The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



TOWN-HALL. - The Town-Hall, or Tolzey, was erected in the year 1788, at an expense of upwards of £.1200, and given by Sir William Codrington, bart. to the corporation of the borough. On the ground floor is a large paved area, separated from a court by four circular pillars, which chiefly support the front of the structure; behind this is the hall, in which the quarter sessions are held; and adjoining it is the town-clerk's office. A spacious stone staircase leads to a handsome banquetting or ball-room, which is neatly fitted up, and ornamented with an admirable portrait of the founder, painted by Sir William Beechey. On the same floor is a large drawing-room, used as a council-chamber by the corporation, and as a place of meeting by the commissioners of the streets and other public bodies. The grand jury also assemble in this room; the use of which is freely granted by the bailiffs to the inhabitants of the borough on every necessary occasion.

The accompanying wood engraving represents the structure in its original state; a small cupola was placed on the top of it, a few years since, for the purpose of introducing a bell.

The court, between the street and the building, was intended for holding the corn-market; and the open space, on the ground floor, for pitching the corn which might be brought for sale; the farmers and dealers, however, prefer assembling in the public streets, on market days, and there the corn trade is principally transacted.

The old Tolzey stood in the centre of the town, at the junction of the three principal streets, and greatly obstructed

[Image: unlabelled, but appears to be the Town Hall]


the carriage-way from the High-street to the other parts of the borough. The removal of this building, which had nothing in its history or appearance to atone for the inconveniences which it created, and the consequent destruction of some decayed dwelling-houses which were attached to it, improved the town in a greater degree than can be easily imagined.

THE GAOL. - The new Borough Gaol, which is situate at the upper end of the High-street, was built in 1816, at an expense of £.3419. 11s. 7½d. The whole of this sum, with the exception of £.175, which was paid by the national school committee for the materials of the old gaol and the ground on which the school is built, was collected by parish rates, between the years 1814 and 1818. Shortly after the prison was occupied, two boys, who were detained in it on a charge of burglary, made their escape; and as it was found that the building was neither adequate to the safe custody of the prisoners, nor commodious enough to admit of their proper classification, a great expense was subsequently incurred in its improvement and enlargement. The annual cost of maintaining this establishment, including salaries, &c. is on an average little more than £.100, which is raised by a rate upon the inhabitants.

HOUSE OF INDUSTRY. - This building stands on an elevated spot, near the entrance into the town from Gloucester and Cheltenham, and is better adapted for the purposes for which it was intended than similar structures generally are. Time however has proved, that buildings which were designed for "houses of industry", are too frequently receptacles for the idle and the profligate: such places indeed are only fit for orphan or deserted children, and for the aged and infirm. It is much better to relieve the industrious poor at their own houses, when sickness or poverty assails them, than to compel them to take up their abode in parish work-houses.[323]


An act of parliament was obtained, in 1792, "For the better Relief and Employment of the Poor of and belonging to the Parish of Tewkesbury". The principal inhabitants are by this act incorporated, under the style of "the guardians of the poor"; from this body nine individuals are chosen, who are called "directors"; and to them is the entire management of the poor confided. The directors retain their office three years: three of them retire annually, in July, when others are appointed in their room; thus there are always six experienced persons in office. The directors meet every Tuesday, at the house of industry, where they receive and decide upon the various applications of the poor. The duties of the office are so troublesome and unpleasant, that many persons pay a fine of twenty pounds, rather than serve it.

In the year 1723, the whole amount collected for the poor within the parish was less than £.200.[324] Since the passing


of the house of industry act, the following sums have been collected by poor's-rates:[325] -

In the year ending in June,£.s.d.  In the year ending in June,£.s.d.
1796,11581510 1813,355828
1797,2610151 1814,4673191
1798,1999129 1815,2791176
1799,196742 1816,25391311
1801,2956130 1818,458268
1802,2872110 1819,4158183
1803,201143 1820,357224
1807,213856 1824,253279
1810,254790 1827,3538189
1811,297263 1828,3421150
1812,32671810 1829,3052113

The building of the house of industry was commenced almost immediately after the act, which authorised its erection, was obtained; it was completed in 1796, and cost altogether upwards of £.7000.[326] The sum of £.5500 was borrowed upon mortgage of the parish property and of the money to be raised by poor's-rates; and the interest of this sum, together with £.100 of the principal money, was directed by the act to be paid off annually. So great however had been the negligence of the directors, that, in 1799, no part of the principal had been discharged, and the parish was indebted to the treasurer upwards of £.1000, besides nearly £.300 to other individuals. These sums, with the principal and interest which was due to


the mortgagees, formed a debt of nearly £.7000. The directors, who were elected in 1799, began a reform, but found themselves compelled first to borrow £.500 more upon mortgage; at Christmas they paid off £.100, and the same amount, with the interest upon the remainder, has since been regularly discharged, so that the mortgage debt is now reduced from £.6000 to £.3100.

