Tag: Evesham Abbey

Edging back to Evesham

While waiting for my new temp job to start I decided to do a morning trip back to Evesham to have a look at the Almonry Museum which had so far been closed each time I visited the Town. 

I caught the bus just after 8.30 in Tewkesbury which left me about 30 minutes to kill in Evesham before the museum opened and I planned to pay a visit to Bengeworth Cemetery which is not too far from the museum. It opened in 1857 and there are 6 CWGC graves in it, 3 from WW1 and 3 from WW2. The weather was nice and sunny but you can feel the slight bite of winter in the air already, best get it done now while I could. 

Crossing the Avon at the Workman Bridge I headed east along Port Street which then becomes Broadway Road after the roundabout. Before the roundabout was the Parish Church of St Peter which was really a typical church found in any number of towns in the UK. The churchyard is now a garden and unfortunately the church was closed. It was quite a difficult church to photograph though because of the big tree in the way.

And not too far away was the cemetery  (52.089526°,  -1.934438°), fronted by a small building which may have doubled as a chapel, office or store. 

There was an interesting relic in the building which may have been used in the moving of coffins.

The cemetery is not a large one, and was not really a cemetery to die over, but somewhere in there were the graves I was after. 

Of course the standard CWGC headstone is easy to spot, but three of the graves were private headstones so they needed a bit more legwork, however, all were found and after a few contextual shots I headed back the way I came. 

Evesham is an old town and you can see it in the street leading up to the bridge. Lots of small shops with flats above them, no longer prime real estate and in a busy street that has limited parking.

I do like the town though, it has all the amenities and a good public transport system, but I have not explored it all yet.

Finally the museum.

This 14th Century building was once home to the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey that was founded at Evesham in the 8th Century. An almoner is a chaplain or church officer who originally was in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. Following the closure of the Abbey by Henry VIII, the Almonry became the personal home of the last Abbot, Philip Ballard, whilst the rest of the Abbey buildings were sold to Sir Philip Hoby who arranged for the quarrying of the stone.

The Almonry has had a varied career: ale house, offices, tea rooms, private home, until it was finally purchased by Evesham Borough Council in 1929, opening as a heritage centre in 1957. Today, the Almonry is still owned and funded by Evesham Town Council (http://www.almonryevesham.org/about-us/)

Inside it was a veritable treasure house of goodies laid out in the small pokey rooms with their creaking floorboards and low doorways. Its the sort of place that gives you a glimpse into a totally different way of life, but without the usual glitz and gadgetry of a modern museum.

The main display I was after was model of the former Abbey, I had seen pics of it and really wanted to see it up close and personal. I was not disappointed.

It is interesting to see how the two parish churches and existing bell tower fit into the abbey complex, and in the bottom left you can see the Almonry building that I was about to explore. I will add more images of the model to my post about the Abbey.

As you can see it is an eclectic mix of items, some themed to a particular trade or occupation. The metal object with all the holes in the right hand corner is a prisoners bed from Evesham Jail. I believe the jail was housed at the almonry at one point, and there was a bigger jail in town. 

Outside the garden is on display with an interesting collection of odds and ends that originate from all ages. A close look at the buildings reveals that there are very few straight edges and parts of it lean at an odd angle; but then I would lean at an odd angle if I was that old too.

It is a very pretty spot, but somehow I got the feeling that it could be a very creepy spot too. Back inside I went into the World War 1 display which also had a section on the Battle of Evesham, and of course the effect of the war on the town and its people.

The display case above has a information about the two Victoria Cross holders with ties to the town:- Guardsman William Edgar Holmes VC. and Private William Jones VC. 

There was also a mock up class room, complete with apples on desks (the fruit, not the gadget). 

The wooden boxlike gadget in the upper right hand corner is a “Pedoscope“, also known as a shoe-fitting fluoroscope. 

These have long been legislated out of use, but back in their day they were considered high tech devices. 

A last glimpse into somebodies window… and I was finished for the day.

The museum is a gem, there is a lot to see and digest, and the World War 1 display had a lot of personal items relating to one of the casualties and to the Abbey Manor Auxilliary Hospital from 1914-1918. I need to process those and decide how I want to present what I saw.

I am glad I made the trip to see the museum, and would return there readily. I do recommend it as a place to experience, even if it is just to see what a 14th century building looks like.  I spent an hour looking around town, popping into the Magpie Jewellers to look around again. It too is a wonderous place to behold.

On my way home we passed through those little villages again and I am still going to do a day to each of them when I can. Logistically it will be difficult because of the bus times, but I think it can be done. I have spotted three war memorials from the bus, although photographing them has been almost impossible. I am going to visit these villages soon, so have started on a blogpost to deal with what I see. I have done the navigation, but have not been able to get it done due to other commitments. But, that’s for another day, for now the Almonry Museum is in the bag!

forwardbut

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 13/09/2019


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. 

