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Tewkesbury Abbey

The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, is the second largest parish church in England.

The Abbey Chronicle records that the first Christian worship was brought to the area by a missionary, Theoc, from Northumbria, who built his cell in the mid-7th century near where the Severn and Avon rivers join together. The cell was succeeded by a monastery in 715, but nothing remaining of it has been identified. In the 10th century the religious foundation at Tewkesbury became subordinate to Cranbourne in Dorset, and in 1087 William the Conqueror gave it to his cousin Robert Fitzhamon, who, with Abbot Giraldus of Cranbourne, founded the present abbey in 1092.

One of its most distinguished abbots was Alan, the biographer of Thomas a Kempis

Construction time-line:

After the Battle of Tewkesbury in the Wars of the Roses on May 4 1471, some of the defeated Lancastrians sought sanctuary in the abbey, but the victorious Yorkists, led by King Edward IV, forced their way into the abbey, and the resulting bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated. In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1539 the people of Tewkesbury saved the abbey from destruction: Insisting it was their parish church, which they had the right to keep, they bought it for the value of its bells and lead roof (which would have been salvaged and melted down if it was destroyed): 453. The central stone tower was originally topped with a wooden spire, which collapsed in 1559 and was never rebuilt. What remains is one of the finest Norman buildings in Britain.

Famous graves in the abbey

See also: Cathedral diagram