"A lovely abbey ......in a flood plain." Tewkesbury by leics

Tewkesbury Travel Guide: 27 reviews and 105 photos

No...the abbey isn't tilting. I think I was. :-(

I've been to Tewkesbury several times in the past but long ago. So a chilly post-Christmas excursion for a proper look-round seemed a good idea.

Tewkesbury Abbey is huge..as big as many of our cathedrals. Although there has been a church on site for 1200 years, the present building dates from the early 1100s and was consecrated in 1121 (you can still see the consecration crosses scratched into the stone of the entrance porch) The Abbey was originally the church for a large Benedictine monstery. Amazingly, it survived Henry Vlll's Dissolution ....the people of Tewkesbury bought it from him for the princely sum of £453!

Inside there are wonderful architectural details, tombs, chantry chapels, Medieval stained glass and a very welcoming feeling. There is even a 17th-century organ which was reputedly played by John Milton (poet, 'Paradise Lost').

More pictures and info on the Abbey and its interior in the travelogue.

But the Abbey is not the only reason for visiting Tewkesbury. 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".....because it is stuffed full of the most wonderful Medieval (and later) architecture.

Walking the streets is sheer delight: little late-Medieval timber-framed cottages, Stuart town houses, Georgian terraces...they are all there, their rooflines tipsily displayed, some of their windows blocked (there was, once, a 'window tax' so people blocked off their unnecessary windows to avoid it), some still black-and-white but those more recently renovated restored to their correct cream and brown colours....all still lived in and used.

Tewkesbury lies at the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Avon. Both are large rivers so it has always been prone to flooding ....a curse and a blessing, for the regular floods have ensured that the town has kept the same shape (more or less) as in Medieval times. Any new build has to be further out, away from the most obvious flood risk.

Mind you, that doesn't mean that flooding is now unusual. The picture here (on the BBC news site) shows what the floods of 2007 looked like.....and you can see that those pre-Medieval monks really did know the best spot to build their abbey!

Tewkesbury is also the site of an important battle in the Medieval 'Wars of the Roses'. It happened in 1471 and is rather too complicated for me to explain. If you are interested, you can read about it on the Battlefields Trust site and on the local re-enactment society's site There is a waymarked battle trail around the town.

If you can find the time whilst you are visiting the UK, or if you live here, Tewkesbury and the area around it is well worth visiting. There are lots of very pleasant hotels and b&bs, and a wealth of other interesting villages nearby....including the Cotswolds and many, many prehistoric sites.

During my brief visit (December daylight hours being very short) I took myself to the tiny village of Deerhurst, less than 5 miles away, where I was stunned to find not only Saxon chapel dating from at least 1056 but also a beautiful Saxon minster church, with foundations dating back in parts to the 7th century.......yes, that's 600 AD! Fortunately VT has Deerhurst in its database, so I'll be writing about these two very special and very precious buildings separately.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Abbey, history, architecture
  • Cons:Often gets flooded!
  • In a nutshell:Medieval abbey set in an historical town
  • Last visit to Tewkesbury: Dec 2008
  • Intro Updated Mar 10, 2011
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Comments (1)

  • Myfanwe's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Hi Leics, Wonderful tips and pics of Tewkesbury, more informative than a travel guide. Thanks for sharing, Vicki


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