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Evesham Abbey

Evesham Abbey bell tower

Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin at Evesham in Worcestershire, England between 700 and 710 following an alleged vision of the Virgin Mary by a swineherd by the name of Eof.[1]

According to the monastic history, Evesham came through the Norman Conquest unusually well, because of a quick approach by Abbot Æthelwig to William the Conqueror.[2] The abbey is of Benedictine origin, and became in its heyday one of the wealthiest in the country. Simon de Montfort (1208–1265) is buried near the high altar of the ruined abbey, the spot marked by an altar-like memorial monument dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1965.[3]

During the 16th-century dissolution of the monasteries, almost all of the abbey was demolished. Today, only one section of walling survives from the abbey itself, although fragments of the 13th-century chapter house, together with the almonry, the 16th-century bell tower and a gateway remain. The abbey's site is a scheduled monument and has several listed structures within it and adjacent to it, of which four are designated at the highest Grade I level.

Foundation

The year of the foundation of the abbey (that is, when a monastic community was first established) is problematic. William Tindal (1794) comments that "I have a MS. but without name or reference, which says that he [i.e. Ecgwine] began his Abbey in the year 682. This is before he was made bishop, and seems improbable. Tanner [Not. Mon. p.168] says in 701. The date of Pope Constantine’s charter may decide the point as to the consecration of his Abbey, but there is reason to suppose that Egwin began to build as early as the year 702".[4] George May gives 701 as the year that Ethelred conferred on Ecgwine the whole peninsula [5] with the erection of the monastery commencing in the same year.[6]

On the other hand, the year of the consecration derives from the grant of the first privilege to the abbey from Pope Constantine "written in the seven hundred and ninth year of our Lord’s incarnation."[7] Ecgwine allegedly returned from Rome bearing this charter, which was apparently read out by Archbishop Berhtwald at a council of "the whole of England" held at Alcester,[8] although that meeting was probably fictitious.[9] Thomas of Marlborough records that, in accordance with the apostolic command, a community of monks was then established[10] (meaning the foundation has also been dated to 709):

"When the blessed Ecgwine saw that longed-for day when the place which he had built would be consecrated, and a monastic order established to serve God in that place, he then abandoned all concerns for worldly matters, and devoted himself to a contemplative way of life. Following the example of the Lord by humbling himself, he resigned his bishop's see, and became abbot of the monastery."[11]

The alleged charter of Ecgwine (purportedly written in 714) records that on the feast of All Saints "Bishop Wilfrid and I consecrated the church which I had built to God, the Blessed Mary, and to all Christ’s elect".[12] The feast of All Saints became established in the West after 609 or 610 under Pope Boniface IV; its observance on 1 November dates from the time of Pope Gregory III (died 741).[13] A Bishop Wilfrid was Egwin’s successor to the see of Worcester (though he is sometimes confused with Wilfrid, Bishop of York, who died c. 709).

Although the exact year of the foundation remains unclear, it has sometimes been assumed that the date of the abbey's consecration was the feast of All Saints in 709.[citation needed] That the consecration occurred on this feast day would provide a neat connection with All Saints' Church in Evesham. That Abbot Clement Lichfield lies buried beneath the Chantry Chapel, now known as the Lichfield Chapel in consequence, provides a link to the closing days of the life of the abbey.

Surviving structures

A view over the river to the abbey's tower, a 19th century oil painting

During the dissolution of the monasteries, on its surrender to the king in 1540 the abbey was plundered and razed to the ground, although the bell tower built earlier that century was saved.[14] The tower stands 110 feet (34 m) tall and is a Grade I listed building.[15] Other remains include:

  • The abbey's almonry, from the 15th century and earlier, Grade I listed,[16] has been restored and houses the Almonry Museum and Heritage Centre
  • The L-shaped house which is now numbers 53 and 54, Merstow Green, incorporates the abbey's Great Gate from the early 14th century and a vaulted passage from the same period; Grade I listed[17]
  • Abbot Reginald's gateway and wall, c.1120 with 15th-century room above; Grade I listed[18][19]
  • Part of the south wall of the abbey precinct, restored, including an arched doorway[20]
  • A 13th-century archway which led to the chapter house[21]
  • Fragmentary remains of the west wall of the north transept of the abbey[22]
  • A wall, blocked arches and a window which are the remains of the abbey stables, 14th and 15th centuries; Grade II* listed[23]

The full area of the abbey precincts, most of which is today a public park, was designated as a scheduled monument in 1949.[24] As of 2022, the site in general and in particular the almonry and Abbot Reginald's wall, are on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register owing to their vulnerable condition.[25][26][27]

Other buildings linked to the history of the abbey include Middle Littleton tythe barn.

