Cloister Garden

Overview of the proposed Cloister Garden

The development of the cloister garden is a project within the overall Evesham Abbey programme. The purpose of this particular project is to transform this specific site – the location of the original cloisters of Evesham Abbey – into a public garden inspired by and evoking those original abbey cloisters.  Much of the original cloisters were constructed by Abbot Adam (c.1161)[1]; with stained glass and other features being added by later abbots. The new cloister garden is intended to be a place of peace and reflection.

The plan below is illustrative only:

A cloistered walkway will be created on the plan of the original cloisters. An initial draft design has been prepared which has a central lawn surrounded by steel-framed Gothic arches. These arches will serve as an arbour for climbing plants including wisteria, laburnum and clematis.

A low planting of lavender could delineate the peripheral gravel walkway from the central lawned area. Four walkways lead to a central paved area in which stands a feature commemorating the First World War, the activities of Abbey Manor as a wartime hospital and the dedicated public service of Florence Haynes Rudge as its Commandant.

The eastern range of the cloisters occupied the strip of ground immediately to the east of the Evesham Abbey site.[2] The layout of the abbey churches of Pershore, Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Worcester show varying cloister lengths, and differing relationships between the size of the cloister and the size of the church building.

It is expected that initial archaeological investigations will more accurately identify the dimensions and structure of the original cloisters, allowing the new garden to occupy the site of those original cloisters. This will allow the new gardens to provide a physical context for the historical meaning of the site. In the absence of more reliable information, the trustees have drafted plans based on a 100-foot square:

cloister-garden-draft-plan

Proposed cloister walkway

The cloister walkway will be framed by a set of architecturally attractive arches. This framework follows the medieval construction format of transverse ribs rising from a column to a central boss describing a pointed Norman Arch. An illustration of avenue framework is given below:

cloister-garden-ig-sketch-of-framework

When the garden is mature the effect will be to have avenues of flower-filled shade. The steel ribs of the arbour will rise to a central boss; and this junction point will have a shield affixed below the boss which can display heraldic devices connected to the history of Evesham (such as the arms of the Abbey, the emblem of Simon De Montfort, the arms of the town council, local schools and organisations).

cloister-garden-ig-sketch

Public access

It is intended to use the cloister arch as the main public entrance to the cloister garden and the site. The arch is in the care of Wychavon District Council. Detailed discussions have been held with officers and councillors at Wychavon regarding these detailed plans.

Once the nave garden has been developed, there will also be public access leading from the cloister garden into the nave garden.

Possible additional features

There is scope to add features of interest evoking the original layout. For example, the Chronicon records that Thomas of Marlborough, when prior:

“…had a washing place built in the cloister in front of the entrance to the church. He spent fifteen shillings on the lead, the pit, and the labour-costs of the ‘great’ wash place in the cloister.”[3]

If the location of this “washing place” (lavatorium) could be identified, then perhaps an appropriate water feature might be placed at this place. In a similar fashion, much of the original cloister held stained glass:

“The cloister which Abbots Maurice and Reginald had in part built, and the nave of the church, were completed during his time with the help of the dean of Wells in particular and of other good men. He himself put in many glazed windows and had many others put in.”[4]

The rich colours and complex design of medieval stained glass might be evoked by rich mixes of colour in the planting, or evoked by using coloured glass elements in the design, or perhaps in many other ways.

The final design of the cloister garden has not been determined. Instead a series of design principles and guidelines have been laid out; with a view to inspiring creativity to create formal planting, structural elements and a rich colour scheme.

 

Footnotes

[1]        George May, A descriptive history of the town of Evesham (Evesham: Vale of Evesham Historical Society, 2007 reprint of 1845 original), p.25.

[2]         WR2687, ‘Report on Geophysical Survey: Evesham Abbey’ (report number 94/95), work undertaken by Geophysical Surveys of Bradford (project coordinator D. Shiel) on behalf of Hereford & Worcester County Council. Note figure 5.

[3]        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.495 (item 525).

[4]        Thomas of Marlborough, ibid., page 187 (item 182).

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