The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury

with some Account of the Priory Church of Deerhurst

By H.J.L.J Masse

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


Tewkesbury Abbey in 1840, by Rev. J.L. Petit
Tewkesbury Abbey in 1840.
By Rev. J.L. Petit.

TRADITION, originating in the desire to account for the name of the town, would assign the foundation of a cell or chapel to Theoc, or in Latin form Theocus, in or about 655. In support of this theory Camden and others assert that it was called in Anglo-Saxon times Theocsburg or Theotisbyrg. Others would derive the name from the Greek “Theotokos”, as the Church is dedicated to St. Mary, and others again refer us back to a very early name, Etocisceu - Latinised as Etocessa. In Domesday Book the town is called Teodechesberie, and throughout the Chronicles of the Abbey is called Theokusburia.

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The Chronicles of the Abbey tell us that the first monastery at Tewkesbury was built by two Saxon nobles, Oddo and Doddo, in or about the year 715, a time when Mercia was flourishing under Ethelred, and later, under Kenred and Ethelbald. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and endowed with the manor of Stanway and other lands for the support of the Benedictine monks who, under a Prior, were there installed. Oddo and Doddo died soon afterwards, and were buried in the abbey church of Pershore.

Much has been written about these mythical founders, and confusion in the minds of the chroniclers, and in those of subsequent writers too, has been caused by the similarity between the names of Oddo and Doddo, and Odda and Dodda. It is stated in the old Tewkesbury Chronicle that Oddo and Doddo were brothers, who in 715 founded a small cell at Tewkesbury, and that Doddo built a church at Deerhurst to show his love for a brother who had died some time before. They seem to have been two noble dukes, members of an illustrious family and renowned for their great virtue. Oddo is said to have become a monk, and after his death to have been buried at Pershore Abbey.

As Mr. Butterworth points out in his book on Deerhurst, this seems to be a travesty of what actually happened. There were in the eleventh century two brothers, Odda and Ælfric, with probably a third brother, Dodda, who were related to Edward the Confessor, and were, besides, his friends and followers. Charters are extant bearing their signatures and names, and covering the period 1015-1051. It is this Odda who caused to be built the “aula regia” at Deerhurst in memory of his brother Ælfric, with a stone[1] bearing an inscription of which a copy is now in the Saxon Chapel at Deerhurst. This Odda, with his brother, was buried at Pershore. Odda's existence at this time is further confirmed by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (edited by Ingram), which states that Odda was in 1051 made Earl over Devonshire, Somerset, Dorset, and the Welsh. The same chronicle says that Odda was also called Agelwin. Florence of Worcester says that he was also called Ethelwin.

It is perhaps easy to see how a chronicler writing 250, years later, should be led to assume that Oddo and Doddo

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were identical with Odda and Dodda. Sir Charles Isham's “Registrum Theokusburiæ” gives a full-page illustration of this “par nobile fratrum”, as Dr. Hayman calls them, in which they are termed “duo duces Marciorum et primi fundatores Theokusburiæ”, i.e., two Earls of the Marches and first founders of Tewkesbury. Each knight is in armour, and bears in his hand a model of a church. Both are supporting a shield (affixed to a pomegranate tree) bearing the arms of the Abbey, which the blazoning on their own coats repeats.

Page from the "Registrum Theokusburkiae"

According to the chronicle, Hugh, a great Earl of the Mercians, caused the body of Berthric or Brictric, King of Wessex, to be buried in the chapel at Tewkesbury, in 799 or 800, and Hugh himself was buried at Tewkesbury in 812. Of this fact confirmation is given by Leland, who said that Hugh's tomb was there in his time, on the north side of the nave.

The Priory suffered terribly at the hands of the invading Danes - in fact, it was in the centre of the theatre of war in which, under Alfred, the decisive struggle was fought to an end at Boddington Field, where a spot called Barrow still marks the site. In consequence of the continued ravages the Priory was so reduced in 980 that it became a cell dependent on the Abbey at Cranbourn, in Dorset, a Benedictine foundation of which Haylward de Meaux, Hayward Snow,

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or Hayward de Meawe as the Isham MS. Chronicle spells it, was the founder and patron. He and his wife Algiva are depicted in that MS. as sitting on a mound with a cruciform building in their hands. The church has a lofty embattled tower surmounted with a spire. Hayward fell at Essendune in 1016, and was buried at Cranbourn. Tewkesbury Priory continued to be dependent on Cranbourn for about one hundred years.

