The borough of Tewkesbury: Social life and buildings

Pages 122-131

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1968.

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In the late 18th century and early 19th Tewkesbury supported a number of social clubs and institutions. That the town was not quite large enough, or insufficiently enthusiastic, to enjoy independent cultural activities is suggested by the history of subscribing libraries there. A library was started in 1802 but closed soon after. It was revived in 1814 and lasted until 1823. (fn. 1) Five years later, in 1828, a public library and news room, with new accommodation, was opened, but there were too few subscribers and it survived only until 1831. (fn. 2) The Tewkesbury Reading Society, founded in 1833, (fn. 3) appears to have been revived or given a broader base in 1838 as the Literary, Scientific, and Mechanics' Institute. (fn. 4) The library was at the Cross, between High Street and Barton Street, (fn. 5) and the Institute organized lectures on a wide variety of topics. (fn. 6) Nevertheless it was wound up, because of lack of support, in 1843. (fn. 7)

The theatre in Tewkesbury had no more lasting success. The history of drama in Tewkesbury goes back to 1567, when the churchwardens kept and hired out 'players' gear', (fn. 8) and in 1600 public plays were one method used to raise money for church repairs. (fn. 9) The New Theatre mentioned in 1762 (fn. 10) may have been the barn in the Oldbury that was used for plays. Later there were temporary theatres in the fields outside the town, where the elder John Kemble was once among the performers. A new theatre was fitted up in 1823 in Oldbury Road, possibly in the barn used earlier for plays. (fn. 11) For a short time the theatre was a success, and Kean and Macready acted there in 1825. From 1827, however, the theatre declined, and an ambitious programme in 1835 failed. In 1838 the building was taken into use as a Sunday school, and from 1847 (fn. 12) to 1870 was a silk mill. (fn. 13) By 1912 the building was in use as a cinema. It later became a fire-station, (fn. 14) having been closed as a cinema presumably about the time the Sabrina Cinema was opened near the north end of High Street, in 1934. The Sabrina Cinema was itself closed in 1963. (fn. 15)

Musical activity in the town centred naturally on the abbey church, with its three organs. (fn. 16) A music festival was held in 1840, (fn. 17) and a choral society formed by 1842. (fn. 18) The former Friends' meetinghouse became, between 1856 and 1863, what was called a music hall (fn. 19) but appears to have had the characteristics of a concert hall. (fn. 20) By 1939 it was known as the George Watson Memorial Hall, after its former owner, (fn. 21) and in 1964 was held under a trust deed of 1956. (fn. 22) It was reopened in 1962 after enlargement and renovation. (fn. 23) In the early 19th century public dances were regularly held in the town hall. (fn. 24) A town museum was established in 1960. (fn. 25)

In the period 1771–92 eight friendly societies in Tewkesbury, including one specifically for women, were registered at Quarter Sessions; (fn. 26) in 1803 there were 12 societies with a combined membership of nearly 800. (fn. 27) In the thirties the Independent Englishmen's Friendly Society, formed as a splinter group of the British Standard Society, (fn. 28) became socially the most prominent of the Tewkesbury friendly societies. (fn. 29) In all, in the period 1794–1872 the Registrar of Friendly Societies registered 29 societies in Tewkesbury; these included three for women and one for watermen. (fn. 30) The town supported a volunteer troop of cavalry from 1803 to 1814, and a volunteer corps of infantry from 1803 to 1808. (fn. 31) A small and not very active group of Chartists in the town broke up in 1839 when the secretary and treasurer, a journeyman stocking-maker, absconded with the funds. (fn. 32) Chartists supported the temperance movement in Tewkesbury, and one of them kept a short-lived temperance hotel there, 1841–3. (fn. 33)

Horse-races on Severn Ham were established by 1721, when the Prince of Wales gave a gold cup. (fn. 34) Races were held there annually (fn. 35) until 1813, were briefly resumed (fn. 36) 1825–8, and were again revived in 1841. The meeting was called the Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire Races from 1843 to 1845, when no meetings were held at Cheltenham, but from 1846 the Tewkesbury races appear to have dwindled in importance. (fn. 37) In 1830 the sporting facilities of the town included the bowling-green at the 'Bell', a fives-court at the 'Wheatsheaf', and a quoit-yard at the Upper Lode. (fn. 38) A rowing club was formed in 1835 (fn. 39) and a cricket club some time before 1845. (fn. 40) In the 20th century the town had in addition clubs for bowling, fishing, football, golf, and tennis. (fn. 41)

As a social centre Tewkesbury provided openings for professional men. It may not be legitimate to include among them the barbers recorded in the town in 1327, (fn. 42) 1540 (when there were three), (fn. 43) 1608, (fn. 44) 1733, and 1769, (fn. 45) but surgeons are recorded from 1608 (fn. 46) onwards: there were two in 1784 (fn. 47) and seven in 1820. Thereafter their numbers dropped. In 1820 there were also three veterinary surgeons. (fn. 48) At least six apothecaries were recorded in Tewkesbury in the later 17th century, (fn. 49) and five were listed in 1842. (fn. 50) A retail druggist who settled in the town in 1789 was said to be the first of his calling there. (fn. 51)

