Our Neighbouring Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury Fields June 1976

Jean-Marie and Corinne from France said of their stay in Hanover House ‘Thank you so much of a warm and friendly welcome in your beautful house. We will come back.’

Tewkesbury is a more ancient town than Cheltenham and is only 8 or 9 miles up the road from us, which makes it an easy destination for Hanover House guests. It has a very attractive centre with a large number of medieaval half-timbered houses and shops, as well as Severn river frontage, but the jewel in it’s crown is Tewkesbury Abbey Church.  Shopping is great because of the variety and uniqueness of the shops in the high street, art galleries, antique shops, exotic clothing and books. It also has a coaching inn, now ‘The Royal Hop Pole’ featured in Charles Dickens’ ‘Pickwick Papers’ and retaining much of the charm of its Victorian heritage.

The Abbey Church itself is beautifully placed, sitting on the meadows leading down to the river and highlighted in iconic photographs as sitting on its own island during the major floods of 2007 (the summer we opened Hanover House’s doors as a B&B for the first time, then almost immediately having to close them again as Cheltenham became ‘dry’ – but that’s another story). It was also the focus of the climactic Battle of Tewkesbury of the Wars of the Roses in May 1471, culminating in a major defeat for the Lancastrians under Edward Prince of Wales and the Duke of Somerset by the Yorkists under Edward IV, who had marched up through Cheltenham on his way to cut off the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury. During the battle the Prince of Wales was killed, and after the rout, Somerset executed having unsuccessfully claimed ‘sanctuary’ at the church’s altar.  The church itself is of almost cathedral proportions and is high-church Anglican of the diocese of Gloucester. We come here for various traditional services including Easter, Advent and Christmas and performances of e.g. Handel’s ‘Messiah’.  Dean Close School in Cheltenham provides its Choir School and a great traditional choir it has. Our Dean Close connection is in the form of son-in-law Peter, who was a pupil there (but definitely not a choirboy).

My own connection with the church is that in 1974 I was the adjutant of what was then the Central Vehicle Depot Ashchurch RAOC, located on the outskirts of Tewkesbury. The depot had the Freedom of Tewkesbury and annually we marched through the town led by the RAOC staff band, and carrying the ceremonial Freedom Sword (we didn’t have regimental colours) presented by the town, and paraded on the Abbey meadows, followed by a service of thanksgiving in the church. As adjutant I was nominally in charge of the parade although a major actually led it and the sergeant major had organised much of it. But it did give me a chance to march at the head of troops with a drawn sword, which is always fun and gives one a sense of occasion!

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