The Battle of Tewkesbury: The Bloody (Muddy) Meadow

32 St Mary’s Lane

32 SM Lane

Last weekend, to break my journey between South Wales and home in Leeds, I stayed in the lovely old town of Tewkesbury. 32 St Mary’s Lane is tucked away between the main road through town and the River Avon. Beyond the river is a large expanse of flat, grassy land called Severn Ham (‘Q’ mentions it in his poem ‘Upon Eckington Bridge‘) bordered on the other side by the River Severn. The two rivers meet at Tewkesbury and it’s liable to flooding sometimes in summer.

Severn Ham

River Avon and Severn Ham

Beyond the main road, on the other side, is the great edifice of Tewkesbury Abbey which dominates the town in the nicest of ways.

Tewkesbury Abbey

The house in St Mary’s Lane was formerly a framework stocking-knitter’s home dating back to the 17th century. The row of cottages, of which no. 32 is one, were in a parlous state by the 1970s and The Landmark Trust stepped in to help a local conservation group who were unable to raise the funds required to restore the houses. No. 32 only joined Landmark’s collection of properties to let in 1982.

32 Kitchen

Welcome to St Mary’s Lane : The Kitchen

SML Sitting room

The First Floor Sitting Room

It’s a lovely warm and comfy house on 4 floors each of the upper floors accessed via steep, narrow, twisting staircases; but you soon get used to them! On the ground floor is the kitchen and a cloakroom (and there’s a backyard with picnic table for the summer months), on the first floor is the sitting room, above that is a bedroom and a bathroom and on the fourth floor is another bedroom with magnificent view of the Abbey through one tiny window.

upstairs day view

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by day

32 upstairs window

The Abbey from the Top Bedroom – by night

In fact there is another Landmark Trust property in Tewkesbury – The Abbey Gatehouse.

The abbey gatehouse

To Battle!

Battlefield-Trail-949x1024

The Battlefield Trail at Tewkesbury (photo)

On Sunday morning, having found a Battle Trail leaflet at the house, I decided to leave its cosy confines and venture out into the cold, windy fields on the edge of Tewkesbury to discover the location of The Bloody Meadow – scene of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 between the House of York and the House of Lancaster saw the death of 2000 soldiers, including Edward, Prince of Wales, who was just 18 years old. It was a defining battle of the Wars of the Roses.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey from The Battle Trail

Crossing the main road and taking Gander Lane behind the Abbey I soon found the first Battle Trail sign. It was easy to follow and well-waymarked BUT there were some very very muddy parts and at one point I was unable to reach the exit gate from the Bloody Meadow due to two rather frisky-looking ponies. I had to take a detour, give them a wide berth and climb over a fence. There’s an information panel at the Meadow itself and towards the end of the trail is a monument to the town recording important events in the history of Tewkesbury.

Battle Trail

The Bloody Meadow

The Bloody (and muddy) Meadow

Info Board

Muddy Field

Horses and Mud block the Trail

Tewkesbury Monument

The Tewkesbury Monument and Abbey at the end of the Trail

Close-up of panel

Close-up of the Monument

Tea at Lock Cottage

I was pleased to get back to St Mary’s Lane for a wash and brush-up before heading up the M5 to partake of afternoon tea with Landmarking friends who just happened to be staying at Lock Cottage which lies between locks 31 and 32 of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal.

Lock Cottage

I have to concur with the comment in Lock Cottage Log (Visitors) Book, namely, that “Sitting in the cottage with a cup of tea and watching the boats go by is infinitely preferable to jumping on and off a boat watching the cottages go by.”

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The Ramblers’ Church, Lead, North Yorkshire

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Ramblers leaving the Ramblers’ Church

“Since being rescued by a group of walkers in 1931, St Mary’s has been known as the Ramblers’ Church. The repairs made then are recorded on the back of the church door.

Back of the door at Lead

The church stands alone in the middle of a field filled with the bumps and furrows of earthworks that indicate the site of a Medieval manor house, for which St Mary’s was probably originally the chapel.

In the middle of a field

Nearby is Towton, the site of the War of the Roses battle, believed to be bloodiest in English history which brought the Wars of the Roses to an end in 1461.

Battle of Towton

Battle of Towton Information Board, Crooked Billet Pub, Lead, North Yorkshire

Ten thousand men are said to have been killed, and Cock Beck, the little stream which you cross to get to St Mary’s, is said to have run red with blood. 

Cock Beck

Cock Beck

You can find monuments to crusading knights in this tiny 14th-century church.

Despite its awesome history, St Mary’s is a peaceful place. The tiny rectangular building is very simple. It was probably built by the Tyas family, whose massive grave slabs are set into the floor.

Massive grave slabs

The massive grave slabs

Carved with heraldic symbols and inscriptions, and dating from the 13th-century, they are an important and interesting collection.

Pulpit and altar

Pulpit, Clerk’s Pew and Reading Desk and Altar

Later additions were made to the church in the 18th-century, with a rustic pulpit, clerk’s pew, reading desk and painted texts.”

From the Churches Conservation Trust website.

Interior St Mary's Lead

Interior of the Ramblers’ Church

Richard III wondow

Window behind the Altar paid for by the Richard III Society – topical!

Today I have been out in the Yorkshire countryside. Weekday Wanderers headed east of Leeds to the flat countryside between Leeds and York. Flat but not uninteresting. Parking in Aberford we crossed the A1M by footbridge and eventually after a while left the noise of the highway behind and crossed fields and followed easy tracks on a circular walk that included a ‘castle’, a village, two churches and two pubs. We stopped at one of the pubs for our picnic lunch and had a look at one of the churches – St Mary’s, Lead, The Ramblers’ Church. We were not quite on the Battlefield of Towton, mentioned above, but we did return to the cars alongside Cock Beck. The perfect winter ramble.

The ‘castle’ was Hazlewood Castle now a very popular luxury hotel and wedding venue. Originally owned and lived in by the Vavasour family from 1971 until 1996 it was a Carmelite Friars’ retreat and opened as a hotel in 1997.

Hazelwood Castle

Hazlewood Castle

Saxton Church

All Saints Church, Saxton

The Greyhound, Saxton

The Greyhound Pub at Saxton

Crooked Billet

The Crooked Billet Pub, Lead near Saxton North Yorkshire

Muddy boots welcome

Muddy boots welcome! The sign of a good pub!