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
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 (images from 2019).
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. I attended a Requiem Eucharist
at the Abbey in 2019 and it was very special, and the first time i have taken Communion since 1993.
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 Abbey is 900 years old in 2020).
The view is spectacular, and it was a really enjoyable exploration that happened purely by accident.
DRW © 2015-2020. Images migrated 01/05/2016, some images replaced 27/12/2019