Open main menu
TEWKESBURY, an ancient borough and market-town of Gloucestershire, England, is situated in a fine pastoral valley at the junction of the Severn and the Upper Avon, and on the Midland and Great Western Railways, 15 miles south of Worcester and 126 north-west of London. It has three principal streets, which are regularly built and well paved. The Severn is crossed by an iron bridge with a flattened arch of 170 feet 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 the ancient hermitage and Saxon monastery, there only remain the gate and part of the cloisters. The abbey church, 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 these were removed in the 14th century, when the whole building underwent restoration in the Middle Decorated style, of which it is one of the finest existing examples. The nave was refilled by tracery windows, and stone groining was substituted for the carved wooden ceiling, a like transformation taking place in the transepts. The old 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 rebuilt 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, which has undergone an extensive process of restoration under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott. In the High Street there are several ancient timbered and gabled houses. Remains of an ancient wall have been discovered adjoining the town. The principal modern buildings are the town-hall, the philharmonic hall, and the corn exchange. There is a free grammar-school and a number of charities, including the dispensary, the rural hospital, and Queen Mary's, Barnes's, Richardson's, and Russell's almshouses. Formerly Tewkesbury had a woollen trade and an important mustard manufacture, but it is now chiefly dependent on its agricultural trade. The population of the municipal borough (area, 2619 acres) in 1871 was 5409, and in 1881 5100.

The town is supposed to derive its name from Theoc, a Saxon monk, who founded a hermitage here in the end of the 7th century, which was changed into a monastery by the duke of Mercia in 715, and rebuilt by Sir Robert Fitz-Hamon in 1102. On the death of Fitz-Hamon in 1147 the manor passed to the De Clares, who became merged in the De Spensers, they in turn in the Beauchamps, and the Beauchamps in the Nevilles. At Tewkesbury took place, 4th May 1471, the battle between the Yorkists and Lancastrians which placed the crown on the head of Edward IV. During the Civil War the town was occupied by the Parliamentarians, who were driven out by the Royalists; but it was surprised and captured by the former in 1644, after which it remained in their possession. Tewkesbury was first incorporated by Elizabeth in 1574, and when James I. sold the manor to the corporation in 1609 he granted it a new charter with extended privileges. This being lost during the Civil War, a new charter was granted by Charles II. Between 1692 and 1698 the town was without a corporation, but a new charter was granted by William III., which remained the governing charter until the passing of the Municipal Act. Until 1867 Tewkesbury returned two members to the House of Commons; from 1867 to 1885 it returned one; and in 1885 it became merged in the north or Tewkesbury division of Gloucestershire.

The Annales de Theokesberia (1066-1263) are published in Annales Monastici, edited by H. R. Luard, 1864.