Pershore Abbey
Pershore Abbey, at Pershore
Pershore is a market town in Worcestershire, England, on the banks of the River Avon. Pershore is in the Wychavon district and is part of the West Worcestershire parliamentary constituency. At the 2001 census the population was 7,304...

 in Worcestershire
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...

, was an Anglo-Saxon abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 and is now an Anglican
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....



The foundation of the minster at Pershore is alluded to in a spurious charter of King Æthelred of Mercia (r. 675-704). It purports to be the charter by which Æthelred granted 300 hides at Gloucester to Osric, king of the Hwicce, and another 300 at Pershore to Osric's brother Oswald. It is preserved only as a copy in a 14th-century register of Gloucester, where it is followed by two charters listing the endowments made to the abbey until the reign of Burgred, king of Mercia
Burgred of Mercia
Burgred or Burhred or Burghred was the king of Mercia .-Rule:Burgred succeeded to the throne in 852, and in 852 or 853 called upon Ethelwulf of Wessex to aid him in subduing northern Wales. The request was granted and the campaign proved successful, the alliance being sealed by the marriage of...

 (852-874). The 300 hides mentioned here are unlikely to be a contemporary detail, as they were intended to represent the triple hundred which later made up the area of Worcestershire. Historian H. P. R. Finberg suggests that the foundation charter may have been drafted in the 9th century, based on some authentic material. Oswald's foundation of a monastery at Pershore is not stated explicitly in the charter, but the Worcester chronicle Cronica de Anglia, written c. 1150, reports it under the annal for 683, and John Leland, consulting the now lost Annals of Pershore, places the event around 689. Patrick Sims-Williams suggests that the foundation by Oswald may also represent an oral tradition at Pershore, as its archives were probably destroyed in the fires of 1002 and again, 1223.

In the 9th century, Pershore comes to light again as a minster under the patronage of Mercian kings. In other charters contained in the Gloucester register, Coenwulf
Coenwulf of Mercia
Coenwulf was King of Mercia from December 796 to 821. He was a descendant of a brother of King Penda, who had ruled Mercia in the middle of the 7th century. He succeeded Ecgfrith, the son of Offa; Ecgfrith only reigned for five months, with Coenwulf coming to the throne in the same year that Offa...

 (r. 796-821) and Burgred are recorded as having been patrons of Pershore. A charter of King Edgar refers back to a grant of privileges by Coenwulf at the request of his ealdorman (dux) Beornnoth.


In the reign of King Edgar (959-975), Pershore reappears as one of the abbeys to be re-established (or restored) under the programme of Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 reform. Writing c. 1000, the Ramsey monk Byrhtferth
Byrhtferth was a priest and monk who lived at Ramsey Abbey. He had a deep impact on the intellectual life of later Anglo-Saxon England and wrote many computistic, hagiographic, and historical works. He was a leading man of science and best known as the author of many different works...

 relates that under the auspices of Oswald, bishop of Worcester
Oswald of Worcester
Oswald of Worcester was Archbishop of York from 972 to his death in 992. He was of Danish ancestry, but brought up by his uncle, Oda, who sent him to France to the abbey of Fleury to become a monk. After a number of years at Fleury, Oswald returned to England at the request of his uncle, who died...

, seven monasteries were founded in his diocese, notably including Pershore. The first abbot was one Foldbriht, whose name is sufficiently rare to suggest that he may be the same Foldbriht whom Bishop Æthelwold
-Royalty and nobility:*King Æthelwold of Deira, King of Deira, d. 655*King Æthelwold of East Anglia, King of East Anglia, d. 664*King Æthelwold Moll of Northumbria, King of Northumbria, d. post-765*Æthelwold of Wessex, son of King Æthelred of Wessex, d. 902...

 previously installed at Abingdon and used to be a monk of Glastonbury before that time.