A notary was settled in Tewkesbury before 1469. (fn. 52) In the early 17th century Thomas Vaughan practised law there. (fn. 53) There were five attornies in 1784, (fn. 54) nine in 1820, (fn. 55) and up to seven solicitors in the early 20th century. (fn. 56) There were two firms of auctioneers in 1820, (fn. 57) as there were until 1964, and in the mid19th century there were also four surveyors. (fn. 58) In addition to two local banks, Lechmere's and Hartland's, a provident bank was started in 1818. (fn. 59) The town had a writing-master in the mid-18th century. (fn. 60) From 1760 to 1925 there were usually two or more printers working in Tewkesbury. (fn. 61) Samuel Harward's chapbooks, printed there 1760–75, achieved notoriety in the 19th century because they commanded high prices. (fn. 62) The town had a newspaper from 1853, the Tewkesbury Monthly Record and General Advertiser, which in 1855 became the Tewkesbury Weekly Record; (fn. 63) it published its last issue in 1922. In 1858, when the Record became a Liberal newspaper, another weekly, the Tewkesbury Register and Gazette, was founded in the Conservative interest; the Register became politically independent in 1930, the year after it was sold by its local owner to W. H. Smith & Co. (fn. 64) The Register survived in 1964, having been acquired in 1961 by the News of the World. (fn. 65) The Tewkesbury Magazine and Literary Journal, started in 1843, ran to only three issues. (fn. 66)

Its size and position naturally gave Tewkesbury a large number of inns. In 1533 4 inns and 16 taverns were recorded, (fn. 67) and in 1781 there were 9 inns and an additional number of taverns. (fn. 68) In 1820 there were 15 taverns as well as the 9 inns, (fn. 69) and in the later 19th century the declining importance and prosperity of the town were not reflected by a fall in the number of inns: in 1870 there were 22 inns and 12 beer-shops besides. (fn. 70) The number of licensed premises was 35 in 1891, (fn. 71) but thereafter fell. The inns that survived a long while included the 'George', recorded in the late 16th century (fn. 72) and the late 19th, (fn. 73) and the 'Wheatsheaf', an inn in 1744 (fn. 74) and 1939 (fn. 75) and a coffee-house in 1964. Surviving as inns in 1964 were the 'Swan', recorded in its modern position in the mid-16th century, (fn. 76) the 'Plough', recorded in 1644, (fn. 77) and the 'King's Head', recorded in 1707. (fn. 78) Three inns, the 'Bell', the 'Mason's Arms', and the 'Hop Pole', (fn. 79) were mentioned in 1770, but each of them by a different name. (fn. 80) Several innnames are known to have been applied at different periods to different inns: thus the 'White Hart', a name recorded in 1538, (fn. 81) was incorporated into the 'Swan', a large coaching inn, between 1770 and 1833, (fn. 82) and was not the same as the 'White Hart' of 1891; (fn. 83) the great hospice called the Crown or New Inn and leased by the abbot and convent of Tewkesbury in 1530 was on the south side of Church Street west of Gander Lane, (fn. 84) perhaps on the site of Abbey Lawn House (demolished 1964), and was not the same as the New Inn of 1770, which later became the 'Hop Pole', (fn. 85) and another New Inn was licensed in 1891. (fn. 86) A tavern in Southwick was recorded in 1541; (fn. 87) soon after the Crimean War the Odessa Inn (fn. 88) was opened where the main road crosses the southern boundary of the parish, and Gubshill Manor was an hotel by 1931. (fn. 89) In the early 16th century brewers and alehouse-keepers in the Mythe were presented in the hundred court. (fn. 90) An alehouse in the Mythe in 1598 was licensed, though disorderly; (fn. 91) it may have been a precursor of the 'Admiral Benbow', which in 1788 stood in the meadow near the Long Bridge. (fn. 92)


Manor-houses, churches and chapels, other buildings of a public nature, and the domestic buildings of the hamlets, are described elsewhere in this account. (fn. 93) The old houses of the town, occupying a large proportion of the frontage of the three main streets, have attracted much attention, particularly for the many examples of timber-framing. The intermingling of Georgian brick fronts among the older timber-framed houses is a characteristic feature of the main streets. In addition, historical interest has been drawn to the complex of buildings of the abbey precincts and to the location of the supposed Holm Castle.