MARKET-HOUSE. - The markets were held under the old town-hall, until that edifice was pulled down, in the year 1789, when the corporation granted to twenty individuals, in consideration of their erecting the present commodious Market-House, a lease of the tolls for stallage for a term of ninety-nine years. At the end of that period, not only will the tolls revert to the lessors, but the entire building will become the property of the body corporate. The land on which the market-house stands, together with the expenses of building and of fitting it up, cost about £.1400, or £.70 per share. Considerable sums of money have since been expended in alterations and reparations; but the shareholders have had no cause to regret their speculation.

THE THEATRE. - This building extends from the fives-court, at the back of the Wheat-Sheaf inn, to the Oldbury. There is nothing worthy of notice in its exterior; it is a large brick structure, apparently built without any specific design, and remained unoccupied for many years after it was erected. In 1823, a number of individuals obtained it upon a lease, and fitted it up in its present style. The interior displays much taste and judgment in its arrangement; appropriate devices, from the plays of Shakspeare, ornament the pannels above the front of the boxes; and the scenery was painted by the celebrated John Grieve.

FREE GRAMMAR SCHOOL. - This School was founded in 1576, and is kept in a large apartment, contiguous to the abbey church, with which it was formerly connected. In the charter of King William the third, it is called "the free grammar-school of William Ferrers, citizen and mercer of London", on account of his having been the principal

[Image: unlabelled]


benefactor to it. The bailiffs, justices, chamberlain, and town-clerk, for the time being, are the governors; the Rev. William Prosser is the present master. The endowments of this school are not very considerable: the rent of the Hollams meadow, purchased with money left by Sir Dudley Digges; £.20 yearly, devised by Mr. Ferrers, payable out of the manor of Skillingthorpe, Lincolnshire; and some chief-rents, purchased with money left by Mr. Alye, comprise the income of the master. The election of the children is vested in the governors, who are incorporated by the charter of the borough; though the church-wardens of Ashchurch have the privilege of sending to this school four boys, to be selected by them from the inhabitants of that parish. Mr. Richard Estcourt, an actor and dramatic writer, was educated at this school;[327] and it is highly probable that Mr. Ferrers, its chief benefactor, was also educated here, a circumstance which might have induced him to benefit the institution so greatly.

BLUE-COAT SCHOOL. - Lady Capel, in 1721, devised a large farm, in Kent, to trustees, for charitable purposes, and directed that one-twelfth part of the rents should be applied towards the support of the Charity School in Tewkesbury. Mr. Thomas


Merrett, in 1724, charged certain lands and premises in Tewkesbury with the payment of fifty shillings yearly, for the benefit of the same institution. A small addition is made to this income, by the annual subscription of a few of the principal inhabitants of the borough. Twenty boys receive the benefit of this charity, who are instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, besides being in part clothed.[328] The master of the National School is also the master of the Blue-Coat School; and the children of the two establishments receive their education together.

About the commencement of the last century, there was an academy of great respectability at Tewkesbury, conducted by the Rev. Samuel Jones, a protestant dissenter; who appears, by the character which is given of him by one of his pupils,[329]


to have been deservedly esteemed for his piety and learning. At this seminary several distinguished individuals studied for the ministry; among whom were Seeker, archbishop of Canterbury, and Butler,[330] bishop of Durham; as well as Dr. Chandler, Dr. Gifford, the Rev. Mr. Pearsall, the Rev. Caleb Jobe, (one of the most respected tutors at the Bristol Baptist academy), and many other eminent dissenting divines. Mr. Jones's manuscript Lectures and Annotations on Godwin's Moses and Aaron, are very valuable: his work, of which there are several copies extant, is written in neat Latin, and contains many excellent remarks, which discover his great learning and accurate knowledge of the subject.[331] Mr. Jones resided in a large house, near the upper end of the High-street, now the property of Miss Procter. On the night of the coronation of George the first, his residence was attacked by the rabble, who took that opportunity of proclaiming their enmity to all "schismatics" and "friends of the pretender". Mr. George Moore, the high bailiff, in attempting to quell the disturbance,


was knocked down, and beaten. On the death of Mr. Jones, in 1719, the academy was removed to Carmarthen.[332]

NATIONAL SCHOOL. - This School was instituted in 1813, and was for some years carried on in the north transept of the church, until the friends of the undertaking were enabled to erect the present building, which adjoins the church-yard, and was completed in 1817. It is a very neat and substantial structure, and cost £.1345. 8s. 3½.[333] This establishment has always been conducted in strict conformity to the rules of the parent society in London, "for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church".

