Milton Abbey occupies a beautiful setting, resting in a natural amphitheatre surrounded by landscaped parkland (designed by Capability Brown) and wooded hills. The first church was established here in 933 by King Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great, to commemorate his brother lost at sea. In 964 it became the centre of a small Benedictine monastry, which grew in importance during the Norman period.
There was a catastrophic fire in 1309, caused by a lightening strike on the spire. Although the building of a replacement church was soon started, it took a long time and only reached its present size under Abbot William Middleton, who was elected in 1482. The delay was caused by a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that the Abbey had become exceedingly lax with the brethren failing to adhere to the monastic rules to the extent that they were even keeping women!
The church has an unusual uncompleted appearance because the nave was never rebuilt after the fire, and therefore comprises just the 14th century choir, plus tower and transepts. Monastic building continued until terminated by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539.
During the rebuilding work, a town called Middleton gradually developed and prospered alongside the Abbey. This is the 'town' that was famously relocated by Joseph Damer and became Milton Abbas.
Joseph Damer also demolished the monastic buildings to make way for his house, which is now Milton Abbey public school.