Sunday, 6 October 2013

Tewkesbury and it's Abbey

The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Tewkesbury was a former Benedictine monastery but is now the second largest parish church in England. The Chronicle of Tewkesbury records that the first Christian worship was brought to the area by Theoc, a missionary from Northumbria, who built his cell in the mid 7th century near a gravel spit where the Rivers Severn and Avon join together. The cell was succeeded by a monastery in 715 but no evidence of it has ever been found. In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin who founded the present abbey in 1092. Building the present Abbey church did not start until 1102 and is built of Caen stone imported from Normandy and floated up the River Severn.
It is one of the finest Norman buildings in the country; below the western twin towers is this very tall unique Norman arch which houses a 17th century stained glass window. In the High Middle Ages, Tewkesbury became one of the richest abbeys in the country. After the Battle of Tewkesbury in the Wars of the Roses on 4th May 1471, some of the defeated Lancastrians sought sanctuary in the abbey, but the victorious Yorkists, led by King Edward lV, forced their way into the abbey, and the resulting bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated. The only reason the abbey was saved from destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, was because the people of Tewkesbury insisted that it was their parish church which they had a right to keep safe. They bought it from King Henry Vlll for the value of its bells and lead roof which the king would have had salvaged and melted down, leaving the structure to become a roofless ruin. The price paid to the king was £453 - £257,470 as of 2013.
This tower is also considered to be unique being the largest Romanesque crossing tower in Europe
via
The nave
There are 14 massive Norman pillars in the nave which date from the initial construction. Beautiful, elegant and unadorned they too are unique being the largest in the UK; each is over 9 m tall and 1.8 m in diameter. As with most ancient churches these plain pillars would once have been elaborately painted.
The north porch entrance

A peaceful green oasis in the Abbey grounds
where we enjoyed our evening picnic sitting on these benches before heading off to the theatre.
The medieval town of Tewkesbury wears its historical past along many of it's streets.

The date on the wooden shield in the top righthand corner reads 1664
Charles Dickens referred to The Royal Hop Pole in the Pickwick Papers
Touching Souls is the name of this sculpture at the front of the Abbey. It is an exact replica of the same sculpture in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Created by sculptor Mico Kaufman, it is cast in bronze and shows four children - native-American, European-American, African-American and Asian-American, sitting on the ground, legs outstretched, with the soles of their shoes touching. It is one of many links that bind the two places together.

55 comments:

  1. Dear Rosemary,
    I enjoyed this post. On our recent hols we were staying at Course Lawn, just down the road from Tewkesbury, and paid that pleasant town a few visits. Some of my distant family are buried there so I wanted to make a special visit to the Abbey. I plan to 'do' a post on it soon and seeing your lovely photographs has rekindled my interest. I think that the town is lucky not only to have to Abbey in tact but to have so many ancient buildings left largely unscathed as well.
    Is that your bicycle on the last photo?
    Bye for now
    Kirk

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    1. Dear Kirk - it is a lovely bike isn't it? however, Tewkesbury would be too far for me to cycle - our mode of transport was the car.
      I shall really look forward to your post on Tewkesbury and the Abbey, it is always interesting to see how someone else views a place you know.
      I wonder if we were there at the same time? - our visit was in August.

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    2. Alas no - we were there in July. It would have been nice to meet and have a cup of tea!

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  2. What a interesting post Rosemary.
    I love the wooden shield, it is so a nice colour.
    The Norman pilars are so Impressive...so big.
    What a nice place you choose for a picnic.
    Thank you for sharing...also thanks for the nice comments you give on my blog.

    Have a nice Sunday,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Dear Inge - I always love seeing the new ideas that you have created in your house, and I can understand why you like the wooden shield - it would fit in very well with the things you have in your home - it has a lovely patina after being out in all weathers for nearly 500 years.
      The sun is shinning brilliantly here today, and I do hope it is with you too.

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  3. Great post - those English timbered buildings are amazing.

