Post-Dissolution

After the Dissolution (and destruction) of Evesham Abbey

The last sub-sacrist of Evesham Abbey, William Lyttleton, lived to a great age and in 1603 he visited the great antiquary Thomas Habington (1560-1647) at Hindlip House, Worcester. It seems likely that Lyttleton was the source of Habington’s description of the then-lost abbey:[1]

“It contained three aisles of a more than ordinary breadth, and was extended from the gatehouse now standing eastward almost to the new tower [the still-standing Bell Tower]; having cloisters answerable on the south side, together with walks and courts for the recreation of the monks, with a very great and curious walk to go at certain times to the little church to celebrate mass; which church is now the parish church of St Lawrence. All which abbey and cloisters were of curious workmanship, and had withinside one hundred and sixty-four gilt marble pillars. There were also int he church sixteen altars, all in so many chapels dedicated to their respective saints.”

This description can apply only to the nave, as the chancel of the abbey church extended eastwards of the site of the Bell Tower.

By the early 18th century the site of the abbey church was bisected north-south (directly due south of the Bell Tower) by a rubble wall which incorporated the remnant of the core of the north transept’s west wall.[2] The nave area was bound on the north, south and west sides by similar walls broadly following the lines of the original abbey church.


After the dissolution the ownership of the site of Evesham Abbey moved between a range of different owners until, in 1664, it was bought by Edward Rudge. This estate has remained with the Rudge family from then until the present day. The source for the following entries is the Victoria County History of Worcestershire:

Year Details
1540 Dissolution of the abbey. The lordship of Evesham passed into the hands of the Crown with the remainder of the abbey property, receiving the fee farm rent of 20 marks paid by the bailiffs of the town.
1546 Sir Philip Hoby, possessor of the greater portion of the abbey estate and buildings, received letters patent which conveyed to him practically the whole town (in exchange for £1,067 2s. 11d.).
1558 After the death of Sir Philip Hoby, his brother Sir Thomas Hoby had licence to convey ‘the site of the manor of Evesham’ to the use of his wife for life with remainder to his male heirs. The trustees were a brother-in-law (Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal), another brother-in-law (Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley); his father-in-law (Sir Anthony Cooke); and Richard Cooke.
1567 Sir Thomas Hoby died. His widow, Lady Hoby (who later married John, Lord Russell) held the Evesham estate and had also the custody of the possessions of her son, Edward Hoby, during his minority.
1581 Edward Hoby came of age, and confirmed his mother’s dower, and she continued to hold the abbey site until her death in 1609.
1595 Sir Edward Hoby, jointly with his brother and heir apparent, conveyed the reversion of the site of Evesham Abbey after his mother’s death, to Richard Shepham and John Gilbert.
1596 Sir Edward Hoby, with Richard Shepham and John Gilbert, conveyed all his rights in Evesham (after his mother’s death) to Edward Grevill.
1603-4 Edward Grevill sold his possessions and rights in Evesham to John Woodward.
1609 Lady Hoby dies. Sir Edward Hoby confirmed John Woodward in possession.
1615 Sir John Woodward (son of above John Woodward) made a conveyance in favour of Sir William Fleetwood and Sir David Fowles, two of the magistrates appointed by the royal charter of 1605 (that is, he mortgaged the estate).
1617 Sir John Woodward made a conveyance in favour of Sir William Fleetwood (that is, he mortgaged the estate).
1618 Sir John Woodward made a conveyance in favour of Sir William and Sir Henry Kingsmill (that is, he mortgaged the estate).
1624 Sir John Woodward made a conveyance in favour of Sir William Courteen (that is, he mortgaged the estate).
1626 Sir William Courteen acquired Sir John Woodward’s interests in Evesham.
1633 Sir William Courteen settled his interests in Evesham on his son, William, on his son’s marriage to Catherine, daughter of the earl of Bridgewater.
1649 A commission of bankruptcy was awarded against Sir William Courteen.
1651 Sir William Courteen’s interests in Evesham, now in the hands of James Winstanley, Anthony Boys, and others, was conveyed to John Pettyward for the purposes of sale. The buyer was Christopher Doddington and others.
1656 Christopher Doddington and others sold their interests in Evesham to William Courteen (son of William and grandson of Sir William Courteen).
1664 William Courteen sold the manor of Evesham, the site of the monastery, frankpledge, markets, and fairs, and all other rights to Edward Rudge, merchant, of London. These possessions and rights remain in the hands of the Rudge family.
2017 The Rudge Estate transfer the site to the Evesham Abbey Trust in May 2017 to allow the site to be developed into public gardens for the public benefit of the town of Evesham.

There is mention of a lime-kiln in 1711 which was presumably fed with demolition rubble still lying about the abbey site.

 

Footnotes

[1]        D.C. Cox, ‘Evesham Abbey: The Romanesque Church’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association (JBAA), vol.163 (2010), p.28 (pp.24-71). Source given as: William Tindal, The History and Antiquities of the Abbey and Borough of Evesham (Evesham 1794), p.129n

[2]        D.C. Cox (2010), ibid., p.28.

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