The History of Tewkesbury

By James Bennett

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2015



TEWKESBURY is situated at the northern extremity of the county of Gloucester, in the lower division of the extensive hundred to Which it gives its name;[1] it is distant one hundred and three miles from London, ten from Gloucester, eight from Cheltenham, thirteen from Evesham, fifteen from Worcester, thirteen from Malvern Wells, fourteen from Ledbury, and in the direct road from Bristol to Birmingham, from which places it is nearly equi-distant. Lon. 2.8.W. - Lat. 51.59.N.

It is surrounded by a wide and level extent of fertile meadow, pasture and arable land, Intersected by four rivers, which almost insulate the town. The most considerable of these are the Severn and the Upper or Warwickshire Avon: the former serves as a boundary to the parish for several miles, and follows the curvature of a large meadow, called the Ham, to the westward; and the latter receives the river Carron at one extremity of the town, and washes its walls almost as far


as its junction with the Swilgate, at the other - soon after which the Avon loses itself among the waters of the more majestic Severn.

Tewkesbury has by some been considered as forming part of the fine vale of Evesham, but ancient maps and the best informed of modern writers have uniformly placed it within the vale of Gloucester, to which it appears naturally to belong.[2] The fertility of this celebrated vale was the theme of the historian's praise, and the subject of the poet's encomium, long before the bounty of nature had been aided by the present improved mode of agriculture. William of Malmsbury tells us, that it produced in great abundance fruits and grain, the joint effects of its fine soil, and the labour of its hinds - the husbandman being stimulated to work, by having his exertions rewarded with a produce of one hundred fold. "In this favoured spot you may behold", says he, "the public highways shaded and adorned with trees loaded with fruit, not placed there by the hand of man, but by the generosity of nature. The earth spontaneously brings forth her gifts, fruits of the richest taste and brightest beauty; which, almost imperishable, may be preserved from the time of their being taken in till the season of gathering again returns. Grapes, famous for their flavour, are here produced in quantities, and manufactured into wines of the highest relish, equally luscious with those of France.[3] Numerous towns overspread the vale, which is


further enriched with populous villages, and costly places of public worship". - Drayton too, in his Polyolbion, personifying this beautiful district, makes it boast an excellence, which it may assert with justice:

"I, which am the Queen
"Of all the British vales, and so have ever been
"Since Gomer's giant brood inhabited this isle,
"And that of all the rest myself may so enstile".

From the neighbourhood being subject to inundations, some have thought the town must consequently be unhealthy; but there are few places which enjoy a purer air, and the excellent water obtained here undoubtedly adds to the salubrity of the place.

The most intelligent agriculturist[4] who has written on the subject, says, that the soil near the town is of a deep rich loam, but varying as you proceed in different directions: he seems to consider no further proof necessary to convince us of the excellence both of its soil and its climature, than the fact of its having been selected as the site of a monastery - the clergy of former times being admirable judges in these matters.

On many of the eminences in the immediate vicinity of the town, the views are as rich and varied as can well be conceived: Malvern hills, the bases of which are thickly studded with cheerful and elegant residences, are fine features in many of the most interesting and beautiful landscapes; Bredon, and the hills of Cleeve, Stanway, and other portions of the long chain of Cotswolds, enlivened by the smiling villages and fertile meadows in the intervening vallies, present objects which the admirers of picturesque scenery could not behold without delight: many of these prospects are much heightened


by occasional glimpses of the Severn, with the "white swelling sails" of the numerous vessels floating on the bosom of that magnificent stream, and by the waters of the "soft-flowing Avon".

Mineral waters, possessing the same qualities as some of the wells at the far-famed springs of Cheltenham, are found in the immediate neighbourhood of Tewkesbury;[5] but here, as it has been aptly observed, "No Naiad will be worshipped, 'till temples have been likewise erected to pleasure, convenience, and dissipation".[6]

[1] Tewkesbury is bounded by the parishes of Bredon, Twyning, Ripple and Bushley, on the north - Forthampton, Chaceley and Deerburst, on the west - Elmstone Hardwick and Tredington, on the south - and Walton Cardiff and Ashchurch, on the cast: four of which parishes, viz. Bredon, Ripple, Bushley and Chaceley, are in Worcestershire, and the others in Gloucestershire.
[2] "The vale of Gloucester is, in outline, somewhat semicircular: the Severn the chord, the environing hills the arch: the towns of Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham forming a triangle within its area. Its extent, from the foot of Matson hill, to that of Bredon hill (its utmost limit to the north), is about fifteen miles; from the Severn to the foot of Dowdeswell hill, seven or eight miles". - Marshall's Rur. Econ. of Gloucestershire.
[3] Notwithstanding that William of Malmsbury, who wrote in the twelfth century, so unequivocally attests the existence of vineyards in this neighbourhood, Sir Robert Atkyns and others assert that they were only apple-orchards! Mr. Pegge however, (Arch. I. 329), thinks that there were few great monasteries in England which had not vineyards. It is certain that one belonged to the manor of Tewkesbury, and was probably situate near Holme Castle, as the field upon which that building stood is to this day called "the Vineyard". If the fact of grapes being raised in this vineyard needed confirmation, the following would put the matter beyond a doubt: a messuage and land in Twyning was held of the Lord of Tewkesbury on certain conditions, one of which was the "finding a man for sixteen days in digging in the vineyards, and gathering the grapes for three days". Inq, ad. q.d. 39 Edw. III. - Fosbr. Glouc. II. 293.
[4] Marshall, Rur. Econ. of Gloucestershire.
[5] At Walton Cardiff, a small village about a mile to the eastward of Tewkesbury, are some excellent springs of mineral waters, nearly resembling those of Cheltenham. In the year 1746 some idea was entertained of endeavouring to make it a place of general resort: the properties of the waters were however but little known until 1787, when Dr. James Johnstone, one of the physicians to the Worcester infirmary, published an interesting account of them, accompanied by many chemical experiments. These were made from waters obtained at the well near the mansion, to which the public cannot now of course expect to be indiscriminately admitted, owing to the constant residence of the proprietor; but Mr. Witts, the occupier of part of the estate, freely allows respectable visitors the unrestricted use of a pump in his court-yard, which yields water of a quality similar to that at the original spa, and in the summer time it is much frequented.
[6] Fosbroke, Hist. of Glouccst.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in October 2015.

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