Hayward's son, Earl Algar, inherited the patronage of Cranbourn and Tewkesbury, and on his death it passed to his son Berthric, or, according to the Isham MS., Britricus Meawe. This Britric, while on an embassy in Flanders, refused the hand of the Earl's daughter Matilda, who was subsequently the wife of William Duke of Normandy, the conqueror of England. When the lady became Queen of England she had Britric's manors confiscated, and he died in prison at Winchester. Thus Tewkesbury passed into the hands of the Normans.

At the time of the Domesday Survey the priory was possessed of 242 hides (or 3,000 acres) of land, which in Edward the Confessor's reign had been valued at £1 per hide. In 1087 William Rufus bestowed the honour of Gloucester, together with the patronage of the Priory of Tewkesbury, upon his second cousin once removed, Robert Fitz-Hamon, or, to give him his full titles as recorded in the Charters, “Sir Robert Fitz-Hamon, Earl of Corboile, Baron of Thorigny and Granville, Lord of Gloucester, Bristol, Tewkesbury and Cardiff, Conqueror of Wales, near kinsman of the King, and General of his Highness' army in France”.

Robert Fitz-Hamon is the reputed founder of the present structure, but the credit of the founding, or rather refounding, is due to Giraldus, Abbot of Cranbourn. Like Abbot Serlo of Gloucester fame, he had originally come over from De Brienne, in Normandy, the ancestral home of the De Clare family, and a town closely connected with Tewkesbury at a later date. Giraldus had been chaplain to Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, and subsequently to Walkelyn, Bishop of Winchester. He was appointed Abbot of Cranbourn by William Rufus, who acted on the advice of Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, and St. Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury. Giraldus then secured the assistance of Fitz-Hamon, and the munificent

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endowments of the latter supplied the means for building the noble foundation at Tewkesbury. Fitz-Hamon is said to have been inspired by a wish to make atonement for the wanton destruction of Bayeux Cathedral by Henry I.

By the year 1102 Giraldus and the members of St. Barthomew's Abbey at Cranbourn removed to Tewkesbury, which was by that time ready to receive them; and the establishment at Cranbourn, under the rule of a Prior and two monks, became in its turn (after 120 years) a cell dependent on the new Abbey of Tewkesbury. After a few years Giraldus, “having neither the inclination nor the ability to satiate the King's avarice (Henry I.) with gifts”, was obliged to leave Tewkesbury and returned to Winchester, where he died in 1110.

Fitz-Hamon had died in 1107 from the effects of a wound received at the siege of Falaise, and was buried temporarily in the Chapter House, which stood on the south side of the building.

In 1123 the Abbey was complete, and was consecrated on November 10th, with much ceremony, by Theulf, Bishop of Worcester, assisted by the Bishops of Llandaff, Hereford, Dublin, and another whose name is unknown.

The main part of the church, as it now stands, is usually assigned to about 1123, and substantially is as strong now as it was then.

In the following year, 1124, Abbot Robert died, and soon afterwards Theulf, the old Bishop of Worcester, also passed away.

Of Fitz-Hamon's four daughters two became abbesses, another was married to the Earl of Brittany, and Mabel was given to Robert, one of the many illegitimate sons of Henry I. She seems to have been a business-like lady, and to have hesitated at the proposed union with a nameless lord, unless a title could be made to go with him. As Robert of Gloucester writes

“The Kyng understood that the mayde seyde non outrage
And that Gloucestre was chief of hyre eritage.
'Damozel', he seyde, 'thy lord shall have a name
For hym and for hys eyrs, fayr wyth out blame,
For Robert of Gloucestre hys name shall be and is
For he shall be Erl of Gloucestre and his eyres, I wis'”.

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This Robert Fitzroy, thus made the first Earl of Gloucester, was a great benefactor to the Abbey. To him are due the completion of the church and the greater part of the tower. According to Leland, the stone was brought over from Caen, but some seems to have been local stone from Prestbury and Cheltenham. He was as prominent in the arts of peace as he was afterwards in those of war, inheriting his taste for the former from his scholarly father. It is to him that the chronicler William of Malmesbury dedicated his work.

Robert Fitzroy died in Gloucester in 1147, but was buried at St. James' Priory, Bristol, another foundation which was indebted to his munificence. His successor was William Fitzcount, the second Earl of Gloucester.

In 1178 the monastery was partly burnt down, the church fortunately suffering but little. There are some slight traces of fire on the exterior walls of the south and west faces of the tower, and on the interior of the south transept. The Annals of Winton say, “Combusta est et redacta in pulverem Ecclesia de Theokesberia” - an untenable hypothesis; but the Tewkesbury Chronicles merely mention that the monastery and the offices were destroyed. John, Earl of Cornwall, better known as King John, was entertained in the monastery soon afterwards, so that the damage cannot have been quite so overwhelming as the Winchester Chronicles allege it to have been. The fire might have been much more serious than it was, and it seems that only the fact of the wind being north-east saved the church. Judging by the marks of calcination on the outside of the tower, and the chief arch of the south transept, the roof must have been seriously damaged, and the roof of the cloister walk abutting on to the south aisle must have been completely burned. In all probability the group of roofing next to the south transept was destroyed.