    Rosemary, saw your comment (thanks dear) and funny you asked about Lance & Jane H. We tried to find them - had dinner at their favorite restaurant in Budapest and asked the owner Miklos if he had seen them lately. He knows them well of course and looked back in his book - said they were in for dinner in mid-Sept. He didn't have a phone # for them. Funny that they have disappeared from the blog - I was a bit worried actually as I've left comments telling them I'd be over there. So no, didn't bump into them - it would have been nice if we had I'm sure.

    Wow, I love that city so much! Just arrived in Vienna, by train, and settling into our hotel, Dreary damp, foggy day, hoping it clears for pics tomorrow!

    Happy day.
    Hugs- Mary

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    1. Dear Mary - if anyone deserves 10/10 for blog posts it is you. It is wonderful the way you keep us all up to speed on your travels - and here you are in Vienna already. Yes, chase away that damp foggy day, I will send you some sunshine from here, today is a wonderful October day, and I am just about to go and clean the car inside and out before our travels. However, no posts from me whilst I am away.
      It is good to know that J and L are fit and well, it is such a long time since they disappeared from the blogosphere.
      If ever I decide to give up or take a long sabbatical I will let my followers know.
      Carry on enjoying your trip Mary.

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  4. Love that bike in your last picture! And love those timber framed houses and the old woodwork. The statue of the four children has such a beautiful meaning. Tewkesbury is well worth a visit.
    Marian

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    1. The bike looks such a comfortable one to peddle - it was just propped up beside the wall without any padlock and no one around. I think that they must be very trusting in Tewkesbury.
      I thought that the statue of the children, all US citizens but from different continents of the world, was lovely. It would be interesting if someone from Tewkesbury, Massachusetts, saw this post.

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  5. Dear Rosemary,

    Your pictures are absolutely stunning and convey the quintessential character of English historical buildings. Although the shops and houses seduced me it is the architecture of the churches which make me feel the most nostalgic. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us.

    Stephanie

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    1. Dear Stephanie - It was interesting to learn that the abbey was made from stone sent over from Caen, Normandy - quite strange when we have so much Cotswold and Bath stone very nearby - I am not too sure why that was.
      Thank you for your visit - pleased that you enjoyed seeing the post.

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  6. My those pillars are indeed large, and isn't it lovely inside that church, the way to the altar.
    The houses must take some maintenance being wood and painted, they are lovely.
    Also I like the gates, in particular the first photos.

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    1. Originally the wood on the buildings would not have been painted, and some buildings still have the wood in its original state as can be seen on some of the photos. Green oak, which is what the Tudors used, turns extremely hard as it matures becoming almost like stone. They used green oak because it was much more pliable and they were able to bend it into different shapes.
      I too like the gates to the Abbey, they are covered in the most spectacular imagery.

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  7. Hello Rosemary, I love how this town takes us from Norman to Tudor. My favorite picture here is the church with the wide pillars; possibly these might look better plain than with their original paint.

    Is that pink half-timbered building missing a roof, or is that some sort of reflection? I was struck with how those carved wooden brackets resemble those in Chinese buildings from around the same time.

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    1. Dear Jim - Tewkesbury is a great place for the student of architecture and history to visit - it is a cornucopia of architectural designs from different periods.
      It is a reflection you can see. The window glass is well back from the wooden window struts and not adjacent to it - that is why you can see the wood reflected in the glass.

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  8. What a beautiful place. I will now google it so that I may see it on a map of England. There are so many unique buildings in Tewkesbury - riches for a photographer.

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    1. I am sure that you have spotted by now that it is beside the River Servern, and in the valley below the Cotswold hills.
      I did notice that if you put Tewkesbury Abbey into Google maps then you can actually go inside the Abbey and walk all around it.

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  9. Again an interesting post one can learn from and fantastic pictures! I love the sculpture and how it is named and of course that lovely bike! Christa

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    1. Dear Christa - I thought that the bike was lovely, vintage but looking very comfy to ride.
      The sculpture is interesting - I was hoping someone from Tewkesbury, Massachusetts might read this and fill in some information about their sculpture too.