BRITISH SCHOOL. - It having been determined, in 1812, to erect a School for the Instruction of the Children of the Poor on the System introduced by Mr. Joseph Lancaster, a plot of ground, at the upper end of Barton-street, was given for that purpose by N. Hartland, esq. one of the society of Friends; on condition that it should revert to him and his heirs, with the buildings upon it, whenever it should cease to be used as a school on its original plan. Charles Hanbury Tracy, esq. liberally gave £.300 towards its erection. The school was opened in 1813; it cost upwards of £.600, and a considerable sum has since been expended in improvements.


SUNDAY-SCHOOLS. - In 1788, a number of the most respectable of the inhabitants entered into a subscription for the purpose of forming a Sunday-School, on the plan recommended by the late Mr. Raikes, of Gloucester, the original projector of these valuable institutions. The Church Sunday-School has been continued from that period to the present; it is now united with the National School, and on Sundays the children of both establishments receive religious instruction and attend divine service together. There is also a Sunday-School attached to the British School, the children of which attend that particular place of worship which is selected by their parents. The Independents, Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists have also each a Sunday School.

A District Association, in aid of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, was instituted at Tewkesbury in 1820.

In 1826, a Church Missionary Branch Association, in aid of the London Church Missionary Society, was formed.

An Auxiliary Bible Society was established in 1812; a Ladies' Bible Association has since been added to it; and in 1821, an Auxiliary Religious Tract Society was formed.

In 1806, a Lying-in-Charity was founded; and while ladies, equally zealous and respectable as those who at present conduct this inestimable charity, continue its supporters, it cannot fail to be a comfort and a blessing to the poor and deserving married women of the town and neighbourhood.

A Dispensary was established in 1815, which has always been liberally supported. For this valuable establishment, the poor are principally indebted to Jonas Maiden, M.D. one of the physicians to the Worcester infirmary, and to George Dangerfield, esq. surgeon, of Bromyard, both of whom formerly resided in Tewkesbury.

A Charity, for supplying the poor with Blankets, was formed in 1817, which is of considerable advantage to persons in the lower ranks of life.

