June 22, 2021

Richard Ovenden: The fall of Glastonbury Abbey (1539)

The 1530s were a decade of huge administrative and religious reform in England. While the policies were driven by Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s chief minister, from Whitehall in London, the effects were felt in many parts of the country.

The most visible and ruthless of Cromwell’s changes came in his dissolution of many centuries-old monasteries. These were more than religious houses. They were places of community and repositories of culture. Their loss was traumatic and much of what was destroyed could never be recovered.

In this episode we journey back to 1539 and the site of one such story. Our guest, the historian, academic and librarian, Richard Ovenden, takes us back to witness the fall of Glastonbury Abbey.

Richard Ovenden is the 25th Bodley’s Librarian (since the post was set up in 1600) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. His book, Burning the Books, A History of Knowledge Under Attack, is out now and was recently shortlisted for prestigious the Wolfson History Prize.

As ever, much, much more about this episode is to be found at our website tttpodcast.com.

Show notes

Scene One: Summer, 1539. The last of the halcyon days at Glastonbury Abbey.

Scene Two: Early Autumn, 1539. The visit of the Commissioners and the trial of Abbot Whiting.

Scene Three: Late Autumn, 1539. The formal dissolution of the Abbey and the beginning of the dispersal of the library.

Memento: St Dunstan’s Classbook


Presenter: Violet Moller

Guest: Richard Ovenden

Production: Maria Nolan

Podcast partner: Colorgraph

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