Historic Milton Abbey announces Athelstan’s Dream – A Saxon Tale

Historic Milton Abbey announces Athelstan’s Dream – A Saxon Tale 150 150 Milton Abbey Church and Landscape

Milton Abbey invites you to its free Summer Exhibition, Athelstan’s Dream – A Saxon Tale.

A feature exhibition at Milton Abbey Historic Church Summer 2018, in the Abbey and St. Catherine’s Chapel From 4th July to 31st August.

Milton Abbey open daily 10am until 5pm.


Historic Milton Abbey set in a glorious Capability Brown landscape and surrounded by the countryside of North Dorset is staging a free Summer Exhibition from 4 July to 31 August that focuses on the Anglo-Saxons and the fulfilment of one man’s dream: a united kingdom of Britain. www.miltonabbey.org

In a story that resonates today, King Athelstan dreamed and then achieved the unification of mainland Britain. The Summer Exhibition traces Athelstan’s dream and the journey of this unification, showing how much of the Abbey’s heritage reveals the answer to many questions surrounding the mysteries relating to King Athelstan, the grandson of King Alfred the Great.

The location has a number of beautiful walks and it is easy to imagine the truth of one tradition which tells how Athelstan camped with his followers on the hill to the east of the Abbey and while sleeping there had a dream that he would prevail in a forthcoming battle against the Vikings and their allies who were seeking to conquer Mercia and Wessex. It is said that Athelstan on his return from the battle remembered his dream and founded a minster here in thanks for his victory.

With the study of the Anglo-Saxons firmly set in the school curriculum for pupils aged between seven years and 11 years (KS2) the exhibition will cover a whole range of topics including: Discovering the Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon Life, The Age of Heroes, Weapons of War, The Warrior King, Landscape and Farming, Language, House and home, Food and drink, Clothing, Art & jewellery, Transport, Trade, The Status of Women, Marriage, Children, Health & Hygiene, The influence of Anglo-Saxons on Literature today, King Athelstan’s Dream, The gift of a Minster and The Abbey today.

The Summer Exhibition is a “must see” for anyone with an interest in the Anglo-Saxons. The last few years have seen a surge in enthusiasm for literature inspired by the Anglo-Saxon period such as J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon studies at Pembroke College, Oxford.

George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series was influenced by Tolkien and the Andals who later invaded and conquered Westeros are loosely parallel to the Anglo-Saxon invasions of Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries. The legends of fictional heroes like King Arthur and Merlin took their inspiration from Anglo-Saxon history. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is an epic story also referencing some aspects of Anglo-Saxon literature.

Bernard Cornwell was inspired to write The Last Kingdom by the real events of Alfred and Athelstan’s reigns as well as by the works of Tolkien and George Martin. The books by Bernard Cornwall resulted in the popular BBC series featuring Uhtred, a fictional character but with all the ingredients of an Anglo-Saxon hero.

On 23 June the Summer Exhibition opens at St Catherine’s Chapel, on land thought to be the location of Athelstan’s army camp 1080 years ago before the warriors moved on to fight the battle of Brunanburh. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles this battle decided the fate of Britain and Athelstan won a great victory against the combined forces of the former tribes of the Britons and the Scandinavian settlers of Britain and Ireland.

Three years previously a Minster had been founded by Athelstan at Milton in AD 934. Thirty years later, in 964 King Edgar, impressed by the revival of monasticism in England, established a community of Benedictine monks at Milton under Abbot Cyneward. This monastic community continued its work of prayer and service for 575 years, until its dissolution in 1539

Athelstan worked hard to bring everyone to Christ. He appointed bishops, gave grants to monasteries and breathed new life into the church after its depredations under the Vikings. He tried to give all his people safety, shelter and a Christian outlook – his charters stipulate that no one should starve, and that charity was a key responsibility of the church. He also set about reforming the administration of justice, control of the coinage, and the development of burhs.

Athelstan died in died in Gloucester in 939AD at the age of 47. He is buried at Malmesbury which is also home to the Athelstan Museum.

Photo and Image Captions:

  1. Historic Milton Abbey set in a Capability Brown landscape
  2. Athelstan is shown giving the minster to the people after his dream of victory was realised
  3. Depiction of how the minster would have looked

For more information on this and other events taking place at Milton Abbey, please visit: https://timecounts.org/miltonabbey or telephone: 01258 881235

For further press information and hi res images, contact Jane Adkins, A Head for PR, T/: 01935 813114 or E/: jane@aheadforpr.co.uk

May 2018 (MA 02)