[323] Before the Reformation there were no poor's-rates; the charitable doles given at religious houses, and church ales in every parish, were sufficient. In every parish there was a church-house, to which belonged spits, pots, crocks, &c. for dressing provisions. Here the housekeepers met and were merry, and gave their charity. The young people came there too, and had dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, &c. - Antiq. Rep.
[324] The following is a literal copy of the overseer's accounts, for the year 1723, transcribed from the parish books of that date:-
Received from the last officers£.351½ Paid fifty weeks to the poor and others by money£.185102 
Received on the twelve months booke and on the aditionall booke195411¾Paid Mrs. Williams for sacrament wine, by order of the parish15176 
Received from Widd. Gainer's effects946½Remains in the overseer's hands, which is to be paid next year's officers6611¼
 £.207147½ £.207147¼
Among the disbursements of the overseers, at that period, are the following items:-
"Allowed to four church-wardens, 10s. 6d. each, £.2. 2s. 0d. Allowed to four overseers, ditto, £.2. 2s. 0d. - Mr. Warkman, as town-clerk, 10s. 6d. - Badges for paupers, 5s. 3d. - Mr. Scott, surgeon, his bill for the year, £.1. 6s. 0d. - Mrs. Haines, of Ashchurch, for setting Jerom Kerby's thigh, 10s. 0d. - Expenses in examining the accounts at the Swan, 5s.7d. - Spent in the vestry, in reviewing the accounts, 3s. 2d.
The following are the total expenses of supporting the necessitous poor of this parish, in the under-mentioned years:-
1723,£.185102 1768,£.64315¾ 1781,£.10161511½
1730,2454101776,66793 1787,12521010½
[325] Out of these sums are paid the borough stock expenses, which for the last seven years have averaged about £.225 annually.
[326] James Martin and William Dowdeswell, esqrs. the representatives of the borough in parliament, liberally discharged the solicitor's bill for procuring the act of parliament, amounting to £.420.
[327] Mr. Estcourt was a native of Tewkesbury, and born, according to Chetwood, in 1668. In his fifteenth year, lie quitted his father's house, and joined a company of comedians at Worcester; where, from a fear of being known, he made his first appearance in female attire, in the part of Roxana, in "Alexander the Great". He was soon restored to his father, who apprenticed him to an apothecary, in Hatton-Garden; from this situation he ran away, and passed several years as an itinerant player in various parts of England. He afterwards went to Dublin, and obtained so much applause, that he returned to London, and procured an engagement at Drury-Lane. Sir Richard Steele, in the Spectator, says, he was of a sprightly wit, and a person of an easy and natural politeness. He was an excellent mimic, and his company was courted by persons of the highest rank, who frequently invited him to their entertainments, in order that he might divert their friends with his drollery. He was a great favourite with John Duke of Marlborough; and when the celebrated "Beef-Steak Club" was established, which consisted of the chief wits and some of the most distinguished men in the kingdom, Mr. Estcourt had the office assigned to him of their providore. He was author of "Fair Example", a comedy, and "Prunella", an interlude. He died in 1713, and was buried in the church-yard of St. Paul's, Covent-Garden.
[328] From the following account of this school, published in 1712, it appears to have been formerly more liberally supported than it is at present:- "Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. - A school for forty boys, most of them entirely cloathed, and all in some measure, which is done at the expense of the representatives in parliament for that place, and of the minister of the parish. Besides which, there are subscriptions of about £.30 per annum. The minister visits the school three times a week, and appoints select portions of scripture, and collects out of the Common Prayer, for the children to get by heart, according to their age and capacity, which they orderly repeat to the master, when they go home from school. They of the first class, read the Bible and Whole Duty of Man, and after reading, shut their books, and cheerfully recollect the substance of what they have read. And all they have learned, is rehearsed in a regular manner, at a public examination, to the great satisfaction of the subscribers, and others who are then invited to be present".
[329] Mr. Seeker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, in a letter to Dr. Watts, which is published at length in Gibbon's Life of Watts, thus speaks of his preceptor: - "Mr. Jones I take to be a man of real piety, great learning, and an agreeable temper; one who is very diligent in instructing all under his care; very well qualified to give instructions, and whose well-managed familiarity will always make him respected. He is very strict in keeping good order, and will effectually preserve his pupils from negligence and immorality. And accordingly, I believe, there are not many academies freer in general from those vices, than we are. We shall have gone through our course in about four year's time, which, I believe, no one that once knows Mr. Jones will think too long. We pass our time very agreeably, between study and conversation with our tutor, who is always ready to converse freely on any thing that is useful; and allows us, either then or at lecture, all imaginable liberty of making objections against his opinions, and prosecuting them as far as we can. In this, and every thing else, he shews himself so much a gentleman, and manifests so great an affection and tenderness for his pupils, as cannot but command respect and love".
[330] Bishop Portcus, in his Life of Archbishop Seeker, says; that it was at the Tewkesbury academy that Butler "gave the first proof of his great sagacity and depth of thought, in the letters which he then wrote to Dr. Samuel Clarke; laying before him the doubts that had arisen in his mind, concerning the conclusiveness of some arguments in the doctor's Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. These were written with so much candour, modesty and good sense, that, on the discovery of his name, they immediately procured him the friendship of that eminent man, and were afterwards printed at the end of his Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion. This correspondence was entrusted in confidence to Mr. Seeker, who, in order to keep it private, undertook to convey Mr. Butler's letters to the post-office at Gloucester, and to bring back Dr. Clarke's answers". Porteus's Works, vol. VI.
[331] Jennings' Jewish Antiquities, by Furneaux, 1823. - It would appear that Mr. Jones's work was a text-book in the principal presbyterian schools: Dr. Doddridge, in a letter to Mr. Clarke, says, it "treats of such subjects as the antiquity of the Hebrew language, its points, the Massora, Talmud and Cabbala". - Doddridge's Correspondence, I. 41.
[332] About the time of the death of the Rev. Samuel Jones, the Rev. Wm. Evans, who had the charge of a theological institution at Carmarthen, and who is said to have been the first dissenting tutor in the southern division of the principality, also died. The Rev. Thomas Perrot being appointed successor to Mr. Evans, the Tewkesbury institution was transferred to him, and the public library belonging to it was removed to Carmarthen. After Mr. Perrot's death, in 1733, the academy was removed to Llwynllwyd, near the Hay; in 1741, a was removed to Haverfordwest; and in a few years afterwards it was again established at Carmarthen, under the care of Mr. Thomas. This academy had always received its support from the joint funds of the presbyterians and independents in London; but Mr. Thomas having embraced different opinions from those of his predecessors, the independents withdrew their aid, and formed a new academy at Abergavenny.
[333] Towards this sum, J.E. Dowdeswell and John Martin, esqrs. gave £.210 each; C.H. Tracy, esq. £.100; General Dowdeswell, £.52. 10s. and the Tewkesbury Yeomanry Cavalry, £.105. The sum of £.67. 19s. 9d. was collected at the church door, after a sermon by the bishop of the diocese; a ball in the school-room produced £.30. 12s. 6d.; and an amateur play, £.60. The remainder was raised by voluntary subscriptions.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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