The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



OF an edifice so truly interesting in its history and architectural features, so rich in its monuments, and in such a fine state of preservation, it is our wish and duty to afford the reader every information in our power; and we therefore avail ourselves freely and fully of the labours of our predecessors, who have written on the subject. Among the cathedral and conventual churches of the country, it may be safely affirmed that few afford to the antiquary, architect, and historian, more abundant materials for illustration and disquisition, than the one now under notice. It is more truly Norman in design and arrangement than any other English church, and has some peculiarities and beauties not to be found in any edifice either of Normandy or England. Though mutilated, and abridged of its original "fair proportions" and extent, it is still spacious, lofty, grand, and imposing. At present it consists of a nave, with aisles; a porch, on the north side; a transept, branching from the central tower; a choir, with aisles, terminated, to the east, in a semi-octagonal shape; three chantry chapels, or oratories, on the south side; two others, to the north, and an appendage, called the lesser chapter-room, on the same side. The cloister, and Lady chapel, which formerly adorned the south side and east end of the church, are removed, and only small fragments of them remain. Beneath the arches of the choir are several splendid and highly interesting monumental chapels, whilst other monuments are attached to the side chapels and walls.


This venerable member of the splendid abbey of Tewkesbury was deemed by the commissioners appointed to take the surrender of monasteries, in the time of Henry the eighth, to be superfluous, and was by them marked for destruction; but the pious feeling of the parishioners fortunately rescued it from demolition.

King Henry the eighth, in the thirty-fourth year of his reign, in consideration of the sum of £.483, granted and sold to the "bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty of the borough and town of Tewkesbury", the choir, aisles, chapels, vestry, steeple, bells, roofs, slates, lead, stone, iron, timber, images, tombs, grave-stones, glass, &c. and also the "soil, ground, site, precinct and circuit" of the church, as well as the church-yard, and all other things appertaining to the church, which at the time of the dissolution belonged to the abbot and convent.[183] From this grant it appears that the nave or body of the church had for a long time before the dissolution of the monastery been the parish church, and it was therefore not mentioned, in the bargain made between King Henry and his good subjects of Tewkesbury, further than in an acknowledgment of their previous right to the use of this portion of the edifice. How the parishioners originally acquired this right is uncertain; but it has been conjectured that the towns-people purchased the privilege, by appropriating the tithes of the parish to the abbey, when their original parish church, (which is supposed to have been at the end of St. Mary's lane, where it communicates with the Church-street, near the Hop-Pole inn), became so ruinous as no longer to be suitable for public worship. But from a report made to the Court of Augmentations, by the commissioners of Henry the eighth, it would appear that the body of the building had always belonged to the parishioners.


The church is generally supposed to have been built by Fitz-Hamon,[184] at the time he repaired and enlarged the abbey,[185] in the reign of Henry the first Mr. King[186] conjectures that this powerful chieftain only built the western end, and that the range of pillars, which divide the aisles from the nave, were of an earlier date; but the Rev. Robert Knight[187] endeavours to shew that Fitz-Hamon is justly entitled to the honour of being the founder of the whole building.

Although Fitz-Hamon is supposed to have completed the church in the year 1105, it appears that it was not dedicated until 1121.[188]

The coincidence of sizes, styles, and proportions of the columns[189] in the naves of the churches at Tewkesbury and Gloucester, implies that these divisions of the two churches were either the works of the same architect, or of nearly


contemporaneous execution. That of Gloucester was built by Abbot Serlo in 1089, and this of Tewkesbury by Fitz-Hamon in 1105, i.e. within sixteen years of each other; but had the whole church been rebuilt after the fire of 1178, there would have been considerable variations in the style and proportions. The pointed arches of the choir may be referred to the latter date, and may be regarded as highly curious and interesting examples of the earliest pointed style in England. At Malmsbury, in Wiltshire, there are arches and columns of similar form and proportions.

The church, according to the Annals of Winton, in Wharton's Anglia Sacra,[190] was wholly destroyed by fire in 1178. It is remarkable, however, that this conflagration is wholly unnoticed in the Chronicle of Tewkesbury, in the Cottonian library, although it is recorded in another MS. in the same collection.[191] If the words of the Winton Annals, "Combusta est et redacta in pulverem ecclesia de Theokesberia", be taken in their full sense, the present edifice cannot be older than 1178, and consequently no part of Fitz-Hamon's church can be now remaining. "This conclusion", observes Mr. Amyot,[192] "though at variance with received opinions, will perhaps be warranted, on comparing the proportions of the pillars and round arches of the west front, nave and tower, with those of a more heavy and massy description, which are usually found in buildings known to have been erected in the early part of the eleventh century. It is true, that a few specimens of pointed arches, in other ecclesiastical edifices, may be traced to the period of the supposed re-building here referred to, especially where they are found intermixed, as in the porch of the Temple Church, with semi-circular and intersecting ones. But it is equally certain, that a general adoption of the pointed style did not take place till about the


end of the century; and the absence of it, therefore, in the older portions of the church of Tewkesbury, will not impeach the date here attempted to be assigned to them".

Amid such conflicting opinions, it may be considered presumptuous here to hazard even a conjecture on the subject; but, from the fact of the Abbey Chronicle being entirely silent respecting the supposed destruction of the church by fire, and from neither that nor any other record noticing at what time or by whom any other church was subsequently erected on its ashes, we may be permitted wholly to discredit the story of its being burnt down in 1178, and are decidedly of opinion that to Fitz-Hamon chiefly belongs the honour of erecting all the original portions of the present structure.

