Pershore Abbey was founded in the 680s when one Oswald was given lands by Aethelred, King of Mercia. Over the centuries it waxed and waned. Three hundred years later it was refounded during the great revival of English monasticism under the aegis of Dunstan, Aethelwold and Oswald, adopted the Rule of St Benedict, and remained an abbey of the Benedictines until its dissolution in 1540. The Saxon church burnt down in 1002, and its replacement was completed in 1020. It stood for only seventy years before being superseded by the Norman building, the south transept and crossing piers of which remain today, although that in turn suffered from fire in 1102. Fire destroyed the quire in 1223, which resulted in much rebuilding in the Early English style. Yet another fire, in 1290, spread from the monks’ bakehouse, brought down part of the tower through the quire roof vault, and also caused destruction among the houses of the town. The new tower was in the Decorated style.
When the Dissolution of the Monasteries occurred during the reign of Henry VIII, most of the claustral buildings were demolished, and the materials sold off. However, the townsfolk bought the quire end to be their parish church. This was quite unusual, since it was more common for the local populace to buy the nave, where they would have been permitted to attend services over the centuries, rather than see that pulled down. The north transept part of the remaining building collapsed in 1686 and was not replaced.
Pershore’s history of suffering damaging fires gave me the idea for the more minor fire damage, from a lightning strike, that means the masons are at work upon the church building during Servant of Death.
Excavations at Pershore took place in the late1920s, when much of the cloister and its ranges were unearthed, and there were further excavations in the mid 1990s, preceding the laying of underfloor heating in the church. These excavations discovered the Saxon foundations.