The supposed castle. The earliest known reference to a castle at Tewkesbury is in Leland's Itinerary, which places the castle at Holm Hill, the high ground south of Swilgate Bridge. In Leland's time some ruins of the bottoms of walls were visible, and people remembered parts of a castle standing. (fn. 94) By the end of the 16th century there were hardly any remains to be seen. (fn. 95) It has been suggested that in 1471 the Lancastrian forces tried to exploit the castle ruins as a defensive position. (fn. 96) It is likely, however, that the ruins which Leland saw were those not of a castle but of a large house. There is no better evidence than Leland's for the existence of a castle, which can hardly be reconciled with the complete absence of any reference to the castle from the usual medieval records, particularly from the Pipe Rolls of the late 12th century and early 13th when Tewkesbury was in the possession of the Crown. (fn. 97)

The large house whose ruins Leland saw was perhaps not in the same position as the hall recorded in 1086, (fn. 98) which is likely to have been the precursor of the 'splendid house' of the Earl of Gloucester which Waleran Earl of Worcester destroyed in 1140. (fn. 99) It is possible that the house destroyed in 1140 was rebuilt as the stables which became the earl's barton that gave its name to Barton Street, (fn. 100) while a new residence was built on Holm Hill. The new chimneys and windows made in 1201 (fn. 101) may have been for such a house, making it a fit house for King John's Christmas in 1204. (fn. 102) The Earl of Gloucester's household at Tewkesbury was recorded in 1221, (fn. 103) and the repairs ordered in 1241 for the greater and lesser chapels at Tewkesbury were part of repairs to be carried out on the buildings of the earl's residence. (fn. 104)

Surveys of the manor in the period 1296–1375 make no mention of a castle, but the house at Holm Hill was recorded in 1296 as the chief court, with other buildings, gardens, and a dovecot. (fn. 105) From 1307 it was described as the chief messuage, (fn. 106) and its value declined, being allegedly nothing beyond the outgoings in 1337 and 1375. In 1327 and 1359 the chief messuage was associated with a vineyard and fishpond, and the dovecot continued to be recorded. (fn. 107) It is therefore likely that the gardens recorded in the 15th century and early 16th (fn. 108) in association with a dovecot and a vineyard were in or around the ruins of the chief messuage and its buildings. By the late 14th century the house had been replaced as a residence by the one on the site of Tewkesbury Park. (fn. 109) The house in the Mythe called King John's Castle is described below. (fn. 110) William Fisher 'of the Castle in this town', buried in 1685, (fn. 111) may have occupied an inn or tavern.

The abbey precincts. Of the buildings in the precincts of Tewkesbury Abbey, the church and the range of buildings running west from its west end survive. The church is described below. The main conventual buildings, south of the church, were badly damaged by fire in 1178, (fn. 112) and were demolished at the Dissolution; the buildings then deemed superfluous included the cloisters, chapter-house, misericord, two dormitories, infirmary, and various lodgings and offices. (fn. 113) Part of the fabric of the cloisters survives against the south wall of the church, but in 1830 any other visible remains of the demolished buildings were obliterated when the site was levelled. The range of buildings running west from the church was listed for retention, including the Newark, the former abbot's lodging, the hostelry, the great gate with the lodging over it, and various offices. The Newark, which may have been the new abbot's lodging, was probably what survives as Abbey House. (fn. 114) The house is a stone building, on a rectangular plan, which has been considerably altered at several periods. It retains, however, on the north side an upper oriel window of the early 16th century built into an earlier wall containing windows which from their tracery appear also to be earlier. The oriel window is embellished on the outside with carvings of coats of arms and a monogram, and with an inscription of which the word misericord' is legible. By 1795 the embattled parapet of the north wall had been replaced by the eaves of a new roof, and c. 1825, apparently following the sale of the estate of which the house formed part, (fn. 115) the south front was remodelled and the interior modernized. Further alterations and extensions were made in the late 19th century, when the vicars of Tewkesbury began to live in the house, (fn. 116) and further alterations were being undertaken in 1964.

West of Abbey House the two-storied stone gatehouse was built in the late 15th century or early 16th. By 1849 it had become much dilapidated, and was restored in that year as a faithful reconstruction of the original; (fn. 117) the architect was John Medland, and the masonry work was done by Thomas Collins, (fn. 118) who was later to restore many other buildings in the town. Doors of carved oak were added in 1855. (fn. 119) West again of the gatehouse is part of a timberframed barn that is likely to represent the almonry barn, and two cottages, which contained medieval and 16th-century work, (fn. 120) may survive from the almonry house; both the barn and the house were recorded in 1632. (fn. 121)

East of the abbey church, the abbey precinct included the Workhey gate, with a room over it (fn. 122) and a house adjoining it, both scheduled to be demolished at the Dissolution, (fn. 123) while the churchyard to the north of the church contained a free-standing belfry and several houses or rooms. (fn. 124) The belfry was a square stone tower with a pyramidal roof behind an embattled parapet. In the early 19th century it had a pointed doorway, square-headed windows, and 15th-century belfry-lights. There was a large crack in one wall, (fn. 125) and in 1816 the tower, which had been used as a gaol, was removed to provide a site for the National school. (fn. 126)

On the farther side of Church Street the abbey's buildings included the Abbey Mills (fn. 127) and the abbey barton or barn, and perhaps near-by stood the abbey furnace-house and tan-house that in 1542 were scheduled for demolition. (fn. 128) The location of the abbey barton is clear from a grant of 1557, (fn. 129) and there is little doubt that it was the building, at the lower end of Mill Street, of which the lower parts of the heavily buttressed stone walls have survived. In 1540 it was used partly as a prison for the abbot's fee. (fn. 130) In the early 20th century it housed the fire engine, (fn. 131) and in 1964 part of it was used as a pottery. A wall running south-west from the barton includes fragments of an ancient stone wall that may have marked the edge of both the town and the abbey precincts.

