The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



In the year 800, Brictric, king of Wessex, son-in-law to king Offa, was interred in St. Faith's chapel, in Tewkesbury church.

In 812, Hugh, a Mercian nobleman, who owned the manor of Tewkesbury, was buried on the north side of the body of the church.

Gilbert de Clare, first Earl of Hertford and Gloucester,[246] who died in 1230, was buried in the middle of the choir. [247]


Isabel, daughter of the Earl of Pembroke, widow of Gilbert de Clare and wife of Richard brother to King Henry the third, who died in 1239, ordered her heart to be sent in a silver cup to her brother, then abbot of Tewkesbury, to be interred before the high altar.[248]

Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford and Gloucester, who died in 1262, was buried in the choir. The bishops of


Worcester and Landaff, twelve abbots, and a great number of barons, knights and gentlemen, were present at his funeral; and numerous indulgences were granted by the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Chester, Worcester and Landaff, to those who should pray for the earl's soul.[249] The stately tomb of this nobleman was erected by his widow Maud, in the Lady chapel, but no remains of it now exist. It was ornamented with gold, silver and precious stones, the sword and spurs which he wore when alive, and other valuables. On this tomb was a large image of the earl, in silver, and his praises were celebrated in the following epitaph:

"Hic pudor Hippoliti, Paridis gena, sensus Ulyssis,
"Æneae pietas, Hectoris ira jacet"

Which is thus translated in "Weever's Funeral Monuments":

"Chaste Hippolite, and Paris fair, Ulysses wise and sly,
"Æneas kind, fierce Hector, here jointly entomb'd lye".

Gilbert de Clare the second, who died in 1295, was also buried in the choir, near the communion table. The effigies of this nobleman formerly stood over one of the stalls, not far from his grave, in a pensive position, with an inscription in gold characters.

Gilbert de Clare the third, who was slain at the battle of Bannockburn, in 1314, was buried at Tewkesbury, with his ancestors,[250]

Maud, his wife, daughter of the Earl of Ulster, was buried on his left hand.

John, son of Gilbert de Clare the third, was buried either in the Lady chapel or in the choir.

Hugh le Despenser the younger, who was executed at Hereford, in 1327, was quartered and publicly exposed, but some parts of his body were privately interred at Tewkesbury.


William Lord le Zouch of Mortimer was buried in the middle of the chapel of our Lady in 1335.[251]

Eleanor, eldest daughter of Gilbert de Clare the second, and widow of Hugh le Despenser the younger and of William Lord le Zouch, who died in 1337, was buried with her ancestors.

Another Lord le Zouch is said to have been buried in the Lady chapel, near the presbytery, in 1371.

Elizabeth, widow of the last named Lord le Zouch, was buried there in 1408.

Edward, eldest son of Edward le Despenser the second, and also his infant brother and sister, were buried in the Lady chapel.

Thomas, another son of Edward le Despenser the second, who was executed at Bristol, 1 Henry IV. was buried in the middle of the choir.

Elizabeth, widow to Edward le Despenser the second, who died in 1409,[252] was buried either within or near to the chapel of the Holy Trinity, which she had erected to her husband's memory.


Hugh Mortimer, by his will, dated London, 1415, directed his body "to be buried in a certain chapel of Tewkesbury church, wherein is buried the body of Lord Edward le Despenser".

Richard le Despenser, son to Lord Thomas, died in his eighteenth year, and was buried in the choir, on the left hand of his father.

Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick, who died in 1446, was buried in the middle of the choir.

Cicely, daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, and widow of the above Duke of Warwick, was buried in the same place in 1450.

Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was beheaded after the battle of Tewkesbury, in 1471; also Lord John Beaufort, his brother, and the Earl of Devonshire, who were slain in the battle, were buried in the church.

Nearly in the centre of the choir, just beneath the tower, is the following inscription, on a brass plate, commemorative of the melancholy fate of Prince Edward, who was murdered after the battle of Tewkesbury:

"Ne tota pereat Memoria Edwardi Principis Walliae, post
praelium meinorabile in vicinis arvis depugnatum crudeliter
occisi; banc tabulam honorariam deponi curavit pietas Tewksburiensis.
Anno Domini MDCCXCVI".

