musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: dissolution

Evesham Abbey

Sadly, Evesham Abbey is really a small collection of foundations, walls, artefacts and a tower left over following the carnage of the dissolution of the monasteries and the reformation. and, unlike the ruins of Netley Abbey, there is less to see at the place where the Abbey used to stand.  The biggest surprise though is that there are two parish churches (St Lawrence and All Saint’s Church) in close proximity to the space that was occupied by the Abbey, and they have both survived. 

The one information board has a layout off what the area may have looked like.

Make no mistake, it is a very pretty area today with lush green lawns and gardens, but given where the building stood it would have been spectacular to see from the River Avon that would have flowed past it.  The Evesham Abbey Trust  is really the proper place to find out more about the archaeology and history and to promote an understanding, appreciation and engagement with the heritage and history of the site where the Abbey stood.

The bell/clock tower was spared the destruction of the Abbey, probably because it was not a physical part of the original building, although today it looks almost lonely without it’s context, but we are fortunate that it survived because it is very beautiful. The tower was built between 1529 and 1539 by Clement Lichfield, the last Abbott of Evesham. It is 33 metres high and was restored in 1951 with the original peal of 10 bells recast and increased to 12.  The tomb in the front is that of the remains of Simon De Montfort, Duke of Leicester, who was killed in the Battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265

The gateway led out into what was then the Monk’s Graveyard, and that now lies under Abbey Park. During the 19th century excavations unearthed some of the graves of the monks. They were wrapped in a shroud and placed on a wooden board with a simple wooden marker. Higher up in the hierarchy would entitled you to be buried within the Abbey along with your marks of office (rings, keys, chalices, lead seal, etc.). Some of these were recovered from the grave of Henry of Worcester who was the Abbot of Evesham and who died in 1263.

The cloister arch would have been between the cloisters and the chapter house. 

This is the area behind the archway, it is a real jungle or grassland.

Some of the boundary walls still exist, 

and of course the Almonry found a new purpose.

The remains on a Norman gateway to the Abbey is still to be seen today, and it dates to roughly 1130. 

What the the Abbey looked like is really educated guesswork, although foundations do exist and they give a rough outline of the shape of the building, but from the foundations upwards it is an educated guess. Was there a spire? if there was there is no trace of it. However is is reported that it reached 310 feet into the sky (Salisbury Cathedral Spire is 404 ft), the Chapter House was 50 feet in diameter and 10 sided, while the Abbey was the 3rd largest in England. 

The sad reality though is portrayed on one of the information boards at the site.

On the 30th of January 1540 the soldiers came and the monks were ordered to leave. The Abbey buildings were given to Sir Philip Hoby, who reused the stone. It was acquired by the Rudge family in 1664 and has been in the family ever since.

And to me that sums up the Abbey, and what the people of Evesham saw once the deed had been done. I can only speculate on how the monks and clergy felt when they watched the building being destroyed.  And I can just imagine the smug looks of the accountants of the day as they catalogued the assets that were seized. All that loot into the coffers of the state and a community robbed of an item of beauty. Some of the stonework was reused in the building of the city hall, and you can bet there are other properties in the town with stonework too. 

A local artist, Ian Gibson has done some paintings showing what the Abbey may have looked like, these can be viewed at on the relevant page of The Evesham Abbey Trust

That sums up Evesham Abbey, it may be gone but it really lives on in local history and in the physical remnants left behind. Tewkesbury was fortunate that they were spared this destruction and the Abbey still exists as an integral part of the town. Evesham was not so lucky.

DRW © 2018. Completed 01/07/2018. Some images from the information boards may be copyright. 

Updated: 15/07/2018 — 17:39

Cemetery in the snow 2017

In 2015 while I was in Basingstoke we had an overnight snowfall and I headed off to my local graveyard for some photography. That was quite a large cemetery and I spent a lot of time in it. Tewkesbury Cemetery is on the opposite end of town from where I live so any excursion to it in snowy weather on foot was not really a clever idea. However, apart from the churchyard of the abbey the closest cemetery was technically the old Baptist Chapel, which is literally over the road from the abbey. Unfortunately I can never remember where it is so had to backtrack a bit to find it. In fact, this post is going to backtrack all the way back to 2015 when I first arrived in Tewkesbury, because I have never done a post about the chapel before. This post covers the chapel and it’s associated burial ground and I am using a mix of images from my other visits as well as my Dec 2017 visit.