William Fitzcount, dying in 1183, after a long and successful life, was buried at Keynsham, a magnificent abbey built by him in memory of a son who died young. Earl William's other children were girls, and the lordship of Gloucester was vested in Henry II. for some years. In 1189 the Abbey lands were granted by Richard I. to his brother John (who was afterwards king, 1199 to 1215), the first husband of Isabella, third daughter of William Fitzcount. Being divorced

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from John after his accession in 1199, she married Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who paid 20,000 marks for the honour of Gloucester and the possessions of the Lady Isabel.

The earldom of Gloucester finally passed in 1221 to Amice - sister of the Lady Isabella - great granddaughter of Fitz-Hamon the founder, who had married Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford. This Richard de Clare was the ancestor of the Tewkesbury De Clares, a family which held the honour of Tewkesbury for nearly a century.

His son, Gilbert de Clare, married Isabelle de Marechal. His name, as also that of his father, is among the signatories of Magna Charta, and he was a strenuous supporter of the barons against the King. Though he died in Brittany, his body was brought home and buried in Tewkesbury, at the foot of the steps leading up to the high altar. In a few months' time his widow, Isabelle, married Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of King Henry III. At her death she wished to be buried next to Gilbert de Clare, but as her husband objected to this, she bequeathed her heart to the Abbey, and this was duly interred in Gilbert de Clare's grave. As the Register quaintly says in its rhyming hexameters -

“Postrema voce legavit cor comitissa
Pars melior toto fuit buc pro corpore missa
Hæc se divisit dominum recolendo priorem
Huc cor quod misit verum testatur amorem
His simul ecclesiæ sanctæ suffragia prosint
Ut simul in requie cælesti cum Domino sint”

Gilbert de Clare bequeathed to the Abbey the manor called Mythe, on the hill just outside the town, and Isabelle also left to it many relics, besides vestments, and much valuable church furniture.

On the death of Gilbert de Clare, his son Richard became a ward of the King. Marrying Margaret de Burgh, a daughter of the great Earl of Kent, without permission, he incurred the royal displeasure, and was eventually forced to divorce his young wife in favour of the lady chosen for him. He supported the barons against the King, with whom he had never been in agreement. In 1262 he died, and was buried in the Abbey. One of his wife's sisters married Robert Bruce, competitor for the Scottish Crown and grandfather of King Robert Bruce.

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His son Gilbert the second, Rufus or Rubens, i.e. Red, is another well-known figure. Like his father, he at first supported the barons, but soon after the battle of Lewes he took the King's side, and fought for him at Evesham. Again from pique he deserted him, returning to his allegiance once more in 1270. He was buried in the Abbey in 1295.

Gilbert de Clare the third, who was born at Tewkesbury in 1291, was perhaps the most famous of the De Clares. Whilst he was still in early manhood, he was twice chosen by Edward II. to serve as Regent of England in his absence, once even before he had attained full age. His promising career was s cut short at Bannockburn in 1314, and the last of the De Clares was buried in the Choir in 1314, his widow being placed later by his side.

The lordship of Tewkesbury then passed from the De Clares, who had held it for ninety years, to Eleanor, Gilbert's eldest sister. By her marriage in 1321 to Hugh le Despenser, the lordship came into the hands of the Despensers. This Hugh the younger, or Hugo Secundus as the Register calls him, was too faithful a supporter of Edward II., and he paid for his fidelity with his life in 1326, having been hanged, drawn, and quartered in Hereford about three weeks after his aged father had suffered a similar fate at Bristol. His remains were collected and buried in the tomb at the back of the sedilia, where Abbot John's tomb was placed at a later date.

The next lord of Tewkesbury was Hugh, the son of Hugh the younger and Eleanor de Clare. His tomb is to be seen on the north side of the high altar, with his effigy upon it, together with that of his wife, the Lady Elizabeth, who, though thrice married, preferred to be buried with him. She retained the manor of Tewkesbury after her marriage to Sir Guy de Brien, and on her death in 1359 it passed to her nephew, Edward le Despenser.

This Edward le Despenser took part in the battle of Poitiers, and was one of the first Knights of the Garter. On his death at Cardiff in 1375 his body was brought to Tewkesbury, and his effigy is to be seen on the roof of the Trinity Chapel on the south side of the high altar. He was buried close to the presbytery, and his wife was, in 1409, buried next to him.