This inscription, from the pen of the late Rev. Robert Knight, vicar of Tewkesbury, was placed there when the church was newly pewed in 1796. The slab on which this plate is engraved covers a stone coffin, which was examined not many years since, but exhibited no marks by which it could be recognised as the repository of royal dust; and it is far more probable to have contained the ashes of Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick, who was certainly buried in this part of the church. It is unknown where the ill-fated Edward was buried, whether in the church or church-yard; historians say that his body was thrown into a hole with those of the common soldiers who perished in the field of battle. The grave which this inscription covers has immemorially been pointed out as that of the


prince; and had not the large marble slab, which was originally placed on it, been removed and despoiled of the brasses with which it had once been inlaid, it might have been better ascertained whose remains were deposited beneath.[253]

At the back of the high altar, underneath a large blue stone, which bears evident marks of once having been inlaid with metal, is a flight of eight stone steps; these lead to a large arched vault, in which the remains of Isabel Duchess of Clarence, eldest daughter of Richard Earl of Warwick, were deposited in 1477; and where, also, her illustrious husband, George Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward the fourth, after his mysterious death in the Tower, most probably found that repose which was denied to him in his lifetime. The Abbey Chronicle gives a minute account of the burial of the duchess, and points out the precise spot of her interment;[254] but


no person who has written on the subject seems to have been aware of the existence of this vault. Mr. Knight enquires, "among the many nobles and chieftains interred in this church, where are we to look for 'false, fleeting, perjured Clarence', and Isabel his duchess, who are reported to have here found a period to their sufferings, whether arising from their misfortunes or their crimes, in the sabbath of the grave?" After describing the pomp displayed at the funeral of the duchess, he remarks, "such were the feuds about the throne, during the eventful reigns of Edward the fourth, Richard the third, and Henry the seventh, that no one has even ventured to mark the spot with a stone where this obnoxious branch of royalty finally claimed kindred with the worm".[255]

This vault was opened in 1826, in the presence of the vicar, curate, and churchwardens of the parish: it was in the most perfect state, and measured nine feet long, eight feet wide, and six feet four inches high. The arched roof and walls were of Painswick free-stone, and must have been chiefly hewn from large masses of solid material; the floor was paved, and in the centre was the representation of a cross, extending almost the whole length and breadth of the vault, formed with painted bricks: on some of these were the arms of England, of the Clares, &c. and on some were ornamented letters, birds, fleurs de lis, and various other devices, similar to bricks which are frequently found about the church; and of which, it would seem, the members of the convent kept a store, to be used for embellishment as occasion might require. In the north-west corner of the vault were found two skulls, and other bones; these were evidently the remains of a man and woman, and although there was nothing to prove that they were relics of the Duke and Duchess of Clarence, there are some circumstances which render it by no means improbable.


That the duchess was buried in this vault, not the shadow of a doubt can exist: this receptacle for her remains might have been prepared during the thirty-five days in which she lay in state in the church; for as she died at so early an age, and so unexpectedly, there is no reason to suppose that it was made in her life time. It will perhaps never be satisfactorily determined where the duke was buried: Rapin and others affirm that he was interred here; and as his enemies cared little about his body after it was deprived of life, it is not likely that any obstacle would have been thrown in the way of its removal to Tewkesbury, if any faithful adherent desired it. The circumstance of the bones of a male and female being discovered in this vault, - joined to that of there being six large stones, at the south end of it, apparently arranged for supporting two coffins abreast, - would add something to the plausibility of the notion of his having been buried in the same grave with his duchess. The fact of its being unnoticed in the Abbey Register, might have arisen solely from an anxiety in the abbot not to give offence to the ruling powers, by recording the interment of one who had fallen a victim to their resentment.

This vault was perhaps ransacked soon after the dissolution of the monastery, for the purpose of obtaining every thing of value which could be found in it: the coffins, as was frequently the case, might have been stolen for the worth of the materials, and the bones were suffered to remain in one corner of the sepulchre, merely because they could not be converted into money. This receptacle for royal dust was destined again to be disturbed in 1709, 1729 and 1753, in order to admit the bodies of Samuel Hawling, his wife, and his son. Samuel and John Hawling were members of the corporation; but it is quite impossible to conceive how these "perriwig-pated aldermen" obtained permission to occupy this tomb.