The plan of the church is cruciform, in shape of the Latin cross,[193] broken however by the various chapels, oratories, &c. at the eastern end.

The following are the dimensions of the church, and the different portions of it:-

Total length from east to west (inside of the building)[194]3172
 From the west door to the area of the tower1676 
 Diameter of the area of the tower332 
 From the area of the tower to the altar866 
 From the altar to the Lady Chapel300 


Total length of the transept from north to south, the area of the tower included1220
Breadth of the transept332
Total breadth of the nave, with the pillars and side aisles adjoining710
 Breadth of the side aisles (each) from the wall to the pillars129 
 Breadth, or diameter, of the said pillars, on each side63 
 Breadth of the body of the church between the two rows of pillars330 
Vaulting of the body of the church from the floor570
Height of the outermost arch of the great west window650
Breadth of ditto340
Total western front on the outside800
Height of the tower, measured from the ground to the coping of the battlements1320

The nave, which is constructed in the purest Norman style, cannot be too greatly admired for the grandeur of the architecture. It is separated from the aisles by nine massive uniform cylindrical columns on each side, which sustain

"The arch'd and ponderous roof,
"By its own weight made stedfast and immovable".

These pillars support a series of semi-circular arches, above the crown of which runs a triforium, or gallery, cut through the wall, and opening into the nave by a range of double round-headed small arches; above these are the clerestory windows. The ceiling of the nave has been erected since the introduction of the pointed style of architecture: it is ornamented with groins, springing from corbel-heads, over each pillar; and at the intersections of the groins are various sculptured figures, many of which are represented as playing upon musical instruments. There are also some very fine heads, and many monstrous ones, with several singular groups of figures, beasts, knots of foliage, &c. Most of the figures and bosses, as well


as the corbels whence the ribs of the ceiling spring, were rudely painted, until the church was repaired in 1828, when these daubings, with the whole ceiling and walls, were made of an uniform colour, resembling, as nearly as was practicable, the original stone with which the church was built. Mr. King[195] thinks that the recumbent half-figures, male and female, which serve on each side as corbels for the springing of the arch of the ceiling, next to the west window, were designed to represent Fitz-Hamon, the founder of the church, and Sybile his wife; but Mr. Fosbroke[196] conjectures they were meant for Adam and Eve.

The side aisles are considerably lower than the nave; that on the north side is lighted with eight, and that on the south with five pointed arched windows,[197] which were probably introduced in lieu of smaller ones, about the same time that the choir was modernised. Thirteen windows, of a similar character, light the chapels and aisles which surround the chancel; there are three others in the vestry, and some smaller ones at the back of the altar.

The transepts are parts of the original structure; they consist of plain piers and semi-circular arches, with low narrow galleries over them, and the vaulting is similar to that of the nave. In the north transept is a fine Catherine-wheel window,


a large well-proportioned pointed one, and two others, smaller. In the south transept there are five windows, including one which was formerly circular, somewhat resembling that in the opposite transept, but which, from having its sides compressed and the top narrowed, is much disfigured. There is a large buttress, graduated in six stages, against the western angle of the south transept: this was probably built when the church was renovated, in the beginning of the last century; the fissures which are now visible in the walls, perhaps then demonstrated that some additional support was indispensable.

A modern screen supports the organ gallery, and separates the nave from the choir; but this addition, however much it may add to the convenience and comfort of those who attend divine service, little harmonizes with the general character of the building, and it also materially obstructs that unbroken view of the interior of the edifice which would otherwise be obtained.

The choir, or that portion which lies to the eastward of the tower, has undergone greater alteration than any other part of the structure. Mr. Bentham informs us, that "in Henry the third's reign, the circular arch and massive column seem wholly to have been laid aside; and the pointed arch and slender pillar, being substituted in their room, obtained such general approbation throughout the kingdom, that several parts of those strong and stately buildings, which had been erected in the preceding age, were taken down in order to make room for this new mode of building". As Abbot Parker, who died about 1420, is known to have added considerably to the building of this church, we may perhaps safely infer, that the choir and chancel, which formed the most sacred parts of it,[198] were altered to their present state during his abbacy.


Upon the original massive circular columns, which are of a corresponding character with those in the nave, (but shortened to their present form for the purpose of effecting the improvements of later periods), the choir rises in pointed arches to the roof, which is adorned with a profusion of tracery, and at each intersection is a richly sculptured flower, or knot of foliage. The peculiar character of the architecture of the upper part of the choir is that which is distinguished by the name of the decorated style, and the effect of that portion of the fabric is singularly grand and beautiful.

At the east end of the church are four chapels or oratories,[199] two on the south and two on the north side: the one nearest to the vestry-door, and to which Abbot Cheltenham's tomb serves partly as a screen, has a piscina in the south wall; but it is uncertain to whom either that or the next chapel to the eastward was dedicated: in the latter, on the left of the place where the altar stood, there is an ambry or cupboard, designed for holding the official articles used by the priest in celebrating mass, and a piscina is as usual on the right. Probably these were the chapels dedicated to St. George and to St. John the Baptist, as it is known that there were chapels which bore the names of those saints in our church.[200]


The curious chapel of St. Edmund the Martyr, in the front of which is placed what is vulgarly called the skeleton of the starved monk, is on the opposite side of the church. The legend, reporting St. Edmund to have been shot with arrows and beheaded, and a wolf defending his head, was formerly described in fret-work on this chapel, but no traces of it are now to be seen.

