Tetbury: Social life

Pages 273-275

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 had numerous inns, the principal ones providing the main facilities in the town for business meetings and entertainments. Thirteen taverns were recorded in 1594 (fn. 1) and 42 victuallers were licensed in 1755. (fn. 2) The town still had 22 public houses in 1891 (fn. 3) but there was later a decline in the numbers, partly a result of the closure of the local breweries. The principal inn of the town was the White Hart which has occupied its site on the north side of the market-place since at least 1594. (fn. 4) The inn was rebuilt by R. S. Holford in 1852 to a design by Lewis Vulliamy. (fn. 5) By the late 16th century there were several other inns on the north side of the market-place, including one called the Swan, and another inn stood at the east end of the market-place, (fn. 6) probably on the site of the Talbot, which had certainly opened by 1656. (fn. 7) On the west side of Church Street, the third house south of the corner with Long Street was the Three Cups inn, (fn. 8) a popular meeting-place, (fn. 9) which had opened by 1654 (fn. 10) and survived until the mid 19th century. (fn. 11) A house south of it was the Red Lion inn by 1594 (fn. 12) and until c. 1820. (fn. 13) On the opposite side there were 3 inns in the butchers' shambles in 1635, including another Swan inn (fn. 14) which survived until c. 1780. (fn. 15) The Eight Bells further down on that side had opened by the 1740s when Church Street also had the George and the Mason's Arms. (fn. 16)

The inns in Long Street included the White Lion, which had opened by 1699 on the north-east side, (fn. 17) and the Lamb and the King and Queen, which occupied adjoining houses on that side in 1696; the sign of the latter was changed to the Ormonds Head (fn. 18) before 1742. An inn called the Star had opened in the street by 1722, and by the 1740s Long Street also had the White Horse. (fn. 19) Silver Street had the Bull by 1692, (fn. 20) the Sun by 1748, and the Crown by 1751; (fn. 21) the sign of the Crown was taken in the mid 19th century by an inn on the west side of Cirencester Street, formerly the Angel. (fn. 22) On the same side of Cirencester Street a tavern called the Catherine Wheel was recorded in 1459 (fn. 23) but the inn with that sign in 1701 was apparently in Long Street. (fn. 24) Also on the west side of Cirencester Street was the Queen's Arms, which was open by 1668 and closed soon after 1760 to become stables for a new house built behind on the Chipping. (fn. 25) At the top of the street, adjoining the little market-house, was an inn called the Horseshoe which became the Mitre before 1719, (fn. 26) and the Prince and Princess, opened by 1766, was in the same part of the street. (fn. 27) The Royal Oak at the bottom of Cirencester Street was recorded from 1781. (fn. 28) The above-mentioned are only the more important among the numerous inns recorded. The White Hart, Talbot, Ormonds Head, Crown, Eight Bells, and Royal Oak survived with a few more recent establishments in 1974.

One of the chief social gatherings held at the inns was originally the annual court leet dinner; in 1696, however, it was said to have occasioned disorder and inordinate expense and it was thereafter held at the town hall with the attendance strictly limited. (fn. 29) Several of the inns had assembly rooms; the town assembly was held at the White Lion in 1771, (fn. 30) and in 1775 a ball was held each night during Tetbury races at the White Hart assembly room. (fn. 31) In the 1790s a building behind the Angel inn, known as Cot's Great Room, was used for concerts and balls. (fn. 32) Visiting entertainments, including a company of comedians in 1756 and a wire-dancer in 1759, were sometimes allowed to use the town hall, (fn. 33) and a theatre at the Prince and Princess inn was used by a travelling company in 1815. (fn. 34) Locally-supported activities in the late 19th century included the brass, string, and drum and fife bands which were accommodated at the town hall. (fn. 35) About 1930 part of the stables behind the White Hart was fitted up as a cinema (fn. 36) but it had closed by 1974. A recreation ground on the Upton road was acquired as a war memorial in 1921 and was partly financed by the Tetbury feoffees. (fn. 37)

Horse-races were being held on the Warren by 1716 (fn. 38) and continued annually until at least 1792 when they were said to be much frequented by the local gentry. (fn. 39) The surrounding region was famed for its hunting, and the sport was evidently important in attracting wealthy purchasers to the large houses near the town in the 19th century. (fn. 40) The rebuilt White Hart inn included a ballroom for the Beaufort hunt. Col. Henry of Elmestree, one of those attracted to Tetbury by the hunting, founded a polo club in 1872; it lapsed later but was revived (fn. 41) in 1929 as the Beaufort Polo club with headquarters at Down Farm in the south part of the parish. (fn. 42)

From 1771 an annuity society met at the Bull inn or at the Prince and Princess (fn. 43) and friendly societies based at other inns enrolled their rules in 1784, 1794, and 1807. (fn. 44) An institute, founded in 1855, maintained a library and reading-room and organized lectures. (fn. 45) Social and cultural activities centred on the town hall, which later shared that function with the Church Institute opened in Chipping Lane before 1910 (fn. 46) and the Dolphins Hall opened in New Church Street in 1924. (fn. 47) The Dolphins Hall was the chief centre for social events in 1974 when use of the town hall was restricted by fire regulations. (fn. 48)