The refoundation is what lies behind an exceptionally elaborate charter for Pershore, dated 972, in which King Edgar is presented as granting new lands and privileges as well as confirming old ones, such as the one granted by Coenwulf. The authenticity of this document, however, has been questioned. Simon Keynes
Simon Keynes
Simon Douglas Keynes MA, PhD, Litt.D, FBA is the current Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at Cambridge University.-Biography:...

 in 1980 showed that it belongs to the so-called Orthodoxorum group of charters, so named after the initial word of their proem, which he concluded were forgeries based on a charter of Æthelred II's reign. Since then, Susan Kelly and John Hudson have vindicated the status of some of these charters, including the one for Pershore, which is written in square minuscule characteristic of some of Edgar's charters. More recently, Peter Stokes has brought to light a variant copy of the charter and suggests that two different versions may have been produced around the same time, somewhere between 972 and 1066. A possible scenario is that they were produced to make up for the loss of the original charter(s), perhaps shortly after the fire which is reported to have destroyed the abbey in c. 1002 (see below).

The 12th-century historian William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury
William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

, who seems unaware of any pre-existing minster, claims that one Æthelweard (Egelwardus), whom he describes as "ealdorman of Dorset", had founded the abbey of Pershore in the time of King Edgar. Similarly, Osbert's Life of Eadburh of Winchester alleges that one Alwardus, who is styled comes and consul, was responsible for the refoundation. Both authors also attribute to him a role in the translation of some of the saint's relics to Pershore. Osbert writes that an abbess of Nunnaminster had sold some relics to Æthelweard (Alwardus), who in turn handed them over for the refoundation of Pershore. Some scholars have identified him with Æthelweard, the well-known chronicler and ealdorman of the western shires.

Whatever high-level patronage the foundation may have received, it was not enough to sustain its fortunes for very long. Precisely what happened to Pershore in the later 10th century is poorly documented, but some sources seem to hint that it went into decline during the succession crisis which emerged in the wake of King Edgar's death. William of Malmesbury says that "it, too, like the others, decayed to a pitiful extent, and was reduced by more than a half". According to Leland, the Annals of Pershore hold an earl called Delfer responsible for depriving the abbey of several of its lands. This Delfer has been interpreted as a misreading for Ælfhere
Ælfhere, Ealdorman of Mercia
Ælfhere was ealdorman of Mercia. His family, along with those of Æthelstan Half-King and Æthelstan Rota, rose to greatness in the middle third of the 10th century. In the reign of Edward the Martyr, Ælfhere was a leader of the anti-monastic reaction and an ally of Edward's stepmother Queen Dowager...

 (d. 983), ealdorman of Mercia (whom Leland mentions elsewhere). While himself a patron of Ely and Abingdon, Ælfhere was also charged with despoiling reformed monasteries during Edward the Martyr
Edward the Martyr
Edward the Martyr was king of the English from 975 until he was murdered in 978. Edward was the eldest son of King Edgar, but not his father's acknowledged heir...

's brief reign (975-978). The targets included houses refounded by Bishop Oswald or Bishop Æthelwold and considerably enriched under the patronage of Æthelstan Half-King's sons, notably Æthelwine, ealdorman of East Anglia
Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia
Æthelwine was ealdorman of East Anglia and one of the leading noblemen in the kingdom of England in the later 10th century. As with his kinsmen, the principal source for his life is Byrhtferth's life of Oswald of Worcester...

. Evesham Abbey
Evesham Abbey
Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin at Evesham in England between 700 and 710 A.D. following a vision of the Virgin Mary by Eof.According to the monastic history, Evesham came through the Norman Conquest unusually well, because of a quick approach by Abbot Æthelwig to William the Conqueror...

, for instance, as later reported by its own chronicle
Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham
The Chronicon Abbatiae de Evesham or Chronicle of the Abbey of Evesham, sometimes the Evesham Chronicle, is a medieval chronicle written at and about Evesham Abbey in England.-Contents and authorship:...

, also claimed to have lost several of its lands in this way, and Winchcombe
Winchcombe is a Cotswold town in the local authority district of Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, England. Its population according to the 2001 census was 4,379.-Early history:...

 was disbanded altogether. Æthelwine, in his turn, was remembered at Ely as a despoiler of its lands. Tensions between Ælfhere and Bishop Oswald, whose authorities overlapped, and between Ælfhere and Æthelwine, with whom Oswald maintained a close relationship, are therefore likely to have been the principal cause of the upheaval. Whether a liberty similar to that of Oswaldslow
Oswaldslow (hundred)
The Oswaldslow was a hundred in the English county of Worcestershire, which was named in a supposed charter of 964 by King Edgar the Peaceful . It was actually a triple hundred, composed of three smaller hundreds...

 was an extra cause for concern, compromising Ælfhere's authority as ealdorman, cannot be ascertained from the sources.