Domestic buildings of the town. A stonevaulted cellar under Nos. 89–90 Church Street appears to be the earliest survival of domestic building. It was built in the late 13th or early 14th century, and once comprised two quadripartite bays with narrow, chamfered ribs and side corbels. The cellar has been shortened, and the house above is not earlier than the 16th century. The other cellars in the town seem to be relatively late, and have heavy, chamfered ceiling beams. Most of them have a door to the street and occupy the full width of the building site.

There are three examples of the larger medieval town house: Newton House, the eastern part of the Royal Hop Pole Hotel, and Nos. 81–82 Barton Street. Each contained a single-story hall wing behind a storied, or partly storied, range of building along the street. At Newton House (No. 27 Church Street) the long south wing, of the early 15th century, contains part of a hall of two bays divided by a central open truss with cambered tie- and collar-beam. Large braces arched to the soffit of the tie-beam were removed when an upper floor was inserted in the early 17th century. Surviving mortices indicate the presence of a strut in the spandrels between the braces and the side posts. The triangular opening above the collar-beam has cusped sides. In each bay an intermediate truss with collar-beam only is similarly decorated. Curved wind-braces from the main trusses meet the purlin immediately below the intermediate trusses. The exposed timbers of the hall are smoke-blackened. Except for the south end, of c. 1600, the other bays are contemporary with the hall but were storied and have plainer trusses. The ground floor rooms were remodelled in the early 18th century when the west wall was rebuilt in brick. The hall was reached from the street apparently by a side passage through the northern range fronting on Church Street; the northern range was thoroughly rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the north end of the hall was cut off in the process.

Nos. 81–82 Barton Street, of two stories and attics, had a one-bay hall in its street range, and a long southern wing, apparently 14th-century, with cruck partition trusses, contained a hall and solar each of two bays. The two-bay hall had at its north end a west window of two lights, of which the head survives, and at its south end an east doorway, apparently one of two opposed doorways, of which the two-centred arch survives. Under the solar is a room with an axial ceiling beam, supported by a large curved bracket at its southern end. The two cruck trusses forming the ends of the hall have arched braces to the collar-beam, and a third at the south gable-end has widely spaced studs. The central truss of the hall has a pair of common rafters on each slope, and the curved braces below the collar-beam form a two-centred arch, the collar-beam being rebated at the sides to follow the curve of the arch braces. The corresponding truss in the solar has a plain collar-beam without braces. All the rooftimbers, including the unusually large curved windbraces, are heavily smoke-blackened. Upper floors, partitions, and an axial chimney-stack were inserted in the 17th century, and the side walls were rebuilt in brick in the 18th or 19th. The relationship of the southern wing to the building fronting the street is uncertain. No. 81 formed a one-bay hall, of which the floor area extended under the solar in No. 82 as far as the cross-passage from the street to the back; the occurrence of such an arrangement elsewhere is discussed below.

The Royal Hop Pole Hotel, Church Street, comprises two structurally separate buildings in its street front. The eastern half consisted of a threestoried, two-bay range jettied towards the street, with a contemporary hall wing to the north, the whole apparently of the later 15th century. The range to the street had a single large room on the ground and the first floor. The ground-floor room has exposed ceiling joists and was once lit by a range of two-light windows; it connects by a four-centred arched doorway with a wide side-passage, of which the original street doorway, with carved spandrels, moulded jambs, and brackets, is a larger version of similarly placed doorways in other houses of the town. The first-floor room was of some pretensions, having had two three-light windows with traceried heads and an oriel window, replaced in the 17th century, over the entry to the side passage; the main ceiling beams have chamfered soffit-nibs. The second floor was once open to the roof, and the partition truss had shallow arch-braces to a collar-beam which had a central boss. The contemporary hall wing is of three bays; the floor area of the hall extended over all three, but the bay adjoining the range fronting the street had an upper story. The upper story was built above an elaborately moulded bressummer, supported by arched brackets, and there is a waist rail corresponding in height and in decorative detail in the east wall of the hall. A similarly enriched wallplate and cornice above indicate the quality of the hall. The former open truss has a deep arch-braced collar-beam, with curved wind-braces to single purlins. A chimney-stack at the north end and an upper floor with richly moulded joists were inserted in the earlier 16th century. A two-storied wing adjoining the north-west corner of the hall wing and similarly aligned was built in the late 14th century. The upper rooms were open to the roof, which had a collar-purlin supported by crown-posts with fourway brackets. The cambered tie-beams are braced from principal posts in the side walls. An ovolo moulding cut from the solid runs from each face of the tie beams and along the upper edge of the wall plates. Riven lath filling in the internal trusses may represent an early division of the wing into separate lodgings.

