The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



INDEPENDENT CHAPEL.-This building is situate at the upper end of Barton-street. It was originally erected and endowed by the Presbyterians, though no particulars of its early history can now be obtained; when the Rev. Henry Welsford, the present respected minister of this chapel, was chosen to the pastoral office, in 1819, not a single document of any interest, relating either to its foundation, its ministers, or its congregation, could be discovered.

The Presbyterian dissenters, from a diminution of their numbers, had become unable to support a pastor of their own denomination; they therefore, about half a century ago, permitted the congregation of Independents to unite with them. From that period to the present, the Presbyterians have gradually diminished in numbers, while the Independents have greatly increased; and at this time, the members of this congregation strictly conform to the government and worship adopted by the Independents.

In 1820, this chapel was newly pewed, and rendered more commodious and comfortable; but being found, a few years afterwards, too small for the congregation, it was, at an expense of about £.900, enlarged, by extending the building towards the street, and erecting a spacious gallery. It was re-opened on the 31st of Aug. 1828, on which occasion £.50 was collected at the doors, after sermons by the Rev. Wm. Thorp, of Bristol; and upwards of £500 was contributed by the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood.



Some branches of the family of the late Dr. Philip Dodridge[337] are interred in the burial ground at the back of this chapel.[338]

BAPTIST CHAPEL.-The particular Baptists[339] have a neat and convenient place of worship, near the bottom of Barton-street, which was erected by subscription in the year 1805. The Baptists had a considerable congregation here as early as 1655. Their original meeting-house was in an alley in the Church-street, nearly opposite the abbey church, where they have now a small chapel, a burial ground, and some dwelling-houses, the rents of which are appropriated to the use of the poor belonging to the society. The Rev. Daniel Trotman, the


present worthy minister, has regularly fulfilled the duties of the pastoral office since the year 1803.

FRIENDS' MEETING-HOUSE.-The Society of Friends have had, almost from the days of George Fox, their founder, a place of worship in Tewkesbury,[340] or in its immediate neighbourhood.[341] The present meeting-house was built in the year 1804, partly by subscription among the resident members, and partly by a contribution from the quarterly meetings; it is a very neat and substantial structure, capable of holding several hundred persons. It stands near the centre of the Barton-street, and attached thereto is a small burial ground, but their principal place of interment[342] is in St. Mary's-lane, where also their old meeting-house stood. The Friends, in the counties of Gloucester and Wilts, are associated: they hold one quarterly meeting at Tewkesbury, on the last Tuesday in September; one at Cirencester, in December; one at Melksham, in March and one at Frenchay, near Bristol, in June, annually.

WESLEYAN CHAPEL.-In the Tolzey-lane stands a commodious chapel, erected by the Wesleyan Methodists, which was first opened for divine worship on the 16th of October 1814, by Dr. Adam Clarke. A chapel, on a more limited scale, had occupied the same site for many years previously.


JEWS' SYNAGOGUE.-The Jews have now no place of worship here, though it appears that there was formerly a synagogue in St. Marys-lane.[343] Sir Robert Atkyns[344] says, that there was, in his time, no Jew dwelling in Gloucestershire, and that the only Jewess who resided in the county lived at Tewkesbury. Purchas, in his "Pilgrimages," relates a story, from which we may infer that some of this race of people lived here many centuries since. He says, that, about the year 1259, a Jew fell into a common sewer at Tewkesbury, on a Saturday, and refused to permit any one to help him out on that day, lest he should profane his sabbath. Upon this being told to Richard de Clare the second, who was then proprietor of the lordship, he commanded that no one should assist in extricating him on Sunday, resolving to make this ceremonious Israelite observe the Christian sabbath with the same solemnity as he had kept his own; and he expired from the filth and stench before Monday. This tale is likewise related by Fabian, in his "Chronicle of England and France"[345] and also, with some variation, in an early printed book, entitled, "An Historical Dictionary of remarkable Persons": in the latter work, the Jew's name is stated to have been Solomon, and the following verses were made on his singular death:

"Tende manus, Solomon, ego te de steroore tollam
"Sabbata nostra colo, de stercore surgere nolo.
"Sabbata nostra quidem, Solomon, celebrabis ibidem."

