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Tewkesbury Abbey and Mill Avon from Ham path.jpg
Tewkesbury Abbey and Mill Avon from Ham path
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Population 19,778 (2011)
OS grid reference SO8932
• London 94 miles (151 km) ESE
Civil parish
  • Tewkesbury
  • Tewkesbury
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Tewkesbury
Postcode district GL20
Dialling code 01684
Police Gloucestershire
Fire Gloucestershire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • Tewkesbury
List of places
51°59′N 2°10′W / 51.99°N 2.16°W / 51.99; -2.16

Tewkesbury ( tewks-BƏR-ee) is a medieval market town and civil parish in the north of Gloucestershire, England. The town has significant history in the Wars of the Roses and grew since the building of Tewkesbury Abbey. It stands at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon, and thus became an important trading point, which continued as railways and later M5 and M50 motorway connections were established. The town gives its name to the Borough of Tewkesbury, due to the earlier governance by the Abbey, yet the town is the second largest settlement in the Borough. The town lies on border with Worcestershire, identified largely by the Carrant Brook (tributary of the River Avon).

The name Tewkesbury is thought to come from Theoc, the name of a Saxon who founded a hermitage there in the 7th century, and in the Old English language was called Theocsbury. An erroneous derivation from Theotokos (the Greek title of Mary, mother of God) enjoyed currency in the monastic period of the town's history.

The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses and is marked annually by a medieval festival throughout the town, including display of historically accurate banners and reenactment.


Nearby places


At the 2011 UK census the Tewkesbury parish had a population of 10,704. If the neighbouring parishes of Wheatpieces (3,577), Northway (5,080) and Ashchurch Rural (957) are added, the figure rises to 20,318. The Tewkesbury urban area is divided in two by the north–south running M5 motorway, opened in February 1971. However, the town is generally considered as the built-up area to the immediate east and west of the M5 at junction 9, with the town centre, abbey and old town situated to the west. The close proximity of large areas of land that are prone to flooding, as evidenced by the severe floods that struck the region in July 2007, would make further expansion difficult. However, the present Borough of Tewkesbury, created on 1 April 1974, also contains a large portion of rural north Gloucestershire, extending as far as the edges of Gloucester itself and also Cheltenham, and has a present population of 81,943.


Tewkesbury War Memorial
Tewkesbury War Memorial, locally known as the Cross

The town features many notable Medieval, Tudor buildings, but its major claim to fame is Tewkesbury Abbey, a fine Norman abbey church, originally part of a monastery, which was saved from the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII after being bought by the townspeople for the price of the lead on the roof to use as their parish church. Most of the monastery buildings, as well as the vineyards, were destroyed during this time. The Abbey Mill however still remains, resting upon the Mill Avon, a channel allegedly built by the monks. This channel represents one of the biggest projects in Tewkesbury's history, though the present weir dates only from the 1990s, replacing two sluice gates installed in the 1930s. The Abbey Mill is also sometimes known as "Abel Fletcher's Mill", but this is simply the name given to it in Dinah Craik's novel John Halifax, Gentleman, whose setting Norton Bury is based on Tewkesbury (see the Tewkesbury in Literature section below).

The abbey is thought to be the site of the place where the hermit Theoc once lived. The great Romanesque arch on the west front is particularly striking, and the stained glass window at that end has been restored. The monastery was founded by the Despensers as a family mausoleum, and the Despenser and Neville tombs are fine examples of small-scale late medieval stonework.

The tower is believed to be the largest Norman tower still in existence (though that at Norwich Cathedral is another strong contender). The tower once had a wooden spire which may have taken the total height of the building to as much as 260 feet (79 m), but this was blown off in a heavy storm on Easter Monday 1559; the present pinnacles and battlements were added in 1600 to give the tower a more "finished" look. The height to the top of the pinnacles is 148 feet (45 m). The abbey is thought to be the third largest church in Britain that is not a cathedral (after Westminster Abbey and Beverley Minster). From end to end it measures 331 feet (101 m), though prior to the destruction of the original Lady Chapel (also at the time of the dissolution), the total length was 375 feet (114 m). The abbey is a parish church, still used for daily services, and is believed to be the second-largest parish church in England, again, after Beverley Minster.

