We’re delighted that Mallards will be working with Tewkesbury Abbey, creating some stunning original jewellery for their gift shop. Douglas has come away from his meeting at the Abbey feeling incredibly inspired by the wonderful architecture and history of this most beautiful church. Here are some of the reasons why Tewkesbury Abbey is such a special place.
It’s an extremely fine Norman building
The present Abbey dates from the 12th century. Originally part of the Benedictine priory, it became the parish church after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, a role it still performs today (it’s actually the second largest parish church in the country, second to Leeds MInster).
Its magnificent tower was described by Pevsner as “probably the largest and finest Romanesque tower in England.” At 45 metres high, the tower is impressive; however don’t let it overshadow the Abbey’s other architectural features: the large Norman arch at the west front, flanked by turrets; the creamy-yellow Caen limestone; the chapels that give it such character. It’s a superb-looking church.
Its site is even older than that…
The first religious building on the site was a humble missionary cell built by Theoc of Northumberland in the 7th century. A monastery was built here in 715, which expanded and became a priory in the 10th century. William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his kinsman Robert Fitzhamon who founded the Abbey in 1092; and this royal Norman connection explains the use of Caen stone. The new church was consecrated in 1121.
It has royal connections
Edward of Westminster, the final Lancastrian Prince of Wales and “last hope of thy race” according to his memorial plaque, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury and buried in the Abbey. His brother-in-law George Duke of Clarence, famous for being Richard III’s elder brother and for drowning in a butt of Malmsey, is buried in a vault behind the High Altar.
Notable noble families with a connection to the Abbey include the Despensers and the de Clares. Isabel Marshal, daughter of the legendary William Marshal and daughter-in-law to King John, has her heart buried at the Abbey in a silver casket.
It’s a wonderful place for music
The Abbey has three organs. One is known as the “Milton Organ”, as it’s believed that the famous poet played it during its former residence at Hampton Court (where Milton was once employed). After some time at Magdalen College in Oxford, it was installed in the Abbey in 1737. The Abbey remains a fabulous church for music: watch out for its programme of visiting choirs.
As well as choral and organ music, the Abbey has a fine set of bells. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the Tewkesbury parish actually bought back eight bells (most were melted down to use as canon balls). Various tweaks, changes and additions over the years lead to a rather unappealing peal; and twelve new bells were cast and installed in the 1960s. Four of the old bells were kept as clock bells.
The stained glass is beautiful
Tewkesbury has a wonderful collection of stained glass windows, from medieval through to the 21st century. The seven 14th century windows are in the quire clerestory, and depict donor figures and scenes from the Bible. The nave windows are Victorian, and tell stories of Christ’s life. The magnificent west window replaces the one that was destroyed by the wind in 1661, and again, takes the life of Christ as its theme.
The most recent windows by artist Tom Denny were installed in 2002 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the Benedictine monks’ arrival at Tewkesbury. There are so many captivating details in the glass and surrounding tracery – we’re feeling truly inspired by this beautiful building.
The gift shop has its own history
The shop is in the heart of the medieval Abbey, rather than in a separate building or later extension. It’s in St James’ Chapel, which dates from the 12th and 14th centuries. Also, as the Abbey’s website puts it, the shop has “the Duke of Somerset buried under the till.” The shop stocks a range of quality souvenirs and Christian gifts and books. We’re looking forward to seeing Mallards’ jewellery displayed in such evocative surroundings!
Those are just some of the reasons why Tewkesbury Abbey is such a fascinating place – and we’re so excited about working with their retail team.
If you manage a gift shop in an historic site or museum, and want to sell quality gifts in your shop, please get in touch. We’ll make an initial design for you free-of-charge, and because we don’t require a minimum order, you can easily try out the new item.