Friday, 30 June 2017

Tewkesbury Abbey

It's Wednesday 7 June and our Cotswolds holiday ends today as we head back home in time to play a gig with the band on Thursday night. We say our goodbyes at the B&B and head along the A44 to Evesham where were turn left and head south west again in order to have lunch and a look around the abbey at Tewkesbury.

We parked right next to the abbey in a fairly small car park. Apart from the spaces along the edge of the car park there was just room for one row of spaces set at an angle in the centre. The car park attendant (what??? Is he the last such person I wonder?) directed me to one of the centre spaces and told us where to find something to eat before looking round the abbey. There is in fact a volunteer-run cafe in the abbey grounds, the Touching Souls Tea Room.

Once fed and watered, it wasn't particularly obvious which was the way in and we walked past this door (we should have gone through it...) and walked an entire circuit of the church exterior.

This wasn't all hardship because it was a nice sunny day and we found this modern wall with bits of old window tracery in it and had a good view of the details on the church walls.

This doorway, for instance, had obviously had some work done on it recently. The stone was bright and the carvings well defined. Originally each of those little pedestals would have had a painted statue of a saint standing on it.

The building of the abbey started in 1087, just 21 years on from the Battle of Hastings and the start of the Norman dynasty of kings. The abbey was consecrated in 1121. At the Dissolution the townspeople bought the abbey church to be their parish church for the cost of the metal in the lead roof and the bells. It is now the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin.

We walk all the way around the church and come back to our starting point before pushing at the small door within the larger doors, which swings open obligingly to let us into the church. I looked for a sign to tell me whether or not I could take photos but there wasn't one, so I assumed that I could. I changed the settings on the camera so that I could take photos without flash though as I always feel it obtrusive and disrespectful to others to keep firing off sudden bursts of light.

The beautiful intricately carved wooden cover for the font. Behind it is a roll call of Tewkesbury's Fallen from the First World War.

A significant battle of the Wars of the Roses was the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471. Present were the Duke of Somerset, Earl of Devon and Edward Prince of Wales for Lancaster and facing them King Edward IV and his brothers, George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (the future King Richard III). The defeated Lancastrians claimed sanctuary in the Abbey, but were forcibly removed and killed. George, Duke of Clarence was later executed for treason. Famously in legend (and in Shakespeare's play Richard III) he was asked how he wished to die, and replied "Drowned in good red wine!". So the story goes that he was forced into a butt (105 gallons) of malmsey wine. Certainly he was not beheaded as was usual for a prisoner of such status, as his body has been exhumed and found to be still firmly attached to his head. His wife Isabel Neville, a daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker, owned the lands around Tewkesbury and both she and George are buried in a crypt behind the High Altar.

I'm not sure whose tomb this was. There are several tombs in the abbey from the families: Beauchamp (Earls and Countesses of Warwick); Despenser (they have an entire war named after them from their revolt against King Edward II in the 1320s) and Fitzhamon (faithful to William I and II, one family member covering the corpse of William Rufus with his cloak and then remaining loyal to Henry I afterwards, he was one of the founders of Tewkesbury Abbey).

It was whilst going into the shop to ask whose this tomb was that I saw the sign for photo permits and coughed up quickly, the assistant laughing that I must have been feeling guilty! And she didn't know whose tomb it was...

I always struggle to know what's going on in the paintings within stained glass windows and this is no exception. There's an angel up top either beating out or fanning the flames coming from a church or tomb. Underneath three men, one a king and the other two not, pray to the angel to get on with it, whilst on the right four women pray for the opposite. Perhaps... At the bottom a person in red is paying a kneeling crippled man with a crutch whilst a king presumably (purple robes and gold underneath) is either looking on humbly or just holding his cloak shut because there's a wind... It's all beyond me...

A nice bit of wall painting. I would guess that the wall has cracked and moved apart at one point and been filled in with cement as the top bit of the painting is definitely out of alignment.

And we're out again! The path leads from the doorway to the centre of Tewkesbury that we have no time to see on this visit.

After all the rain during our stay in the Cotswolds, today is hot and sunny! Until the next trip...

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