Royal Hop Pole
The Royal Hop Pole, mentioned in 'The Pickwick papers'

Tewkesbury claims Gloucestershire's oldest public house, the Black Bear, dating from 1308. Other notable buildings are the Royal Hop Pole Hotel in Church Street (which has recently been converted into a part of the Wetherspoons pub chain with the discovery of a former medieval banqueting hall in the structure), mentioned in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, the Bell Hotel, a large half-timbered structure opposite the Abbey gateway, and the House of the Nodding Gables in the High Street.

The Abbey Cottages, adjacent to Tewkesbury Abbey, were built between 1410 and 1412. They were restored 1967 to 1972 by the Abbey Lawn Trust, a building preservation charity. They house the John Moore Museum, residential homes and commercial offices. The John Moore Museum was established in 1980 in memory of the writer and naturalist, John Moore. The museum consists of three buildings: the main John Moore Museum, home to an extensive Natural History collection; the Merchant's House, restored to its Tudor appearance; and the Old Baptist Chapel. The Old Baptist Chapel, located off Church Street, is a timber-framed building, formally a medieval hall house dating to the 1480s. Sometime in the 17th century, it was converted for use as a Nonconformist meeting house. Including the original baptistery and pastor's room, the building is of significant historic interest. The building was restored to its 1720 appearance in the 1970s by Tewkesbury Borough Council. It was further renovated and interpreted in 2015 by the Abbey Lawn Trust and is used as a venue for a variety of cultural events. Behind the chapel is a small cemetery for those who were members of the congregation. This includes the grave of William Shakespeare-Hart, fifth great grand nephew of William Shakespeare. The cemetery is managed by Tewkesbury Borough Council.

At the Tudor House Hotel in the High Street however, although it is indeed chiefly a Tudor building, the frontage comprises artificial half-timbering attached to a brick-built façade. The local branch of Store Twenty-One (formerly Marks & Spencer and before that Iceland) was once the location of the Swan Hotel, where a balcony still exists today and from which local election results were announced.

Just to the west of the town is Thomas Telford's impressive Mythe Bridge over the River Severn, a cast-iron structure with a 170-foot span, opened in 1826. Tewkesbury's other notable bridge is the stone-built King John's Bridge over the Avon, commissioned by King John in the late 12th century as part of improvements to the main road from Gloucester to Worcester. Original stonework can still be seen on its north side; the bridge was widened in the mid-to-late 1950s to meet traffic requirements.


  • Roses Theatre, combines an arthouse cinema and a live performance venue. The Roses Theatre is where comedian Eric Morecambe collapsed after a charity performance in May 1984. He died hours later in Cheltenham General Hospital. Eric is remembered at the theatre with the naming of a conference/changing room: The Eric Morecambe Room.
  • Battle of Tewkesbury, mentioned in Shakespeare's play Richard III.
  • Raymond Priestley, geologist on Robert Falcon Scott's expedition to the South Pole, left one of the sleds, used on that expedition, to the former Tewkesbury Grammar School (c. 1576 – 1972). It is now kept in the Tewkesbury School's Humanities building.
  • Tewkesbury mustard, a blend of mustard and horseradish, made the town famous in the 17th century and is again being manufactured. The mustard was mentioned in some of Shakespeare's works.
  • Ska punk band [Spunge] are from Tewkesbury.
  • Tewkesbury Town Band (a brass band) plays locally, tours abroad and takes part in competitions.
  • Wednesdays and Saturdays, one of the town centre car parks is the location of Tewkesbury Market. A farmers' market is also held every month close by Tewkesbury Abbey.

