Who are the Friends?
TEWKESBURY ABBEY, with its massive Norman tower, is one of the finest medieval churches in England. It is as wonderful an example of Norman architecture as can be found anywhere in the country. The townsfolk of Tewkesbury saved the building from destruction by purchasing it for £453 from King Henry VIII in 1540 at the dissolution of the monasteries.
The Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey was formed in 1934 by the vicar at that time. Edward Pountney Gough. It exists to assist in caring for the Abbey, in preserving it, together with its goods and ornaments, and in safeguarding it for future generations. The Abbey does not have the status or revenues of a cathedral and depends upon its visitors and friends from all over the world to help with its maintenance. In recent years the Friends has provided grants in excess of £1million towards:
* Repairs to the stonework of the North Porch
* Repairs to the South Side of the Abbey
* New internal lighting
* New sound system
* Triptych and candlesticks for St Edmund’s Chapel
This is in addition to a number of smaller grants for various projects to preserve and enhance the beauty of the Abbey.
To become a Friend
There are approximately 500 Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey, many of whom reside in the local area but others live all over the country and indeed across the world. Many have a personal connection to the Abbey or Tewkesbury, whilst others simply share in the beauty of the place and wish to assist in its care and preservation. The Friends are governed by a Council which meets 4 times each year. The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, is the Patron of The Friends.
Membership of the Friends is available to individuals on an Annual or Life basis. An Annual subscription is a minimum of £10, while Life Membership is a one-off payment of a minimum of £200 or as four subscriptions of £50 under a Gift Aid Declaration. A copy of the Application for Membership Form can be found here (link opens in a new tab)
The Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey also have a very active Young Friends branch. This is open to 5 to 18 year olds and holds a programme of fun events throughout the year for children and young people wishing to learn more about the Abbey and become involved in its history and maintenance. Membership is free. An application form, which requires the contact details and signature of a parent or guardian for under 16s, is available from this link.
The Friends hold a Friends Festival in July each year and organise other visits and social events for members. Occasional newsletters are issued to Friends and an Annual Report is sent out each May.
The Friends can be contacted by email: [email protected]
Current Friends’ Documents
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Officers of the Friends 2017 – 2018
Chairman – Mr Graham Finch
Vice-Chairman – Dr Andrew Crowther
Treasurer – Mr Hugh Sweet
Secretary – Mrs Karen Vincent
The Elections to Council take place at the Annual General Meeting held in July each year.
A Report from the Friends’ Visit to Oxford – 5th December 2017
A trip to Oxford to view the Tewkesbury Abbey Founders’ Book attracted a full complement of 26 for the scenic coach ride through the Cotswold countryside and an opportunity to visit some of the delights of the city. The Bodleian library contains millions of books and rare manuscripts, many stored away from Oxford in Swindon. A knowledgeable guide first recounted the history of the buildings, and the development of the library, and the party were shown the books in tiered shelves in the Duke Humfrey’s Library (1488). From here the party were taken to the rare manuscript department in the Weston Library where Dr Kauffman showed them the Tewkesbury Abbey Founders’ Book. This history, reporting events in the 13th and 14th centuries but compiled in the first half of the 16th century, tells of the families involved in the foundation of the Abbey. The illustrations still exhibit the vibrant colours that have survived so many years and so many owners. The history of ownership of the book has been unravelled up to the last few years before it was given to the Bodleian Library, a donation that remains a mystery. There was also a parchment ‘Roll’ illustrating the family trees from the foundation by Oddo and Doddo along with the heraldic shields of the families, getting ever more complex with the passing generations. It was a privilege to be able to see such an important book and beautifully illustrated manuscript relating to the early years of Tewkesbury Abbey. Tea was taken in the magnificent hall of Christ Church College, and the visit concluded with Sung Evensong in the Cathedral. The Friends are grateful to Patricia Purkiss for the excellent organisation of the trip.
A full report of the trip will be included in the Friends’ Annual Report for 2018