JUL 01,2016 - JUL 01,2016 (1 DAYS)
Start and End: Boots, 92 High Street. Duration: 1/2 day. Distance: 4-5 km. Transportation: buses 71 and 41 from/to Gloucester and Cheltenham. Hourly - with Gloucester and more frequent, every 20 minutes with Cheltenham.
Main Attractions: Tudor House Hotel, Tewkesbury Town Hall, The Ancient Grudge, The House of Nodding Gables, Tewkesbury Cross, The Cross House, Back of Avon road, Tewkesbury Docks, The Avon Lock, Olde Black Bear Inn, The Bell Hotel, Tewkesbury Abbey, Abbey Mill, Victoria Gardens, Severn Ham, The Abbey Cottages, The Royal Hop Pole Hotel.
Introduction: Tewkesbury (popularly pronounced: Chichbury) is a town in the far north of Gloucestershire, on the border with Worcestershire. It is situated at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon. The name Tewkesbury comes from Theoc, the name of a Saxon who founded a hermitage there in the 7th century, and in the Old English language was called Theocsbury. The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the major battles of the Wars of the Roses.
We start at Boots, 92 High Street and walk southward along High Street (we shall repeat this section soon again...). Tewkesbury is now a thriving town and at the same time is a living museum of architecture and social history spanning over 500 years. The town has such a perfectly preserved medieval character that in 1964 The Council of British Archaeology listed it amongst 57 towns "so splendid and so precious that the ultimate responsibility for them should be of national concern". The town includes many timber-framed, Medieval, Tudor buildings - part of them along the High Street.
At the Tudor House Hotel, 51-53 High Street, however, although it is indeed chiefly a Tudor building, the frontage comprises artificial half-timbering attached to a brick-built façade:
Tewkesbury Town Hall, 18 High Street was built in 1788 the town hall is one of the few buildings in Tewkesbury that is built of stone. The towns corn market was held here in the late 18th century. It is NOT a tiber house but the building is full with history.
Country Market in the Town Council at High Street:
On the opposite side: 19 High Street:
The Ancient Grudge, at High Street 15, was built in 1471, the year of the great Battle of Tewkesbury. This is where the building lends it's name, with the ancient 'grudge' referring to the enmity between the houses of York and Lancaster who were the two sides who fought during the battle. The building front was restructured during the late 16th century:
The House of the Golden Key also known as The House of Nodding Gables, 9 High Street is an early 16th century timber framed building, heightened by one storey in the 17th century. The famous 'Nodding Gables' are the result of a break in the ridge piece of the new structure which caused it to slip forward:
Tewkesbury Cross stands in the southern end of High Street. It is the war memorial in the center of Tewkesbury. Here, you find, also, the Tourist Information Office:
Still down southward along High Street, before it changes to Church Street, on your right - you see The Cross House (The Old Court House). It is an absolutely gorgeous 15th Century building. It has a magnificent entrance hall and Elizabethan panelled rooms and a stunning staircase. It is believed to have been at one time the Court House of the Lords of Tewkesbury. Unfortunately the original ground floor windows have been removed, they now exist in the ground floor of The Bull - the extension to the royal hop pole hotel. This building was originally built as two houses in the early 16th century. It was extended in the 17th century, and all extensively restored c1865 by Thomas Collins. He was a builder/restorer, who used it as his own home. The cross house is one of the finest timber-framed buildings in Tewkesbury:
Wadworth Pub or Berkeley Arms house in Church Street:
We return to the Cross (our face to the north) and turn left to Tolsey Lane, and, further west to Back of Avon road or path. We walk northward along the Avon on our left. Coming from the south to the north, along Back of Avon - the river is half-hidden on our left. It is, still a splendid road with red-bricked houses, bridges, gardening beds and the whole is very atmospheric. The more we advance northward - the more we approach the Avon river. The river is referred to as the Stratford Avon or ‘Shakespeare's Avon’ to distinguish it from other navigable river Avons such as the Bristol Avon. The river Avon is navigable from the river Severn at Tewkesbury to Alveston (between Stratford On Avon and Warwick). The river was navigable to Stratford from the river Severn at Tewkesbury in the late 1630s. The Upper Avon (Evesham to Stratford) fell foul of the railways and fell into disuse after 1875. It was finally restored and reopened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1974. The Lower Avon (Tewkesbury to Evesham)was restored and reopened in 1964. First we hit the neglected Docks - where Back of Avon meets Quay Street:
Second, we face the bridge crossing the Avon from east to west:
The more visible is the Avon and more clearly beautiful:
We cross the bridge over the Avon from east to west and continue northward until we arrive to the Avon Lock. It is the final lock on the RIver Avon that you go through before joining the River Severn. Avon lock at Tewkesbury, is womanned by a lock keeper (tel: 01684 292129):
From the Avon Lock, with our face to the north, we turn right, cross the bridge:
and return eastward to the High Street, via Mythe Road. Here, we hit the Olde Black Bear Inn. Tewkesbury claims Gloucestershire's oldest public house, the Old Black Bear, dating from 1308. It has a continous history as a hostelry, at one time providing stabling for travelers' horses. Although this is currently closed and for sale with its future as a pub in doubt:
Now, we repeat walking the 800 m. along High Street and Church Street from north to south until we hit the Bell Hotel. The Bell Hotel is a large half-timbered structure opposite the Abbey gateway:
