1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Winchcomb

Winchcomb, a market town in the northern parliamentary division of Gloucestershire, England, 7 m. N.E. of Cheltenham. Pop. (1901) 2864. It is picturesquely situated among the Cotteswold Hills, in the narrow valley of the Isbourne stream. The Perpendicular church of St Peter, cruciform, with a central tower, is a good example of its period. In the vicinity is Sudeley Castle, originally built by Thomas Boteler, Lord Sudeley (d. 1398). By gift of Edward VI. it came into the hands of Sir Thomas Seymour, fourth husband of Catherine Parr; this queen died here and was buried in the chapel. The castle suffered severely at the hands of the parliamentarians in 1644, and remained ruinous until 1837, when a careful restoration was begun. There are a tower of the 14th century, and considerable remains of the 15th, the inhabited portion being mainly of Tudor date. There are flour mills, paper-works and tanneries at Winchcomb.

Excavations prove that there were both British and Roman settlements at Winchcomb (Wincelcumbe, Winchelcumbe). It owed its growth to the foundation of religious houses by Offa and Coenwulf of Mercia in the 8th century. It became a borough in Saxon times, was the chief town of a shire to which it gave its name, and was the seat of government of the Mercian kings. Witenagemots were held there in 771 and 942. Harold, earl of Wessex, was the first overlord. It had become a royal borough by 1087, and was granted by a charter of 1224 to the abbots of St Mary's to be held of the king by a rent of £50. Winchcomb never received a charter and was not incorporated, but as a borough by prescription it was governed by 2 bailiffs and 10 chief burgesses until the corporate body was dissolved by act of parliament in 1883. It was never represented in parliament except by its mitred abbots before the dissolution of the monasteries. There is no trace of the original grant of a fair on July 17 (now held on July 28), but it is mentioned as already existing in a charter of 1221, which changed the market day from Sunday to Saturday. Elizabeth granted another fair on April 25 by charter in 1575. A Tuesday market was also granted under this charter, but the Saturday market only is now held. Both the modern fairs are horse and cattle fairs, but in the middle ages they were centres of the cloth manufacture. Tanning has been a local industry since the beginning of the 19th century, and paper and silk factories were introduced about 1830. Winchcomb took the side of the king in the Civil War and was twice plundered.

See Victoria County History, Gloucestershire; Emma Dent, Annals of Winchecombe (1877); David Royce, Winchecombe Cartulary (1892).