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Thomas le Despenser, the third son of Edward, was for two years only Earl of Gloucester, and being attainted, was executed at Bristol in 1400. No trace remains of his grave at Tewkesbury.

With the death of his son Richard in 1414, the lordship of the Despensers in the male line, after ninety-three years, became extinct.

Once again the Manor of Tewkesbury passed by the female line, and into the distinguished family of the Beauchamps, with whom Richard le Despenser's sister Isabelle was connected by her marriage with Richard Beauchamp, or Ricardus de Bello Campo as the Register calls him when it does not give his name as Becham. He was killed at the siege of Breaux in France in 1421, and his young widow erected the sumptuous chantry chapel known as the Warwick Chapel over his remains. She then, by special papal dispensation, married her cousin, also a Richard Beauchamp, and from henceforth was generally known by her new title, the Countess of Warwick. On her husband's death at Rouen in 1439, she brought his body to England and had it conveyed to the Beauchamp Chapel at Warwick. The widowed countess died in December of the same year, but elected to be buried at Tewkesbury.

Richard Beauchamp, and his Armorial Connexions
From the Registrum Theokusburiæ.

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Her young son Henry was a favourite of Henry VI., who bestowed most unusual favours upon him, creating him Duke of Warwick and King of the Isle of Wight, and later King of Jersey and Guernsey. The young Duke, who was married to Cicely Neville, died at the age of twenty-one, and was buried in the choir of the Abbey: As he left no children, the manor passed in 1449 to his sister Anne, the wife of Richard Neville the “King-maker”. All the “King-maker's” estates were confiscated to the Crown after he fell at Barnet in 1471, but were eventually shared between his two daughters Isabelle and Anne. Isabelle married George, Duke of Clarence, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury, who in 1477, a few days after Isabelle's supposed death by poison at Warwick, was put to death in the Tower. Both were buried at Tewkesbury (vide p.62).

The young Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence, was imprisoned in the Tower till his execution in 1499.

The Manor of Tewkesbury, as a possession of the Warwicks, passed into the hands of Lord Seymour of Sudeley, the husband of Catharine Parr, until his attainder, when they once more came into the hands of the Crown. James I. sold the manor to the Corporation in 1609. During the present century the lordship of the manor again passed by sale into private hands.

In the chronicles of the Abbey the following facts are recorded:-

In 1218 the dormitory roof fell down upon the monks when they returned from an early service, and Gilbert, a monk, had a thigh broken and his head injured, while the Prior Gunfrey escaped unhurt.

In 1224, Robert Travers, Bishop of Kildelo (i.e. Killaloe), in the winter dedicated two large bells in the tower.

In 1234 the principal gate of the monastery and two stables were burnt down.

In 1237, Hervey de Sipton, the then Prior, pulled down and rebuilt the chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. Nothing can be said definitely as to its size, owing to the later work done in this part. The chronicle, however, distinctly states that divine service was first held in Prior Sipton's new chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas, on St. Nicholas' Day.[2]

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The roof bears the arms of the Clares and Despensers, and this would give the date of the bosses as 1321-1337, i.e., about a century later than the date of the chapel.

The two chapels which are now usually known as those of St. James and St. Nicholas were, at one time, supposed, without authority, to have been the chapter-house of the monastery. They were so described as recently as 1881, in the plan used by the members of the Architectural Association for their excursion to Tewkesbury. For many years they were in use as a grammar school, and were walled off from the rest of the church.

In 1239 a grand altar was dedicated to the honour of the Virgin, “gloriosæ Virginis Mariæ”. This is by some supposed to refer to the present altar-stone of Purbeck marble.

In 1241, Oct. 25, the body of Fitz-Hamon, the founder of the existing fabric, was brought in from the Chapter House and placed on the site of the Founder's Chapel built later.

In 1243 the dormitory, which had been rebuilt (chiefly by Abbot Peter), was re-opened for use.

In 1246 the Prior, Henry de Banbury, built an Early English Chapel, dedicated to St. Eustachius. It seems probable that this was erected on the site of the apsidal Norman chapel, and the space (6 feet) between it and the Early English chapel. The vaulting corbels are all that remain.

In 1259 the Chapter-House was newly paved at the expense of the Convent.

The chronicles, as reprinted in “Annales Monastici” stop short in 1263, and from that time onwards there is a dearth of direct information as to the Abbey and its history.

