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Tewkesbury Abbey and Battlefield

Visited August 2022

Location Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby No
Parking Yes
Facilities Cafe, Souvenir shop, Toilets
Map

 

It seems odd to be combining a religious site into the same article with one of the most decisive and not to mention bloody battles of the Wars of the Roses but in Tewkesbury the Abbey and the Battle of Tewkesbury, are inextricably linked.

 


 

 


Review

 

The Abbey is still in use as a place of worship today. It dates back to the Saxon times and was mentioned in the Domesday book.  It has of course been much altered and rebuilt since then, and during the Norman times was turned from a Saxon church to a large and important Norman abbey.

 

The connection with the Wars of the Roses is that one of the bloodiest battles took place in Tewkesbury in 1471. It resulted in a  resounding victory for the Yorkists, and saw the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster executed after the battle, apparently hiding in a bush and pleading for his life. This is a pretty tragic end for a lad of just seventeen years old.  However not all historians agree on the exact details of his death, and it is just as likely he actually died in battle. 

After the battle the newly declared King Edward IV agreed that Edward could be buried within the abbey, rather than receiving a traitor's burial. There is a plaque dedicated to him in the abbey, which can still be viewed today.

 


 

 


 

Other Lancastrian survivors of the battle made it to the abbey to seek sanctuary inside its walls. After two days Edward IV lost patience and had them dragged out and killed in the abbey precinct. Among the dead were Edmund, the 4th Duke of Somerset , and Hugh Courtenay of the Devonshire family who held both Powderham Castle and Tiverton Castle in their time. Edward's justification for this was that the abbey was not an official place of sanctuary.

 

The abbey had to be reconsecrated after the battle as so much bloodshed had occurred within its confines.

 


 

 


 

Today the abbey is calm and serene and has many interesting features to view. We were there not long after the Tewkesbury festival, and so the abbey had two large puppet- style models of Edward IV and Margaret of Anjou, mother of the unfortunate Edward, Prince of Wales who was executed after the battle. Margaret was a formidable Lancastrian figure who had at times commanded the forces on behalf of her husband Henry VI. But the Battle of Tewkesbury was her last hurrah, feeling the loss of her only son she retired back to France. 

 

The models had been used at the Tewkesbury festival so were still resident in the abbey, although they may not always be there . 'Creepy' was the verdict on them by one of the kids! See what you think from the photos of them.

 

 


 

Tewkesbury has a Battlefield Trail if you want to visit the main sites of the Battle, including the Bloody Meadow- so called because the field turned red with the blood of so many soldiers who were killed. The battle sites have information boards on them to tell the story of the events at each location, but they can be difficult to find as they are not particularly well signposted, we had to double back on ourselves a few times on our way round.

 

Most of the sites are just quiet, peaceful fields now- hard to imagine they were once the scenes of fierce fighting. Luckily they have not been developed yet, and hopefully Tewkesbury will respect its past and leave the fields as they are as a place of historical interest for future generations.

 

 

More info:  Tewkesbury Abbey

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