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St. Mary's Nunnaminster, Winchester
Founded AD 899

The gardens of Abbey House, the residence of the Mayor of Winchester, off the Broadway, are freely accessible as a public park. The 'Abbey Gardens' are a pleasant spot to rest or picnic among a wash of flowers in the summer months. The lawns protect the remains of the old Saxon Nunnaminster buried deep below. Some of the footings of this ancient complex of buildings were excavated in the 1970s and have been left on display in Abbey Passage, next to the Guildhall. A jumble of stone coffins amongst barely recognizable walls is fully explained on colourful information boards.

The Nunnaminster, later known as St. Mary's Abbey, not surprisingly housed the city's community of nuns. The establishment was founded by the wife of King Alfred the Great who retired there after his death in 899. Its most celebrated resident, however, was the lady's grandaughter, St. Edburga. Her shrine in the steepled Abbey Church was never much of a rival to St. Swithun's in the Cathedral, but it was still popular with pilgrims throughout the medieval period.

 

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.