The choir was altered in the time of Abbot Parker, by Elizabeth, the wife, successively, of Lord Badlesmere, of Hugh Lord Despenser, and Sir Guy de Brien. The original Norman clerestory was taken down and the Norman columns of the choir slightly raised, as will be seen from the choir aisle on the side where the original capitals were left unaltered. At the same time the beautiful series of apsidal chapels was

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added; stone vaulting tool: the place of the earlier wooden roofing and the space between the four piers that support the tower was vaulted. This work contains the arms of Sir Guy and of the Montacutes.

1397. The Founder's Chapel was erected by Abbot Parker.

In 1422 Henry VI. granted the patronage of Deerhurst Priory to Tewkesbury. Much litigation followed with Eton College in consequence, but in 1469 the grant was confirmed and carried out by John Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester.

On May 30, 1471, the Abbey, which had been polluted with blood during the battle of Tewkesbury, and had not been available for divine service for a month, was cleansed with special ceremony by the Bishop of Down and Connor, who was acting as suffragan to the Bishop of Worcester and reconsecrated.

At the Dissolution the whole establishment, which, from the lists of what was to be kept and what was to be destroyed, was of considerable size, was seized by the King's Commissioners. The houses and buildings assigned to remain “undefaced” were “The lodging called the New Warke, leading from the gate to the late Abbot's lodging, with buttery, pantry, cellar, kitching, larder, and pastry thereto adjoining; the late Abbot's lodging; the hostery; the great gate entering into the court, with the lodging over the same; the Abbot's stable, bakehouse, brewhouse and slaughter-house, the almery, barn, dairy-house; the great barn next Avon; the malting-house with the garners in the same, the ox-house in the Barton, the Barton-gate and the lodging over the same”. At the same time “the Church, with chapels, cloisters, chapter house, misericord; the two dormitories, infirmary with chapels and lodgings within the same; the workhouse, with another house adjoining to the same; the convent kitchen; the library; the old hostery; the chamberer's lodgings; the new hall; the old parlour adjoining to the Abbot's lodging; the cellarer's lodging; the poulter house; the gardner; the almary, and all other houses and lodgings not otherwise reserved”, were “deemed to be superfluous” and were committed to the custody of Sir John Whittington.

The eight bells in the tower were estimated at 146 cwt., and were ordered to be melted down, as was also the lead upon the roofs of the choir, the aisles and the chapels annexed, the

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cloister, chapter house, frater, St. Michael's Chapel, halls, farmery and gatehouse. The weight of lead was estimated at 180 fodders, i.e., about 190 tons.

The jewels naturally were specially reserved to the use of the King's Majesty, and the two mitres garnished with gilt, rugged pearls, and counterfeit stones, and 1,431 ounces of silver and silver-gilt plate were, together with the vestments, ornaments, and everything else of value, taken away.

The public-spirited inhabitants of Tewkesbury, however, meant to preserve their cherished Abbey from destruction if they could compass it, and after petitioning their “most dread victorious sovereign lord”, succeeded in doing so for a consideration, viz., the sum of £453. This sum was arrived at by roughly valuing the lead on the roofs at 5d. a square foot, and the bells at something like 2½d. per lb. They had to pay £200 down, £100 the ensuing Easter, and the balance, £153, at Christmas. It was further stipulated that the said parishioners should “bear and find the reparations of the said church perpetually”.

The word “church” in this connection seems to be limited to mean that part of the building other than the nave. The nave seems to have been looked upon as belonging, as was the case elsewhere, to the inhabitants of Tewkesbury, for their use, more or less as a parish church. Mr. Hayman says that “parochial worship was enshrined there side by side with the monastic, far in the past, before its re-foundation in the eleventh century. . . . This parochial constitution survived the great successive shocks of change which altered or cancelled everything else. The change from Saxon to Norman, the havoc of civil war, the concentration of power in the Tudor crown, the Dissolution itself, and the Reformation which followed, all left this as they found it, or left it stronger still. To this constitution alone the noble church was indebted for its preservation. The King could grasp all else from pinnacle to basement, but the nave was the parishioners', and that he could not touch. The result is a church surviving entire and substantially as its vanished patrons and banished brethren left it. Therefore if this church is a monument of baronial and abbatial power long departed, it is yet more so of the strength of the popular principle, and of the vitality of the parochial system which survives”.

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In the same way the good people of Great Malvern, or Moche Malverne as it was then termed, clubbed together and bought the Priory Church for £200, to serve as their parish church in place of the older parish church, which then, after two hundred and fifty years' use, was in need of repair. Their Lady Chapel, cloisters, dormitories, Chapter House, &c., were rased to the ground, and all that had a market value was sold.