To the westward of the above, is the chapel dedicated to St. Margaret, which is inclosed partly by a screen capped with battlements, with the beautiful tomb of Sir Guy O'Brien in the centre. In the wall are an ambry, and two piscinas; one of which is larger than usual, differently situated, and must have been designed for a purpose somewhat dissimilar to that of piscinas in general.

There are not the least traces of an altar in either of these chapels, or in any of the others within the church.

There are in the choir seven large windows of stained glass;[201] these form a most beautiful termination to the fine view from the more western parts of the church. In the two opposite windows, next to the tower, are eight curious whole-length figures of knights in armour, represented as standing under very rich Gothic canopies, each nearly filling one of the principal compartments of the window; some are in mail, others in plated armour, and all of them have arms on their surcoats. The upper and smaller compartments of these windows are filled with scrolls of vine branches, on a brilliant red ground, disposed in the most elegant taste.[202] The window on the north side exhibits Fitz-Hamon, the founder; Robert, his son-in-law, first Earl of Gloucester; one of the De Clares; and Hugh le


Despenser the second.[203] That on the opposite side displays, the three other earls of the line of De Clare, and the Lord William de la Zouch. These portraits, from their early date, furnish some of the most satisfactory references for baronial costume to be found in the kingdom; and Mr. Gough[204] says, that in four of them we have specimens of the ancient Gonfanons, i.e.. small plates of steel placed on the shoulders, so called from their resemblance to the flags called Gonfanons.

In the other side windows, and in that at the end of the choir, are seen figures of the Virgin Mary,[205] Daniel, Jeremiah, Solomon and Joel; as well as a number of apocryphal personages, whose history is only to be found in the legends of the Romish church. Various escutcheons, some of which are in a most dilapidated state, are still visible in these beautiful windows;[206] but, through ignorance, the modern glaziers, who have at various times been employed to repair the glass, have in some instances made blazonings of their own, out of the


scattered pieces of stained glass, and have thus made incongruous compounds of heraldic ornaments.

The tower, resting upon four immensely strong piers, rises above the body and transepts on a plain base, in which are introduced two windows on each side, with an ornamental super-structure divided into three stories, above which is a comparatively modern embattled parapet, with lofty clustered pinnacles at the angles.[207] The first story is adorned with a range of columns and arcades, admitting three windows in each quarter; the second division exhibits a remarkably curious series of intersected arcades, such as have been thought by some to have given the first idea of the Gothic or pointed arch;[208] and this is surmounted by another range of columns and arcades, similar to those on the lower story.

The tower is in height, from the ground to the coping of the battlements, one hundred and thirty-two feet, but its unusual bulk diminishes in some measure the appearance of its actual loftiness. Robert Earl of Gloucester erected a wooden spire of great height upon the top of the tower, which fell


down during the performance of divine service on Easter-day, 1559; and as the pinnacles and battlements were completed in the following year, it may be inferred that so much damage was done by this accident, as to render some alterations necessary.

It has been thought that this tower was not in the first instance intended for bells, but that it was one of those which, in the words of Mr. Warton, was "calculated to produce the effect of the louvre, or open lantern, in the inside; and on this account originally continued open almost to the covering". The same ingenious author observes, in his Observations on Winchester Cathedral, "nearly the whole of the inside of this tower was formerly seen from below; and, for that reason, its side arches or windows, of the first story at least, are artificially wrought and ornamented". Upon this passage, Mr. Knight, in his Disquisition on Tewkesbury Church, pointedly observes, "the same remark might be applied to the tower in question; where we may perceive, in that part of it now used as a belfry, more pains employed in the workmanship, than, if it had always been shut up from the church below, as it now is, would probably have been bestowed upon it. The present floor of this room is laid upon a vaulted ceiling, springing from corbels of more delicate execution than those in the nave, and bearing evident marks, from the pointed style of it, and from the arms which occur in it, of a much later date than the tower itself. In the walls surrounding it, there is the same sort of gallery, as in the nave and transepts, for the purpose of giving access to the higher parts of the building; which would be wholly without a meaning in this place, if we could suppose that the present floor had always belonged to it".

The idea that bells were not primarily intended to be placed in this tower is further confirmed by the erection of a campanile, or bell-tower, apart from the church, which has been described in a preceding chapter. In the tower are eight bells,[209] a set of chimes, and an excellent clock.


The apex of the roof of the church was formerly much higher than it is at present: the height and figure of the original wooden roof are still visible in a projecting wall-plate, or weather moulding, on the sides of the tower. The loftier covering was taken down to make room for the present stone-groined ceiling, which is thought to have been erected subsequent to the reign of Henry the third,[210] as these ceilings did not come into use until about that period.

It is stated, in the records of the corporation, that the long roof of the church was taken down in 1593, and re-placed in the following year; and that, in 1603, "the roof of lead and timber over the chancel was taken down, new framed, laid lower, and covered new", at the expense of the town. But if the long roof was taken down in 1593, it is extraordinary that it should have been necessary to have had a new one in little more than a century afterwards.