Situated at the end of one of the many alleyways in the town, it is one of those places you could miss unless you were actually looking for it.

The alley leads into The Old Baptist Chapel Court and the chapel is situated to the right in the image, while the burial ground is just past the building. A sign above the entrance to the court gives a brief history of what is within this small space.

I was fortunate enough to get a “tour” on my one visit so at least I know what it is like on the inside. The history of the chapel is quite interesting too.  

The old Baptist Chapel started out in the mid 15th century as a Medieval hall house and it is thought that by the mid 1700’s it was the meeting place for the Baptists, who were another of the many non-conformist groups who held clandestine meetings of their faith. In the 18th century it was transformed into a simply decorated chapel with a pulpit, baptistery and pastor’s room.

The trapdoor on the right is the Baptistery, and water was presumably  led or carried from the river at the bottom of the court. Prior to 1689, Baptists were persecuted by the authorities leading them to perform baptisms in secret at the nearby Mill Avon. The Baptistery was installed once the persecution ceased. 

However, the property is much higher than the river, so I do not know how they got water to it. Although who knows what it was like 2 or even 3 centuries ago.  

Most of the images were taken from the mezzanine level around the chapel and I seem to recall that there was a bricked up window that has a long story behind it. Unfortunately I no longer remember what it was  (stare too long at the window and you loose your memory perhaps?). 

In 1805 a new chapel was built and the old chapel was subdivided into two cottages with the remains of the chapel in the middle. The chapel may be amongst the earliest Baptist chapels in existence in the UK, and it was restored in the 1970’s to look as it did around 1720. It is almost impossible to get an exterior view of the building due to the narrowness of the alley at that point.  

This is really the best that you can do. The chapel is the timber framed building.  

The burial ground.

Layout by Tewkesbury Heritage (1024×252)

The earliest identified memorial in the burial ground is that of Mary Cowell and is dated 1689, with the newest dating from 1911. 

That is the extent of the burial ground, it is not a large area at all, and is hemmed in by houses on either side and the river beyond the trees. 

The Shakespeare Connection.

One of the more  interesting burials in it is that of Joan Shakespeare, who was William Shakespeare’s younger sister. She married into the Hart family, and one of the Hart descendants moved to Tewkesbury. John Hart was a chairmaker, and so was his son, and there are two Shakespeare Hart burials in this tiny plot.

Thomas Shakespeare

Will Shakespeare Hart

Somewhere amongst my photographs is a sign that pointed to a boat builder called Shakespeare in Tewkesbury but naturally I cannot find it at this point in time.

Curiously there is a grave in Cheltenham’s Prestbury cemetery with a Shakespeare connection too:

A list of the interments in the burial ground may be found at the Gravestone Photographic Resource,  (and I believe there are records in the chapel too). According to that list the oldest identifiable headstone dates from 1777 and they identify 11 graves with 23 individuals. I doubt whether that list is complete.

Generally speaking many of the headstones are in a remarkable condition, and there are some very fine examples with intricate carving on them.​

 

If you stood at the river end of the court and looked towards  the chapel you can get a much better idea of the crowded area. The entrance would be on the top right of the image.

It is amazing to see how different the same space looks when it is blanketed by snow.  

And having revisited the burial ground it was time to head off home. It had been an interesting visit, and at some point I must compare the images that I have with what is on that list. And of course find that sign from the boat builder. I will return here again one day to have a look at those registers because I would like to document the individual graves. My existing images are from 3 different dates and they really show how a relatively undisturbed plot of ground does change with the seasons, although Winter left its mark on this chilly day and of course there was however one occupant that I did not see on this visit, but I expect he is curled up somewhere warm.

 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 10/12/2017. Some text originated from a Tewkesbury Heritage information board at the burial ground. Updated with new image 10/06/2018

Updated: 11/06/2018 — 05:37

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury does not have a lot going for it, however, there is one thing that stands out and that is Tewkesbury Abbey.  
 
It dominates the skyline and like so many other cathedrals and abbeys is really worth seeing. I have been fortunate that I have seen other similar buildings in Salisbury, Lichfield and, Bath, and each has been different, but each has common aspects that make them similar.
 
