Historic abbey celebrates 900th year

It is one of Britain's most impressive parish churches - and today marks the beginning of its 900th anniversary year.

It is one of Britain's most impressive parish churches - and today marks the beginning of its 900th anniversary year.

Wymondham Abbey was founded as a priory in 1107 by William D'Albini, butler to Henry I, becoming an abbey in 1448 before falling foul of Henry VIII during his dissolution of the monasteries 90 years later.

Since the mid-16th century it has served as the town's parish church but segments of the ruined great abbey can still be seen on the site.

Now the townsfolk are hoping to celebrate that glorious past with a special birthday present to take pride of place in Wymondham's market place.

A three-dimensional bronze landscape map of Wymondham, circa 1500, will be installed - showing people how the abbey used to dominate the whole of the town.

Matthew Wood, chairman of the Town Vision partnership, said the 2ft 6in square bronze was based on similar models showing the Cambridge colleges and York Minster in their respective cities.

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He said that, if funding is finalised quickly, the model will be on display for the summer season when the real anniversary celebrations are set to begin. "It will be a bronze relief of the town just before the abbey started to be dissolved," he added. "The idea is to show the importance of the abbey to the town, which drove development of the whole area for its first 400 years.

The bronze will cost about £26,000 and "fingers are crossed" that the team will hear on January 8 that the East of England Development Agency will fund the project with a special quality of place award.

The abbey itself has launched a Celebrate 900 season of events, which starts on April 21 with the cutting of a cake and the first performance of a specially-commissioned piece, Anthem for Wymondham, by Anthony Joule.