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Berkeley Castle via Malmesbury


17 June 2009

Non-members £3

On our way to Berkeley we will stop for about two hours at the very photogenic Wiltshire town of Malmesbury - the oldest borough in England, having received its charter from Alfred the Great. The Abbey church (c1170) dominates the centre of the town. Whilst the church is a fragment of the original - much damage was caused by a collapsing spire in the 16th century and the west tower in the 17th century - it remains one of the foremost examples of Norman architecture. The porch, entered through its eight arches, contains carvings of the twelve apostles, six each side. Above the porch is a museum of some of the Abbey's other treasures, including illuminated manuscripts, and amongst the architectural features inside the church is the tome of King Athelstan (died 939AD) and a window by Burne-Jones.

Berkeley Castle (between Gloucester and Bristol) has been lived in by the same family since the late 12th century. The original Norman fortress with enclosing wall was enlarged throughout the medieval and later periods. I addition to the usual range of rooms the 14th century larders, buttery and kitchen contain displays of cooking equipment from the Tudor period to the 20th century. The Great Hall and Armoury has a painted medieval screen, tapestries etc and is 62ft long and 32ft high. There is also a picture gallery showing mainly Dutch sea paintings and sporting and hunting subjects including a fine example of George Stubbs' work. Outside there are gardens and a butterfly house with 42 exotic species flying freely.

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