Tewkesbury, showing domestic buildings

Among the timber-framed houses of Tewkesbury the 'side-entry' type of plan is frequently identifiable in medieval buildings and persisted up to the late 17th century. One side of the ground floor formed a passage leading from the street to the back of the house, and access to the ground-floor room was by a central doorway in the partition between the room and the passage. Early chimney-stacks are usually in the middle of the back wall, and their relationship to wings extending from the back suggests that such wings were an integral part of the plan. Some of the earlier houses, however, had no original chimneystack, and others had them inserted axially or on a side wall. Until the late 17th century a winder staircase was characteristically at the junction between the front range and the back wing. The sole surviving example of a timber-framed stair wing was added in the 17th century to No. 128 High Street, a house of early 16th-century origin.

The front range of the side-entry houses is usually two bays wide and one room deep. The larger houses are jettied at each floor, and the two lower stories appear to have had long ranges of window openings, with traceried heads and moulded mullions in some instances, which until the 16th century were unglazed and closed by internal shutters. Associated with the elaborate fenestration is the use of close studding and heavily moulded fascia or bressummer beams. The close studding, more for effect than for structural necessity, is apparently confined to housefronts and exposed gable-ends. In contrast, the framing of side and end walls is usually of large panels of wattle and daub with long incurved braces stiffening the structure, a technique used in the 16th century in a way indistinguishable from that of the 15th. Internally the decorative treatment is usually more thorough on one of the two lower floors than on the other, and the choice between the two presumably depended on whether or not the ground floor was used for business purposes. Many of the side passages later provided access to houses built in back courts or alleys.

There are some smaller side-entry houses, without jettied first floors, in which one of the two bays was a hall open to the roof, the floor area of the hall extending under the upper floor of the other bay as far as the partition to the passage. From the hall access to the upper room was presumably by a ladder stairway, and it may have been from such a stairway that Margery Hull fell to her death c. 1392. (fn. 132) All such houses had upper floors added across the hall bay in the 16th or 17th century. One of them, Nos. 117–18 High Street had the solar in the jettied cross-wing on the south and the hall, with low side walls and steeply pitched roof, to the north of it; the hall had an open tie-beam truss. By contrast Nos. 27–29 Barton Street, a more substantial house, had the solar in the same range as the hall; the hall contained an arch-braced collar-beam truss. Both houses had chimney-stacks added in the 16th century when upper floors were inserted in the halls. In each house the back wing probably provided service rooms with a chamber above. No. 105 Church Street was a similar house, with a hall aligned with the street; the extremely long curved braces in the end-framing and the slightly curved chamfered wind-braces to the purlins are characteristic of the early 15th century.

The roofs of most of the houses are parallel to the street. Notable exceptions are the 'Berkeley Arms' in Church Street and Nos. 15–16 Church Street, each of which has a twin-gabled roof at right-angles to the street, and No. 9 Church Street may once have been similar. In Nos. 15–16 the second-floor rooms have remained open to the roof, with a partition containing blocked doorways between Nos. 15 and 16 and a transverse, framed partition beneath the central truss of each roof. The intermediate trusses have arch-braced, cambered collar-beams and curved wind-braces to the purlins. The front range and the rear wing were built at roughly the same time in the late 15th century. In the rear wing the first-floor room has elaborately moulded ceiling and cornice beams, and the main ceiling beam was once bracketed from wall-posts with capitals and shafts; externally the jettied floors are bracketed from similar shafts. The second-floor room has ceiling beams at a higher level than the wall-plate, and in the roof-space are trusses designed to be seen and decorated with a moulding corresponding with that on the first-floor wall-posts. The 'Berkeley Arms', of three stories throughout, preserves in the groundfloor rooms a series of moulded ceiling beams and side-posts of the late 15th or early 16th century. There was formerly a range of twelve window-lights, with a large central mullion, lighting the ground floor from the street, and another range at first-floor level. The rear wing, which is not jettied, retains in a ceiling a trimmed opening for a stair ladder to the second floor. Built against the south end of the wing is a three-bay, two-storied house of the early 16th century, and beyond it later in the century a twostoried framed barn or warehouse was added, occupying the whole width of the plot.

Houses with a single gable-end towards the street and an entrance to one side of the front include Nos. 6 and 7 Church Street, both heightened from two to three stories before 1700, and — a wider and more substantial version — No. 32 Barton Street. Other examples may once have been part of larger houses: No. 17 Barton Street, a refronted twostoried building of the 15th century, may have been the solar wing of one of the adjoining houses, and No. 50 Barton Street, a two-storied, jettied solar wing of c. 1500, may have belonged to a hall represented by the rebuilt No. 49.

