Foundation

The foundation of Evesham Abbey

Evesham Abbey was founded circa 700AD by St Ecgwine, the third Bishop of Worcester, and is one of only 25 religious houses in existence before the reign of King Alfred (871-899).[1] The site was apparently deserted except for a small church perhaps built by the British.[2] This was perhaps a Romano-British “estate church” on the site, attached to a villa, before the foundation of the first abbey.[3] Although a relatively small quantity of Roman artefacts have been recovered, it has not been possible to identify the location or extent of any Roman settlement.[4]

The original abbey church collapsed and was rebuilt c.960. The pre-Conquest abbey included the abbey church with its crypt, a church of the Holy Trinity (a gift of Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva, built c.1017-1037)[5] and a chapel of St Nicholas.[6] The location of the church of the Holy Trinity is unknown. Further enlargement took place between 1054 and 1055 when the Benedictine abbey was reconsecrated and a shrine to the canonised Bishop Ecgwine was established.

The Anglo-Saxon minister was replaced by a Romanesque church by Abbot Walter from 1078. During this work at least one of the existing earlier churches would have to be left standing until the presbytery and liturgical choir of the new church were available for use. The replacement work was managed in stages by pulling down old buildings and replacing them. This approach means that the new church incorporated elements of the earlier minster. The Anglo-Saxon crypt was subsequently filled with rubble from work on the old abbey church.[7] The crossing and chancel of the new church may be built on the site of the earlier demolished church.

 

Footnotes

[1]         Justin Hughes and Malcolm Cooper, ‘Evesham Abbey: An Assessment of Display and Interpretation Facilities’ (Worcester: Archaeology Section, Hereford and Worcester County Council, 1990), p.3 (para 2.1).

[2]         D.C. Cox, ‘The Building, Destruction, and Excavation of Evesham Abbey: a Documentary History’, Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 3rd series, 12 (1990), p.123.

[3]         D.C. Cox (1990), ibid., p.123.

[4]         J.P. Roberts, ‘Archaeology in Wychavon district: the town of Evesham’, HWCC County Archaeological Service internal report (1980), p.7.

[5]         D.C. Cox (1990), op. cit., pp.123-124.

[6]         D.C. Cox (1990), op. cit., pp.124-25.

[7]         J. Sayers and L. Watkiss (ed. and trans.), Thomas of Marlborough, History of the Abbey of Evesham (Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford Medieval Texts), 2003), p.102.

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