The first stop was in Abingdon. This is said to be the first town on England, a fortified dwelling since the late Iron Age. It also competes with Glastonbury as the first monastery in Britain. Legend speaks of its founder being St. Abban, the only man to survive the “Night of the Long Knives” in Stonehenge, AD 453, when Saxons, in supposed Peace Talks, slaughtered all the British nobility. Abban and Vortigern were the only Britons to escape. This is what Geoffrey of Monmouth says, a historical novelist of mind-shifting talents.
The Abbey was a popular pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages, as it held the relic of a nail, taken from the Cross. Today almost all that can be seen is a twentieth century replica of the ruins.
Abingdon does have a spectacular town-hall, built by Christopher Wren’s mason in 1680.
Next we stepped to Dorchester Abbey, which is a short walk along the Thames. This was the site of one of our strangest busks, an hour of singing in empty silent streets, for the practise and joy of it. Then suddenly 8 door s opened, and our hat was in a flash full of money. We warmed up by the local inn’s fire.
Dorchester has an amazing Abbey, with a beautiful Lych-gate built by an American family.
We found this inscription, the expression of which we liked an awful lot. The tiles alongside are Roman, nicely representing the patched-up nature of many churches in Oxfordshire. As well as being in the heartlands of the Civil Wars, local mobs have always been willing to tell the church when it had become too political or avaricious.