Tetbury: Growth of the town and outlying settlements

Pages 260-264

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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Tetbury 1974

Tetbury town occupies a low but clearly defined hill, bounded on the east side by the river Avon and on the south by a tributary brook. On the south-east the hill is emphasized by manmade ramparts and much of the rest of its circumference has a sharp though apparently naturally formed ridge, parts of which were adopted as the outer boundary of properties. The origin of the south-eastern ramparts is obscure. A tradition of a British fortification is recorded by Camden (fn. 1) and the ramparts presumably existed by the 8th century when the name Tetbury was first recorded. (fn. 2) The part of the hilltop just above was probably the site of the 7th-century minster church, and the parish church was later built there. Some kind of inner earthwork stood in the field above the ramparts until the mid 18th century when it was levelled to make pleasure-grounds. The work revealed masonry and some late-Saxon and early-medieval coins, giving rise to the belief that a castle had stood there; (fn. 3) the absence of documentary references to a castle (fn. 4) makes the supposition unlikely but the site may have been that of an early manor-house. The field above the ramparts belonged to the manor in 1594 when it was called the Barton, (fn. 5) a name which probably derives from the rectory tithe-barn of Eynsham Abbey which stood north of the field, on or near the site of Barton Abbots house. (fn. 6)

The early development of the town occurred on the other side of the hill, north of the meeting of its two principal roads, from Bristol to Cirencester and from Malmesbury to Minchinhampton. The manorhouse stood on the north edge of the hill on the site of the house called the Priory. (fn. 7) If an earlier site near the church had been abandoned in favour of it, the reason may have been the need for a regular watersupply, for two important wells lay on the north side of the town; (fn. 8) also the easier contours of the land made possible the laying out of grounds, which included a small park north of the house and a garden west of it. (fn. 9) After the creation of the borough c. 1200 the first burgages were apparently established on Cirencester Street, the old road to Cirencester descending the hill east of the manor-house. Ten burgages granted to Acornbury Priory c. 1230 were there, (fn. 10) and the street was called the high street in 1459. (fn. 11) The early-13th-century grant also mentioned the horse-pool at the bottom of Cirencester Street (fn. 12) where in 1502 stood a ducking-stool, which gave the street the alternative name of Gumstool Street (fn. 13) or Gumstool Hill. Between the street and the manorhouse grounds was the original market-place, the Chipping or Chipping Croft; the inference to be drawn from the name itself is confirmed by the description of a house in Cirencester Street in 1459 as backing on the 'croft called the market-place', (fn. 14) and in 1594 the old tolsey building stood in the Chipping at the entrance to Chipping Lane. (fn. 15)

The town probably expanded quickly in the 13th century; the rent from the borough mentioned in 1296 suggests a total of about 100 burgages. (fn. 16) The building up of the other streets was presumably well advanced by then, although they are not recorded until later. Church Street, the south-west part of the Bristol-Cirencester route, was mentioned in 1398 (fn. 17) and Hatter Street recorded a few years earlier (fn. 18) was evidently that called Harper Street by the earlier 17th century, running north-westwards from Church Street's south end. (fn. 19) The Minchinhampton road in the north-west part of the town, called West Street until c. 1800 when it became known as Long Street, (fn. 20) was mentioned in 1397. (fn. 21) The Malmesbury road in the south-east part of the town, usually called Silver Street but also called Malmesbury Street in the 16th century, (fn. 22) was presumably also developed at an early date.

By the late 16th century the site of the market had moved southwards to where the two main roads meet on the north side of the central block of the town; by 1594 the new market-place was already the site of the White Hart, the chief inn of the town, a number of other inns, and the church house, (fn. 23) and the markethouse and town hall building put up there in 1655 was later the focus of town life. (fn. 24) The course of the two main roads, which are aligned as if to cross in the middle of the central block, suggests that the central block may once have been included in the precincts of an old manor-house near the church and before that perhaps in those of the Saxon minster; but it is perhaps more likely that the roads were diverted northwards by infilling of the central area after the market had moved there. The moving of the market was probably connected with the growing importance of Long Street, which benefited from the increasing use made of the roads which meet its far end as an alternative and easier route to Bristol and Cirencester; (fn. 25) no doubt the street was affected too by the growth of trade with Minchinhampton and the cloth-producing Stroud Valley region. Long Street also had the advantage over most of the other streets of the town of providing level and more suitable sites for large houses; those in it generally have longer street-frontages than the narrow burgages in the steeper streets.

