A broad aspect and a charitable legacy
St Helen’s Church spire is a familiar sight from the river and beneath it is an interesting church of unusual shape, the result of the successive generations of townsfolk keen to give their church some status by adding another nave and then another until the floorplan became as wide as it is long. The panorama of stained glass windows is lovely but of less importance than the very rare ceiling paintings. In 1327 this was the rallying point when town traders, aided by Oxford students, staged a riot which saw the monastery burned and blood spilled in the Abbey itself. You can find out more about St Helen’s Church and the churchyard here.
The energy of the townsfolk was just as often directed towards positive actions to keep their town thriving and the less fortunate cared for. The St Helen’s Almshouses are located in the churchyard and are remarkably still lived in today, managed by a 500 year old society, Christ’s Hospital of Abingdon, which continues to run the buildings for their original charitable purpose. The wooden carving and wall paintings on the building known as Long Alley are original.
On East St Helen Street there are gardens open for quiet reflection at St Ethelwold House. Interpretation panels in the heritage area tell more of the town’s fascinating past.