The University of Manchester - The University of Manchester Library
First Impressions


Lying on the north bank of the River Thames, the town of Westminster grew up around the Benedictine abbey of St Peter (Westminster Abbey) and the nearby Palace of Westminster. The abbot was lord of the manor and the town's population grew to a few thousand with the abbey being the main employer and consumer of goods. To encourage the growth of trade the abbey authorities built shops and houses to the west of the church. The town was therefore a place of learning, with the seat of the royal court and government close by and with a commercial centre. It seems likely that this prospective market for books printed in English with potential for ecclesiastical and royal patronage prompted William Caxton's move back to England from Flanders in about 1476, to set up his printing press close to the abbey.