By the late 16th century the town had taken the shape that it was to preserve largely unaltered until the 20th. The houses in Cirencester Street extended down to the bottom of the hill to meet the open fields; Long Street, already the longest street, was built up to its far end, and beyond the junction with the road later called Comber's Mead there were a few houses at the entrance to the later Hampton Street; Church Street was largely built up and there were some houses at the entrance to Harper Street; in Silver Street, at the angle of which was an open space called the Green, the houses extended down to the Long bridge; and Church Lane, between the Green and Church Street, and Chipping Lane, between the Chipping and the market-place, had some buildings. The central block was also built up at least in part, for there were some houses on the east side of Church Street and on the west side of Silver Street. (fn. 26)

Although the pattern of the town was laid down by the late 16th century, few houses survive from before that period. One house which retains medieval features is appropriately in the earliest recorded part of the town, between Cirencester Street and the Chipping. The surviving fragment appears to be the screens-passage, porch, and service end of a hall-house which faced east on a courtyard; although largely reconstructed in the 16th century, it retains two 14th-century doorways. The hall end on the north retained 14th-century windows in the early 19th century but that end was demolished and replaced by a pair of cottages in 1859. (fn. 27) The house was perhaps typical of the medieval burgages of the town but little other early evidence survives, for the great majority of the houses in Tetbury were rebuilt in the prosperous years of the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the earliest of the period is a house on the west side of Church Street, built in 1620 by Richard Talboys, (fn. 28) a prominent townsman, who later bought Doughton manor. (fn. 29) It is a substantial range built at right angles to the street, but the principal elevation, which has gables and projecting bays, fronts the street. Around the market-place most of the houses were rebuilt later in the 17th century, several of them as inns. The former Three Cups inn, in Church Street west of the markethouse, was a substantial building with three gables which was remodelled in the early 1970s. The Crown, dated 1693, is a gabled building near the top of Cirencester Street, and the Talbot at the east end of the market-place is a long 17th-century range, refronted in the early 19th century. The White Hart, on the north side of the market-place, was rebuilt in the mid 19th century. (fn. 30) The old church house on the corner of Church Street and Long Street was rebuilt in the 17th century and remodelled in 1783, probably by Thomas Thompson, a surgeon. (fn. 31) At the east end of the market-place, in the entrance to Cirencester Street, there was a small island of buildings, including an ancient forge, (fn. 32) an inn, and a lesser market-house. (fn. 33)

The principal houses were built in Long Street. The Close, long the chief residence of the town, stood on the south-west side with extensive grounds occupying much of the area between Long Street and Harper Street. (fn. 34) In 1594, described as a fair new building, it belonged to Thomas Estcourt (fn. 35) of Shipton Moyne, who settled it on his son Edmund; Edmund's daughter Mary married Francis Savage (fn. 36) and the Savage family lived at the Close until 1850. (fn. 37) From soon after that date it was the home of the solicitor, Josiah Tippetts Paul (d. 1875), (fn. 38) and in the mid 20th century it became the Close Hotel. Part of the building may survive from the late-16th-century house but it was largely rebuilt in the 17th century as a substantial, gabled house ranged round a courtyard. It was extensively altered at later dates and in 1974 was being restored after a serious fire.

About the middle of Long Street is a notable group of houses, most of them built by leading clothiers and wool-staplers in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The district council office on the south-west side is a substantial, gabled house of traditional type with a porch bearing the date 1677 and the initials of John Thomas, a clothier. (fn. 39) The long house adjoining (nos. 36-8), which has small gables and mullioned and transomed windows, is dated 1703 and has initials which are apparently for William Lloyd. (fn. 40) On the opposite side of the road the Ferns, which housed Sir William Romney's School in the mid 20th century, was rebuilt c. 1800 but had long been an important residence. It was bought in 1671 by Nathaniel Body, clothier, whose family occupied it until 1770 when it was sold to John Paul (d. 1787); members of the Paul family lived there until 1892. Its gardens behind the street were laid out on former grounds of the manor-house acquired by Nathaniel Body. The house adjoining the Ferns on the south-east side, which from 1853 was part of the same property, (fn. 41) was acquired by Nathaniel Mayo, clothier, in 1627. Later occupants included Hopeful Vokins, a tobacconist, who bought it in 1703, and the wool-stapler Edward Tugwell (d. 1788), who bought it in 1763. (fn. 42) The house, which has a hipped roof and mullioned and transomed windows, was evidently rebuilt by Vokins soon after he acquired it. (fn. 43) The late-17th-century gabled house (no. 43) on the other side of the Ferns belonged to the clothier Jonathan Shipton in 1710. (fn. 44) From at least 1823 until the mid 20th century it housed the Paul's family firm, originally Letall and Paul, (fn. 45) and it remained a solicitor's office in 1974. The remainder of the street has a number of houses of similar period although of humbler type, including no. 25B which has the date 1694 and the initials of George Wickes. (fn. 46)