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  10. The Royal Hop Pole, that Dickens referred to in the Pickwick Papers: now I have seen it, thanks to your blog! England is so rich in lovely churches and cathedrals - and this one is especially fine. Only a short note from me today, because I travel tomorrow to the Baltic Sea. But I loved your post!

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    1. Dear Britta - have another wonderful trip, you have hardly had chance to unpack and then repack from your last trip. I am off on travels too this Friday. It was kind of you to visit when you are pushed for time, I appreciate it - thank you.

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  11. I probably sound very ignorant but I never knew Tewkesbury was so attractive and I have never visited its abbey. I'll remedy that when I am next in that part of the country. Isn't that one of the great things about blogging? How it can open your eyes?

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    1. Dear Jenny until I moved to this area I didn't know it was so lovely myself, but I agree blogging is a wonderful source of so much. I have picked up lots of recipe tips, interesting places to visit, and best of all met some wonderful people through blogging.
      There are three great churches here, all feature in the three choirs festival, which I am sure you have heard of. There is Gloucester Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral and of course Tewkesbury Abbey. Every year they take it in turns to host the musical events.

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  12. I loved reading this. I've never been to Tewkesbury and have always associated the abbey with the aftermath of the Battle of Tewkesbury. Now I've learnt more about it and have had a chance to see it in your lovely photographs. Tewkesbury itself has some gorgeous buildings - and I associate Tewkesbury with the terrible floods of a few years ago. Did the abbey escape untouched by the flood water?

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    1. Dear Wendy - Tewkesbury has been flooded many times over the centuries, but to my knowledge the Abbey never has. The medieval builders were much clever than those of today. They built the Abbey on an imperceptible raise, so the water comes in over the flood plains and in to the houses but literally laps the edge of the ground that the Abbey is built on. A few lessons could perhaps be learnt there.

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  13. Again some interesting history combined with beautiful photos and I love how you posted the bicycle as a last one to kind of getting back to our century :-) Have a nice start of the week .

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    1. Thank you very much Jane for your kind comment. There really is a lot of history inTewkesbury and its surrounding area.

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  14. Dear Roseamary,what a interesting post !!!
    What a beautiful place! There are so many unique buildings in Tewkesbury !!
    Wonderful pictures indeed!!!Thank you for sharing!!!
    Have a lovely new week!!!
    Dimi...

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    1. Dear Dimi - so pleased that you enjoyed seeing Tewkesbury and its collection of historical buildings. Hope that the coming week is a happy one for you.

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  15. What a wonderful church, Rosemary: I must try and get to see it sometime. As always, your pictures are beautiful.

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    1. It is just that bit further from you Kate than popping over to Cirencester - may be you could call sometime when you are heading up the M5 North.

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  16. Katedra robi wielkie wrażenie i uwielbiam domy, które pokazujesz. Pozdrawiam serdecznie.
    The Cathedral is very impressive and I love houses that are showing. Yours sincerely.

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    1. Thank you Giga - and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing Tewkesbury and its fine old buildings.
      Dziękuję Giga - Cieszę się, że byliśmy bardzo zadowoleni widząc Tewkesbury i grzywny starych budynków.

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  17. How lucky that it was saved. The historical buildings in England are just so amazing when you come from such a young country, European settlement-wise. I would loved to have spent a lot longer in England, so much to do and see! x

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    1. Lovely to hear from you Penny - I wonder where you are now? I think the last time a read one of your posts you were in Iceland. Have you been here yet? If you are still travelling - hope all is going well for you.

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  18. I do love (ancient) timber framed buildings. We restored such a cottage, using green oak, and I feel somewhat impoverished now that we have a house made of mud!
    Look forward to hearing about your travels, and hope that you have a wonderful time.

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    1. Dear Jessica - my friend has a Tudor timber house, and her walls within the wood are also made of mud along with animal dung and straw. It does seem to be a very robust material and it certainly doesn't seem to rot or decay.
      Thank you for your kind wishes for our trip - just getting all the lose ends tied up before we go.

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  19. Beautiful pictures - I am blown away by the abbey. The town is very picturesque!

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    1. Is'nt it wonderful to think that it has stood there for a thousand years?