In 1829, the remains of the family of Hawling were removed from this vault, and carefully deposited in a grave, which had been prepared for the purpose, a little to the southward, and their grave-stone was afterwards laid upon it. An


ancient stone coffin was then taken into the vault, the supposed bones of the royal duke and duchess were deposited in it, and here they were securely inclosed, by placing a large stone upon the top of the coffin.[256] However frequent therefore this vault may in future be visited, the remains of mortality which are in it cannot again be readily disturbed.

Some account of the modern monuments and grave-stones which are in the church, as well as of a few of the tombs, &c. in the church-yard, is given in a subsequent portion of this work.[257]

[246] The following notice of the death and funeral of Gilbert do Clare, Earl of Hertford and Gloucester, who died in 1230, is in the Cotton manuscript:- "A.D. M.CC.XXX. G. de Clare comes Gloucestriae et Hertfordiae obiit in nocte sanctorum Crispini et Crispiniani apud Penros in Brittania, et legavit corpus suum ecclesiae beatae Mariae Theok. ubi nunc requiescit. Legavit etiam eidem ecclesiae boscum de Mutha, et crucem argenteam bene deauratam. Applicuit autem sequenti die Sabbato cum familia sua apud Plu'mue et delatus est per mediam Devoniam, Sumers', et Dorset', usque Craneburn, deinde usque Theokesburiam multis obiter largitis pro anima ejus pauperibus, elcemosynis, et pannis scricis, domibus religiosis. Venit tamen corpus ad nos Sabbato ante festum sancti Martini, quievit autem in sepulchro dominica sequenti. Sepultus vero est ante majus altare, astantibus abbatibus Theok. de Tynterne, de Fiexley, de Keynesham, de Tureford, et aliis viris religiosis, innumeris diversorum ordinum populis quam innumeris utriusque sexus. Primum testainentum comitis G. fuit apud Suwik super mare, pridie kal. Maii. Secundum vero in Brittania minori, decimo kal. Novembris". Fol. 20.
[247] In an old manuscript account of the "noble personages buried in the abbey of Tewkesbury", in the editor's possession, six coats of arms are described as having been "late on the coffin that covered the tomb of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester".
[248] The Cotton Register, under the year 1239, has the following particulars respecting the funeral and will of Isabella Countess of Gloucester:- "Obiit Ysabella comitissa Gloucestriae et Hertfordiae, Cornub. et Pic- tav. apud Berkamstud. Corpus vero ejusdem humatum digno honore apud Bellum Locum Cisterciensis ordinis coram majori altari, in cuppa argentea decenter deaurata per fratrem H. de Siptun tunc priorem Theoksb. qui ejus obitui interfuit: unde versus,
Postremâ voce legavit cor comittissa.
Pars melior toto fuit hue pro corpore missa.
Haec se divisit Dominum recolendo priorem.
Hue cor quod misit, verum testatur amorem.
Huic simul ecclesiae sanctae suffragia prosint.
Ut simul in requie coelesti cum domino sint.
Intestina vero ejusdem humata sunt apud Mussenden coram majori altare. Legavit domui Theok. X. libratas terrae de maritagio suo in villa de Sunedun. Item xl. marc. argenti. Unum calicem argenti deaurat. ij. phialas argenteas. j. turribulum argenteum. j. textum coopertum argento. j. phialam quam dominus papa misit ei cum reliquiis, videlicet de sancto Cornelio papa, de capillis sanctae Elizabethae virginis, de tribus pueris, de Sanctis Marco et Marcelliano, de syndone beatae Agnetis, de Sanctis mar- tyribus Olimpii, Theodorii, Simpronii, Superbiae, atque Lucillae, de sancto Pantaleone martyre, de sancto Damaso papa, de sancto Basilio confessore, de Sanctis xl. martyribus. Item legavit duas cappas de baudekin bene ornatas, et j. casulam bonam stragulatam, tunicam et dalmaticam de uno panno; haec omnia fuerunt de capella sua. Ipsa siquidem semper habuit in proposito sepeliri in ecclesia beatae Mariae Theokesb. juxta tumulum G. comitis, viri sui prioris, sed non est passa pro voluntate domini R. com. Cornub. viri sui posterioris qui cum corpore suo dedit X. marc, redditus praedicto loco quo sepulta est, et quo ipse disposuit sepeliri. Insuper pro anima comitissae contulit templariis dominus R. comes X. libratas redditus. Hospitali Jerusalem X. libr. redditus apud Walingeford. Instituit quendam capellanum in perpetuum pro anima ipsius; et ad sustentationem ipsius dedit et confirmavit per cartam suam v. marc. redditus. Lpsa siquidem cum esset in libera viduitate instituit virum capellanum in perpetuum pro anima G. com. Glouc. et pro anima ipsius apud moniales de Marcyate, et ad sustentationem ipsius dedit et per cartam suam confirmavit praedicto loco c. sol redditus". Fol. 36 b, 37.