The long roof had become in so dilapidated a condition in the year 1720, that it was found impracticable to raise a sufficient sum of money within the parish to repair it; upon which it was resolved to obtain a brief for that purpose, as well as for the general reparation of the structure. The brief, which was granted by the Right Hon. Lord Chancellor Parker, and is dated Feb. 25, 1720, states that the expense of reparation was estimated at £.3929; and that the parishioners had "expended in repairs in a few years £.1337, and in the last

[Image:] TEWKESBURY ABBEY CHURCH. Drawn & Engd. by Thos. Higham[?].

West Front

Published 1830 By James Bennett, Bookseller, Tewkesbury.


year, in two levies, £.384, but that the whole roof must be taken down and new framed, and the lead new cast, several buttresses be erected, and several arches rebuilt".[211] The brief realised the sum of £.1470, and a subscription produced £.81 19s.[212] The reparations were commenced in 1723, and completed in 1726.

One of the most popular and admired features of the church is the semi-circular receding arch, sixty-five feet in height and thirty-four feet wide, which forms part of the western front. Mr. Knight properly terms this a "chef-d'oeuvre of Norman skill". It is now filled by a pointed window of seven bays; four transoms again divide it into five stories, each compartment forming a pointed arch, feathered. The present window was erected in the year 1686, in place of one that was blown down during a violent storm on the 18th of Feb. 1661. In its original state, this fine Anglo-Norman arch, which is supported by six slender cylindrical pillars on each side, probably contained several small windows, somewhat similar to those in the tower, with a door-way beneath them. It is not supposed that a window, of a description similar to the present, could have occupied its situation prior to the reign of Edward the third; a large one might have been placed there at the same time that the pointed windows were introduced in the aisles. There are two turrets at the angles, with a stair-case in each, and surmounted by clustered pinnacles, of singular form and design.

The usual entrance to the church is through a fine and spacious porch,[213] or vestibule: in the outside wall is an image of the Virgin Mary, the patroness of the church, which appears at some distant period to have been wantonly defaced.


The Lady Chapel, which, as usual, stood at the east end of the church, was entirely destroyed by the agents of Henry the eighth; but a large arch, which connected it with the aisle at the back of the altar, is still visible.

On the outside of the south wall, west of the transept, there are some remains of the fine cloisters, which appear to have been very richly ornamented; they are nearly of the same style of architecture as those of Gloucester cathedral, which are known to have been erected in the latter part of the fourteenth century.[214] There is also, at the eastern end of the cloisters, a beautiful circular arch, containing within it the pediment of a lancet-shaped door-way, most delicately executed, which once led from the cloisters into the church, but it is now blocked up with fragments of ancient sculpture, with the exception of a small aperture at the top, into which an ill-proportioned window has been slovenly thrust. This pointed arch, and the exquisite tabernacle-work which surmounts it, though deprived of the images with which it was once adorned, is worthy of admiration, but can only be seen to advantage on the outside of the building.

There was also a door, of a smaller size, at the western end of the cloisters, but this is likewise now stopped up: these doors were necessary whenever the holy brotherhood performed their processions.[215]

Attached to the church, on the north side, is a large ancient building, now and for many years past used as the Free Grammar School, which once opened, under a large pointed arch, into the north aisle of the choir: this has been


generally called the chapter-house, though it is by some supposed to have been the scriptorium, or library, belonging to the abbey. Mr. Knight says, "it exhibits at the northern extremity, which is certainly the oldest part of it, a beautiful specimen of the lancet-shaped window, as it began to prevail in the earlier part of the reign of Henry the third, divided by a single mullion, and ornamented at the sides with slight insulated columns of Purbeck marble, sometimes with plain and sometimes with palm-leaved capitals: it is impossible to withhold from them the praise of singular elegance".

On the south side of the choir is a large room, now used as the parish vestry:[216] the door-way is beautifully proportioned, and over it are three finely sculptured corbels. This was originally the diaconum magnum, or great vestry, attached to the monastery, in which were kept the communion plate, the copes, robes, and other vestments of the priests, &c. The arches of the door-way and windows have ornamented bosses down the sides of the mouldings, with a fillet of the like description surrounding the slender pillars, banded together, which, upon raised pedestals, support the ceiling.

On the east side of the south transept is a small chapel or oratory, having within the south wall an ancient semi-circular piece of stone-work, which has been thought to be the remains of the altar or the piscina: it is however so mutilated, that it would be difficult now to determine its original use, though it is not unlikely that it belonged to some other part of the church, and was placed in its present situation merely to preserve it from destruction.

The old stone font, which formerly stood between two of the pillars in the nave, was removed into this chapel when the church was repaired in 1828. It appears to be of considerable antiquity, though Mr. Knight thinks it was formed out of pieces of old stone-work at the time the church became parochial: he truly observes, that the right of baptism was seldom


granted to monastic institutions; but as it is known that baptisms were solemnized in this church at a very early period, the present font may be quite as old as its appearance would indicate. It bears the following inscription:-

"One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. Ephes. 4. v.5".

Over this chapel is a dark cell or apartment, traditionally denominated "the nun's prison": why it should have been so called, it would be fruitless to conjecture; but some have in consequence supposed it to have been used as a place of confinement for such as offended against the rules of the abbey.

