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Church House - Evesham History

Evesham History

Evesham was the site of a major battle—the Battle of Evesham, in which Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed on 4 August 1265. It was also home to one of Europe''s largest abbeys, of which only Abbot Lichfield''s Bell Tower remains. Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin, third Bishop of Worcester, following the vision of the Virgin Mary by a local swineherd named Eof (sometimes Eoves). Eof went straight to Egwin, who journeyed to the site and shared the vision. He was moved to establish an abbey on the site.

While Egwin was beatified and later canonised (a local Church of England middle school is named after him), Eof arguably had the greater historical resonance and posterity. The name of Evesham is derived from "Eof's ham" ("ham" in English placenames meaning "homestead"). Evesham Abbey funded smaller abbeys and churches in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. A large source of income came from pilgrims to the abbey to celebrate both the vision, relics of saints and later, the tomb of de Montfort.

One historical quirk of Evesham is that the town consists of Evesham "proper" within the loop of the river and Bengeworth to the east on the other side of the river. Bengeworth at one stage had a castle vying for control with the abbey. Unfortunately for Bengeworth, the knights went on a drunken spree and damaged a grave or two in the abbey graveyard, giving the monks an excuse to attack and level the castle. To prevent its rebuilding the site was sanctified as a graveyard.   Also to the southern side of the town is the parish of Greater and Little Hampton, an independent village  until approximate 80 years ago. To celebrate the linking of the village to the town and improve access Abbey bridge, or "New Bridge" as it was often known was built. The bridge was also the first completely structural concrete bridge to be built in the UK. Hampton has come into a resurgence in recent years, thanks partly to redevelopment of Hampton and the redrawing of the electoral boundaries.

The presence of the abbey, its residents and the pilgrims coming to the site led to a growth in the town within the loop of the river. A model of the town in the Middle Ages is sited in the Almonry Museum in the town centre. With what is thought to have been the third biggest abbey in Britain and a strong agricultural economy, the town became well-known. Henry VIII's Dissolution of the monasteries saw the Abbey dismantled and sold as building stone, leaving little but Evesham''s landmark Lichfield Bell Tower. Had the Abbey survived, its size would have been greater than that of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Evesham Today

Evesham is as bustling market town, in the vibrant heart of the country and has been welcoming visitors since the Romans. Set in a natural loop of the River Avon, with a history to inspire and excite, it has been a magnet to others due to its beautiful location.

There are many ways to while away your time in Evesham: from tranquil river trips to live music and comedy; from enjoying delicious local delicacies to discovering history; from exploring the surrounding area by car, bike or foot, to taking part in one of our eclectic festivals; there really is something for everyone.

Shoppers are well catered for with a wide range of independent traders; active types will find plenty of sports and activities to keep them busy; and culture vultures will revel in the art-deco cinema, arts centre and historic buildings. 

For more information about Evesham visit www.eveshamtown.co.uk.