The other streets, particularly Cirencester Street and Silver Street, have many small houses of the 17th and early 18th centuries. There was evidently new building at that period on the rear portions of the long burgage tenements of Cirencester Street which had back doors on the Chipping in the 16th century. (fn. 47) By the 1690s several such tenements included cottages facing on the Chipping and the lane which descends by a series of steps to the bottom of the hill. The area had become one of the humbler parts of the town: the houses there belonging to the Estcourts were occupied in the 18th century by such people as carpenters, masons, and cordwainers. (fn. 48) At the bottom of Cirencester Street, however, a small but fairly ornate house was built in 1741, possibly by one of the Wickes family of wool-staplers. (fn. 49)

The late 18th century was a time of self-conscious improvement of the town, stimulated in particular by the vicar John Wight, who gave a legacy for removing encroachments from the streets. (fn. 50) The south part of the town was enhanced by the building of the new church and Bath Bridge in the 1770s; Wight himself rebuilt the vicarage (fn. 51) and in 1776 added a new wing to a house that he had acquired called the Bartons, south-west of the churchyard. (fn. 52) In the same part of the town Barton Abbots, at the Green, had been built in the mid 18th century by William Savage, a wool-stapler, on the site of some houses which he bought in 1730. In 1796 it was bought and altered by Robert Clark Paul, (fn. 53) and Whyte-Melville, the writer, was a later occupant. (fn. 54) The street front, the staircase, and some other internal fittings survive from Savage's house, but extensive additions were made on the south-east in the late 18th century and the 19th, and further extensions on the south-west in the early 20th. The house was extensively modernized in the 1960s.

In the late 18th century or very early 19th some new houses were put up around the Chipping, which became a more fashionable area after the building of a large mansion on the old manor-house site in 1766. (fn. 55) Access to the Chipping from the town was improved in 1781 by widening Chipping Lane, (fn. 56) and the road from the north corner of the Chipping to meet the old Cirencester road was apparently cut at the same period. (fn. 57) Near the end of the 18th century some large classical-style houses were built on the west side of the Chipping, formerly occupied by the manor-house gardens, (fn. 58) and at the same period two houses were built on the north side and several on the east side were refronted. Below the Chipping, at the northern edge of the town, a substantial house called the Croft was built in the late 18th century together with an ornamental cottage in matching style.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was some addition to the area of the town, in particular by the building of cottages along Harper Street. Similar development occurred at the entrance to the Charlton road, in Comber's Mead, and in Hampton Street. At the entrance to Hampton Street some substantial warehouses were put up c. 1784 by a wool-stapler, Matthew Bamford. (fn. 59) They survive as the most obvious reminder of the former industry of the town, where a number of houses had premises for trade adjoining; (fn. 60) a large warehouse stood north of the Close until the mid 20th century (fn. 61) and another survives behind a house on the east side of Church Street. In the mid 19th century a new church and school were built on the west side of Tetbury, but between the early years of the century and its late years there were no additions to the area of the town and very little rebuilding, reflecting the stagnation of trade. At the end of the century, after the building of the railway in 1889, an estate of small stone houses, mostly semi-detached, was laid out at Northfield between the two Cirencester roads. (fn. 62) The town was not significantly enlarged, however, until the mid 20th century when council estates were built north of it on the Minchinhampton road and Blind Lane (renamed Lowfield Road); over 100 houses had been built by the late 1940s. (fn. 63) Later there was considerable private housing development in the same area and on the old manor-house park, on the old Cirencester road, and south of the town across Bath Bridge. Infilling also occurred in the town itself, notably on the former grounds of the Close and the Ferns behind the houses in Long Street.