On the south side of the altar are three curious canopied stone stalls,[217] two only of which are visible, the third being concealed by the altar-piece. They were designed for the use of the priest, deacon and sub-deacon, in the celebration of mass. "These are composed of high pointed cinquefoil arches, supported by thick lozenge-formed columns, divided into a great number of small mouldings, chiefly of the ogee and hollow form. Above the arch is a pediment, on each side of which is a niche. The whole is enriched with a quantity of foliage, executed in a bold style. At the top of the columns are the remains of animals, but so mutilated that it is impossible to say what species they were intended to represent. The plinth and seat appear modern. It is to be regretted that the upper parts of these curious and beautiful stalls are lost".[218]

The venerable oak seats, curiously carved and canopied, which once stood against the piers of the tower, are now dispersed about the church: they were, like those in other


ancient churches, made to lift up, to accommodate worshippers in the several postures of kneeling, sitting or standing;[219] and underneath the seats are various carved grotesque figures of reptiles, fishes, &c.

On the side of one of the pillars, beneath the tower, near the Countess of Warwick's chapel, is a curious piece of carved wood work, which Mr. Knight and others have thought to be designed as an ornament to the saint's bell: it is however far more probable that it was a cresset, for a lamp.[220]

There is a niche for the holy water, with which the frequenters of the sacred edifice crossed themselves on entering it, in a pillar near the north entrance; and a very ancient stone bracket, somewhat defaced, designed for holding a candelabrum, when the church was lighted, remains in the southern aisle of the nave, between the cloister door-way and the transept.

Piscinae[221] occur in many of the chapels, but there are no vestiges of the principal one, which of course stood near the


high altar, and held the consecrated water, with which the numerous articles used in administering the sacraments were continually purified; nor are there any remains of the roodloft,[222] which contained the rood, or cross, on which the image of the suffering Redeemer was exhibited to the congregation, and which was invariably placed at the entrance into the choir, or chancel.

The stone altar-piece, which is of the Doric order, with an elliptical pediment, was erected, chiefly by private contributions, in 1727; and the steps, which lead to the high altar, as well as the pavement of the chancel, were laid about the same period, at the expense of the parish. Prior to this, the communion table[223] stood near the centre of the chancel.


The table now in use is of light polished marble; the previous one was a dark grey marble, and of extremely large dimensions.

The organ, now placed in a gallery between two of the pillars in the nave, beneath which is the principal entrance to that portion of the church appropriated for divine service, is not more distinguished for its exterior appearance and great powers, than for the singularity of its history. It originally belonged to Magdalen College, Oxford; Oliver Cromwell, who was fond of music, and particularly of that of an organ, which was proscribed under his government, was so delighted with the harmony of this instrument, that when it was taken down from its station in the college, according to the puritanical humour of the times, as an abominable agent of superstition, he had it conveyed to Hampton Court, where it was placed in the great gallery for his amusement. It remained there till the restoration, when it was sent back to Oxford; but another organ having been presented to the college, it was in the year 1737 removed to Tewkesbury.

The church was entirely new pewed and fitted up in its present style in the year 1796,[224] at an expense of something more than £.2000. Nearly £.800 was raised by voluntary subscription among the inhabitants, and by donations from the representatives in parliament, towards effecting this desirable measure; a musical festival produced £.43. 6s. 3d.; and


£.900 was advanced, by eighteen individuals, upon mortgage of the rent of the seats. The last of the mortgagees was paid his principal and interest in 1810.

In 1823, £.300 was voted by the "Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty", by means of the "parliamentary grants", for the purpose of increasing the accommodations in this church; but the money was never obtained, in consequence of the difficulty of finding room for so great a number of additional free sittings as the governors required, and of the great expense which would have attended the alterations.

Between the years 1824 and 1830, the church underwent an extensive reparation, at an expense of upwards of £.3000. The whole of this sum, (with the exception of about £.700, the amount of a voluntary contribution),[225] was raised by rates upon the inhabitants of the parish. The exterior of the tower, which had probably remained untouched from the time of its erection, was carefully examined, and as the dilapidations in this portion of the fabric were very considerable, new stones were introduced wherever the old ones had become decayed; shelving stones were introduced into the windows of the tower, in lieu of unsightly bricks, with which they had before been nearly darkened; the transept walls, and the roofs, were also repaired and strengthened; one of the pinnacles on the central tower was re-built, and the others, as well as those over the western portal, were completely repaired; portions of the leaden covering, gutters and pipes were renewed, and the remainder were put into a state of perfect repair; spouts were added on the south side, and capacious drains made to carry off the water from the foundations; large sums of money were expended upon the windows; the whole of the interior of the church, which had before been covered with white-wash, was scraped, cleaned, and coloured in distemper, to match the original stone, the walls and pillars in many places being first repaired, pointed and cemented; all the tombs were cleaned,


and many of them restored; the centre of the floor of the nave, from the western entrance to the screen which supports the organ, and the cross-walk from the porch to the southern wall, as well as the porch itself, and the eastern portion of the south transept, which before were not only very uneven, but in many parts rudely covered with common bricks and fragments of old grave-stones,, were appropriately paved with Painswick free-stone; the remainder of the nave, aisles, transepts, &c. was levelled, the grave-stones were re-laid, and blue stone was in most places substituted for the old bricks which had before filled the spaces between the graves; the steps leading into the porch were renewed; one half of the screen, opposite to the vestry-door, which had been long broken down, was restored; twenty additional seats were made in the chancel; and the soil, which had been suffered to accumulate against the walls, in the church-yard, and on the southern side of the church, was, so far as was practicable, removed, and the foundations of the building underwent very extensive reparation.

