Scholar and teacher, first Abbot of Eynsham

Bartholomew Room, The Square, Eynsham

Ælfric: stained-glass in St Leonard’s
Church, Eynsham. Photo: Eleanor Parker

Ælfric was born, probably in Wessex, c.950. He was educated in the monastic school at Winchester and from c.987 served as a monk and teacher at Cerne Abbas in Dorset. It was here that he produced his prolific writings until he transferred to the newly founded Benedictine abbey at Eynsham as its first abbot in 1005. It is thought that he died in 1010 as he is not known to have written any works after that date. He was most probably buried in the abbey. Eynsham Abbey continued to flourish until 1538 at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. There are archaeological remains of the abbey in the village.

Ælfric, known as Grammaticus or the Homilist, zealously taught and preached in the vernacular language, seeking to elucidate the bible and church doctrine for the laity as well as for his fellow monks. His homilies were written down, copied and circulated. He was a conscious stylist, evolving an elegant and balanced prose with simpler vocabulary and structures. He is considered to have perfected the ideal fluent expression of the language and is celebrated as the most prolific and formative writer of Old English prose. His main works are the Sermones Catholici, two series, each of forty homilies, on the chief events of the Christian year, church doctrine, and history, and the Lives of the Saints. He also translated, or rather paraphrased, parts of the Latin Old Testament, concerned with conveying meaning rather than strict but obscure adherence to each word. He was an innovative teacher of Latin to his students. His Grammar was the first vernacular Latin grammar. His Glossary is unusual in that the words are not in alphabetical order, but grouped by topics. Finally, his Colloquy was intended to help students learn how to speak Latin through set-piece dialogues with various persons such as a fisherman, shepherd, merchant, an early example of ‘direct method’ language teaching. When he became Abbot of Eynsham his Letter to the Monks of Eynsham (extant) set forth his interpretation of the Rule of St Benedict.

The Bartholomew Room (built c.1700 originally as a school) in the village square was chosen as the best public place for the plaque:

Aelfric plaque about to be unveiled


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Malcolm Godden
  • Eynsham Abbey by Eric Gordon (Phillimore, 1990)
  • Eynsham community website

The ceremony was held on 1 July 2022. The speakers were Professor John Blair FBA, historian and archaeologist, and Dr Eleanor Parker, Lecturer in Medieval English Literature. Among those attending were Cllr Susanna Pressel, Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council, Cllr Julian Cooper, Chairman of West Oxfordshire DC, Cllr David Turner, Chairman of South Oxfordshire DC, local councillors and residents, Oxford academics, and children from Eynsham Primary School.

Photographs taken at the ceremony:

Speeches and reports


Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Scholar and teacher

The most prolific and formative
writer of Old English

First Abbot of Eynsham
from 1005

Eynsham Parish Council

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com