Outside the town the parish was sparsely populated in the post-medieval period, but earlier there seems to have been a considerable population in the four outlying hamlets of Upton, 1½ mile NNW. of the town, Charlton ½ mile WNW., Elmestree 1½ mile WSW., and Doughton 1¼ mile SSW. The Upton estate had 16 tenants in 1086, (fn. 64) and in 1221 there were 52 tenants on an outlying estate granted to the Beauchamp family, most of them in Upton and some in Doughton and Charlton. (fn. 65) In 1327 16 people were assessed for tax at Doughton, 15 at Charlton, 14 at Upton, and 9 at Elmestree, (fn. 66) and the equivalent figures at the poll-tax of 1381 were 15, 26, 19, and 10. (fn. 67) The population of the hamlets later declined and by the 17th century only Charlton appears to have been of any size. (fn. 68) The attraction of the town and its growing prosperity may have contributed to the decline, particularly in reducing the number of non-agricultural occupations in the hamlets, but piecemeal inclosure of the open fields, which was under way at the beginning of the 17th century, was probably a more important factor. It is perhaps significant that Charlton, where the open fields survived largely intact until the late 18th century, (fn. 69) remained the most populous hamlet. Eleven households were assessed for hearth-tax there in 1672 compared with a total of 15 in the other hamlets. (fn. 70)

By the 19th century Elmestree comprised only its manor-house and the other hamlets were diminutive groups of dwellings. (fn. 71) At Upton, where the foundations of demolished houses were said to be visible in the 1770s, (fn. 72) a 17th-century farm-house and a few 19th-century cottages stand on the lane running to Upton House. The rebuilding of Upton House on a grander scale in the mid 18th century (fn. 73) and the laying out of its grounds probably caused the diversion of the Tetbury-Minchinhampton road from the lane to bypass the hamlet with two sharp bends. Charlton hamlet, on the Tetbury-Wotton road, comprises only the buildings at the manor site and a few cottages, one of which housed the Three Cocks inn by 1824 (fn. 74) and until the Second World War. (fn. 75) Doughton, on the Bristol road, has two substantial farm-houses, basically of the 17th century, a few later cottages, and the large early-17th-century manor-house. The only ancient outlying farmstead in the parish is the Grange on the east boundary, which belonged to Kingswood Abbey and was probably the home of the monks in the 1140s. Of the other large houses in the outlying areas, Upton Grove, south-east of Upton, was built by a Tetbury mercer c. 1680 and Highgrove, north of Doughton, was built by one of the Pauls at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 76)

The inclosures produced a number of outlying farm-houses, mainly north of the town in the former open fields of Tetbury tithing. One of the earliest was probably Highfield Farm, where a house was built by Richard Talboys of Doughton shortly before 1663 when he conveyed it to two of his younger sons. Colly Farm further north was also built in the 17th century and formed the centre of an estate acquired by the Savage family of the Close, which added Highfield farm to it in 1766. (fn. 77) Hillsome, Farm by the Cirencester road, where the house was rebuilt in Cotswold style c. 1922, (fn. 78) was established by the early 18th century (fn. 79) on an inclosure made before 1594. (fn. 80) The original house at Lowfield Farm was built on inclosures from the Upton fields shortly before 1683 when it became part of the Upton House estate. (fn. 81) In the south part of the parish the farmhouses are more widely scattered and appear to have been established rather later, although Longfurlong Farm was recorded in 1701. (fn. 82) Hookshouse had been established by 1777 (fn. 83) and Parsonage Farm probably dates from an inclosure made at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 84) Charlton Down (formerly Elmestree Farm) and Down Farm, two of the farm-houses designed for the Westonbirt estate by Lewis Vulliamy, were built in the late 1840s. (fn. 85)