The most notable attraction in Tewkesbury is Tewkesbury Abbey. The abbey is thought to be the third largest church in Britain that is not a cathedral (after Westminster Abbey and Beverley Minster). An impressive fine Norman abbey church. The present Abbey did not start until 1102. Built to house Benedictine monks, the Norman Abbey was near completion when consecrated in 1121. As, originally, part of a monastery, which was saved from the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII after being bought by the townspeople for the price of the lead on the roof to use as their parish church. Most of the monastery buildings, as well as the vineyards, were destroyed during this time. After the dissolution in 1540 most of the claustral buildings and the Lady Chapel were quarried for their materials but the Abbey Church was sold to the parishioners for £453. The Abbey is especially STUNNING in the soft light of the morning or evening - against clear sky.
The tower is believed to be the largest Norman tower still in existence in Europe ! The tower once had a wooden spire which may have taken the total height of the building to as much as 80 m. The great Romanesque arch on the west front is particularly striking. Tewkesbury Abbey is famous for the medieval stained glass in its seven quire windows. However, it is less well known that the Abbey also possesses a fine collection of Victorian stained glass, in the north and south aisles, chronicling the life and deeds of Jesus. There are also some excellent modern examples. When entering the nave note the west window: constructed in 1686 to replace one blown in by the wind in 1661. The stained glass, however, was not installed until 1886. The scenes depicted follow the journey of Christ from his birth to his ascension. It had been restored several times. In the ChapelL of Saint Catherine and Saint John the Baptist there are two glorious windows by Tom Denny to mark the 900th anniversary of the coming of the Benedictine monks to Tewkesbury in 1102. They are abstract designs predominately in shades of yellow, green and blues. The overall impression is colour but the more you look, the more detail you realise there is. The theme is: "Labore est Orare" or "Work is Pray":
19th century stained glass windows in the Nave:
The area surrounding the Abbey is protected from development by the Abbey Lawn Trust, originally funded by a United States benefactor. The grounds were well kept and inviting. You see around several majestic trees, with extraordinary size, scattered around the courtyard.
"Touching Souls" sculpture in the Abbey's courtyard:
The whole interior is a breathtaking feat of medieval engineering. The interior of the church clearly reveals its Romanesque origins with thick smooth columns framing the sides of the nave and hefty rounded arches atop the columns:
The Nave of Tewkesbury Abbey. Stepping into the Nave, the first impression is of Norman power with huge round arches and round arches soaring up to a vaulted ceiling. The windows are almost lost. This is Norman architecture at its very best. Side aisles are narrow adding to the overall effect of mightiness and glory:
At the east end of the Nave, the arch rests on the painted head of Atlantis holding up the roof:
The vaulting soaring overhead (and height of the columns) draw your eyebrows and gaze upward:
A carved rood screen separates the choir from the nave. The chancel and decorated vault:
The Sun of York:
On the south wall is the Milton Organ, which is one of the oldest organs still in use. It was originally built for Magdalene College Oxford in 1631 but was bought by the people of Tewkesbury in the 18th century:
Tewkesbury Abbey is blessed with some extraordinary chantry chapels. There are three small chantry chapels off the north wall of the sanctuary; the Warwick chapel, the founder's chapel and the canopied tomb of Hugh Lord Despenser and his wife Elizabeth Montague, with their alabaster effigies:
Figure of a kneeling Edward praying is best seen from the ambulatory on the far side of the choir by the Founder's or Warwick Chapels. The attitude and position of the kneeling figure are unique and it is possibly one of the finest monuments of its type in existence:
Inside, There are amazing vaulted ceiling, many tombs and small chapels. The Tewkesbury Abbey is the resting place of Edward of Westminster, the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou and sole heir of Henry VI, who died at the Battle of Tewkesbury in year 1471. The abbey was an host to the terrible aftermath of the battle. The Battle took place almost at the Abbey gates, and when the defeated Lancastrian soldiers took refuge inside the Abbey, they were slaughtered by King Edward IV's men. A reminder of that dreadful event can be seen in the sacristy door; the inner surface of the door is inset with metal from armour found after the battle. Edward of Lancaster's, Prince of Wales, was killed in the battle, and though his final resting place is not known for certain, his memorial is in the Abbey. The only Prince of Wales ever to die in battle. He was aged only 17 at his death:
Saint Dunstan's Chapel - the reredos/icons above the small altar is a reproduction of a 15thC Flemish painting showing the Passion of Christ.Tewkesbury:
There is a small altar at the east end. High on the wall above is a beautiful mural of the Holy Trinity with God the Father holding the body of the crucified Christ with an angel on either side. The small figures at the edges are Lord Edward and his wife Anne:
There is a tearoom/cafe' (separate building across the road) with snacks and home-made cakes and scones. Free admission. Open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
From the Abbey's gates - you can adopt the Tewkesbury Battle Trail (one hour - hour and a half). There is a special leaflet (from the Tourist Information Office). From my experience the trail is NOT worthwhile. It passes along meadows, grass and green fields. No more.
