SHE may be credited with being among the first founders of the religious site on which Romsey’s famous Abbey stands today.

But it was another of nun Ethelflaeda’s habits that got her noticed. As the boss of the town’s nunnery in the Dark Ages, Ethelflaeda liked nothing more than taking a night time stroll down to the nearby River Test.

There, she would strip naked, walk into the middle of the freezing water and proceed to recite religious chants for hours on end.

Now the life of St Ethelflaeda is to be celebrated as the first festival in her name is staged in the abbey. One of the highlights will be the world premiere of a musical drama based on the life of the nun. The musical is part of a range of activities during the three day Ethelflaeda Festival that begins next Friday. .

The first day will see England’s most prominent female cleric Canon Lucy Winkett from St Paul’s Cathedral give the first ever Ethelflaeda Lecture in the Abbey at 7.30pm, where she will talk about the influence women have had on the Church throughout history. On Saturday at 7.30pm the musical drama will be staged, including a piece entitled Weaving Wisdom’s Way by Winchester-based composer Dr June Boyce Tillman, MBE.

About 70 Romsey school children will also take part along with a soloist and small orchestra. During Sunday worshippers attending services will be able to hear a psalm written by the Abbey’s director of music Robert Fielding and the traditional procession to the chapel of St Ethelflaeda will be staged.

Romsey’s Vicar, Revd Tim Sledge said: “This abbey was founded on women who were held in high regard locally and nationally.

“It is good that that we have women of influence in the 21st century, keeping the tradition of the abbey alive.”


IN AD907 an order of nuns led by Elflaeda established a religious community on the site where Romsey Abbey now stands.

In AD960, King Edgar refounded the nunnery as a Benedictine house under the rule of St Ethelflaeda, who was the second abbess.

She was sanctified for such acts as the chanting of psalms late at night, while standing naked in the River Test.

Another legend of a miracle she performed tells of how one night when she was to read the Bible from the pulpit, all the lights in the abbey blew out, but Ethelflaeda’s fingers glowed like lights so that she could read.

Another story records how a bailiff placed his money in the coffers for safe keeping, but Ethelflaeda distributing it to the poor. When the bailiff returned and the money was gone, Ethelflaeda prayed to God and the coffers were miraculously filled again.