After the purchase of the church by the good people of Tewkesbury, the nave seems to have been utterly neglected, and only used for purposes of burial and for the occasional performances of stage-plays. Such plays were acted in 1578, 1584, 1585, as is shown by items which appear in the list of “church goods”, as “sheepe skins for Christ's garments”, “shippe skins for the sinners gear”, “eight heads of heare for the Apostles and ten beardes”, together with a “face or vizor for the devil”.

In 1559, on Easter morning, during divine service, the wooden spire fell down, causing damage to the tower masonry in its fall. This steeple may have been the original one which had been put up by Robert, the first Earl of Gloucester.

In 1576 the two chapels of St. James and St. Nicholas were cut off from the church and turned into a free school.

In 1582 the campanile, which stood on the north side of the church not far from the North Transept, was converted into a House of Correction for half the shire.

In 1593 the Corporation records state that the long roof was taken down, and replaced in the following year. Six years later there is another interesting entry as follows : “The churchwardens after Michaelmas, intending of themselves to build a battlement upon the top of the church tower, offered to do the same without any charge, and for that purpose did set forth three stage-plays, played in the Abbey at Whitsuntide following”.

To raise more money they then proposed to hold a Church Ale, but there were difficulties in the way, and the proposal was dropped.

The cost of the battlements was £66. These same church, wardens, with the help of others, “joined in entreating the benevolence of the best disposed of the inhabitants, and thereby finished the free school by glazing the windows, boarding the floors, and making the galleries”.

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In 1602 the monks' stalls, which had been in the body of the church, were removed into the chancel.

In 1603 “the roof of lead over the chancel was taken down, new framed, laid lower, and covered new”, at the expense of the town.

In 1607 a large grey marble slab was discovered buried in the church. It measured 13 feet 8 inches by 3 feet 6 inches, and 7 inches thick. This was placed for some time in the middle of the chancel and was used for a Communion table.

The Detached Bell-tower, demolished in 1817
From Bennett's “Tewkesbury”, lent by Mr. S. Browett.

In 1653-54 there is an interesting entry in the churchwardens' accounts: “Item. Paid the ringers 24th December, my Lord Protector being proclaimed that day-who was the Grand Rebel”. (The last few words are by a different hand, perhaps that of the other churchwarden.)

In 1661 the west window was blown in, and was rebuilt in 1686.

In 1720 the external re-roofing of the nave was carried out, and the western gable, occupying the space between the two western turrets, disappeared in the process.

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By 1720 the “long roof”, repaired in 1593, was again in want of repair, and to raise money a brief was granted by Parker, the Lord Chancellor. During the years 1723-26 the work was carried out and finished. Before this, the eaves of the roof overlapped the side walls of the nave.

In 1726 the “old wall at the East end of the Chancel” was taken down, and foundations were dug upon which an altarpiece was to be erected.

About the same time, the marble Communion table, which Mr. Gough called “the finest Communion table in the kingdom”, was moved into the nave. It was then cut longitudinally into two pieces, which were used as seats in the porch. In 1737, the organ now in the choir was erected over the old screen.

A stone altar-piece, Doric in character, with an elliptical pediment, was set up in 1725, the cost being partly met by private subscriptions. It must have struck most people as incongruous, for it was not liked, and in 1848 it was removed.

A flood in 1770 rose to such a height that service could not be held in the church; and the old feoffee book states that “the graves in the church were shocking to behold, for scarce a stone was to be seen that was not removed from its proper situation. Several parts of this venerable building were materially injured, particularly the large pillar next the seats of the Corporation, and the arch over the same”.

In January, 1795, it was agreed at a parish meeting that “the church shall be whitewashed as soon as convenient, and other repairs be done . . . that shall appear necessary”. The part of the church that was in use was re-pewed, galleries were put up in the two transepts, and in the easternmost bay of the aisles of the nave.

During the years 1824-30, the exterior of the tower, probably untouched from the date of its first completion, was repaired, all decayed stones being made good. The windows which had been partially bricked up were opened, and shelving stones inserted instead. One of the pinnacles was entirely rebuilt, and the three others repaired. The turrets on the west front were also restored.

At this time also the transept walls and the roofs were repaired and strengthened. The interior of the church previous to its colour-washing was scraped and cleaned, and

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the walls and pillars were repaired, pointed, and cemented. All the tombs were cleaned and most of them restored. The greater part of the nave was paved with Painswick stone, and in the rest of the church the gravestones were relaid.

The West End in 1840, by Rev. J.L. Petit
By Rev. J.L. Petit.

