As a resident of Malmesbury, there are always new and interesting things to discover about this beautiful town, dubbed “Queen of Hilltop Towns”.

Tourists come to see the historic buildings and picturesque scenery, but there is much more to the town of Malmesbury than initially meets the eye.

Fun facts about Malmesbury

Fact 1: A Malmesbury woman called Hannah Twynnoy was the first person in the UK to be killed by a tiger. The inn servant had been teasing the animal, which was part of a travelling wild beast show, when it escaped from its cage on October 23, 1703 and mauled her to death. You can see her grave in the churchyard at Malmesbury Abbey

Fact 2: Malmesbury natives are often called Jackdaws, a name originating from the avian colony of these that inhabit the Abbey walls and roof. You may be able to spot a few references to the Jackdaw around the town!

Malmesbury Abbey at Sunset
Photo by Robert Peel

Fact 3: Did you know that the first king of England, King Athelstan was buried in Malmesbury Abbey in 939?

Fact 4: The Abbey was the site of an early attempt at human flight, the monk Eilmer of Malmesbury flew a primitive hang glider from a tower. Eilmer flew over 180 metres before landing, breaking both legs.

Fact 5: At the River Avon, via the footpath by 18 Gloucester Street, is a depression called ‘Daniels Well’. The name is derived from a monk called Daniel who is said to have submerged himself in the cold water every day for decades to quell fiery passions! It is now a popular place for dog walking and on hot summer days you may even see a few children having a paddle.

Sunset Daniels Well in Malmesbury Blount and Maslin
Photo courtesy of Robert Peel

Fact 6: Malmesbury is scarred by the Civil War. It is said to have changed hands up to seven times during the English Civil War. Scars of the battles can be seen on the walls of the Abbey, look for the bullet holes

Fact 7: The Malmesbury Coin Hoard at Athelstan Museum contains 1266 coins ranging in date from 286AD to 317AD

Fact 8: Malmesbury used to have a six and a half mile long single track branch railway line running from Dauntsey railway station to Malmesbury. Promoted locally, it opened with considerable assistance from the Great Western Railway in 1877. There was one intermediate station, Somerford.

Malmesbury railway line Blount and Maslin
Photo courtesy of Athelstan Museum

Fact 9: Malmesbury Abbey, built around 1180, was originally much larger than it is now until sometime around 1500 when a storm caused the tower and spire to collapse

Fact 10: Malmesbury Abbey was constructed in the 12th century with a spire 7 metres (23 ft) taller than the 123 metres (404 ft) one of Salisbury Cathedral

Fact 11: Malmesbury played vital part in one of the most important developments of the Second World War – radar. Ekco set up a secret factory at Cowbridge House where even the workers had no idea what they were making. Sir Bernard Lovell was one of the pioneers

Fact 12: Founding father of British political philosophy Thomas Hobbes, whose most famous work Leviathan is still required reading for students, was born in 1588 in Malmesbury

Fact 13: According to the 16th-century writer, Leland: ‘The toun of Malmesbyri stondith on the very toppe of a greate slaty rok, and ys wonderfully defended by nature’.

Fact 14: Malmesbury’s iconic Market Cross was built in 1490, possibly using the stone from the recently ruined part of the Abbey. It is recognised as one of the best elaborately carved octagonal structures in England.

Malmesburys iconic Market Cross
Photo courtesy of Robert Peel

Fact 15: Tower House, standing at the end of Oxford Street, contains a high-roofed main hall where it is said Henry VIII dined after hunting in nearby Bradon Forest

If you would like to read more fun facts about Malmesbury’s history, follow us on Facebook for our #MalmesburyMonday posts. For more information on properties available to buy in the Malmesbury area, please see our website.