Relics of saints

Other burials

Prints and paintings

J. M. W. Turner’s watercolour of the old abbey gateway, 1793

Prints of picturesque ruins accompanied the growth of domestic tourism in Britain during the second half of the 18th century, among which can be found striking images of the remains of the abbey walls and bell tower at Evesham. These, accompanied by scenic and historical descriptions, were collected, for example, in such works as Francis Grose's Antiquities of England and Wales (1786)[42] and, more particularly, Samuel Ireland's Picturesque Views on the Upper or Warwickshire Avon (1795).[43] Among the visiting artists who came to paint them was J. M. W. Turner, who in 1793 made pen and wash studies of the abbey gateway[44] and of the Church of St Laurence seen through the bell tower's arch.[45] An anonymous artist of the period also left a panorama of the tower and churches behind it as seen from the river.[46]

In the following century, the antiquary Edward Rudge began excavations of the abbey remains on parts of his property, between 1811 and 1834. The results were given to the Society of Antiquaries of London; illustrations of the discoveries were published in their Vetusta Monumenta with a memoir by his son, Edward John Rudge and illustrations by his wife, Anne Rudge.[47]

Conservation

Evesham Abbey Trust, a charity and charitable incorporated organisation registered in 2016, aims to conserve, preserve and improve the abbey site and environs.[48] Since May 2017, the trust owns the freehold of much of the site following its gifting by the Rudge family.[49] The trust in 2019 obtained over £1m of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England and other local and regional funders to begin the conservation and restoration of the abbey walls and the creation of a set of interpretive gardens.[50] The work was completed in 2023.[51]

