Community ID
Medieval Location
A quarter of a mile South East of Salisbury.
Modern Location
Corporate Status
S. Mary, Bartholomew, and after 984 to Edith.
Date Founded
830 (circa)
Date Terminated
Religious Order
Benedictine Rule
Foundation Information

The community was traditionally thought to be founded at the behest of Alburga by her brother King Egbert; a second foundation was by King Alfred after the Danish attack. The two communities joined. There is clear documentation of the presence of religious women only from 10th century onward.

Notable Heads

Alburga was the first Prioress of the community. Also Radegunda, daughter of the Earl of Wiltshire, was the first Abbess of the second community. Other Abbesses of the second community include S. Wulfthryth, Aelfgyth, mother of the nun and saint Edith; also Cecily Bodenham. Foot notes that saint Edith may not have been an abbess (See Veiled Women, vol. 2, 231). A latter abbess, Matilda, was a correspondent of Saint Anselm: [Letter to Matilda, abbess of Wilton].

Notable Members/Residents/Guests

S. Edith; Gunhild, daughter of King Harold, was a nun here ([Letter to Gunhilda, royal nun, 1093-4], [Letter to Gunhilda, royal nun, 1094]); Eadflaed and Aethelhild, daughters of Edward the Elder, and their mother, Aelfflaed, were buried at Wilton; Mary, daughter of King Edward I; Eve late anchoress, France DD 1181; Maud Wilmyndoun, anchoress in the winter Henry II. Queen Edith, widow of Edward the Confessor retired here after the Conquest, c. 1072, and later became the object of a kind of cult. She also retired for a time at Wherwell. Murial, a 12th-century poet was buried in community (see Muriel: the Earliest English Poetess). The cannoness were equal to or greater than prebends in the 12-13th century. Cannon of town was guardian 1347. The community had ten deacons posts, many chaplains and others at termination date.

Population Counts

When the convent was refounded in 871, the abbey was for 26 nuns. This number was greatly increased in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when there were more than 80 nuns. More than 44 in 1441; 23 plus in 1464; and 14 plus in 1485. Reportedly as many as 33 in 1539.

Dependent Communities

The hospital of S. Mary Md., Wilton, was under the patronage of the abbey. A quasi-college of secular canons was attached to the abbey, similar to Romsey, Winchester, Wherwell.

Other Ecclesiastical Relations

Foot notes that Goscelin's detailed knowledge of Wilton suggests that he spent some time at the nunnery, perhaps as chaplain (Veiled Women, vol. 2, 227).


There was a visitation in 1271 regarding election difficulties. There were additional visitations in 1284, 1302, 1379, 1390 regarding laxity, as well as one in 1347 about an old guardian and Abbess.


Royal benefactors included: Athelstan, Edred, Edgar, Ethelred, Cnut, William, Henry I, John, Henry III, Edward I, William Longspee, Earl of Salisbury in 1266, Nicholas di Bonham 1386 (need verification), Edith 1065 (before and needs verification), Maud 1130, Saint Edith, Beatrice Murdac 1255, Abbess Bokeland, and Aucher in the 14th century.

Secular Political Affiliations

The West Saxon royal house had a long term connection with Wilton.

Social Characteristics

Many members over the centuries had noble connections or were nobility.

Relative Wealth

Wilton's wealth surpassed Shaftesbury according to the Domesday book.


There was extensive land holding before and after 1086 (See Veiled Women, vol. 2, 222-230, for a summary of early gifts of land). The community had a chapter house, owned mills and houses, operated a fair, exercised jurisdiction and owned pasture rights with sheep. It was a quite wealthy community with approximately 246 pounds per year in income in 1086. More than 340 pounds per year in 1291.
5 knights: costly in 12-13th century.


They received rents which were paid in wool. They operated a shrine that received large donations. They also received donations for building and decorating. They had a chapter house and prebendary chaplains. In 1535 the community's net income was over 601 pounds.


Wilton paid for the Dean's obituary in a cathedral town after 1256. Thirteen poor Magdalens pray for founders.


There was litigation with Salisbury about a fair and with the Crown regarding prebends and a chapter house in the 14th century; also with the male monastery Hyde, over a pasture.

Early Documents

Early documents record a donation of land-holding by King Athelstan in 934 and again in 957.

Art & Artifacts

Two 13th century seals with the impression of a portrait of S. Edith and an illuminated psalter, school of Salisbury about 1250.

State Of Medieval Structure

Detached house, almonry (uncertain), 14th-century description church, 15th century rebuilt by benefactor (needs verification) Edith, dedication 1065.


According to Goscelin, S. Edith's relics rested in a golden tomb made by King Cnut.

Miscellaneous Information

Testament King Eadred dated 955: community Winchester & Romsey, Hampshire

According to Goscelin, Wilton was one of five communities (Southhampton, Shaftesbury, Horton, and Wareham (female) ) gifted to Wulfhild, abbess of Barking, by king Edgar after he failed to seduce her.

Admin. Notes

Unexplained notes from Notable Heads field: "???, third Abs/o/LA: [Cn=2C055] Cecily Bodenham, antique PRs [CN=5C008] Kington Saint Michael, 1534 (before)". from litigation field "Abs equal to tenant little i little compared to"
"Buried shrine S. Edith toward pilgrims, royal and other benefactors, larder accounts/much elect acta / wool equal to cash in the 16th century." (Previous line was in Contributor's notes but didn't make sense so moved it)

WRL Project
Date Started
Date Finished