architecture, belvedere, country house, garden history, landscape garden, Monument, Obelisk, Tower, Worcestershire

Leicester Tower and Obelisk, Evesham, Worcestershire

The Battle of Evesham took place on a site near the town in 1265, but it was several centuries later that two memorials to the hero of the hour, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, were erected. In 1842 Edward Rudge, a civic figure, botanist and antiquary built a tower and obelisk in the grounds of his home, and dedicated them to the battle and the earl.

Edward Rudge by Lowes Cato Dickinson lithograph, early 19th century NPG D39914 © National Portrait Gallery, London. Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0.

Rudge (1763-1846) inherited the family seat in the abbey grounds at Evesham in 1790. In 1817 he completed work on a new house in the gothic style, which he called Abbey Manor House. In the gardens were fragments of Evesham Abbey (the bell tower that stands today was the only substantial survivor after the dissolution of the monasteries). Rudge had excavated the site, and ‘architectural and monumental remains of the great abbey’ were moved to his home for ‘safe preservation’.

Abbey Manor House as seen from the footpath.

The grounds of Abbey Manor House contained the site of the Battle of Evesham, and to commemorate this Rudge erected the tower and an obelisk. The tower was built in 1842, and the obelisk is said to have been erected in 1845 (unlike the tower it does not carry a date, and 1845 seems to be the date at which it was first mentioned in print). By the 1840s Rudge was an elderly man –  he died in September 1846 aged 83 – and it seems likely that his son, Edward John Rudge (1792-1861), also an antiquary, might have played a part.

The top of the tower with grotesque corbels.

A plaque on the tower is now badly eroded, but the inscription declares that:


The attractive crenellated tower, on high ground overlooking the river Avon, was visible beyond the bounds of Rudge’s estate and within a couple of years a local historian wrote that ‘We need scarcely add that this conspicuous object forms an ornamental as well as praiseworthy feature in the surrounding landscape’. Presumably it was admired, for in 1866 it was described by the Cotswolds Naturalists Club as the ‘celebrated Leicester Tower’.

Undated early 20th century postcard, courtesy of a private collection.

The obelisk commemorates the Battle of Evesham, and the four sides of the base feature a plaque with lines from Michael Drayton’s epic poem ‘Poly-Olbion’; an inscription announcing that this spot was the site of the battle (disputed by historians) and a carved panel of arms and armour with the word Victoria.

The fourth side has a wonderful bas-relief illustrating the moment in the battle when King Henry was not recognised, and was almost killed by royal forces. The obelisk stands in a small formal garden, and in the second half of 19th century was often visited by groups of historians and antiquarians. One member of the British Archaeological Society was not impressed when he visited in 1875: he dismissed the obelisk as ‘tastless’ and the decoration as ‘feeble’.

In around 1913 the tower featured as number 9 in the series of 50 ‘Battlefields of Britain’ cigarette cards issued with Smith’s ‘Studio’ Cigarettes.

George Arents Collection, The New York Public Library.  The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

As the cigarette card shows, by the early 19th century the tower was neglected and smothered with ivy. The Abbey Manor estate was renovated in the late 1990s, with the house being restored and new homes built in the grounds. The tower – by then listing noticeably – was straightened and stabilised for the developers, WeatherArk, and public access to the tower and obelisk was enabled via a concessionary footpath. Tower and obelisk are both listed at grade II.

Later generations of the Rudge family loaned many items connected to Evesham Abbey to the Almonry Museum, where they can still be seen today

There is no access to the interior, but you can see the brick core.

Thank you for reading. Your thoughts, memories and further information are always welcome – scroll down to the foot of the page to comment.



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8 thoughts on “Leicester Tower and Obelisk, Evesham, Worcestershire”

  1. Gwyn Headley says:

    So La Flâneuse has acquired a drone?

    1. Editor says:

      No, but the Uncouth Companion has. Bit of a steep learning curve getting the hang of it!

      1. Gwyn Headley says:

        Full marks so far! I’m impressed!

        1. Editor says:

          Watch this space!

  2. Rosemary Hill says:

    I love that bas relief and how cheering to hear of a developer actually following through on a planning gain promise.
    V exciting about the drone. Do be careful.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Rosemary. I didn’t know that bas-relief was on the obelisk so it was an extra delight, and top marks to the developers/planning officers for a deal that allowed restoration and public access. The UC will be a careful and conscientious drone operator – once he gets the hang of it!

  3. Garance says:

    Boys with toys do come in useful sometimes. Great images!

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning Garance. The UC will be very pleased to receive your compliment. Practice makes perfect!

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