  • 1. Camden, Britannia (1610), 242.
  • 2. Finberg, Early Charters of W. Midlands, p. 39.
  • 3. Rudder, Glos. 727-8; Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxvii. 62, 64.
  • 4. Lee's statement that there was a medieval castle (Tetbury, 13) is based on another writer's misunderstanding of the account of Stephen's operations around Tetbury in Chrons. Stephen, Hen. II, Ric. I (Rolls Ser.), iii. 110.
  • 5. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, f. 22.
  • 6. Ibid. f. 20v.; cf. Reg. Sede Vacante, 326.
  • 7. See p. 265.
  • 8. See p. 277.
  • 9. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, f. 16v.
  • 10. Dugdale, Mon. vi (1), 491; cf. S.C. 2/176/16.
  • 11. Glos. R.O., D 1571/T 77.
  • 12. Cf. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. LVIII. 13 (1900 edn.).
  • 13. S.C. 2/176/16.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., D 1571/T 77.
  • 15. Ibid. D 566/M 16, f. 23.
  • 16. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 175.
  • 17. Glos. R.O., D 1571/T 72.
  • 18. Ibid. T 71.
  • 19. Ibid. D 566/M 16, f. 7 and v.; G.D.R., V 5/300T 3.
  • 20. Glos. R.O., D 589, Paul fam., abs. of title to warehouses in Long St. The name West Street was adopted by Harper Street in the 20th cent.
  • 21. Ibid. D 566/T 1/7.
  • 22. Ibid. M 16, f. 5v.
  • 23. Ibid. ff. 4, 10, 11v.-12.
  • 24. See p. 273.
  • 25. See p. 258.
  • 26. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, ff. 2-9.
  • 27. Lee, Tetbury, plate facing p. 94; Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxiii. 145-6. Tradition has mistakenly connected it with the short stay of the monks of Kingswood at Tetbury.
  • 28. Inits. and date (now obscured) on bldg.: cf. Glos. R.O., D 2487/Z 2.
  • 29. Glos. R.O., D 566/T 1/10; D 191/6.
  • 30. For these inns, see pp. 273-4.
  • 31. Cf. Glos. R.O., D 566/T 3/10.
  • 32. Ibid. M 16, f. 4v.
  • 33. Ibid. T 1/16; T 2/8; E 134/6 Geo. I Mich./19.
  • 34. Glos. R.O., photocopy 237.
  • 35. Ibid. D 566/M 16, f. 8.
  • 36. Ibid. D 2487/Z 4.
  • 37. Ibid. D 587, Savage fam. deeds; Lee, Tetbury, 237.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., D 2487/Q 1.
  • 39. Ibid. DC/E 46/2.
  • 40. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1701-20, penes the vicar, rate 1703-4. For the two above-mentioned houses, see plate facing p. 272.
  • 41. Glos. R.O., DC/E 46/2-3.
  • 42. Ibid. 1.
  • 43. Cf. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1701-20, rate 1703-4.
  • 44. 18th Rep. Com. Char. 358.
  • 45. Glos. R.O., DC/E 46/2; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 46. Cf. 18th Rep. Com. Char. 357-8.
  • 47. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, f. 12.
  • 48. Ibid. D 1571/E 204.
  • 49. A rainwater head with the date and the inits. J. and J. W. now on a house at the top of the street was moved from here: ex inf. Brig. Meyrick Neilson, of Tetbury.
  • 50. Glos. R.O., D 566/B 2/6, entry for 1777.
  • 51. See pp. 258, 278, 280.
  • 52. Glos. R.O., D 589, Paul fam., deeds of Bartons est.; date and inits. on bldg.
  • 53. Glos. R.O., D 589, Paul fam., deeds of houses at the Green; D 2487/Z 4.
  • 54. Ibid. D 2487/Z 2.
  • 55. See p. 265.
  • 56. Glos. R.O., D 566/B 2/6; Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxvii. 61.
  • 57. Glos. R.O., D 2487/Z 2.
  • 58. Ibid. D 566/M 16, f. 16v.
  • 59. Ibid. D 587, brewery deeds.
  • 60. e.g. ibid. D 589, Paul fam., abs. of title to warehouses in Long Street.
  • 61. Cf. Glos. Colln. prints 290.4.
  • 62. Cf. O.S., Map 1/2,500, Glos. LVIII. 13 (1900 edn.).
  • 63. Tetbury R.D. Official Guide (c. 1948), 9.
  • 64. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168.
  • 65. C.P. 25(1)/73/4 no. 20.
  • 66. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 15-16.
  • 67. E 179/113/35A rot. 7.
  • 68. Cf. Smith, Men and Armour, 285-6.
  • 69. See p. 269.
  • 70. E 179/247/14 rot. 11.
  • 71. G.D.R., T 1/178.
  • 72. Rudder, Glos. 730.
  • 73. See p. 268.
  • 74. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 75. Local information.
  • 76. For the houses mentioned above, see pp. 267-9.
  • 77. Glos. R.O., D 587, Savage fam. deeds.
  • 78. Verey, Glos. i. 454.
  • 79. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1701-20.
  • 80. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, f. 14.
  • 81. Ibid. D 587, Cripps fam. deeds.
  • 82. Ibid. deeds of houses in Chipping and Longfurlong fm.
  • 83. Taylor, Map of Glos. (1777).
  • 84. G.D.R., V 5/300T 8.
  • 85. Verey, Glos. i. 469; cf. Glos. R.O., D 587, Westonbirt sale partics. 1927.