then. There are traces of every century throughout the hotel, including a hooded stone fireplace in the Brasserie which dates from 1220. In the later seventh century, the site of the Abbey was chosen by Maildubh, an Irish monk who established a hermitage, teaching local children. Toward the end of his life in the late seventh century the area was conquered by the Saxons. Malmesbury Abbey was founded as a Benedictine Monastery around 676 by the scholar-poet Aldhem, a nephew of King Ine of Wessex. The town of Malmesbury grew round the expanding Abbey and under Alfred the Great was made a burh with an assessment of 12 hides. In AD 941, King Athelstan was buried in Malmesbury Abbey having died in Gloucester in October 939. The choice of Malmesbury over the New Minster in Winchester indicated that the King remained an outsider to the West Saxon court. A mint was founded at the Abbey around this time.
By the 11th century, Malmesbury Abbey contained the second largest library in Europe and was considered one of the leading European seats of learning. The Abbey was the site of an early attempt at human flight when during the early 11th century, the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury attached wings to his body and flew from a tower. Eilmer flew over 200 yards before landing, breaking both legs. He later remarked the only reason he did not fly further was the lack of a tail on his glider.