Some remains of an ancient stone building exist near the entrance into St. Mary's-lane, but there is no record or tradition


to guide us in ascertaining when or for what purpose it was erected. The portions of the fabric which are now discernible, would lead to the conclusion that it was designed for a place of religious worship; and hence some have conjectured that it was the chapel of Theocus. That the humble edifice, which was erected by this pious recluse, might have stood near this spot, is highly probable; and perhaps for a long period subsequent to the completion of Fitz-Hamon's noble structure, a chapel remained there for the use of the inhabitants of the town. If this opinion be admitted, the building must have fallen into decay prior to the dissolution of the monastery; for, when Leland wrote his Itinerary, "ther was no other paroche chirch yn the town but the weste ende of the abbay chirche".[346] Some persons imagine it to be the remains of the Jew's synagogue, but that is by no means probable.

[337] Dr. Doddridge's eldest daughter was married to Mr. Humphreys, an attorney, of Tewkesbury, whose grandson, John Doddridge Humphreys, esq. author of Prince Malcolm and other poems, has recently edited the posthumous Sermons of Dr. Doddridge, and is now publishing the Correspondence of this pious and learned divine. After the doctor's decease, which happened at Lisbon, in 1751, his widow, son, and two maiden daughters, resided at Tewkesbury, in great respectability and esteem.
[338] On a raised tomb, enclosed with iron railing, are these inscriptions
Memoriae sacrum Elizabethan Humphreys, Johannis Humphreys, gen.
uxoris, quae vixit annos 26. Ob. Maii die nono 1752.
Charlotta Elizabetha, praedicti Johannis Humphreys et Mariae uxoris ejus
secundas filia. Obijt 18 die Augusti, 1765, natali die, anno ætatis suae quarto.
Josephus filius Johannis et Mariae Humphreys. Vixit septimanas decem.
Obiit 10 die Octobris, 1766.
Phi. Doddridge, gen. Ob. 13 Mar. 1785, ætat. suae 47.
Mercy Doddridge, Philippi Doddridge, S.T.P. vidua. Obiit vicessima die
Aprilis, anno Domini 1790, ætatis 82.
Mary Humphreys, Johannis Humphreys vidua, necnon praedicti P. Doddridge
filia. Obiit die Junii octava, anno Domini 1799, ætatis 66.
Anna Cecilia Doddridge, postrema superstes filia praedicti Philippi Doddridge.
Ob. 3 die Augusti, A.D. 1811, ætatis suae 74.
Maria, sola charissima filia Johannis Doddridge Humphreys et Mariae
uxoris ejus. Ob. 27 die Novembris A.D. 1811, ætatis suae 14.
Memoriae sacrum Johannis Doddridge Humphreys, gen. Obiit 3 die Dec.
A.D. 1813, ætatis suae 53.
[339] There are General and Particular Baptists: the former are Arminians, and the latter Calvinists.
[340] In the "Account of the Persecutions of the People called Quakers," for demands recoverable under the acts of 7 and 8 William III. it is stated that, in 1703, "William Pumphrey, of Tewkesbury, was presented in the exchequer for tithes of about five pounds value, at the suit of John Matthews, vicar." He was subsequently imprisoned in the borough gaol.
[341] Perhaps the oldest Friends' meeting-house in this part of the county was at Stoke Orchard, about four miles from Tewkesbury, where there is still a burial ground, though it is now rarely or never used. For a long period, the monthly meetings were held alternately at Tewkesbury and at Stoke.
[342] The Society of Friends have also an inclosed burial ground adjoining the church-yard at Corse, on an estate belonging to James Wood, esq. of Gloucester, to whom they pay 6s. 8d. yearly for a right of road, though they make no use whatever of it. This property is held on lease, for a long term; the society would willingly relinquish their right to it, but the cautious banker cannot be persuaded to yield up his claim upon them, for a less douceur than ten pounds!
[343] Sum say that Theocus chapelle was aboute the place wher syns the Jues synagoge was." Leland.
[344] Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire, 1712.
[345] 1259. In this yere also, fell that happe of the Jewe of Tewkysbury, which fell into a gonge upon the Satyrday, and wolde not, for reverence of his sabot day, be pluckyd out; whereof heryng the Erle of Gloucetyr, that the Jewe dyd so great reverence to his sabbot daye, thought he wolde doo as moche unto his holy day, which was Sonday; and so kepte hym there tyll Monday, at whiche season, he was foundyn dede." Fabyan's Chronicle.
[346] Lel. Itin. vol. vi. p.90. edit. 1769.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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