Had the funds been adequate to the undertaking, it was at the same time intended to have repaired the seven large painted windows in the choir; removed the present altarpiece, and substituted one more in unison with the other portions of the church; restored the ancient stone stalls and the Countess of Warwick's chapel; completed the reparation of the various other chapels and tombs; grouted with the best material, the ceilings in every portion of the fabric; boarded and raised the vestry floor; procured a set of new bells; and placed large pipes down the sides of the tower, for the purpose of conveying the water from the top to the long roof; and it will be much to be regretted, if means are not shortly found to effect these and many other improvements in this interesting building, which has been perhaps justly termed "the finest parish church in the kingdom".

The church-yard, although it may be said to be extensive, is much too limited for so populous a parish. Some efforts


were made to enlarge it in 1820, by adding to it the piece of inclosed land to the westward, on which the vicarage-house has since been erected; but the proposal met with such decided opposition from many of the parishioners, on the plea of economy, that the idea was altogether relinquished. The walk from the street to the north entrance of the church was first paved, by subscription, in 1750: the iron gates at the porch were at the same time given by the Right Hon. Lord Gage, and those adjoining the street, with the palisades, were presented by Wm. Dowdeswell, esq. The walks are shaded with uniform rows of fine trees, - the range of chesnuts, on the sides of the principal gravelled walk, are flourishing and ornamental; these, as well as the limes and elms, were planted in the year 1725.