[249] Cotton MS.
[250] Mr. Knight states that he was buried in the Virgin Mary's chapel; and Sandford, in his Genealogical Survey, asserts, that he was buried near his father, grand-father and great grand-father.
[251] The effigies of Lord William le Zouch, in a perpendicular position, is now to be seen, beneath a row of fine elm trees, in a field on the estate and near to the mansion of Joseph Yorke, esq. at Forthampton Court. As Abbot Wakeman resided there, it is probable that he conveyed it to Forthampton at the time of the demolition of the Virgin Mary's chapel. The figure is cut in stone, is upwards of six feet high, and appears in the act of sheathing a sword. The face is in great part visored, the legs crossed, and rowelled spurs are strapped upon the feet, which rest upon a lion dormant.
[252] By her will, dated July the 4th, 1409, in which she stiles herself Elizabeth de Burghersh, dame le Despenser, she bequeathed her body to be interred between Edward Lord le Despenser her husband and Thomas le Despenser her son: appointing her interment to be within three days after her decease; and that a black cloth, with a white cross, should be laid over her corpse, with five tapers about it, and no more, during the office of burial. Likewise, that a stone of marble should be placed over her grave, with her portraiture thereon. She also appointed that seven of the most honest priests that could be found should sing for her by the space of one whole year after her death; and each of them, for so doing, to receive five pounds. Moreover, she willed, that a thousand masses should be sung for her soul.
[253] "Under a large marble slab, stript of its brasses, at the entrance of the choir at Tewkesbury, under the rood loft, is said to lie the unfortunate Prince Edward, only son of Henry the sixth, stabbed in cold blood after the battle. Some bones of a small skeleton, as of a youth, and a coffin, were discovered by the breaking of the stone, and might till lately be handled. The figures of a religious, under a canopy, with pillars and four shields, were inlaid on the slab. The Plan [in Stevens] puts here the monument of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Worcester, (it should be Henry Beauchamp last Earl of Warwick), who was buried at the head of Prince Edward. It is not likely that the last remnant of a royal house, which was so completely crushed in this battle, should have had any memorial laid over him". - Gough, Sepul. Mon. vol. n. p.225.
[254] From the Abbey Chronicle we learn, that Lord John Strensham, abbot of Tewkesbury, with other abbots in their habits, and the whole convent, received her body in the middle of the choir, and the funeral office was performed by the lord abbot and the rest of the abbots, with the whole convent, in nine lessons; afterwards the funeral office was performed by the suffragans of the bishops of Worcester and Lincoln, and by the dean and chaplains of the duke: and the vigils were observed by the duke's own family till the next day, which was the vigil of the Epiphany. The suffragan of the bishop of Lincoln celebrated the first mass of St. Mary, in St. Mary's chapel; the second mass of the Trinity was celebrated by the lord abbot, at the altar; the suffragan of the bishop of Worcester celebrated the third mass, of eternal rest, at which Peter Weld, doctor in divinity, and of the order of the Minors at Worcester, preached a sermon in the choir, before the prelates; and mass being ended, the body was left under the hearse, in the middle of the choir, for thirty-five days; and those solemn obsequies were daily performed, during that time, in the convent. Her body was buried in a vault behind the high altar, before the door of the Virgin Mary's chapel, and opposite the door of St. Edmund the Martyr's chapel.
[255] Knight's Disquisition, p. 107.
[256] The coffin, which is now in the Clarence vault, was dug up by the sexton, whilst he was making a grave for Mr. Samuel Jeynes, between the vestry door and the Trinity chapel, in 1775; and from the situation in which it was found, it is supposed to have been that of one of the Despenser family.
[257] See Appendix, Nos.19, 20 and 21.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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