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  20. I love your posts Rosemary - each one transporting me back to the beautiful UK.
    The exquisite entrance to the Abbey so reminiscent of others I've seen in France.
    The vaulting of the ceiling is breathtaking.
    The town looks so pretty love the pink house and the black and white everywhere!
    Isn't that little alley way inviting....
    A real treat to visit this ancient old town through your eye and lens - thank you Rosemary.

    I've just become your newest follower - and I look forward to more wanders with you!
    Shane
    When we were last in the UK we fell in love with Lavenham!

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    1. Dear Shane - thank you very much for your visit and kind comments.
      There was a time in the 1960s when sadly a great deal of historical properties were pulled down in favour of concrete blocks. Fortunately most towns and cities formed historical societies to save their heritage from the modernisers.
      Thank you for becoming a follower I shall be visiting you shortly.

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  21. The Abbey is very impressive and has seen some gruesome events within the walls. You chose a peaceful place to have your picnic. The town looks very clean and, of course, well preserved and maintained because of the architectural importance of the buildings.

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    1. If only our ancient buildings could speak - what tales they could relate to us Linda.

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  22. What an amazing parish church. I reckon Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII hadn't got their spies giving them full information, when valuing that one ! As always you have captured some stunning images, giving us a wonderful view of this fascinating place. I love the sculpture. Jx

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    1. What a blessing that such a wonderful and unique building was saved Janice.

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  23. I learn so much from your fascinating posts, Rosemary, my English grandmother would be pleased! Of course I knew nothing of Tewkesbury and it is clearly very special. How wonderful is that cathedral, and I am amazed that nearly 1,000 years ago they would import the stone from Caen to build such an edifice. Tudor buildings also captivate me, and these are very fine examples. How does the wood survive so well, in a moist climate? I guess oak is the answer. The very fine sculpture of four children is quite lovely, too. Thank you for another great post.

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    1. I wonder where in England your grandmother came from Patricia?
      It is surprising that the stone came over from Caen especially as there is so much stone in the Cotswold hills just above Tewkesbury which is very similar in colour and equally hardy. We also have Bath stone nearby too. I have checked and the abbey was begun by Robert Fitzhamon who originated from Normandy so that must be the reason why.
      You are right the wood is Oak, green Oak, and as it weathers it hardens and eventually becomes like stone.

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    2. Unfortunately I know very little of my grandmother, and know only that she married my Australian grandfather in London in 1919. She died in 1940 so I never met her. Now you have prompted me, I will ask around the relatives and see if I can find out more.

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  24. Great post Rosemary and love all those wonderful photos of the historical buildings with their beautiful architecture.
    Patricia x

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    1. There is some very fine architecture from many ages in Tewkesbury - the Abbey being especially fine.

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  25. The abbey at Twekesbury is very handsome, and I especially like the tower and the huge arch. I also enjoyed seeing the town. I understand that the buildings that had second stories that were bigger than their ground level saved on taxes.

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    1. That is correct Mark - In Elizabethan and Tudor times, property taxes were paid on the amount of ground space a house took up. So in order to keep property taxes to a minimum the ground floor would be built with a minimal footprint, but the 2nd and 3rd floors were built overhanging the street.
      You probably know too that in the Georgian period a window tax was introduced. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can still be seen with bricked-up window spaces as a result of the tax.

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  26. A super post about one of my favourite towns and churches, Rosemary, though it's a good while since I was last there. The Abbey is truly magnificent and I love the austere simplicity of its interior.

    I think the streetscapes are wonderful, with their appealing mixture of Georgian and half-timbered frontages. It seems almost miraculous that so many of the ancient buildings have survived, given the town's sometimes tempestuous history.

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  27. Hi Rosemary,
    It looks like you had a nice time there.
    From: Bea Cupcake

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  28. Tewkesbury looks absolutely beautiful Rosemary. Sad to think that these buildings would have been so badly flooded only a few years ago. The photo of the brick paved 'alley' is lovely and reminds me of my childhood but I can't put my finger on the reason why! The Norman pillars in the abbey are most impressive, I am off to Google how they would have looked painted. Happy Sunday. Paul:)

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