Festivals and fairs

  • In February Tewkesbury holds a Winter Beer Festival, organised by theTewkesbury branch of CAMRA.
  • Since 2005, an annual Food and Drink Festival has been held, in or near the Abbey grounds.
  • On the second full weekend of July the town hosts Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, "Europe's largest battle re-enactment and fair". Thousands of re-enactors travel to the town from around the world to re-enact the Battle of Tewkesbury near to the original battle site. The festival includes a "living history" recreation of a medieval encampment, games, food and a large fair where re-enactment clothing, furniture and weaponry can be purchased. In 2008 the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Tewkesbury Medieval Fair 2007
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2007
  • In July the Water Festival takes place with events on the river and the banks including an evening procession of lit boats ending with a firework display. The festival started in 1996 but its future is now in question due to funding issues and the 2006 event was much reduced in scale. The event was cancelled in 2007 as it coincided with the Summer 2007 Flood (it went ahead later in the year). The event was scheduled for 2008 on Saturday, 20 September, but was again cancelled due to flooding in the weeks prior to the event.
  • In October the town holds the annual mop fair. Originally a hiring fair where people came to seek employment, the event is now a large travelling funfair taking over much of the centre of town. The fair itself is also an underlining point of Tewkesbury's industrial past, as Walker Gallopers were produced in the area by Walkers in the early 20th century. The fair is organised by The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain (Western Section)
  • Every year at the end of July and into August the Abbey hosts a festival of liturgical music entitled Musica Deo Sacra (Music Sacred to God).

Sports and recreation

  • Tewkesbury has one of the 471 King George's Fields as its recreation ground.
  • The football club, Tewkesbury Town FC have three men's teams in the Saturday Cheltenham Leagues, two teams in the Evesham Birdseye Sunday Leagues, a Veterans team for ages 35+ in the Gloucestershire North County League and hold weekly training sessions for Ladies in preparation for starting a team in the 2014/15 season. They are holders of the Gloucestershire County Cup as well as the Evesham Bluck cup, Pershore Hospital cup, are Evesham League Division 3 Champions and are the Evesham Leagues Team of the Year 2012/13.
  • The cricket team, Tewkesbury Cricket Club 1st XI play in the Glos/wilts Division of the West of England Premier League.
  • The rugby team, Tewkesbury RFC, plays Rugby Union in Gloucestershire Division One and has gained promotion to Gloucester Division Premiership
  • The running club, Tewkesbury AC compete in local, national and international running events.
  • Cheltenham College Boathouse is situated at Lower Lode
  • Facilities at Tewkesbury School are used as a public sports centre for swimming, gym, squash and other sports.
  • The Tewkesbury lawn green Bowling Club plays in the Gloucestershire men's and ladies leagues.
  • The Tewkesbury swimming club is in Tewkesbury and trains at the Leisure Centre near the Tewkesbury Abbey, and at the Tewkesbury School swimming pool.

Twin town

Tewkesbury is twinned with Miesbach in Bavaria, Germany.

Road transport

Tewkesbury is served by the M5 and M50 motorways and the A38 and A46 trunk roads. There are regular direct buses to Cheltenham, Gloucester and Evesham. Congestion on the A46 around Ashchurch and junction 9 of the M5 is being addressed through a series of road works starting in 2014.

A network of bus services serve the town and surrounding district including services to Gloucester and Evesham. Buses run hourly daily from outside Ashchurch railway station to Tewkesbury town centre but only a limited number of journeys operate in the opposite direction.

In Newtown, Tewkesbury 10 per cent of all work trips are made by bicycle. There are some bicycle paths in the built up area of Tewkesbury.

Notable people

  • John Barston – English writer and law civic figure – born Tewkesbury c. 1545
  • Robert Harold Compton – South African botanist – born Tewkesbury 1886.
  • Henry Disston – American industrialist – born Tewkesbury 1819.
  • Anna Ford – newsreader and TV presenter – born Tewkesbury 1943.
  • Henry Green – author – born Tewkesbury 1905.
  • Kathleen Hawkins- New Zealand poet – born Tewkesbury 1883.
  • Alfred Jones – cricketer – born Tewkesbury 1900.
  • John Moore – writer – born Tewkesbury 1907.
  • Eric Morecambe – comedian – collapsed at the Roses Theatre 1984.
  • Mel Nicholls – Paralympic wheelchair racer.
  • Raymond Priestley – Antarctic explorer – born Tewkesbury 1886.
  • Oswald Wardell-Yerburgh – Vicar – 1899 to 1913.

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