Nos. 107–8 Church Street (Cross House), restored c. 1860 by the builder Thomas Collins, the then owner and occupier, (fn. 133) comprises at least two dwellings gabled towards the street and probably a third gabled towards Tolsey Lane. The ground floor of No. 107 retains early 16th-century moulded ceiling beams and joists. The ornate timber screen in the passage may be reset from elsewhere. No. 108 may have had a side-entry plan which has been obscured by alterations in the 17th century, when the tall third story and attics were added, and in the 19th.

Nos. 82–83 Church Street and Nos. 154–5 High Street preserve in part their late 15th- or early 16thcentury fenestration. The first floor of Nos. 82–83 Church Street has what appears to be a combination of window-lights and filled panels, each with a traceried head, in a range extending right across the front. Each house has a central common chimneystack and is unusual in having no back wing.

Nos. 88–88a Church Street, a late 15th-century house of side-entry plan, is unusual in having been jettied out on curved brackets at both the front and the back, and in having in the exposed framing at the back large tension braces resembling those at Abbey Cottages. The jettying at the back results in an unusual, though apparently early, relationship with the adjacent small building and in the placing of the chimney-stack, with two moulded stone fireplaces, against the side wall of the house.

No. 12 High Street (formerly the Fleece Inn), though gutted, restored, and refronted with false framing, had formerly a side-entry plan with the variant of a chimney-stack on the side wall. The wing behind, built after the front range, was once similar in appearance to the house behind the 'Berkeley Arms' and of the same early 16th-century date, but it has been much altered.

Of the two-storied timber-framed houses many are of the 16th century, or perhaps of the late 15th. Originally such houses had the first floor open to the rafters, the attic floors being later insertions. The absence of ornamental external framing incorporating quadrant or diagonal struts, as found in contemporary houses in other West Midland towns, may have resulted from the traditional local use of close-studding. In High Street the two-storied timber-framed houses are mostly on the east side and towards the north end. No. 129 (the 'Nottingham Arms') was built c. 1500 and has ceiling beams of that period. The Black Bear Inn is mainly of the early 16th century, with jettied first floor on the east and north sides; the carved north-east corner-post has an angle bracket to a dragon beam. Nos. 75–76 and No. 115 are also of the early 16th century, and Nos. 1–2 Mythe Road, which face down High Street, are slightly later. In Barton Street two-story houses predominate: the back wing of the 'Lord Nelson', like Nos. 27–29, and Nos. 81–82, mentioned above, is clearly medieval; No. 35 is slightly later, a reasonably complete example of a side-entry house; No. 33 is a more pretentious house of the early 16th century. In Church Street the two-storied houses include Nos. 57–58, with numbered trusses in the surviving framed bay. No. 66, at the corner of St. Mary's Lane, is a mid-16th-century jettied building with corner-post and dragon beam, its framing of close-studding intersected by large and small tension braces. At Nos. 12–15 Mill Street the exposed framing at the back suggests that the group formed two houses in the early 16th century. Adjoining No. 15, No. 1 Mill Bank is of the same period and has a jettied first floor, with moulded bressummers and sill-rail, and tension braces; at the western corner a dragon beam and supporting bracket show that the south-west wall also projected.

Abbey Cottages Ground-plan of a typical unit with medieval walls shown black.

Nos. 34–50 Church Street, known as Abbey Cottages, represent a continuous terrace of at least 23 timber-framed dwellings built probably in the 15th or early 16th century. (fn. 134) Despite later alterations the main structure remains almost intact. The survival of a medieval terrace of such length is most unusual, if not unique. Most of the row is housed under a continuous roof, parallel with the street, and consists of small units with two-storied singlebay fronts. Towards the eastern end, however, the roof line is interrupted by a three-storied block of three bays, each bay originally having a front gable. West of that block were at least fourteen units, but two were rebuilt in the 18th century (now No. 49) and half the end house is missing. The fronts were originally jettied, the overhang being supported on exposed bullnosed joists and curved brackets. The jetty has been obscured by a later brick wall, built about 2 ft. outside the original ground-floor framing. The open character of this framing suggests that the front room of each house was designed for use as a shop. The head-beam had end-brackets and a single central mortice, perhaps to receive a stud against which shutters could be secured. Notches found on some of the principal posts may have housed a rail to suport a counter. Beside each shopfront was an entrance doorway with an ogee head; three of them survive. (fn. 135) Each house was 11 ft. 6 ins. wide and two rooms deep. (fn. 136) The front was two-storied, the upper room being rather longer from back to front than the shop beneath it. Heavy smoke-blackening in the back room suggests that this was a small open hall, rising through both stories. At roof level a sloping wattle-and-daub partition converted the back part of the roof-space into a hood to carry off smoke from the hearth below. A stair, partitioned off from one side of the hall, gave access to the single upper room. In at least some cases there were lean-to extensions behind the hall, also smoke-blackened internally, which may have been slightly later than the original structures. All the houses have been altered or further extended at the rear to accommodate new staircases; later chimneys have also been inserted, usually on the partitions between the front and back rooms. The seven units to the east of the three-storied group are similar to those on the west, but the position of the entrance doorways is reversed, giving plans which are mirror-images of those already described. Differences in the design of the front framing of the upper stories, of which less survives, may indicate a slightly later date. In general the alterations have been more various and more drastic in the eastern part of the terrace. The most westerly house of the three-storied block is one bay wide and has a similar plan to those further west; the extra story is jettied towards the street and is surmounted by a gable with carved barge-boards. The rest of the block consists of one much larger house with an altered two-bay front which originally had twin gables (No. 40). At its rear are the remnants of an open hall with, beyond it, two further two-storied bays which are now derelict.

