Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Tewkesbury Abbey (Tewkesbury)

The Abbey of St. Mary is now the parish church of the splendid Gloucestershire market town of Tewkesbury. Simon Jenkins says it is “one of England's most splendid churches”.

It was a Benedictine abbey, originally founded in the 8th century.

It is often taken to be a cathedral, especially when seen from the motorway, but it has never had this status. At the Reformation, while the nearby abbey churches at Gloucester and Worcester became cathedrals, this one was offered to the townspeople, who bought it for 453.

Tewkesbury Abbey is largely Norman, with the biggest Norman tower in Europe, rising to 132 feet, a splendid West Front and a magnificent vault.

Both inside and out, Tewkesbury Abbey ranks in magnificence with many cathedrals, and is more magnificent than most.

There are monuments to members of some of the greatest families in the land, including the de Clares, Despensers, Beauchamps and Nevilles.

The bloody Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 did not spare the Abbey. Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, was defeated here, and this led to the Lancastrian Henry's second deposition and the restoration of the Yorkist Edward IV, who as usual had fighting alongside him his faithful brother Richard of Gloucester, later to become Richard III.

Margaret of Anjou was captured during the battle, and her son, Edward Prince of Wales, was killed and is buried here.

In a separate modern building outside the Abbey is an excellent tea shop.

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