Dorchester Abbey is one Oxfordshire’s great monastic buildings, with a history dating back to AD 635. The monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1536, but the church stayed intact thanks to the efforts of a local merchant, Sir Richard Bewfforeste, who purchased the church and donated it to the village as their parish church.
As you approach the Abbey via the lychgate on High Street, you will spot a 14th-century former Guest House on your immediate left. The Guest House is home to a small but well-regarded local museum; a thriving gift shop; and a tearoom that is run by local volunteers.
The Abbey Church is vast and expansive, but its historical treasures are quick to spot. The Great East Window, restored in memory of Sir Winston Churchill; a vivid set of 14th-century wall paintings, originally designed as a ‘teaching aid’; and one of the best-preserved lead fonts in England are among the historic highlights. Several effigies, notably a cross-legged knight in armour from the 13th century, are also worth seeing.
There are free I Spy sheets to encourage children to find the Abbey treasures and answer the questions. There is also a children’s corner filled with toys, books, and colouring sheets to help keep them entertained.
The church is open all year round, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and dusk in the winter. The entrance is free; however, you can leave a donation. The museum and tearoom are open most afternoons from April to September.