In the town generally the 16th century and early 17th saw the introduction of larger windows to the lower floors, still in an unbroken line along the entire front but glazed, using mullions and transoms, and often brought forward as a three-sided bay at the centre. The arched bracket was replaced as a support for the overhang by a carved console, commonly of bulbous profile. Attic stories were added, with one or more gable dormers. Most of the larger sideentry houses were given new timber-framed elevations roughly in the period 1570–1670.

No. 15 High St. (the Ancient Grudge Café) is perhaps the earliest example of refronting in the town. A front of herring-bone or chevron framing was added to a late medieval house which in the ground-floor front room has heavily moulded ceiling beams of c. 1530, a ceiling boss carved with the Agnus Dei, a four-centred moulded fireplace arch with the initials R.B., and fragments of linenfold panelling. The rear wing may once have been divided into hall and service rooms.

No. 132 High St. (formerly the Wheatsheaf Inn) was built c. 1500 with a three-storied jettied front. In the mid-17th century it was given a new framed elevation towards the street set several feet forward of the original line. The initials J.V. in a decorative panel above the door lintel may be for John Underhill (d. 1719). (fn. 137) The almost vertical façade is surmounted by a fourth story with an ogee shaped gable; there are long ranges of mullioned and transomed windows with a shallow bay at the centre, and the timber studs have ovolo-moulded edges and are set forward to achieve a panelled effect.

No. 140 High Street (Clarence House) has studs in its 17th-century front with comparable embellishment, a groove with a semi-circular head. The original house was presumably a storied structure of the early 16th century, gabled towards the street; it was rebuilt in the third quarter of the 17th century and further heightened or remodelled a few years later. The top or fourth story has a flat roof, with a bold eaves cornice carried on carved modillions, and bullseye windows. The first-floor room has a moulded plaster ceiling in four large panels, each with a heavy garland motif and putti; the ceiling, the side chimney-stack, and the balustraded stairs are part of the main alterations of 1650–75.

No. 9 High Street (Keys House or the Old Coach Office) was originally a three-storied house, with a two-storied rear wing, built apparently in the early 16th century. It was raised by one story and embellished in the mid-17th century, with ovolomoulded ceiling beams and door-frames, fourcentred stone fireplaces, and plaster ceilings decorated with mermaids. The inclined twin gables with pendants and bracketed oriel windows are a distinctive feature of the house. Other houses of 16th-century origin and having twin gables are No. 22 Barton Street and Nos. 91–92 Church Street.

No. 100 Church Street (the Hat Shop) has on the doorhead the date 1664, (fn. 138) which is that of the entire front, with its continuous windows to each of the two stories above the later shop. The whole structure was rebuilt in the mid-17th century except for the chimney-stack and the back wing, which was later truncated. The roof is hipped.

No. 64 Barton Street (the Museum) (fn. 139) was rebuilt about the same time, but incorporates internally the framing of an earlier structure. The enlargement required supporting posts under the projecting bay window to the first floor; the division of that floor into two rooms apparently survives from the earlier house. On the ground floor the room at the east end of the front is panelled with an arcaded frieze, and the second-floor room above it has plaster work of the late 17th century. The house departs from the plan of the traditional side-entry house in having a central passageway between two heated rooms and a staircase, since replaced, in the back wing.

No. 135 High Street retains its early 16th-century carved shafts and curved brackets supporting the overhang by the second and third stories. The fourth story with a hipped roof is a late 17th-century recasting of what was apparently a roof with cocklofts of c. 1600. The internal panelling, the corner fireplaces, and the staircase with twisted balusters were added c. 1680.

