The Vale of Evesham Historical Society opened its 2015-2016 season of lectures on Thursday 24th September with a talk by George Demidowicz about new work on the architecture and history of the Evesham Bell Tower. Welcoming the speaker and visitors, who included the Mayor of Evesham, Mr Fred Kaler, the Society’s Chairman made reference to the work of society members over the summer in preparing a number of displays in the Almonry Museum and elsewhere commemorating the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Evesham. These had attracted favourable comments from many visitors to the town. He then introduced Mr Demidowicz, who retired in 2011 from his post as Head of the Conservation and Archaeology Team at Coventry City Council, but who has continued to research and write about historic buildings and landscapes. Among his recently published work is a history of the old St Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry.

George opened his talk by showing his audience a picture - “A Prospect of Evesham Bell Tower, ca 1795”, recently discovered at the Yale Centre for British Art in Newhaven, Connecticut, and unknown in this country.

On available evidence, Abbot Lichfield’s Bell Tower is the fourth to be built on the site, and is perhaps the finest example of the perpendicular style at the period when it was being replaced by the Tudor style. Describing the architecture of the tower, the speaker drew attention to the many decorative features still visible, including small traces of the original whitewash with which all medieval buildings were coated.

As well as being responsible for the construction of the Bell Tower, Abbot Lichfield had chapels built at both St Lawrence and All Saints’ Churches. Similarities of decoration and style of construction lead to the conclusion that all the buildings, including the Bell Tower, were the work of the same Master Mason. It is speculated from records of the pensions given to the monks at the dissolution of the Abbey that this was Robert Vertue, nephew of William Vertue, the King’s Mason.

The talk was illustrated with lovely photographs of the interior of these chapels, the decoration of which includes the pomegranates of Catherine of Aragon and the crowns of the King, as well as Abbot Lichfield’s initials.

Finally George discussed the life and work of Clement Lichfield, the beautiful buildings which are his legacy in Evesham, and the loss of what must have been a most spectacular Abbey.

The talk, which was followed by a very lively question and answer session, was one of the most interesting and informative organised by the Society on the subject of local history.

George and his wife Toni have recently published a book about the Bell Tower which includes discussion of the chapels, their architectural and documentary history. It is beautifully illustrated with colour photographs and documentary evidence. Published by the Society, it is available for purchase at the Almonry Museum.

The Society’s next talk couldn’t be more different. It will be on the evening of Thursday, October 29. The speaker is Ron Gallivan, who will talk on “James Lancaster – Elizabethan Admiral or Pirate?”.

As well as getting together for talks, Society members also meet at the Almonry Museum on most Thursday evenings in the year, with a break during the month of August.