In 1825 the vicar and churchwardens posted to Worcester, that they might inspect the colouring of the Cathedral and other churches there with a view to decorating the Abbey. The committee decided in favour of colour-washing the Abbey, and this was done three years later.

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1828. The monuments of Sir Hugh le Despenser and Sir Guy de Brien, being very dilapidated, were extensively repaired. Most of the buttresses and pinnacles were entirely renewed. All this restoration involved the outlay of a considerable amount of money, and if more had been forthcoming more would have been undertaken, such as the restoration of all the tombs and chapels, and the old windows in the choir. The font in 1828 was removed from the nave and placed in the apsidal chapel in the south transept, from which position it was again removed in 1878.

A final restoration was set on foot in 1864, and Sir Gilbert Scott reported that £15,000 was necessary to make good the dilapidation and decay which extended, in his opinion, from the foundations to the roof. The necessary amount was not forthcoming for several years. Then a new committee was appointed, with Sir Edmund Lechmere as its chairman. In 1875 the restoration began, the choir being undertaken first. For this purpose the church was divided into two parts by means of a hoarding. When the pavement in the choir was removed, the graves there were all carefully examined and their identification verified where possible. Many fragments of historic stonework were found, and these have been grouped together in the south-east chapel, which forms a kind of museum.

After the work in the choir was advanced enough, the nave was undertaken and thoroughly done; the floor was relaid on a foundation of cement, all open graves being filled up.

On September 23, 1879, the building was re-dedicated with a service modelled somewhat on the lines of the original dedication service in 1123.

During the last twenty years little has been done to the fabric. Windows and other decoration have been lavished upon the interior, the money expended amounting to several thousands of pounds, a sum which might have been spent with more benefit to the fabric, upon purchasing the precincts, and on repairing the timber-work which supports the roof.

Interesting though the general question of the “restoration” of ancient buildings is, and interesting though Tewkesbury is as a particular case, this is not the place to go into it, but it may be well to quote from Mackail's “Life of William Morris”,

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Vol. i., p.340, a letter which William Morris wrote to the Athenæum about the restorations proposed at Tewkesbury.

“My eye just now caught the word 'restoration' in the morning paper, and, on looking closer, I saw that this time it is nothing less than the Minster of Tewkesbury that is to be destroyed by Sir Gilbert Scott. Is it altogether too late to do something to save it - it and whatever else of beautiful and historical is still left us on the sites of the ancient buildings we were once so famous for? Would it not be of some use once for all, and with the least delay possible, to set on foot an association for the purpose of watching over and protecting these relics, which, scanty as they are now become, are still wonderful treasures, all the more priceless in this age of the world, when the newly-invented study of living history is the chief joy of so many of our lives? Your paper has so steadily and courageously opposed itself to these acts of barbarism which the modern architect, parson, and squire call 'restoration', that it would be waste of words to enlarge here on the ruin that has been wrought by their hands; but, for the saving of what is left, I think I may write a word of encouragement, and say that you by no means stand alone in the matter, and that there are many thoughtful people who would be glad to sacrifice time, money, and comfort in defence of those ancient monuments; besides, though I admit that the architects are, with very few exceptions, hopeless, because interest, habit, and ignorance bind them, and that the clergy are hopeless, because their order, habit, and an ignorance yet grosser, bind them; still there must be many people whose ignorance is accidental rather than inveterate, whose good sense could surely be touched if it were clearly put to them that they were destroying what they, or, more surely still, their sons and sons' sons, would one day fervently long for, and which no wealth or energy could ever buy again for them”.

“What I wish for, therefore, is that an association shall be set on foot to keep a watch on old monuments, to protest against all 'restoration' that means more than keeping out wind and weather, and, by all means, literary and other, to awaken a feeling that our ancient buildings are not mere ecclesiastical toys, but sacred monuments of the nation's growth and hope”.

The interest of the quotation lies in the fact that the Society

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for the preservation of Ancient Buildings was formed, with Morris as its first secretary - a very practical outcome to such a very forcibly expressed letter.

The Choir before 1864, from an old photograph
From an old photograph.

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The Nave before 1864, from an old photograph
From an old photograph.

A chance presented itself in 1883 of re-purchasing the Abbey House, a building which stood in its own grounds on lands embracing the site of the whole of the original monastic buildings. Subscriptions poured in, and at the auction, held

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in the town, the Abbey House Estate was bought for £10,500, and became once more, after 344 years, the property of the church. This estate included the Abbey House, the Abbey Gateway, three cottages, and about nine acres of land. A portion of the latter, viz., that which comprised the Cloister Walk, was added to the churchyard. The Abbey House comprises portions of the infirmary and perhaps of the misericord, which survived destruction at the time of the suppression of the monastery. Part of the original wall remains on the north side, between the gateway and the church. It is a pity that the inscription under the bay window is illegible.