 
And of course, the size of the buildings really makes them difficult to photograph in their entirety because you can never really get the angles and distances right. Salisbury was probably the exception to this rule because the Cathedral Close is a large space. Tewkesbury does not have that luxury.
  
Unless you go outside the grounds into what is known as Priory Park.

I will not expound on the history of the building, there are others much more qualified than I am, suffice to say that the abbey has it’s own website
  
I did a quick walk around of the building, and it still has a large graveyard, although parts of it seem to have been ploughed under, but I did get to see my first carved stone coffin in a long time and there were more than one!
  
Entering the cool dimness of the building is like entering another world. These churches seem to overwhelm with their presence and Tewkesbury is no different. I think part of the magic is that they are really buildings that make you feel small, by their nature they are big, and their interiors can overwhelm you with the sense of age and that strange feeling of being somewhere special. I suspect they overwhelmed their congregation too, making them feel humble in this most sacred place.

 
In the image above, the font and war memorial are on the right, and the war memorial is especially beautiful. Although I do not know how many people are actually aware of it. 
 
Moving forward towards the crossing, the pulpit is on the right and lectern on the left. Both face the congregation.

 

At the crossing is the Quire (or Choir) and the screen, as well as the north and south Transepts. The Tower sits above the crossing.

The area just past the screen is beautiful, with a stunning floor and beautiful ceiling, photographs do not do this area justice. If you had to cross the screen and pass the Quire the and look towards the congregation the view would be something like this.

Set inside the tiles of the floor in front of the altar are a number of brass plaques. The town has gone down in history as being where one of the decisive battles fought during the War of the Roses was fought, and eighteen year old Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster, was killed either in the battle or during its aftermath and is buried in the Abbey.

The Abbey as it exists today is a mere shade of its former self as can be seen from the plan below. Which leads me to wonder what it must have looked like before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The altar area is beautiful, and may just be the most impressive I have seen in a church so far, although that is not saying too much because I have not seen them all yet.

and the altar  is surrounded by really magnificent stained glass windows.
It is a beautiful space, and no amount of photographs will do it justice.

And, as is usual there are a large number of floor memorials and effigies in the aisles and around the abbey, and the crypt houses the remains of George, Duke of Clarence (brother of Edward IV and Richard III), and his wife Isabelle (daughter of “Warwick, the Kingmaker”). These are housed behind a glass window in a wall of their inaccessible burial vault behind the high altar.

 
This is the Robeson Cenotaph. Archdeacon Robeson was vicar from 1877-92 during the great Victorian restoration of the abbey. He is in fact, buried in Bristol Cathedral.
 
There are a number of small chapels with in the abbey, and each is unique, these are just two of them. The chapel on the left is St Catherine’s and the one of the right is the Lady Chapel
 
There are three organs in the abbey, and the biggest is probably the Milton Organ dating from the 17th Century.
 
There is a lot that is beautiful in the abbey, it is a breathtaking building and worthy of multiple visits, I cannot however explain it all, or even begin to understand it or the significance of what I saw. It really has to be viewed in the context of the congregation who called this their parish church. The abbey is the second largest parish church in the country, and you I expect they may be very protective of their spiritual home. They have every right to be.

Random Images
It was time for me to move on and continue my explorations elsewhere. I will probably be back one day, it is that sort of place. You do find something new to see each time you go there, and I know of at least three things that I have missed, and that is a good enough reason to return.

Climbing the Tower


I had the opportunity to go up to the spire on the 11th of July, and it was one of those experiences that always leaves one impressed (and somewhat breathless).

The spiral staircase leading upwards has been retreaded so it does not bear the worn treads of generations of tower climbers. Our first stop was on a level that goes across the top of the inner roof and into the bell ringing chamber.

 

The bell ringing chamber is a beautiful space, it left me breathless,  It is hard to believe that this space was completed like this, you would think that it would have been just a plain room, but it is nothing like that at all.

 
and then we climbed more stairs and came out on the roof.

 

The view of Tewkesbury is interesting because the town would still be recognisable to somebody who climbed this spire 2 centuries ago. Time does not pass quickly in this town, and many of the buildings are almost as old as the Abbey is.
 
The view is spectacular, and it was a really enjoyable exploration that happened purely by accident.
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 01/05/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 16:37
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