Ælfric, known as Grammaticus or the Homilist, lived from c.950-1010 and became the first Abbot of Eynsham Abbey at the beginning of the 11th Century. He was well known for his linguistic efforts, with his homilies being widely circulated, and is credited with creating the ‘ideal fluent expression’ of the early English language. He produced what is believed to be the first ‘text book’ for learners and translated the Bible from Latin into Old English.
To honour his memory and the influence he had during his lifetime, the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Scheme has created a plaque in his honour, which can now be seen on the outside of the Bartholomew Room in Market Square. It was unveiled in a ceremony on Friday 1 July, attended by members of the community as well as local Councillors and Blue Plaque representatives.
Discussions on creating a plaque for Ælfric began in 2018, explained Professor Robert Evans, chair of the Blue Plaques board, during the event. Unfortunately, pandemic-induced complications – and then renovation work on the building – has resulted in the delay in installation.
Professor Evans also explained that Ælfric is one of the ‘oldest’ figures to be honoured with a Blue Plaque in the county. The location, at the Bartholomew Room, was deemed most appropriate as Eynsham Abbey was destroyed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (although remnants can still be found in the village for those with a keen eye – read more about the Abbey on Eynsham Online).
Other speakers – who shared some fascinating snippets of Ælfric’s life – were historian and archaeologist Professor John Blair FBA and Dr Eleanor Parker, Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at the University of Oxford. Their audience included fellow Oxford academics, alongside Cllr Susanna Pressel (Chair of Oxfordshire County Council), Cllr Julian Cooper (Chair of West Oxfordshire District Council) and Cllr David Turner (Chair of South Oxfordshire District Council).
A group of school children from Eynsham Community Primary School added a dash of historical enthusiasm by arriving dressed in Anglo-Saxon attire, while members of Eynsham Parish Council were joined by curious residents and passers-by. Refreshments were served in the Red Lion after the unveiling ceremony had taken place.
For more information on the life of Ælfric and the ceremony, as well as some great photos of the event, visit the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques webpage.