Some of my weekend based in Tewkesbury was spent researching some of my family history in Worcestershire. In addition, staying in a house so close to Tewkesbury Abbey, how could I not visit it several times? Close by there was also a curious little chapel which is probably much overlooked by its towering neighbour. I didn’t get inside as it was closed. It’s in one of the very many little courts and passageways that run off the main Tewkesbury streets and down to the River Avon.
See how near the Abbey is to no. 32
Old Baptist Chapel
It may be overshadowed by its neighbour but The Old Baptist Chapel in Tewkesbury still manages to be included in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches. It is even nearer to number 32 than the Abbey.
Tucked away down an alleyway it was converted from a medieval timber-framed house in about the 1620s and is still used for services today. The key is available for visitors wishing to see inside the chapel from the Museum over the road in Church Street.
Beyond the chapel lies a peaceful, overgrown, (perfect town habitat for wildlife and plants) burial ground and beyond that is the river and a view of the Severn Ham.
Tewkesbury Abbey fully deserves its five star status as awarded by Jenkins. During the one weekend I must have visited at least five times. Even the last morning before packing the car for the journey home I nipped across the road to admire once more the beautiful Thomas Denny windows. You see, for the first time since my arrival, the sun was shining and sunshine adds another dimension to the windows.
Photographs just cannot do justice to the real thing. This is what it says about the windows on a notice nearby :
“These windows have been funded by the Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the arrival of Benedictine monks from Cranborne, Dorset in 1102 to the new monastery at Tewkesbury. The windows were dedicated by the Bishop of Gloucester at the 900th Anniversary Festival Service on Saturday 19th October 2002.”
At Sunday Evensong the music is equally superb. The choir and clergy may outnumber the congregation several times over but the effort and result is just as striking as if the church had been full to overflowing as I am sure it is on high days and holidays. There is also a large choice of services on a Sunday and the evening was particularly cold. The abbey is heated by huge Gurney Stoves.
“Tewkesbury Abbey has two Gurney Stoves which were installed circa. 1875 when the Abbey underwent a major restoration by the Architect George Gilbert Scott. The stoves were converted to gas firing in 1987.”
In Tewkesbury Abbey there is also a memorial to the “Victorian authoress Dinah Craik (1826–1887) [who] visited Tewkesbury in 1852, and later set her most famous work John Halifax, Gentleman (pub. 1857) in the town, calling it Norton Bury in the book. There is a “Craik House” in Church Street, near the Abbey, but Mrs Craik never lived there and had no other connection with Tewkesbury. There is a memorial to her in the Abbey’s south transept.” [source]