History

There has been a place of Christian worship on this site for well over a thousand years. However, the Abbey has undergone many transformations and changes during this time, and much like the city of Bath has experienced rise and falls in fortune, survived a number of major conflicts, architectural and religious reforms, and two World Wars, but still stands proudly today as an essential place for both worshippers and visitors.

As the history of this sacred place stretches as far back as Anglo-Saxon times, there is a great deal to discover: tales of Kings and Queens, saints and sinners, as well as stories of ordinary people. Our timeline below gives an overview of the Abbey's history or you can read about people who have been involved with and influenced the Abbey over the years in our People and Stories.

  • 675AD

    675 AD

    The earliest record of a Saxon convent in Bath. Osric, a local king, gave lands near Bath to the Abbess Bertana.

  • 757AD

    757 AD

    The first mention of a monastery at Bath.  Land was granted to the brothers of the monastery of St Peter in Bath.

  • 781AD

    781 AD

    King Offa of Mercia claims ownership of the Abbey at Bath. 

  • 973AD

    973 AD

    Edgar is crowned King of all England in the Saxon Abbey.  Archbishops Dunstan of Canterbury and Oswald of York perform the ceremony. 

  • 980AD

    980 AD

    St Alphege is appointed head of the monastery at Bath by Archbishop Dunstan.  He insists that the monks at the Abbey live more strictly.  They must follow rules written in the 6th century by St Benedict of Nursia.

  • 1088AD

    1088 AD

    John of Tours, the Bishop of Wells, is given the monastery at Bath.  He orders the building of a large new cathedral, which replaces the Saxon Abbey. 

  • 1244AD

    1244 AD

    Bath and Wells are both given cathedral status. They are the most important churches in the area.

  • 1499AD

    1499 AD

    The beginnings of today’s Abbey church.  Bishop Oliver King orders the building of a new church.  The Norman cathedral built by John of Tours had fallen into disrepair.

  • 1539AD

    1539 AD

    King Henry VIII closes Bath Abbey and many other convents and monasteries.   The monks are forced to leave the Abbey and it is left to decay.

  • 1560AD

    1560 AD

    The ruined Abbey church is given to the city of Bath to use as its parish church.

  • 1574AD

    1574 AD

    Queen Elizabeth I gives permission for a national collection to raise money for the restoration of the Abbey.

  • 1611AD

    1611

    The restoration of the Abbey is completed. 

  • 1833AD

    1833 AD

    The City of Bath asks George Phillips Manners, a local architect, to restore the Abbey.  He makes several major changes to the building.  The design of the towers is changed and flying buttresses are added.  Inside the building, there is a new organ mounted on a screen, galleries, and extra seating.

  • 1836AD

    1836 AD

    The right to appoint the Rector of Bath Abbey is sold by the City of Bath to the evangelical Cambridge clergyman, Charles Simeon.  Charles Simeon’s trustees still appoint the Rector.

  • 1844AD

    1844 AD

    A new cemetery is opened, designed by the landscape architect John Claudius Loudon.  The Abbey no longer allows burials under its floor.

  • 1863AD

    1863 AD

    George Gilbert Scott begins a major restoration of the Abbey.  The organ is moved to the north transept.  Pews are put in throughout the building.  The wooden ceiling over the nave is replaced with stone fan vaulting.

  • 1899AD

    1899 AD

    Sir Thomas Jackson restores the West Front of the Abbey.  Some of the statues are replaced with new carvings.

  • 1919AD

    1919 AD

    A new chapel is created in memory of those who died in the First World War.  It is called the Gethsemane chapel.  A new Memorial Cloister is built on the south side of the Abbey.  It is now the Abbey shop.

  • 1929AD

    1929 AD

    Sir Harold Brakspear redesigns the East End of Bath Abbey.

  • 1942AD

    1942 AD

    During the Second World War, Bath is bombed.  400 people are killed and 872 are wounded.  St James’s Church is badly damaged.  The Abbey is not hit, but a bomb falls nearby.  The Great East window and the windows on the north side of the building are badly damaged.

  • 1948AD

    1948 AD

    The Friends of Bath Abbey is founded.  The Friends aim to raise money for the restoration of the Abbey.

  • 1951AD

    1951 AD

    The Book of Remembrance is placed in the Abbey.  It records the names of all civilians and military personnel from Bath who died in the Second World War.

  • 1960AD

    1960 AD

    The post-war restoration programme is completed.  £100,000 is raised by the Friends of Bath Abbey.

  • 1973AD

    1973 AD

    Queen Elizabeth II visits the Abbey to mark the coronation of Edgar in 973.  A commemorative stone is placed in the floor.

  • 1991AD

    1991 AD

    A restoration programme called Abbey 2000 begins.  It includes the restoration of the West Front, cleaning the outside and inside, and building a new organ.

  • 2010AD

    2010 AD

    The Footprint project is launched. It aims to repair the historic floor, create new spaces including a Song School, install a new heating system, and create a new Discovery Centre to re-tell the story of the Abbey.