[183] The particular, which was drawn up by the king's commissioners, preparatory to the grant of the church to the parishioners, is preserved in the Augmentation Office; and the original grant is in the Chapel of the Rolls, the usual repository for the enrolments in Chancery. - See Appendix, Nos. 14 and 15.
[184] It has been said that, in building this church, it was Fitz-Hamon's intention to make what satisfaction he could for the injury done to the church of Baieux in Normandy, which Henry the first set fire to, in order to free him from prison.
[185] According to Leland, part of the religions edifices at Tewkesbury was built with stone brought from Prestbury, near Cheltenham. He also adds, that the materials of the tower were said to have been imported from Caen in Normandy. Itin VI. 85.
[186] Munimenta Antiqua, vol. IV.
[187] Cursory Disquisition on the Conventual Church of Tewkesbury and its Antiquities, 8vo. 1818.
[188] The ceremony of consecration was performed by Theulf, Thewold, or Theulphus, bishop of Worcester and prebendary of Baieux, assisted by Richard bishop of Hereford, Urban bishop of Glamorgan, and Gregory bishop of Dublin. The Cotton MS. Cleop. A. VII. fol. 8, assigns the date of the dedication to 1123, on the 10th of the kalends of November. But the Continuator of Florence of Worcester fixes that event to have taken place in November 1121; a date which seems to be the more probable, as Theulphus bishop of Worcester is stated, on the same authority, to hare died on the 12th of the kalends of November, 1123.
[189] The shaft of the column at Tewkesbury measures twenty-seven feet high, by six feet three inches in diameter; and that at Gloucester is twenty- fire feet nine inches by seven feet. An ample history and description, with several illustrations of Gloucester Cathedral, form one of the volumes of Mr. Britton's "Cathedral Antiquities".
[190] Vol. I. p.301.
[191] Cleop. A. VII.
[192] Some Account of the Abbey Church of Tewkesbury, by Thomas Amyot, Treasurer to the Society of Antiquaries of London, in the fifth volume of Vetusta Monumenta, accompanied by fourteen engravings of plan, sections and elevations of the building.
[193] Eustace, in his "Classical Tour in Italy", notices, that the form of the cross in ecclesiastical edifices was first introduced about the end of the fifth century; and he is of opinion that it "very happily combines variety with unity, and beauty with convenience". This favourite form of the ecclesiastics of the middle ages has been thus eulogised by an architectural critic:- "The transepts vary the long line of the building by a conflexion of lines and angles, and preserve, by the partial exposure of battlements and pinnacles, the appearance of extent beyond what the eye can immediately comprehend, which is a common and important character of ancient architecture, the grandeur of which is no more the result of dimension, than its beauty is of ornament. The architects applied both as accessaries, but depended on neither alone for the merit of their buildings". - Observations on Magdalen College, Oxford.
[194] Before the demolition of the Virgin Mary's Chapel, the building is said to have been at least one hundred feet longer.
[195] Munimenta Antiqua.
[196] Picturesque and Topographical Account of Cheltenham and its Vicinity, 12mo. 1826.
[197] The windows have been repaired at a very considerable expense within a few years: the large window in the north transept was blown down in 1819; and the corresponding one in the south transept would soon have shared a similar fate, had it not been taken down and rebuilt in the following year. All the windows in the north aisle were blocked up to a considerable height, with stones and rubbish, until the church-wardens, in 1825, had them entirely glazed, which not only greatly improved the appearance of the exterior of the church, but gave increased light to the interior. The whole of the windows in the chapels at the eastern end, and some others, which had also been nearly darkened, were repaired in 1828; several of them were entirely renewed, and casements were introduced for the convenience of ventilation, to which before that time but little attention had been paid.
[198] The chancel is that part of the choir of the church between the communion table and the screen that separates it from the nave; it has always been considered as the most sacred part of the church; and, by ancient constitutions, no woman was allowed to stand within the chancel, or to approach the altar; and this custom continued until the Reformation. Gibson's Codex, I. 175, - Archaeologia, XI. 388.
[199] Bingham says, "the use of oratories was for people to retire into that were minded to give themselves to reading, or meditation, or private prayer"; whilst, in chapels, particular services were performed, for the good of the souls of those over whose remains they were built.
[200] Jeffrey Goughe, by will, in 1525, bequeathed his body to Tewkesbury church-yard; to the high altar of the parish church of Tewkesbury, four-pence; and to St. George's chapel, in the said parish church, two-pence. And John Prynce, of Tewkesbury, in 1524, appointed by his will, that if his sons, Humphrey and John, die without heirs, then Francis Folyatt, Mr. John Clement, rector of Bishop's Cleeve, and others his feoffees, together with the two bailiffs of Tewkesbury for the time being for ever, shall enjoy all his lands, tenements, and half a burgage in Tewkesbury, in Oldbury-street, together with his lands, tenements, woods, underwoods, and their appurtenances, in Awre, Etloe, Blakeney and Lydney, within the Forest of Dean and hundred of Bledisloe, with an intent that they may find yearly one fit chaplain for ever to celebrate mass, in the chapel of St. John the Baptist, in Tewkesbury, for the souls of Prynce, his wife, parents, sons and daughters, and of all faithful departed. The chaplain to receive nine marks for his salary.
[201] "In the lighter style of Gothic, the apertures for windows were so numerous and so large, as to admit too great a portion of light. To abate the glare, without entirely excluding the light, the expedient of glazing the windows with painted glass was adopted, which at the same time that it prevented the evil, was in itself also a decoration". - Hawkins's Hist. of Goth. Architect.
[202] Lysons's Observations on some of the Tombs in Tewkesbury Church. - Archaeologia, XIV. 143.
[203] Mr. Brooke, the late Somerset Herald, thinks this figure was intended for Thomas le Despenser; but Mr. Lysons gives the most satisfactory reasons for a contrary opinion. Mr. Brooke also supposes that the figure, in the opposite window, which we have ascribed to Lord William de la Zouch of Mortimer, was intended for Ralph de Monthermer.
[204] Sepulchral Monuments, Introd. II. ccxii.
[205] The figures of the Virgin Mary and the Prophet Joel, in the first and fourth compartments of the centre window, had transparent glass substituted for the parts representing the heads, until they were restored, in 1828, to the state in which they now appear, by Mr. Collins, of the Strand. The manner in which this distinguished artist has perfected these figures is a proof of his taste and abilities, and his refusing to accept of any compensation for it strongly manifests his liberality. - Similar instances of the substitution of white for the original coloured glass, are not unfrequent in ancient painted windows, and proceed generally from the partial injury committed by the warlike zealots of the seventeenth century.
[206] Mr. Knight says, "Besides the arms of the founder and principal benefactors, and those of the abbey, we have, in different parts of these windows, the arms of Joan D'Acres, (married to the second Gilbert de Clare), - of Mortimer, - D'Amorie, - and Le Zouch; - to which may be added, as belonging to persons unknown, Argent, five bars azure - Or, a lion sable crowned: others might be discovered by skilful persons, acquainted with the subject, and given to their right owners". - See Appendix, No.16.
[207] On one of the pinnacles of the tower is the following inscription:- "John Cooke and Tho. Deacons, C. Wardens, erected this battlement and pinnacles, Anno Dom. 1660". Probably, before that period, the tower was surmounted by an open parapet of indented work, with smaller and plainer battlements, similar to those which now adorn the eastern portion of the church. In 1825, the north-west pinnacle was found to be in so dilapidated a condition, that it was of necessity taken entirely down, though many of the old materials served in its re-erection; all the other pinnacles were at the same time repaired, at no inconsiderable expense.
