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Day Out

You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Day Out > Day Out: Malmesbury

'Day Out: Malmesbury' opening titles

'Day Out: Malmesbury' opening titles

Day Out: Malmesbury

Watch a BBC West programme made in 1977 of a day spent exploring the Wiltshire market town of Malmesbury and its history.

'Day Out' was a BBC West region television programme which ran for a number of series between 1977-1988.

Each half-hour episode saw one of the presenters - Derek Jones, Gwyn Richards or Barry Paine pay a visit to a different town in the South West - explore parts of interest, and reflect upon the area's history.

In terms of historical research, each programme is as valid today as when it was made. And it's fascinating to see how the many Wiltshire locations they visited then looked in the mid 70s to early 80s.

Broadcast on 4th October 1977 was an edition of the programme which centred on the hilltop market town of Malmesbury near Swindon, which dates as far back as the Iron Age.

Derek Jones on Kings Heath

Presenter Derek Jones on Kings Heath

Presenter Derek Jones begins his day out wandering the dirt track on Kings Heath, the common land. He explains that King Athelstan - who was crowned in 924AD - endowed Malmesbury and its people the tract of land as a reward for their loyalty in battle.

The landowners became 'Commoners', and bequeathed their heritage to subsequent generations.

Wandering into the town, Jones visits the old Courthouse and speaks to someone who was once a contemporary Commoner, Wally Weeks. He is now one of 12 Burgesses in Malmesbury, an elected official.

Later in the programme, Jones visits the town Market Cross which he describes as "one of the finest in the country".

The ruins of Malmesbury Abbey

The ruins of Malmesbury Abbey

After passing through the arch which is sandwiched between two 18 century lock-ups - designed to temporarily cage drunken miscreants, Jones finally enters the churchyard of the ruined Malmesbury Abbey.

As Jones notes, only a 'small fragment' of the Abbey remains and it's worth remembering the estate once spread over 45 acres.

King Athelstan's body was brought to Malmesbury to be buried, and Jones visits the tomb in the north transcept of the abbey which stands as a memorial to the king forever associated with the town.

Set to aerial views of Malmesbury from the top of the Abbey, Jones's narration explains how the building deteriorated over the centuries and several of its towers toppled to the ground.

A view of Malmesbury High Street

A view of Malmesbury High Street

After leaving the Abbey, Jones explores the ramparts of the old town area of Malmesbury and visits the area where the Postern Gate once stood. This was a curfew gate and in medieval times was the only way in and out of the town.

Malmesbury was once at the centre of the lace-making industry and Jones meets one of the few people left in the town who still practices the art, local historian John Bowen. He is shown demonstrating his skills in the Athelstan Museum in the town.

Jones then walks around St Aldhelm's Mead with Bowen who explains that the area is thus named as it was the location for an annual fair held in honour of St Aldhelm, the Bishop of Sherborne who became the Abbot of Malmesbury.

Cross Hayes market square in 1977

Cross Hayes market square in 1977

Jones ends his day out in Malmesbury at the Cross Hayes market square and explains that in the reign of Queen Victoria, the spacious square was used as a place of celebration for the Queen's two Jubilees.

And as the programme was filmed in the spring of 1977, he notes that shortly the square will once again be used for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee.

'Day Out: Malmesbury' is a fascinating programme which delves deep into the history of one of Wiltshire's most well-known towns. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in Malmesbury's rich historical heritage or who has ever lived in, or visited the area.

last updated: 21/08/2008 at 15:29
created: 21/08/2008

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Ian Smith
How enjoyable it is to see the 'Day Out ' programmes again.I did not realise that it was so long ago that thy were made.How refreshing it would be for the path to be retraced in high definition with the maturity that Derek Jones and Gwynn Richards so gently presented.

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