'Second' refoundation

Pershore suffered worse misfortune when according to Leland, it was destroyed by fire and subsequently deserted by the monks, probably in the year 1002. The monastic archives were largely lost in the event, as no original record from before that date survives today. Pershore, however, found a generous patron in the wealthy nobleman Odda of Deerhurst (d. 1056), who restored many of its lands and granted new ones. It has been suggested that he was a kinsman of the ealdorman Æthelweard. The earliest extant record from the archive of Pershore, a charter of 1014 by which King Æthelred granted Mathon (Herefordshire) to ealdorman Leofwine, may testify to Odda's restorations of lands to the house. The monastery was active again by the 1020s, as its abbot Brihtheah was promoted bishop of Worcester in 1033. Odda's brother Ælfric was buried at Pershore in 1053, joined three years later by Odda himself.

In Odda's life-time, the total landed assets of Pershore grew to 300 hides, but after the loss of its benefactor in 1056, about two thirds were seized and given to Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor also known as St. Edward the Confessor , son of Æthelred the Unready and Emma of Normandy, was one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England and is usually regarded as the last king of the House of Wessex, ruling from 1042 to 1066....

's new foundation at Westminster. The original single sheet which preserves the fullest version of King Edgar's refoundation charter (though it need not be authentic) is marked by a number of textual alterations and erasures. Some of these changes may suggest a response to the abbey's proprietary struggles.

From the early 12th century, there is evidence that Pershore Abbey claimed possession of some of the relics of Saint Eadburh of Winchester, the sainted daughter of King Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder was an English king. He became king in 899 upon the death of his father, Alfred the Great. His court was at Winchester, previously the capital of Wessex...

. Her body was initially buried at Nunnaminster (Winchester), but it was translated in the 960s to a more central spot in Winchester, and again to a shrine in the 970s. Among several possibilities, Susan Ridyard has suggested that the Eadburh whose relics were preserved at Pershore may have been a Mercian saint of that name whose identity had become obscure.

Later Middle Ages

The main building was begun in about 1100. The abbey was dissolved
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

 in 1539. A monk of Pershore, named Richard Beerely, was one of those who gave evidence to Thomas Cromwell about the misbehaviour of some of his brothers, writing that "Monckes drynk an bowll after collacyon tell ten or xii of the clock, and cum to mattens as dronck as myss, and sume at cardes, sume at dyss." (Monks drink a bowl after breakfast until ten o'clock and come to Matins
Matins is the early morning or night prayer service in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox liturgies of the canonical hours. The term is also used in some Protestant denominations to describe morning services.The name "Matins" originally referred to the morning office also...

 as drunk as mice, some (playing) at cards, some at dice.)

The abbey church remained in use as a parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

. When the north transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

 collapsed in 1686, a wall was built in its place. Further alterations were carried out, including a restoration
Victorian restoration
Victorian restoration is the term commonly used to refer to the widespread and extensive refurbishment and rebuilding of Church of England churches and cathedrals that took place in England and Wales during the 19th-century reign of Queen Victoria...

 by George Gilbert Scott
George Gilbert Scott
Sir George Gilbert Scott was an English architect of the Victorian Age, chiefly associated with the design, building and renovation of churches, cathedrals and workhouses...

 in 1852.

In 1913, two western buttresses were added to replace the support from the missing portion of the building.

Current structure and features

The church as it now stands represents only a small portion of the original building.

Pershore Abbey has a 25 cwt ring of eight bells. The ringing room is a metal 'cage' suspended high above the chancel crossing; it is accessed by means of two stone spiral staircases, a walkway through the roof, a squeeze through a narrow passage and a see-through iron staircase.