A bank was established in the town before 1807 by William Wood and his partners (fn. 49) and was absorbed by the Gloucestershire Banking Co. in 1839. (fn. 50) In 1823 its headquarters were at the house in Long Street (fn. 51) still occupied by Lloyds Bank in 1974, but earlier it was apparently at the house north of the Three Cups in Church Street. (fn. 52) A savings bank was founded in the town in 1817 (fn. 53) and closed in 1889. (fn. 54)

A printer was based at Tetbury in 1797 and published a fortnightly paper called the County Oracle and Political Intelligencer. (fn. 55) In the early 19th century J. G. Goodwyn, who was in business by 1806, was the principal Tetbury printer. (fn. 56) By 1864 the town had a weekly paper, the Tetbury Journal, but it was apparently short-lived, as was another journal of the same name that appeared in 1885 and 1886. The most successful paper was a monthly, the Tetbury Magazine, successively the Tetbury Advertizer and Tetbury Advertizer and Malmesbury Chronicle, which was published from 1879 (fn. 57) until 1911. (fn. 58)


  • 1. Ibid. M 16, ff. 12-13.
  • 2. Ibid. Q/AV 2, rot. 4.
  • 3. Licensed Houses in Glos. 1891, 202-5.
  • 4. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, f. 4.
  • 5. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 368; Verey, Glos. i. 450.
  • 6. Glos. R.O., D 566/M 16, ff. 4, 5.
  • 7. Ibid. M 1.
  • 8. Ibid. photocopy 237.
  • 9. Ibid. D 566/B 2/2; L7/3.
  • 10. Ibid. D 587, Savage fam. deeds.
  • 11. Ibid. D 566/B 39.
  • 12. Ibid. M 16, f. 8; D 587, Savage fam. deeds, lease 1654.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., D 566/T 3/11.
  • 14. G.D.R., V 5/300T 3, 6.
  • 15. Glos. R.O., D 566/T 3/10.
  • 16. Ibid. P 328A/OV 2/1-2.
  • 17. Ibid. D 566/B 2/2, entry for 1699; T 2/10.
  • 18. Glos. Colln. RF 300.4; 18th Rep. Com. Char. 357-8.
  • 19. Glos. R.O., D 566/Z 15; P 328A/OV 2/1.
  • 20. Ibid. D 1571/E 204.
  • 21. Ibid. P 328A/OV 2/1-2.
  • 22. Ibid. photocopy 237; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 369.
  • 23. Glos. R.O., D 1571/T 77/1.
  • 24. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1701-20; cf. Glos. R.O., D 587, Savage fam. deeds, deed 1782.
  • 25. Glos. R.O., D 587, deeds of Queen's Arms.
  • 26. Ibid. D 566/T 2/8; E 134/6 Geo. I Mich./19.
  • 27. Glos. R.O., D 566/B 2/5; cf. ibid. B 1/1, entry for 1834.
  • 28. Ibid. T 2/21.
  • 29. Ibid. M 23.
  • 30. Glouc. Jnl. 21 Oct. 1771.
  • 31. Ibid. 12 June 1775.
  • 32. Glos. R.O., D 2487/Z 2.
  • 33. Ibid. D 566/B 2/5.
  • 34. Ibid. D 2930/2.
  • 35. Ibid. D 566/B 1/2, entry for 1886.
  • 36. Tetbury Official Guide (c. 1930), 12.
  • 37. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1931), 331; Glos. R.O., D 566/B 1/2; feoffees' min. bk. 1927-72.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., D 566/Z 15.
  • 39. Brit. Univ. Dir. (1792), iv. 592.
  • 40. Cf. Glos. R.O., SL 24-6.
  • 41. Glos. R.O., D 2487/Q 1, press cutting 1912; Tetbury Official Guide (c. 1935), 13-14, 18.
  • 42. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 370.
  • 43. Glos. Colln. RV 300.1 (1).
  • 44. Glos. R.O., Q/RSf 2.
  • 45. Lee, Tetbury, 48.
  • 46. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1910), 327.
  • 47. Char. Com. Reg.
  • 48. Ex inf. Mr. Phillips.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., D 587, deeds of Queen's Arms; cf. Glos. Colln. R 300.7.
  • 50. Glos. R.O., D 589, Paul fam., diary of C. W. Paul 1838-40.
  • 51. Ibid. D 587, Savage fam. deeds.
  • 52. Ibid. D 589, Paul fam., abs. of title to the Bank; cf. ibid. D 566/B 39.
  • 53. Ibid. D 471/F 17.
  • 54. Glos. Colln. RX 300.1.
  • 55. Trans. B.G.A.S. xx. 51.
  • 56. Pigot's Dir. (1822-3), 65; Glos. R.O., D 566/Z 17.
  • 57. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 335.
  • 58. Glos. Colln. RV 300.3.