[208] The Rev. J. Bentham, in his History of Ely Cathedral, and the Rev. J. Milner, in his History of Winchester, are of this opinion; but Bishop Warburton, in his Notes to Pope's Epistles, supposes that the Goths invented this species of architecture in endeavouring to imitate the solemn and beautiful scenes of nature, as seen in an extended avenue of lofty trees. Lord Orford observes, "Shrines for reliques were probably the real prototypes of this fine species of architecture; it was a most natural transition for piety to render a whole church, as it were, one shrine: the Gothic style seems to bespeak an amplification of the minute, not a diminution of the great". Mr. Britton, in his "Chronological History of Christian Architecture", has given a full review of the opinions of all preceding antiquaries on the origin, history and characteristics of the Pointed Arch, with numerous illustrations.
[209] In the reign of Henry the eighth there were eight bells in the tower: for many years prior to 1612, there had been only four, but they were increased in that year, to five. In 1632, these five bells were re-cast, and another added, at an expence to the parish of about £.100; and in 1696, the six old bells were re-cast, and two additional ones procured, the expense being defrayed by voluntary contribution. Several of the bells have been renewed within the last century, and some of them require re-casting at the present time.
[210] The buttress to the wall of the north aisle, projecting into the church-yard, was perhaps rendered necessary in consequence of the great pressure occasioned by the additional weight of the present ceiling: this buttress would appear to have been built at the time the roof was taken down, about the year 1723, though a more ancient one might have stood there prior to that time. The buttresses at the eastern end of the church, from the following inscription, which is now discernable upon one of them, seem to have been erected in 1680: "Jo. Peyton, Ja. Simpson, Churchwardens, 1680".
[211] Cole, MS. Brit.Mus. vol.27.
[212] See Appendix, No.17.
[213] The porch was a very ancient appendage to the church; and although it has been usually considered as a mere ornament, yet it had in ancient times its special uses. In that part of the will of Henry the sixth, relative to the foundation of Eton College, are these words: "Item, in the south side of the body of the church, a fair large door with a porch, and the same for christening of children and weddings". - Royal Wills, by Nichols.
[214] A view, plan and particular history of these cloisters are given in Britton's "History, &c. of Gloucester Cathedral".
[215] The procession of the monks proceeded from the choir of the church out of the east door, and, having passed round the adjoining cloisters, returned into it again by the west door: this being the apparent motion of the sun, viz. from east to west. On one occasion, the monks of Winchester thinking themselves injured by the bishop, who was their natural protector, made their processions the contrary way, with their processional crosses reversed, to shew that the state of things was then out of its proper order. - Milner.
[216] In the year 1810, Philip Godsall, esq. formerly an eminent coach-builder in Long Acre, presented the parish with the handsome stone chimney-piece, grate, &c. which now ornament the vestry.
[217] The sedile, or stone stall, is found in many of our churches, and has been very differently accounted for by antiquaries. Some have called them confessionaries; and others assert, that they were constructed solely for the priest to sit in at certain intervals during the celebration of the mass. That they were designed to accommodate bishops and other ecclesiastics, whose office it was to visit churches, is another conjecture; as well as that their chief use might be referred to the dedication of the church. They are generally placed near the altar, in the south wall of the chancel, frequently under beautiful subdivided Gothic arches, enriched with buttresses, finials, &c. Between the seat and the east wall is a small niche, generally in the same style, for the piscina. - Archaologia, XI.
[218] Vetusta Monumenta, vol. v. p.10.
[219] "That small shelving-stool", says Milner, "which the seats of the stalls formed when turned up in their proper position, is called a miserere. On these, the monks and canons of ancient times, with the assistance of their elbows on the upper part of their stalls, half supported themselves during certain parts of their long offices, not to be obliged always to stand or kneel. This stool, however, was so contrived, that, if the body became supine by sleep, it naturally fell down, and the person who rested upon it was thrown forward into the middle of the choir. The present usage in this country is to keep them always turned down, in which position they form a horizontal seat, an indulgence that was very rarely granted to those who kept choir in ancient times".
[220] Mr. Knight conceived this to have been of stone, and in his observations upon it, says, it "seems to have epitomized most of the riper beauties of the Gothic school": and adds, "its tabernacle work, pinnacles and buttresses entitle it to peculiar praise". It is however carved in oak, and two of its pinnacles were surreptitiously obtained by the workmen who were employed in pewing the church, in 1796, and were used by them as patterns for some of the ornamental work around the galleries, &c.
[221] A piscina, or lavacrum, is a perforated basin of stone, placed in a small niche, or fenestella, cut in the substance of the south wall. It is usually situated near the sedilia, being evidently designed for the use of the altar, which formerly adjoined that part of the church; but it is not unfrequently found alone in the south walls of chancels and aisles Sometimes the piscina has a double hollow, each perforated, or having a small hole in the centre. Where two drains occur, it is believed that one was designed to carry away the water in which the priest's hands had been washed, and the other to receive that in which the chalice had been rinced. The consecrated host, which time or accident had rendered impure, was also dismissed through the same channel. The fenestella, or niche, is generally ornamented, and is sometimes divided into an upper and lower compartment, the former of which was used as a receptacle for the cruets, or ampullae, holding the consecrated wine and water.
[222] The rood-loft was a gallery across the nave, at the entrance of the choir, or chancel. It acquired its name from the great crucifix which was placed there, with its front towards the congregation. Besides the rood, or crucifix, it was also customary, in great churches, to introduce sculptured figures of sanctified personages, as of the Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist, &c. Roods were taken down from English churches, by order of government, in 1547; at which time the royal arms were substituted for the cross, as may still be seen in many churches.
[223] In the primitive churches, the altar was made of wood, in order that it might be removed from place to place; but the council of Paris, in 509, decreed that every altar should be made of stone. It was removed from the wall, and placed in the middle of the church, in the time of Elizabeth, and thenceforth denominated the communion table. The altar was the most highly enriched and splendid part of the furniture in ancient catholic churches. The Antiquarian Repertory has the following passage relating to the entire demolition, in the civil wars of the seventeenth century, of those altars which were spared by the agents of reformation: "The destruction of altars, during this puritanical phrenzy, was so general throughout the kingdom, that there is not, at this time, in England or Wales, one to be found of greater antiquity than the restoration!"
[224] The excellent manner in which the church was pewed, was certainly creditable to the late Mr. J. Keyte, of Kidderminster, the contractor; but it is much to be lamented that he should not have been restrained from cutting away the bottoms of those fine piers, which support the internal arches, underneath the main pillars of the tower. The mutilations which these semi-columns sustained, and the clipping of several others near the gallery stair-cases, were not effected without considerable labour, but were evidently thus disfigured with a view of obviating the comparatively trifling difficulty of fitting the wood-work around them. The eight piers which are attached to the arches under the tower, being in a more prominent situation than the rest, should at least be restored; or their unsightly appearance might be somewhat obviated, by introducing suitable corbels as supporters.
[225] See Appendix, No.18.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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