Commemoration

One of the Great Western Railway Star class locomotives was named Evesham Abbey and numbered 4065. It was subsequently rebuilt as a Castle class locomotive, being renumbered as 5085 while retaining the name Evesham Abbey.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Evesham Abbey". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 February 2007.
  2. ^ Historia
  3. ^ "Simon de Montfort". Archived from the original on 11 May 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  4. ^ William Tindal, The History and Antiquities of the Abbey and Borough of Evesham (Evesham: John Agg, 1794), p.2 third footnote. The year 702 is also given in Saint Egwin and his Abbey of Evesham by the Benedictines of Stanbrook (London: Burns & Oates, 1904), p.15. Tindal (1756–1804), a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and chaplain of the Tower of London, was the grandson of the historian Rev Nicolas Tindal. (Dictionary of National Biography)
  5. ^ May, George of Evesham, England. (1845), A descriptive history of the town of Evesham, from the foundation of its Saxon monastery, with notices respecting the ancient deanery of its vale, Evesham, [Eng.]: G. May, OCLC 4784873, OL 7173099M((citation)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link), p.21
  6. ^ George May (1845), p.24
  7. ^ Sayers & Watkiss, Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), section 323, page 319
  8. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, p.lxxxiv.
  9. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, footnote 2, page 20
  10. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, section 18, page 23.
  11. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, section 18, page 23
  12. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, section 32, page 39
  13. ^ Thomas of Marlborough: History of the Abbey of Evesham, footnote 2 to page 38
  14. ^ Willis-Bund, J. W.; Page, William, eds. (1971). "Houses of Benedictine monks: Abbey of Evesham". A History of the County of Worcester, Volume 2. Victoria County History. University of London. pp. 112–127. Retrieved 8 November 2022 – via British History Online.
  15. ^ Historic England. "The Bell Tower (1081353)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  16. ^ Historic England. "The Almonry, Merstow Green (1302722)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  17. ^ Historic England. "Nos 53 and 54 incorporating Remains of Abbey Gate (1156720)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  18. ^ Historic England. "Abbot Reginald's Gateway (1081349)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  19. ^ Historic England. "Abbot Reginald's Gateway and Old Vicarage (scheduled monument) (1005298)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  20. ^ Historic England. "Remains of south wall of Abbey Precinct (1156586)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  21. ^ Historic England. "Archway to south of the remains of west wall of north transept of Abbey (1081391)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  22. ^ Historic England. "Remains of west wall of North Transept of Abbey (1156614)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  23. ^ Historic England. "Remains of Abbey Stables (1350068)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  24. ^ Historic England. "Evesham Abbey (remains of) (scheduled monument) (1005297)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Evesham Abbey (remains of)". Heritage at Risk. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  26. ^ "The Almonry, Merstow Green, Evesham". Heritage at Risk. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  27. ^ "Abbot Reginalds Wall, Evesham Abbey". Heritage at Risk. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  28. ^ Evesham Abbey and the Parish Churches: A Guide, p.8, and The Victoria History of the County of Worcester, p.387
  29. ^ Saint Credan at Catholic.org
  30. ^ 'The Medieval Hagiography of Saint Ecgwine', p.79 & p.83. This notes that Abbot Ælfweard occupied himself with increasing Evesham’s prestige, and instigated the translation of Saint Wigstan to Evesham, and Evesham Abbey and the Parish Churches: A Guide, p.8. E.J. Rudge, p.13 notes that Ælfweard entreated King Canute to present the abbey church with the relics of Wystan. George May (1834), p.47 refers to St Wulstan. Also see The Victoria History of the County of Worcester, p.387 and 'The Mitred Abbey of St. Mary, Evesham', p.12.
  31. ^ 'The Medieval Hagiography of Saint Ecgwine', p.79 & p.83. This notes that Abbot Ælfweard occupied himself with increasing Evesham’s prestige, and purchased the relics of Saint Odulf.
  32. ^ Evesham Abbey and the Parish Churches: A Guide, p.8; The Victoria History of the County of Worcester, p.387
  33. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press.
  34. ^ a b Emma Hornby, David Nicholas Maw, Essays on the History of English Music in Honour of John Caldwell (Boydell & Brewer, 2010) p.10
  35. ^ Stowe MS 944, British Library
  36. ^ On St. Odulf see ‘The Medieval Hagiographies of Saint Ecgwine’, p.79 & p.83. This notes that Abbot Ælfweard occupied himself with increasing Evesham’s prestige, and purchased the relics of Saint Odulf and see also the hagiography of St Odulf
  37. ^ In the Ave presul gloriose I Augustine he is linked with Oda of Canterbury
  38. ^ Mullins, E. L. C. (1958). Texts and Calendars I: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications. Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks No. 7. London: Royal Historical Society.
  39. ^ On the burial of Simon de Montfort see George May, The History of Evesham (1834), p.65; E.J. Rudge, A Short History of Evesham, p.141; William Tindal, History and Antiquities of Evesham, p.137; Evesham Abbey and the Parish Churches: A Guide, p.8.
  40. ^ George May (1834), p.65; E.J. Rudge, p.141; Tindal, p.137; Douglas Greenwood, p.81
  41. ^ George May (1834), p.65; Tindal, p.137; E.J. Rudge, p.141.
  42. ^ Antique Prints
  43. ^ pp.250-55
  44. ^ RISD Museum
  45. ^ Tate Gallery
  46. ^ Yale Center for British Art
  47. ^ Woodward, Bernard Barham (1897). "Rudge, Edward" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. sources: [Burke's Landed Gentry; Proc. Linn. Soc. i. 315, 337; Gent. Mag. 1846 ii. 652, and 1817 i. 181; Britten and Boulger's English Botanists; Royal Soc. Cat.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]
  48. ^ "Evesham Abbey Trust, registered charity no. 5070917". Charity Commission for England and Wales.
  49. ^ "About Us". Evesham Abbey Trust. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  50. ^ "Programme". Evesham Abbey Trust. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  51. ^ "Historic abbey reopens after £1.3m restoration". BBC News. 22 April 2023. Retrieved 12 January 2024.

Bibliography

  • Thomas of Marlborough (c.1190–1236) History of the Abbey of Evesham Ed. and trans. by Jane Sayers and Leslie Watkiss, Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-820480-0, ISBN 0-19-820480-9
  • Cox, David, The Church and Vale of Evesham 700-1215: Lordship, Landscape and Prayer Boydell Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1-78327-077-4.
  • Evesham Abbey and the Parish Churches: A Guide
  • Evesham Abbey and Local Society in the Late Middle Ages: The Abbot's Household Account 1456–7 and the Priors' Registers 1520–40, ed. David Cox, Worcestershire Historical Society, new ser. 30, 2021
  • Walker, John A., Selection of curious articles from the Gentleman's magazine, vol. 1, 1811, Chap. LXXXV, Historical Account of the Abbey of Evesham, pp. 334–342. Accessed 31 July 2012.

Media related to Evesham Abbey at Wikimedia Commons

52°05′29″N 1°56′48″W / 52.0913°N 1.9468°W / 52.0913; -1.9468

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Evesham Abbey
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