The site of Evesham Abbey combines historical importance, surviving remains and a location in an area of recreational use. According to Hughes and Cooper (1990) these features:
“…suggest a high potential for its development as an educational, leisure and tourist resource.”
To date this potential has only been addressed by the introduction of interpretation panels and by marking the outline of the chancel and Chapter House using stones embedded in the grass. There is significant scope to make much more of this remarkable site, combining tourism appeal with educational value, as noted by Hughes and Cooper (1990):
“The nature, location and historical importance of Evesham Abbey also suggests that it is ideally suited as an educational resource. However, the lack of general background information and specifically designed resources material has meant that the abbey’s potential in this area has not been realised.”
The programme aims to develop the site of Evesham Abbey with a view to better realizing its potential as a tourist attraction and educational resource. Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that Evesham is currently the third most popular destination in Worcestershire with some 13,000 visits per annum (Worcester 38,000; Malverns 16,000). The table below shows published day visitor numbers for Evesham’s heritage attractions. Visitor numbers at St Lawrence’s have increased dramatically following the creation of a dedicated body of volunteer stewards, development of displays and visitor activities, and the promotion of the building (from online resources to simple A-frame pavement signs).
Developing a ‘Heritage Quarter’ in Evesham
There is no one single heritage site in Evesham but instead there a collection of existing visitor attractions including:
- St Lawrence’s church (promoted by the CCT as a “gateway church”);
- Almonry Museum;
- All Saints Church (an active Anglican church);
- Evesham Abbey Bell Tower and parish churchyard;
- Abbey Park (with the Simon de Montfort Memorial); and
- Riverside walks.
The programme readily fits into this collection of attractions. The town’s two parish churches, Bell Tower, Abbey Park and Almonry are surviving elements of the ecclesiastical complex of Evesham Abbey. Developing the site of Evesham Abbey as a new public space helps establish a coherence and unity between these existing places. Indeed, as Hal Dalwood has noted, the town grew up around the abbey and: “The modern town plan preserves much of the plan of the medieval town in the form of burgage plots, street frontages, market places, bridging point and street plan.” Developing the site of the abbey, the ancient sacred centre of the town, also provides new opportunities for explaining the story of Evesham.
The publicity and promotion of the programme is expected to help promote the town (and help establish an Evesham Unique Selling Proposition (USP)). Indeed, in combination with the other local heritage attractions, the new abbey gardens will form the centrepiece of Evesham’s “heritage quarter”.
Potential economic benefit of Evesham Abbey as heritage visitor attraction
The potential for the Abbey site has been estimated as between 20,000 and 40,000 visitors per annum. The three-year total visitor spend in Wychavon for 2012-14 was £27m. If Evesham can be said to contribute a third of that, i.e. £9m per annum, and if this new heritage visitor attraction improves that figure by 10%, then the increased contribution to the town would be £0.9m per annum.
 Justin Hughes and Malcolm Cooper, ‘Evesham Abbey: An Assessment of Display and Interpretation Facilities’ (Worcester: Archaeology Section, Hereford and Worcester County Council, 1990), p.1.
 Hughes and Cooper (1990), op. cit., p.10.
 Hughes and Cooper (1990), op. cit., p.11: “The presence of a redundant church within the area of the former abbey precinct would also suggest a potential as a specifically designed abbey interpretation centre.”