Tewkesbury - Encyclopedia

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TEWKESBURY, a market town and municipal borough in the Tewkesbury parliamentary division of Gloucestershire, England, 151 m. N.E. of Gloucester by the Midland railway. Pop. (1901) 5419. It lies in a flat pastoral district, with low hills to the south, on the Warwickshire Avon, close to its junction with the Severn. The Severn is crossed by an iron bridge with a flattened arch of 170 ft. span, erected by Telford in 1824. Of the great Benedictine abbey, one of the richest foundations in England, refounded and enlarged by Sir Robert Fitz-Hamon in the 12th century on the site of an ancient hermitage and Saxon monastery, there only remain the gate and a few other fragments. The abbey church, however, consecrated in 1125, is a magnificent specimen of early Norman. This elaborate cruciform building consists of nave and side aisles, with transepts united by a grand central tower richly arcaded. The choir terminates in an apse and is surrounded by an ambulatory. One of the most remarkable features of the building is the unique western front, the central part of which is occupied by one vast arch extending from the ground to the roof. Originally it was filled in with Norman windows, but a Perpendicular window now occupies the space. The whole building underwent restoration in the Decorated period, and of this style it is one of the finest existing examples. The Norman windows in the nave were replaced, and stone groining was substituted for the carved wooden ceiling, a like transformation taking place in the transepts. The Norman columns in the choir still exist; but above them rises a grand superstructure of Decorated work. The elegant clerestory windows are of the 14th century, with stained glass of the same date. The ambulatory was re built some distance farther out, and from it projected a beautiful series of chapels. The elaborate tombs include those of Sir Robert Fitz-Hamon, the De Spensers, Alan prior of Canterbury, Sir Guy de Brien, and the vault of George duke of Clarence (murdered in the Tower) and his wife Isabella. Edward, prince of Wales, slain after the battle of Tewkesbury (1471) by the Yorkists, is also buried in the church. Of the two organs, one, dating from the early 17th century, is of singularly beautiful tone. In the High Street there are several ancient timbered and gabled houses. Remains of an ancient wall have been discovered adjoining the town. There are a free grammar school (1625) and a number of charities and almshouses. Tewkesbury is chiefly dependent on its agricultural trade. Below the junction of the rivers there is a great lock and weir on the Severn, up to which the stream is sometimes reversed by the tidal bore. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 2532 acres.

Remains of Roman encampments and roads prove that the earliest settlement near Tewkesbury (Theotesburg, Theockesburia, Thooksburi) of which we have evidence was a military encampment against the British. It was the site of .a Saxon castle and monastery, and its position near navigable rivers led to the growth of a town, which was a borough with a market in 1087 when it was part of the royal domain. It was subsequently granted to Earl Robert of Gloucester, who granted a charter before 1107, which exempted the borough from certain tolls and from suit at the hundred court. Edward III. confirmed this charter in 1337, and made Tewkesbury free from tolls throughout England. The borough was incorporated by Elizabeth by a charter of 1574, which was confirmed in 1604, 1605, 160 9 (when the manor and borough were sold to the corporation) and 1685, while the town was governed under the charter granted by William III. in 1698 until the corporation was remodelled in 1835, the modern government consisting of a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Tewkesbury returned two members from 1609 to 1867, when it lost one member, and in 1885 the representation was merged in that of the county. A fair on July 20 was granted in 1323, and fairs on September 21 and August 24 in 1440, and on April 25 in 1574. For the last May 3 was substituted in 1605, and two more fairs on June r 1 and September 29 were granted in 1609. All these grants were confirmed by the charter of 1685. One fair only is now held, on October 10. It is a pleasure fair and a fair for hiring servants, and has lost the commercial importance of the early wool fairs. The long-existing provision trade along the four rivers declined through railway competition. Cloth-making lasted from the 11th century until the beginning of the 18th; gloving in the 17th century was followed by worsted-combing in the r8th. Cotton-thread lace-making, introduced in 1825, collapsed about 1862. Tewkesbury was once celebrated for the manufacture of mustard, which ceased to be important at the end of the 18th century. Stocking-frame knitting was the chief trade in 1830, but has been replaced by the boot and shoe trade. Tewkesbury was strategically important in the Wars of the Roses, and was the site of a battle in 1471, and in the Civil War was four times besieged.

See Victoria County History, Gloucestershire; James Bennet, History of Tewkesbury (1850); William Wyde, History of Tewkesbury (1798).

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