The Abbey was founded in 1087 by nobleman Robert FitzHamon, building of the present Abbey did not start until 1102. Built to house Benedictine monks, the Norman Abbey was near completion when consecrated in 1121. Embellishments to the long nave roof and the apsidal chancel were made in the first half of the 14th century in the Decorated style. After the dissolution in 1540 most of the claustral buildings and the Lady Chapel were quarried for their materials but the Abbey Church was sold to the parishioners for £453. Changes made since then to the internal configuration have developed to reflect contemporary styles of devotion, currently of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion.
Lying at the southern edge of the old town, the Abbey quietly dominates the land and skyline with its long nave and “probably the largest and finest Romanesque tower in England” (Pevsner). Vestiges of its social domination can be deduced from the layout of the streets and buildings, and the occasional relic; the Abbot’s gatehouse, the Abbey Mill, The vicarage and the Tudor-style dwellings in Church Street. The area surrounding the Abbey is protected from development by the Abbey Lawn Trust, originally funded by a United States benefactor.