At the sale there was a curious lot (Lot 2) put up for sale, but it was withdrawn, and eventually given to the church. This lot was known as the Vaulted Chamber, and formed a portion of the south aisle of the nave which had been cut off from the rest of the building, and to which access was given by a stone staircase outside the church and a doorway in the wall by the nave.

Very few traces of the old monastic buildings are to be found, for when the neighbouring ground has been levelled at various times large quantities of stone have been dug up from the old foundations, and utilised partly in constructing boundary walls, partly in repairs to the building. The Abbey Gateway, which is well worth inspection, is Perpendicular work, and is in surprisingly good repair, mainly owing to the fact that for many years it was in private hands. It stands very solid and square, and looks formidable with its battlements, but the view through the open doorway is very fine - the foliage on the trees beyond showing up the stonework. The work in the arches is good, and the gargoyles are worthy of notice. The gateway was restored in 1849-50, and the gates are of about the same date.

In the cloister there are traces at the west of the outer parlour of the monks, and the size of the cloisters is clearly seen to have been eighty feet.

Of the place of this glorious Abbey in our own English history much might be written, and in fact it has been a difficult task to steer a course which, while avoiding too much history, should show that the history is there. In all the great events of history down to the end of the fifteenth

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century Tewkesbury Abbey has its place, and like the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster and the Cathedrals at Canterbury and at Winchester, is in every respect a representative structure. “It represents all the greatest influences in our social development, it directly embodies in its memories both the Crown, at the time when the Crown was a primum mobile in politics, and all the estates of the realm. It shows the Church as the

The Abbey Gateway
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale.

key-stone in which the various thrusts of those contending masses met and balanced each other. It exhibits in the Church patron the official link between things spiritual and temporal. Its great lay potentates, Saxon or Norman, either deduce their lineage from royal blood, or at once mix their own with it, and renew again and again their touch of royalty by fresh inter-marriages until the pedigree is absorbed into that of the

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reigning or rival sovereign. The House, after blazoning a leading name, often the leading name of each successive period, after scoring repeated Plantagenet affinities, at length shares the internecine havoc of the York and Lancaster factions, and its last scions which survived that havoc are cut off on the scaffold for the crime of being too near the throne. But the almost princely rank of these founders, patrons, and benefactors is their least claim to historical remembrance. They are always to be found grouped in the very focus where the light of history falls strongest, men of the foremost mark for high trust and safe counsel for foreign strife, or civil broil” (Hayman).

Thus in the four centuries after the Conquest we find FitzHamon, the second founder, connected by marriage with the great Norman soldier, In the civil wars of Stephen, Robert Earl of Gloucester and Lord of Tewkesbury, and his half-sister, Maud or Matilda, played the parts we know so well. Again, Gilbert de Clare, who is buried in the Abbey, was one of the chief signatories of Magna Charta. The last of the three Gilberts de Clare fell at Bannockburn in 1314, at the age of twenty-three. The heiress of the latter married a Despenser, a family closely connected with Tewkesbury, two prominent members of which, viz., the favoured ministers of Edward II., will be remembered as by-words in history. Sir Guy de Brien, the valiant standard-bearer of Edward III., was the second husband of the widow of the fifth Lord Despenser, and, with her, helped to rebuild the choir, in the ambulatory of which his splendid monument is still to be seen. The Despensers in turn passed away, the last heiress marrying in succession two cousins, each named Richard Beauchamp. Of her second marriage were born two children-a son, who married the sister of Warwick the king-maker, and a daughter, who became the wife of the Earl of Warwick himself. The king-maker's two daughters were unfortunate in their husbands, one of them having been married to the luckless Duke of Clarence, and the other to the young Prince Edward, who fell in 1471 at the battle of Tewkesbury. Of these noble patrons of the Abbey, from the first Tewkesbury De Clare to the time of the ill-fated Duke of Clarence, all save two, i.e., the second Richard Beauchamp and the great king-maker, Richard Neville, who

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are both buried at Warwick, found their last resting-place in Tewkesbury.

Tile showing the Arms of FitzHamon and the Abbey impaled

[1] The original stone is in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
[2] Mr. Blunt, in his “Tewkesbury and its Associations”, assigns the northernmost chapel to St. James, and the one between it and the choir aisle to St. Nicholas, but in his plan he reverses them. The plan in the Builder of December, 1894, follows Mr. Blunt's plan in so naming the two chapels. Some have thought the present Northern Chapel to be that dedicated to St. Eustachius.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in June 2013.

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