Abbots of Pershore Abbey

Name In office Comments
Foldbriht c. 970 – 988
Brihtheah (Brihteah) ? – 1033 Nephew of Wulfstan (I), Archbishop of York; went on to become bishop of Worcester (1033–8)
Ælfric ? fl. 1046 x 1050.
Edmund 1058–1085 d. 1058.
Thurstan 1085–1087 Master of Gloucester.
Hugh ? Died before 1113.
Guy ? – 1102 ? – 1136/7 Deposed in 1102, but later restored to office.
William 1138 – ? Master of Eye.
Thomas ? Appears in 1143 x 1145 and following suspension, again in 1145 x 1150.
Reginald ? – 1174 First known appearance in 1155.
Simon 1175–1198
Master Anselm 1198–1203 Master of Reading, d. 1203.
Gervase 1204–1234 d. 1234.
Roger de Rudeby (Rudby) 1234–1251 Chamberlain of Pershore.
Elerius 1251–1264 Prior of Cogges.
Henry of Bidford 1264 – ? Master of Pershore.
Henry de Caldewelle 1274–1290 Master of Pershore.
William de Leghe 1290–1307 Cellarer of Pershore.
William of Harvington 1307–1340 Master of Pershore, etc.
Thomas of Pirton (Pyriton) 1340–1349 Cellarer of Pershore.
Peter of Pendock 1349–1363 Master of Pershore.
Peter (de) Bradewey(e) 1363–1379 Master of Pershore.
Thomas de Upton 1379 Elected 1379.
William de Newenton 1413
Edmund Hert 1456–1479
Robert Stanwey 1479
John Pibleton 1497
William Compton 1504–1526
John Stonywell 1526–1539 x 40 Surrendered the abbey


A three manual organ built by Nicholson of Malvern
Malvern, Worcestershire
Malvern is a town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England, governed by Malvern Town Council. As of the 2001 census it has a population of 28,749, and includes the historical settlement and commercial centre of Great Malvern on the steep eastern flank of the Malvern Hills, and the former...

 in 1872, was removed several years ago and replaced with a Bradford electronic organ. There are currently no plans to re-install a pipe organ at Pershore Abbey. The Nicholson was restored twice by J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd
J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd
J. W. Walker & Sons Ltd is a British firm of organ builders established in 1828 by Joseph William Walker in London. Walker organs were popular additions to churches during the Gothic Revival era of church building and restoration in Victorian Britain, and instruments built by Walker are found in...

 in 1940 and 1971.

Past organists and masters of music include Charles Tovey, Edred Martin Chaundy (1898–1899, formerly of Enniskillen Parish Church, afterwards Holy Trinity Church, Stroud and Armagh Cathedral), Frank Alfred Charles Mason (1900–c.1921) Peter B. Waddington. ca. 1948, Rodney Clifford Baldwyn (1951–1981), Ian Gerrard (1993–2003), Sheila Joynes (2003–2004), Mike Pegg
Mike Pegg
Mike Pegg is a British writer and mentor who has helped to pioneer the strengths approach to working with people. He has written many books on the topic. These include The Art of Mentoring, The Super Teams Book and Strengths Coaching In 90 Minutes...

 (2004–2005), David Barclay (2005–2007) and Alex Crawford (2007–2008). In 2009, Mike Pegg resumed his former duties.

Primary sources

  • Anglo-Saxon charters
    Anglo-Saxon Charters
    Anglo-Saxon charters are documents from the early medieval period in Britain which typically make a grant of land or record a privilege. The earliest surviving charters were drawn up in the 670s; the oldest surviving charters granted land to the Church, but from the eighth century surviving...

    : S 70, 209, 1782, 786; S 1143, S 1144, S 1145, S 1146.
  • Byrhtferth
    Byrhtferth was a priest and monk who lived at Ramsey Abbey. He had a deep impact on the intellectual life of later Anglo-Saxon England and wrote many computistic, hagiographic, and historical works. He was a leading man of science and best known as the author of many different works...

    , Life of St Oswald, ed.
  • John Leland, Collectanea, ed.
  • John Leland, Itinerarium, ed.
  • Domesday Book
    Domesday Book
    Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

    : Great Domesday, f. 174v–175r
  • William of Malmesbury
    William of Malmesbury
    William of Malmesbury was the foremost English historian of the 12th century. C. Warren Hollister so ranks him among the most talented generation of writers of history since Bede, "a gifted historical scholar and an omnivorous reader, impressively well versed in the literature of classical,...

    , Gesta pontificum Anglorum
    Gesta pontificum Anglorum
    The Gesta Pontificum Anglorum or Deeds of the English Bishops was a medieval literary work by William of Malmesbury covering the history of the English episcopate...

    , ed. and tr.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.