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Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury is located in Gloucestershire
 Tewkesbury shown within Gloucestershire
Population 10,704 (2011)
OS grid reference SO8932
   – London  94 miles (151 km) ESE 
Civil parish Tewkesbury
District Tewkesbury
Shire county Gloucestershire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district GL20
Dialling code 01684
Police Gloucestershire
Fire Gloucestershire
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Tewkesbury
List of places

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Tewkesbury (/ˈtjksbri/ TYEWKS-bree) is a town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It stands at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon, and also minor tributaries the Swilgate and Carrant Brook. It gives its name to the Borough of Tewkesbury, of which the town is the second largest settlement.

The name Tewkesbury comes from Theoc, the name of a Saxon who founded a hermitage there in the 7th century, and in the Old English tongue was called Theocsbury.[1] An erroneous derivation from Theotokos enjoyed currency in the monastic period of the town's history.


Nearby places

It is in a rural environment (out of town) and is in lowland which makes it easier to flood, because of the ham, a plain.


At the 2011 UK census the town itself 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.[2]


File:Tewkesbury War Memorial.jpg
The Tewkesbury War Memorial, locally known as the Cross

The town features many notable Tudor buildings, but its major claim to fame is Tewkesbury Abbey, a fine Norman Abbey, 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 £483 to use as their parish church.[3] 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 built by the monks. The weir exists to this day, and the channel represents one of the biggest projects in Tewkesbury's history, though the present sluice gate dates only from the 1990s, replacing two 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.[4]

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

Tewkesbury claims Gloucestershire's oldest public house, the Black Bear, dating from 1308.[5] 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 historic Abbey Cottages, over 500 years old, were rescued from dereliction in the 1970s; one houses a museum, the others are residential homes and commercial offices. 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.

Also notable in the town architecture is the Old Baptist Chapel (on Church Street) built in about 1655, as one of the earliest examples from that denomination – behind the chapel is a small cemetery for those who were members of the chapel.

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.


Ashchurch for Tewkesbury railway station is 2.3 miles from the town centre. It was the last mainline station in Gloucestershire to be reopened, as British Rail was being fragmented into Railtrack.

The nearby Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway has views of Tewkesbury Abbey en route between Cheltenham Racecourse and Winchcombe.

Road transport

Tewkesbury is served by the M5 and M50 motorways and the A38 and A46 trunk roads. There are frequent direct buses to Ashchurch for Tewkesbury railway station and to Cheltenham. Other direct bus services include 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.[6]


Festivals and fairs

  • In February Tewkesbury holds a Winter Beer Festival, organised by theTewkesbury branch of CAMRA.[citation needed]
  • Since 2005, an annual Food and Drink Festival has been held, in or near the Abbey grounds.[8]
  • In 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 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.[9] The fair is organised by The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain (Western Section)[10]
  • 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).[11]

Cultural references

  • Victorian author Dinah Craik (1826–1887) visited Tewkesbury in 1852, and later set her most famous work John Halifax, Gentleman (pub. 1857) in the town, calling it Norton Bury in the book. There is a "Craik House" in Church Street, near the Abbey, but Mrs Craik never lived there and had no other connection with Tewkesbury. There is a memorial to her in the Abbey's south transept.
  • Author John Moore (1907–1967) was born and lived in Tewkesbury. He set his novel Portrait of Elmbury (pub. 1945) as a "fictionalised biography" of Tewkesbury, the town being the "Elmbury" of the book. Another of his books, Brensham Village (pub. 1946) used nearby Bredon as its basis. A local museum has been named after him.
  • A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad also mentions Tewkesbury, as well as nearby Bredon Hill, even though neither place is in Shropshire.
  • The opening scene of the 1995 film version of Richard III takes place at the Field Headquarters of King Henry's army at Tewkesbury.
  • In 2008 an episode of the UK TV series Top Gear was filmed in the vicinity, with a car being used as the "fox" in a fox hunt.

Notable people

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 Tewkesbury Triathlon Club meets every Saturday at the Cascades pool.Tewkesbury Tri Club
  • The running club, Tewkesbury AC compete in local, national and international running events.
  • Cheltenham College Boathouse is situated at Lower Lode
  • Cascades swimming pool is situated in the centre of the town.
  • 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.

Twin town

Tewkesbury is twinned with Miesbach in Bavaria, Germany.[12]


  1. Toulmin Smith L., ed. 1909, The Itinerary of John Leland, London, IV, 150
  2. Tewkesbury Borough Council – Statistics Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  3. C. J. Litzenberger, ed. Tewkesbury Churchwardens' Accounts, 1563-1624 (Stroud, Gloucester: 1994) vii.
  4. Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. p. 228.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Pub-explorer.com. Pub-explorer.com.
  6. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a46-ashchurch-and-m5-junction-improvements
  7. Tewkesbury Grammar School 1576 – 1972, Paul Fluck, Grenfell Publications 1987
  8. [1] Archived 6 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. Anthea Jones Tewkesbury
  10. "Showmen's Guild of Great Britain Central Office". Showmensguild.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Musica Deo Sacra
  12. "Bavarian twin has much in common with sibling". Gloucester Citizen. Retrieved 30 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links