Place:Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England

Alt namesMalmesburysource: Family History Library Catalog (or mis-spelling)
Malmesbury the Abbeysource: parish in borough
Malmesbury St. Paulsource: parish in borough
Malmesbury St. Paul Withinsource: later name of above
Malmsburysource: Family History Library Catalog
TypeBorough (municipal)
Coordinates51.6°N 2.1°W
Located inWiltshire, England
See alsoMalmesbury Hundred, Wiltshire, Englandhundred in which it was located
North Wiltshire District, Wiltshire, England1974-2009
Wiltshire District, Wiltshire, Englandunitary authority since 2009

source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Malmesbury is a market town and civil parish in the southern Cotswold Hills in the county of Wiltshire, England with a population in the 2011 census of 5,380.

It became prominent in the Middle Ages as a centre for learning focused on and around Malmesbury Abbey, the bulk of which forms a rare survival of the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. Once the site of an Iron Age fort, in the Anglo-Saxon period it became the site of a monastery famed for its learning and one of Alfred the Great's fortified burhs for defence against the Vikings. Æthelstan, the first king of England and Alfred's grandson, was buried in Malmesbury Abbey when he died in 939.

The community was the ancient frontier of two kingdoms, with Tetbury 5 miles (8.0 km) to the north in Mercia while Malmesbury was in the West Saxon Kingdom or Wessex, resulting in centuries of animosity between the two towns. The location and defensive position of Malmesbury on the latterly important Oxford to Bristol route made it a strategic military point. During the 12th century following civil war between Stephen of England and his cousin the Empress Matilda, the succession agreement between Stephen and Henry of Anjou (later Henry II) was reached after their armies faced each other across the impassable River Avon at Malmesbury in the winter of 1153, with Stephen losing by refusing battle.

Malmesbury Commoners

At the Battle of Brunanburh in 937, King Athelstan of Wessex defeated an army of northern English and Scots and made a claim to become the first 'King of All England'. Helped by many men from Malmesbury, in gratitude he gave the townsfolk their freedom, along with 600 hides of land to the south of the town. The status of "freemen of Malmesbury" was passed down through the generations and remains to this day. It is likely, however, that the title of freeman, or "commoner", was given to tradesmen and craftsmen coming into the town during the early Middle Ages, so the claim of direct lineage from the men who fought with King Athelstan to the present day commoners is unlikely, though possible. Since at least the 17th century, however, the right has been only handed down from father to son or son-in-law. There is a maximum of 280 commoners. The organisation is said to be the 'most exclusive club' in the world, as to enter it one has to be born to a freeman or marry the daughter of one.


Technology company Dyson, known for its vacuum cleaners, is headquartered in Malmesbury and employs around 1,600 people. The headquarters is mainly a design organisation, with manufacturing carried out in Malaysia. In earlier centuries Malmesbury has a sizeable wool spinning and weaving industry, having access to large quantities of wool and water. It then became a centre of the lace-making industry. Quarrying of cotswold stone was useful to the local area, but could not be transported to other centres because, with water on three sides and steep cliffs, easy access for the modern bulk transport methods of canals and railways did not exist.


Malmesbury was an ancient borough and market town and became a municipal borough in 1886. It had two ecclesiastical parishes, Malmesbury the Abbey and Malmesbury St. Paul which both were civil parishes between the middle of the 19th century and 1934 when they were both brought under Malmesbury civil parish. Malmesbury Abbey became a ruin at the dissolution and St. Paul's was not kept in repair and is now only a tower. Malmesbury St. Paul civil parish was split into Malmesbury St. Paul Within civil parish (serving the town) and the large rural Malmesbury St. Paul Without civil parish (containing the villages of Milbourne, Rodborne and Corston) in 1894. Malmesbury and the circling rural area became part of the North Wiltshire District in 1974 and joined the Wiltshire District unitary authority in 2009.

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Malmesbury.

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