Tewkesbury Abbey

13 November 2007


On Tuesday 13 we went into Tewkesbury for the first time for a year or two, and the first since the floods hit the town in July.  On the way in we saw that many of the homes backing on to the flood plains had tents, caravans or mobile homes in their drives as work to restore the damaged houses continued while the families camped out.  In the town centre near the Abbey many of the businesses were still in the throes of restoration work, or had only recently been refurbished.  But they all claimed they would be back, or, indeed, that ‘we never closed’.


We intended to look round the Abbey and revisit some of the shops in the town centre.  It turned out to be a day of several surprising little coincidences.


Teresa approaching the Abbey through the yew trees



Statuary outside the Abbey refectory


Our main purpose in visiting the Abbey was to buy tickets for a performance of The Messiah in December, which Teresa and the girls wished to see.  Tickets were available only from the Abbey shop.


Inside the Abbey, one of the first surprises was to see pictures of one of the priests, whom we recognised as  one of Helen’s former teachers at Dean Close.  He was now in Holy Orders and evidently taking a leading role in Abbey activities.


A second less personal coincidence was to read about the major restoration work on the Abbey undertaken in the late 19th Century by Sir George Gilbert Scott – the father of the Giles Gilbert Scott, whose chapel at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, we had been in only the previous week.


The Abbey was a Norman foundation, and the heavy round pillars and arches dominate the monumental scale of the nave.  The chancel and surrounding chapels are in later, mainly Decorated, styles.


The Norman nave, looking toward the chancel






The Abbey boasts three organs, one with, another coincidence, an Oxford connexion.  The Milton organ (above) was originally built for Magdalen College, where it was said to have been played by John Milton – hence the name.  It was sold to the Abbey in 1736.





The East window and high altar





Walking back through the town we passed these late 12th Century cottages lining the road next to the Abbey.





Before leaving we also walked down to the river, where there have been extensive developments of riverside apartments with private moorings (some can be seen in the background to the right).


We walked down the main street – a popular haunt for Teresa’s mother when she was alive – and looked in some of the shops.  Roger at last found a suitable fabric watch strap after months of looking, so could throw away what was left of the old one and the paper clip holding it together.


In making a reacquaintance with the charity shops, we were surprised to find that the first of the second hand books we picked was one of a number inscribed with the name of one Juliet’s school friends.  Not quite the last coincidence of the day, because Roger had predicted on the way that he would see one of his bowling acquaintances in Tewkesbury, and, on the way back to the car park, he duly did.



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