Sherborne Abbey information
Lonely Planet review
At the height of its influence, the magnificent Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin was the central cathedral of the 26 Saxon bishops of Wessex. Established early in the 8th century, it became a Benedictine abbey in 998 and functioned as a cathedral until 1075. The church has mesmerising fan vaulting that's the oldest in the country; a central tower supported by Saxon-Norman piers; and an 1180 Norman porch. Its tombs include the elaborate marble effigy belonging to John Lord Digby, Earl of Bristol, and those of the elder brothers of Alfred the Great, Ethelred and Ethelbert.
On the edge of the abbey lie the beautiful 15th-century St John's Almshouses ; look out, too, for the six-sided conduit now at the foot of Cheap St. This arched structure used to be the monks' lavatorium (wash house), but was moved to provide the townsfolk with water when the abbey was disbanded.