Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

A world of wet

Although in my mind July 2007 stands out as the month I began this blog, here in Gloucestershire that month has other, more sinister resonances. July 2007 was the month of the great floods when in Tewkesbury and other parts of the county thousands were forced out of their homes by the rising water, roads were impassable, and Tewkesbury’s Mythe Water Treatment Works flooded, depriving 140,000 people of running water for a fortnight.

For those directly affected, the floods were devastating – for most, cleaning up, drying out, and rebuilding took more than a year, and two years on there are still people putting the finishing touches to their repairs. In the town where I live, on the edge of the Cotswolds, we’re not much used to flooding and sights such as a four-foot deep torrent of water rushing down a hill sweeping away all its path, traffic made up of Land Rovers towing dinghies and bowsers, or the acrid tidewash of mud, gravel, and debris, were unfamiliar. Tewkesbury, on the other hand, is a river town, at the confluence of the Severn and Avon. It’s used to being surrounded by waterlogged fields. But not to this overwhelming inundation.

The centre of the old town, the knot of streets and alleys to the north and east of the abbey, usually escapes the worst. This was the first time since the 18th century that flood water had entered the abbey itself. The picture shows the building during a more typical flood, with water covering the nearby meadows, but the large medieval church still dry. The central tower, probably the greatest of England’s Norman towers, and much of the rest of the building, dates from 1087–1123; other parts of the church date from a partial remodelling in the 14th century.

During that long history, this building that has seen its fair share of mishaps – the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 during the Wars of the Roses; the dissolution, when the church was saved because the town bought it from Henry VIII (for £453) so that they could use it as their parish church; a restoration in the 1870s that threatened the fabric so profoundly that William Morris was inspired to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in1877. It survived all this, and survived 2007 too.


Anonymous said...

Not forgetting that the Abbey Gatehouse is in the care of the Landmark Trust and thus available for the moderately well-heeled to stay in and live Tewkesbury from the inside...

Thud said...

when global warming kicks in it will all be fine...the beeb gardening progs keep advising to plant a drought resisting garden,I'm still waiting.

Vinogirl said...

Despite the high level of the water, that is a fabulous photograph.

Philip Wilkinson said...

DC: Yes, the Landmark Trust do some wonderful work rescuing buildings that others have overlooked and making them available for holiday lets.

Vinogirl: Thanks for the comment on the photograph. It was taken by Mrs English Buildings, who's a better photographer than me!