We exit the Abbey grounds from the north-west gate to Mill Street heading north-west until we hit the Avon river and the Abbey Mill. Tewkesbury has a history of flour milling spanning many centuries. Monks from Tewkesbury abbey used to produce flour at a watermill on the Avon, The Abbey Mill is believed to date back to around the 12th century when the river Avon was diverted into the town to power the mill of the Benedictine Monastry. The Abbey Mill is resting upon the Mill Avon, a channel allegedly built by the monks. The present building is 18th Century and was in use until 1933. The massive Healings Mill complex, we see today, was built for Samuel Healing in 1865. It did not start out that big, but bits were added here and there over the years and it grew into a sprawling tangle of different aged buildings. Luckily, the handsome 1865 buildings survive today:
At the other end of the mill is the entrance to the peaceful Victoria Gardens where you can sit and relax next to the river. A true English garden not to be missed. They are, actually, situated behind Church Street. Bordered by the Avon river on the west, the wooden Avon Mill on the east and the Severn Ham (see below) on the north. it is a lovely site, very tranquil and very well preserved by the local authority:
You exit the garden through the northern gate (near the car park by the Abbey). In the north side of the pleasure gardens - you see a waterfall. Here, starts the Severn Ham - an island meadow land between Avon Mill and the Severn river. It is, formally, part of the Avon river. You can see here various types of birds (ducks, herons, kingfishers, swans). It will take, at least, 30 minutes to walk round the island. Most of the walk is unpaved but it's pretty flat and NOT difficult (if not flooded ! Floods are more frequent during the winters. Avoid when it rains !). There are benches, here and there, particularly along the eastern side that borders the Avon Mill. You can tailor the route and the distance to your energy level. Sometimes the island is shared by herds of sheep. Keep your eye on the path NOT to step on "Bio Mine"...
To return to the city - connect with St. Mary Road and walk along it northward. St. Mary Road meets Church Street in two points. The more southern one is near the Abbey Cottages and Moore Country Museum. The more northern one is near the Royal Hop Pole Hotel and Bar (NOW, Whetherspoons restaurant).
The Abbey Cottages are a continuous terrace of small timber-framed buildings dating back to the late 15th or early 16th century. The Abbey Cottages, adjacent to Tewkesbury Abbey, were built between 1410 and 1412 for the Benedictine Monastery as a commercial venture and consisted of shops which were opened to the street by lowering their shutters to act as counters. They are believed to have been built by and for the monks of the abbey. They were restored 1967 to 1972 by the Abbey Lawn Trust, a building preservation charity. This beautiful row of cottages houses the John Moore Countryside Museum. John Moore was a local author of books on the area and also a broadcaster. A few doors along you will find another museum which is called the 'Little Museum'. This museum is a restored merchant's house, retaining many of it's medieval features:
In case you chose to visit the Abbey Cottages, more in the south, first - push along Church Street - heading to Royal Hop Pole Hotel. On your way, on your left, you see the Old Baptist Chapel, part of the Moore Museum:
The Royal Hop Pole Hotel (golden sign on a white house) in Church Street (which has recently been converted into a part of the Wetherspoons pub chain with the discovery of a former medieval banqueting hall in the structure), mentioned in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers:
It is 500 m. walk back to the High Street - to your bus to Gloucester or Cheltenham.