Although today there is virtually nothing remaining, Abingdon Abbey is one of the oldest in the country, having been founded around the year 675 by Cissa, King of the West Saxons (or possibly his nephew Hean). From the very beginning it was a Benedictine Foundation, although was only ever small compared with some of the later Benedictine Abbeys.
Being so close to the Saxons' powerbases in southern England, Abingdon was often given money by the West Saxon Kings. However, during the reign of King Alfred the Danes destroyed the Abbey and Alfred, afterwards, took all the Abbey Estates for himself as a punishment for their lack of success repulsing the Danes.
It is unclear when the Abbey was refounded, by certainly during the Norman period it was once more a thriving, if medium-sized, place. It seems that the Abbey continued to exist quietly until the Dissolution. The last Abbot, Thomas Pentecost, was one of the first to acknowledge the Royal Supremacy, but this did nothing to save his Abbey but did, perhaps, allow him a better life subsequent to the seizure of the Abbey lands as he was pensioned off in 1538 to the manor of Cumnor where he lived out the rest of his life in some comfort.
Today, very little remains of the Abbey structures. The ruined arches in the Abbey Gardens are, in fact, follies constructed in the 1920s and the only true extant part of the Abbey to survive in any great extent is the Gatehouse which is attached to St. Nicholas' Church.
St. Nicholas' itself is as old as the early Norman period and was used as the Church for the laity of the Abbey.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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