In the Almonry Museum they have a model of what the complex may have looked like:

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 – 2019. Completed 01/07/2018. Some images from the information boards may be copyright. Images from Almonry Museum added 13/09/2018


Evesham Eventually (2)

As I was saying… 

The bridge was erected in 1856 and as far as I can recall it is called the Workman Bridge (named after the mayor at the time).

That is the Avon stretching away into the distance. Evesham sits in a lobe of the Avon, and like Tewkesbury it probably suffers each time the Avon floods. The image below shows the Avon towards the bottom of the lobe and the bus came into the town over a bridge that is just beyond the bend.

Having crossed the Avon at the Workman Bridge I now had a longish walk along the banks till I reached the cemetery. It was a pleasant walk because the area was very beautiful, and of course the sun was shining like crazy. 

I was actually quite grateful for the shade. The bridge in the image above is the one I had just crossed and I was now in a public park called Worksman Gardens and there was one piece of public art that really struck me.

Called Whale Bone Arch, it features a carved Bowhead Whale (Greenland Right Whale) and it was based on a set of real whalebones that used to be on display in Evesham. The arch is the same size as that of a real whale, and it was created by Steven Cooper and the whale was carved by Tom Harvey. The original bones are at the Evesham Hotel. 

And in the distance was the bridge I had come across with the bus. In my original navigation I had considered walking down to this bridge and crossing back into town and walking back to the bus stop, but had scrapped the idea.

The cemetery was in sight! and there were 41 graves to find: 10 from WW1 and 30 from WW2 (and one that is maintained by CWGC). It is not a large amount, but somedays a single grave can keep you searching for hours.

The WW2 graves were mostly laid out in a small cluster of 23 graves, and they were mostly airmen and Canadians. 

The other graves were scattered throughout the smallish cemetery, but unfortunately I could not find the one private memorial from WW1, the graves are not marked and legibility was poor in the one area where I suspected the grave was.  Gravehunting over, it was time to head back to town and considering my bus back to Tewkesbury. 

I leisurely strolled back towards town, enjoying the day and pleasant weather. Evesham Methodist Church is situated on the one corner of the river bank next to Workman Bridge, and it is a very pretty building too.

There were a lot of people about though and it was heading towards 11 am. The bus was leaving at 11H48 with the next one scheduled for 12H48. I had just missed the one so would get the next one, leaving me enough time to find the Quaker Burial Ground. I had first seen one of these in Southampton way back in 2013 and it had been a very pretty place. We have a Society of Friends Burial Ground in Tewkesbury, but it was not recognisable as a graveyard. Personally I find them very interesting people of enormous faith and courage, so finding another burial ground was a good find. The history of the Quakers in Evesham may be found at their website

There were a number of ledger stones laid flush with the grass, the oldest one I saw was from the 1830’s, and there was a burial from the 2000’s in the “peace garden” too. Unfortunately I did encounter one person and I got the impression that it was time to leave as I was disturbing him. It is a pity because I really would have liked to have found out more about the burials.

I was back in town now and located the bus stop and visited that shop I mentioned in the first part of the blog, and it was a real treasure house of goodies. There are a number of things I need to explore further in Evesham, for starters there is Evesham Vale Light Railway, and of course tracking down the whale bones at the hotel and visiting the Almonry Museum and relooking the Abbey area. There are still a few reasons to return to Evesham, and possibly explore Stratford upon Avon as I saw buses tagged with that city in town. The £4 bus fare is well spent, and certainly cheaper than the bus to Cheltenham.  There is also a GWR train that runs from Great Malvern to London on an almost hourly basis and I have used that twice to get to Oxford. 

How does Evesham feature in the Domesday Book?

  • Hundred: Fishborough (‘No longer exists as a named location, but can be identified on the ground.’)
  • CountyWorcestershire
  • Total population: 27 households (quite large).
  • Total tax assessed: 3 exemption units (medium).
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 3 exemption units. Payments of 1.0 rent.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £3. Value to lord in 1086 £5.5. Value to lord c. 1070 £4.
  • Households: 27 smallholders.
  • Ploughland: 3 lord’s plough teams. 4 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 20 acres. 1 mill, value 1.5.
  • Lord in 1066Evesham (St Mary), abbey of.
  • Lord in 1086Evesham (St Mary), abbey of.
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Evesham (St Mary), abbey of.
  • Phillimore reference: 10,1

(Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater )

On my 2nd visit I found the “Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Egwin”  as well as a statue of “Our Lady of Evesham”. I was finally able to get into the church in June 2019

And that was Evesham in a nutshell. I really enjoyed my visit and it was a very pretty place with wide pavements and interesting historical artefacts. And, as such  I will leave you with some random images of my visit. See you again Evesham.

 
   
   
   
   
   

DRW © 2018. Created 19/05/2018. More images added 01/01/2019. Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater . More images added 23/06/2018