The Abbeys of Cotswold… Henry VIII Said, “Get the Lead Out!”… by Peggy Mekemson

Graceful columns found when stepping inside the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Graceful columns found when stepping inside the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Between 1536-1540 (depending on which brochure I read) King Henry VIII declared the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Protestant Reformation and his break from the Catholic Church. Armies scoured the country— leaving most monasteries in ruin as soldiers took the lead to make cannon balls. Jane and I visited four very different abbeys that had existed at that time and earlier.

Malmesbury, believed to be the oldest inhabited town in England, has a 12th Century abbey. The original spire and tower both collapsed well before the Reformation. Only the nave remained and became part of the active Abbey as part of the Reformation. It is believed that the first King of England is buried nearby while his coffin resides inside the church.

The contrast between the active church and the remaining walls was interesting. Part of the old monastery grounds now houses the Abbey House Gardens (previous garden blog).

The contrast between the active church and the remaining walls was interesting. Part of the old monastery grounds now houses the Abbey House Gardens (previous garden blog).

Tewkesbury Abbey survived the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 when the townspeople bought it from King Henry VIII for the sum of 453 pounds. Although the original church was consecrated in 1121, the current Abbey is 900 years old. It is considered one of the largest parish churches in England.

The armies of King Henry VIII destroyed the churches primarily for the lead. The people of Tewkesbury paid the King the value of the lead and saved the church.

The armies of King Henry VIII destroyed the churches primarily for the lead. The people of Tewkesbury paid the King the value of the lead and saved the church.

The roof bosses were indeed stunning.

The roof arches were indeed stunning.

Tintern Abbey, on the border of Wales and Gloucestershire, captivated me! The Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1131 and was a religious center between 1136-1536 at which time it was surrendered to the King’s “marauding visitors.” The lead was taken and 400 years of decay began. There was partial reconstruction begun in 1914. The CADW (a part of the Welsh government dedicated to preserving historic environmental and heritage sites) took over in 1984.

Our first view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

Our first view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.

The following photos reflect the beauty of the area surrounding the ruins and the stunning views within the ruins.

Tintern Abbey in England

Wall ruins of Tintern Abbey in England

Tintern Abbey grand hallway

The two small windows in the middle are the only training original windows in Tintern Abbey.

The small windows in the middle are the only remaining original windows in Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey window view in England

Tintern Abbey windows looking out on forests

Tintern Abbey sky view

My last photo of the Tintern Abbey ruins.

My last photo of the Tintern Abbey ruins.

Our last stop was Gloucester Cathedral. Here, our volunteer guide, a wonderful storyteller, greeted us. During the Reformation, this was one of 6 abbeys designated by King Henry VIII as the cathedrals for the new Church of England. No damage was done. Apparently, the historic connections to the monarchy saved it. Our guide’s stories of the stained glass windows were particularly absorbing. The windows reflected the history of the cathedral and religious stories and included several modern stained glass art work.
A front view of Glouchester Cathedral.

A front view of Glouchester Cathedral.

An early stained glass window featuring a knight.

An early stained glass window featuring a knight.

A knight's tomb inside the Cathedral.

A knight’s tomb inside the Cathedral.

One of the modern stained glass windows.

One of the modern stained glass windows.

I have to admit that I was most fascinated by the stories of the filming of Harry Potter in the cathedral! We walked the halls used in several scenes. I watched the movies on my return so that I could compare Hogwarts School scenes with what I saw.

One of the halls of used for 'Hogsworts' in Harry Potter.

One of the halls used for ‘Hogwarts’ School of Wizardry’ in Harry Potter.

Downton Abbey to Harry Potter… and all the marvelous sites in between. It was quite the photographic adventure! This is my last blog on the Cotswolds. Thanks so much for joining me on the tour. —Peggy

27 comments on “The Abbeys of Cotswold… Henry VIII Said, “Get the Lead Out!”… by Peggy Mekemson

  1. Wonderful photos. It’s been decades since I read Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” but I just did read it again, in conjunction with your photos, and it was a delightful experience. Here’s a link to the poem for anyone interested.

    • The abbeys were a great surprise on this tour as I had no idea what to expect since the focus seemed to be gardens, gardens, gardens. More more I researched, the more intrigued I became. Peggy

  2. Thank you Peggy for your wonderful tour of the Cotswolds. In this post I especially enjoyed the first, fourth and last photos – all beautiful, as is the entire area. I visited the Cotswolds in my late twenties and didn’t have then anything like the appreciation and awareness I have now.
    Alison

    • I certainly understand that! I do find now that I can’t seem to get enough information about the uniqueness of places visited. I do love the stories. Peggy

  3. Love your photos and the narratives. Especially fond of the shot where Harry Potter scenes were filmed. Tintern Abbey has always been a place I’d love to visit since the Wordsworth poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” was part of the anthology I used when I taught senior English. Ah, memories! Thanks for the series, Peggy. You make me long to travel to the Cotswolds. One more question: Did you take a tour or go on your own?

    • I joined my sister for a garden tour of the Cotswold, yes, it was with a tour company. The advantage was that all tickets and arrangements for the gardens were done in advance. The disadvantage of a tour group is the lack of flexibility of time. It is a trade off. Peggy

  4. Wow Peggy, these are stunning!!! Great job on the post and the information that was so unbelievable. The pictures…just glorious for those of us who have yet to get a chance to witness this beauty. Again, thank you, my dear!! Sharing these now!! xoxo 😉

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