EVESHAM: ST. LAWRENCE'S CHURCH
Oddly Evesham has two parish churches … or it did have until one was decommissioned in the 1970s. Even more oddly, they stand only a few feet away from each other. Even more oddly they were built at around the same time by the Benedictine monks of Evesham Abbey so that when the Abbey was still in tact there would have been three churches within a few feet of each other!
The Abbey in Evesham was once one of the most important in the West Midlands. The town, sitting on the banks of the Avon, was a vital staging point in journeys both west and north and so both Abbey and town prospered. The monks at the Abbey had their own church, of course, the layout of which can be traced nearby, but the growing town needed a church of its own.
The monks for some reason completely unrecorded built two. All Saints’ and St. Lawrence’s. Both date to the 12th Century and both are much the same size. They stand so close together they are literally a stone’s throw away.
The Abbey fell foul of the Dissolution and all that remains today is the magnificent bell tower, some bits of wall and some foundations. But the churches – as parish churches – both survived and continued to work happily alongside each other.
St. Lawrence’s Church has the earliest recorded mention – in 1195 and it was dedicated in both 1265 and 1294. Unlike All Saints’ a big rebuild occurred around 1470 making it the slightly larger of the two. In 1659 the two churches were served by one vicar and only a few years later it became apparent that St. Lawrence’s Church was suffering.
By 1718 it was considered unusable and All Saints’ slowly became dominant. Repairs were started in 1737 but they were done so badly that in 1800 the roof fell in. The church was then abandoned for thirty years before the architect Harvey Eginton was called in to do a major rebuild. This he did with typical Victorian enthusiasm and a great deal of what stands today is from this rebuilding period.
As the congregation slowly declined in the 20th Century the decision was made to close one church and hand it over to the Churches Conservation Trust. The decision fell on St. Lawrence’s Church and so in 1977 it ceased to function as a church and parochial duties were shifted to All Saints’.
The two churches and the Abbey remains are a focal point for the town which is a typical pretty little English market town and one of the least known gems of Worcestershire.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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