CELEBRATIONS marking the 1100th anniversary of the accession of King Athelstan – the first King of England - have kicked off in Malmesbury.

The first event was held on Friday, June 28 at Malmesbury Abbey with a performance of Oh! Athelstan by St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School choir.

Meanwhile, the Museum Athelstan exhibition officially opened on Saturday, June 29 - which includes items of national importance such as the Abingdon Sword and Athelstan’s Charter.

Mayor Phil Exton also unveiled a special Athelstan stone plaque in the Cloister Gardens located at the rear of the abbey on Saturday.

Later on in the evening, local historian Tony McAleavy spoke about King Athelstan's relationship with Malmesbury, including why he chose to be buried at Malmesbury Abbey.

In addition, the Athelstan Pilgrim Way was officially opened by author and podcaster Tom Holland on Sunday, June 30.

The new walking and cycling route - which is 100 miles - links 36 churches across North Wiltshire.

Various organisations - such as Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury Town Council and Malmesbury Town Team - have planned a jam-packed programme full of events.

It was in 924 AD that Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, became king of Mercia and Wessex, the first steps on his journey to becoming the first King of England.

His relationship with Malmesbury is written deep in the DNA of the town and he chose to be buried at Malmesbury Abbey.

Also in attendance were town councillors and other dignitaries from Wiltshire including the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames  Liz Green, and its Council Leader Andreas Kirsch.

There were also representatives from Tamworth. Both towns feature in Athelstan’s life, as he was brought up in Tamworth and was crowned in 925 in Kingston.

Chair of Malmesbury Town Team Campbell Ritchie, who leads the Athelstan 1100 group, said: “This was the first of four weekends of events.

"It was a wonderful start to our celebrations, and we were very honoured to have representatives from Kingston and Tamworth joining us.

"The commemorative stone is a wonderful addition to the Cloister Gardens, and a lasting tribute to this very special anniversary.”

All photos by Richard Harris. 

For all events see here - tinyurl.com/2vk5vkw9

Children from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School performing Oh! Athelstan (Image: Richard Harris)

(Image: Richard Harris)

The opening of the special exhibition at Museum Athelstan  (Image: Richard Harris)

The Athelstan stone plaque being unveiled by Malmesbury mayor Phil Exton (Image: Richard Harris)

(Image: Richard Harris)

(Image: Richard Harris)