Day out: Tewkesbury

2 Jun

If you get tired of glowing Cotswold villages of stone (is that possible?) you can take a trip to Tewkesbury to see  Tudor houses slanting in to each other over cute shops and restaurants, and soak in the amazing Tewkesbury Abbey.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you realize that a word you’ve been saying actually has a meaning aside from a succession of sounds?  Yeah, that was me in Tewkesbury.  About half way through our walk in the Abbey, I suddenly realized: “Wait — Tewkesbury-Tewkesbury?  THE Tewkesbury?  Like, bloody meadow, Queen Margaret, the Sunne in Splendoure, the young Duke of Gloucester before he became Richard III, the cowardly and disloyal Lord Wenlock, the brutal death of Prince Edward, the betrayal of sanctuary, the beheading of poor Somerset,  that Tewkesbury?  Holy Crap!”  Now when you go to Tewkesbury, you can be prepared.

(Oh, that wasn’t enough preparation?  Okay, for a bit of imagined history, read Penman’s The Sunne in Splendoure, and Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd, and Gregory’s Cousins’ War series.  Or pick up any more serious reference about the War of the Roses.  Or come back in the second week of July, and visit the Tewkesbury medieval festival, where the battle is recreated, including heads paraded on pikes.)

The Abbey was smaller than I expected, until I really looked at that tower — this is a solid, firm-foundation kind of place, in a Norman style.  Those Normans did not mess around with their stonework.

What was Somerset’s last view in life, I wonder?

Detail on the exterior of the west door.  I just think it looks cool.

Surrounding part of the Abbey, a wall (where part of the old Benedictine structure may have been?) — I love that the wall has elements of other stonework inserted in to it.

But let’s walk inside the Abbey.

Some dramatic sunlight.  And yes, those columns are as massive as they look.

View toward the choir and altar.

View back from the choir screen.  Maybe this will help.

Look up and see the Sun.  After his battle victory, Edward IV left his mark on the Abbey in unmistakable form.


The Wakeman Cenotaph, which has an interesting history, but which mostly makes me think of zombies.

Remarkable internment markers.

Never forgetting that this is still a living place, not only a venue for my historical fascination.

After walking through the Abbey, step outside and see the His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester saluting a parade of returning soldiers.  I can’t guarantee that this happens every day in Tewkesbury.

Check out the axman.

Expat tip #253: when going in to a tea room or pub, always ask if there is a garden.  We had a tea in this quiet spot, a seemingly secluded oasis but just steps from the Abbey.  Also, is that Beyonce?

The tourist information center recommended a visit to the Wednesday market.  The whole scene reminded me of episodes of Fake Britain I see while on the gym treadmill, leaving me inexplicably tired and worried about mercury poisoning.  Not recommended.

A walk past the nationally-famous Roses Theatre.  Some good stuff going on up there this summer.

The red and white rose are still part of Tewkesbury present — here seen in the window of the AD 1471 delicatessen.

A stroll past the River Avon and the old mill — used to be part of the Benedictine Abbey, now scenic apartments.

One of the many Tudor-style half-timbered houses.

And a final break under the wisteria arbor in the Victoria Pleasure Gardens, before walking back to the car and ride home.

Tewkesbury is a small town and easy to absorb in a day.  One thing we missed was the recommended water tour, but the cozy lunch at Theoc House made up for it.  (Recommended by someone at the Roses Theatre — yay.)   I’ve marked my calendar for the medieval festival in July — see you there?


4 Responses to “Day out: Tewkesbury”

  1. Zazzy June 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    You know what amazes me when I look at places like that, is that all of that incredible architecture was done without computer generated plans and other modern tools. And it’s stood for hundreds of years. Can you even imagine starting a building project that would take 20 years to complete, all with hand tools? Thanks for the photo tour and are you going back for the heads on pikes?

    • Monique June 2, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

      How could I stay away from heads on pikes? I’ve seen photos of the event — they have papier-mache heads that look realistic enough to be gruesome. 20 years to complete would be incredibly fast for any of these medieval buildings — most took generations. It *is* amazing. Originally the roof on Tewkesbury Abbey was even higher — the first four storey stone structure in England, I think. But the roof was lowered and some of the windows removed or made smaller to put in the stonework tracery that is up there now. Anyway, it’s all so cool, I love it!!


  1. Week out: Cotswold « Crumpets in Camelot - July 14, 2012

    […] Day three started with a visit to Tewkesbury Abbey. (Day out: Tewkesbury) […]

  2. And now for something completely different | Crumpets in Camelot - November 26, 2013

    […] falling into fantasy land, wringing my hands or gushing over being an American in the UK, going gaga over history, enjoying a good bakery, picturesque ruins, and a pretty close-up shot of a flower. […]

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