The end of the use of timber-framing in the town, at least in the more important buildings, was marked by the refronting in brick of the Tudor House Hotel, High Street, in 1701. At the end of the 17th century plaster pargetting was used to conceal the then unfashionable timber-framing. Cross House was decorated with plaster reliefs in the form of medallions and cartouches, and was given angle quoins; its frontage bore the date 1693. (fn. 140) No. 22 Barton Street retains fragments of pargetting at the back, including a shield emblem; the date 1694 on a fireback inside the house may indicate when the work was done. No. 21 High Street has simulated ashlar ineffectively superimposed on its jettied front. The pargetting on No. 140 High Street (Clarence House) is more restricted but of a high decorative quality. The date 1696 on the front of the Bell Hotel may refer to a former pargetting, but the windowframes and glazing, which seem not to be insertions, are of the later 17th century, and the shallow projection, marked by a plaster cove, at each floor could accord with the date. The character of the timbers at the gable-ends gives support to the idea that the whole building is of one date late in the 17th century.

The Tudor House Hotel, on the west side of High Street, incorporates a timber-framed building probably of the 16th century which was enlarged to the south and with two wings extending backwards in the earlier 17th century. The large panelled room in the older part of the building has features — its size, its height, and opposed doors at the west end — suggestive of a hall; it was presumably the main room of the nonconformist academy that occupied the house in the early 18th century. (fn. 141) The front of the house was rebuilt in brick to a height of three stories, with attics under a hipped roof, a modillion eaves cornice, and mullioned and transomed windows, in 1701. (fn. 142) In the late 19th century a false timber-framed front was superimposed. Much of the internal woodwork, including a fine staircase, is of the mid-18th century, as is also a brick gazebo at the end of the garden. The precise date may be indicated by that on a lead cistern in the garden, 1741, with the initials T.M.K., perhaps for Thomas Kemble (d. 1776) and his wife Margaret. (fn. 143) The stone gateway from High Street to the garden is apparently of the later 17th century.

Nos. 35 and 46 High Street were altered in the early 18th century, in each case to accommodate a spacious flagged entrance hall with staircase in the back wing of a side-entry house of the early 16th century. No. 46 was refronted by underpinning the first floor and cutting back the overhang of the floor above, a drastic method of achieving a vertical frontage that was widely adopted in the town.

New brick houses built in the early 18th century include No. 77 Church Street, a brick house sited in an unusual way at right angles to the street with a small entrance court on its west side. It is typical of 18th-century houses in the town in having angle quoins and projecting brick string-courses interrupted by the key-blocks of the lower windows. No. 97 Church Street, Nos. 138–9 High Street, and the Duke of York Inn, Barton Street, are buildings of similar character. Nos. 78–80 Barton Street (formerly the 'Star and Garter') was built in 1715 (fn. 144) with a wide central carriageway leading to a rear courtyard which retains traces of a balustraded gallery; internally the early 18th-century main staircase and corner fireplaces survive. The Swan Hotel was rebuilt probably c. 1730 with a wide carriageway to the yard beneath a Venetian window. Nos. 39–40 High Street, built slightly later, has a comparatively long frontage, and its central carriageway, below Venetian windows to the two upper floors, suggest that it too may have been an inn; its façade is topped by an eaves cornice and parapet. A parapet was commonly used in the period to conceal the line of an earlier roof, for throughout the 18th century and well into the 19th, new building was less frequent than a refronting in brick with a corresponding refurbishing inside. Characteristic of the larger 18th-century town houses are Nos. 63 and 79 High Street.


  • 1. Bennett, Tewkes. 204.
  • 2. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 47.
  • 3. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 344.
  • 4. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 375.
  • 5. Glos. Colln. 5763 (view of house in Church Street).
  • 6. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii, passim.
  • 7. Ibid. 131.
  • 8. Glos. R.O., P 329/CW 2/1, p. 21.
  • 9. Ibid. 130.
  • 10. T. Hannam-Clark, Drama in Glos. 134.
  • 11. Bennett, Tewkes. 205, 222.
  • 12. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 369; ii. 299, 460.
  • 13. Census, 1871; Proc. Worcs. Naturalists' Club, vii (2), 181.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., DC/F 42.
  • 15. Tewkes. Register and Gazette, 23 Aug., 6 Sept. 1963.
  • 16. See p. 162.
  • 17. Glos. Colln. RX 302.7 (45).
  • 18. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 87.
  • 19. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 371; (1863), 357.
  • 20. Ibid. (1885), 597.
  • 21. Ibid. (1910), 337; (1939), 346.
  • 22. Char. Com. Reg.
  • 23. Inscr. in bldg.
  • 24. Bennett, Tewkes. 204.
  • 25. See p. 152.
  • 26. Glos. R.O., Q/RSf 2.
  • 27. Poor Law Abstract, 1803, 187.
  • 28. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 344–5.
  • 29. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 233 and passim.
  • 30. P.R.O. Index 25526.
  • 31. Bennett, Tewkes. 314–15.
  • 32. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 426.
  • 33. Ibid. ii. 122, 245; cf. 306.
  • 34. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 35. Cf. E. Butcher, Excursion from Sidmouth to Chester (London, 1805), i. 404.
  • 36. Bennett, Tewkes. 205–6.
  • 37. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 46, 126, 163, 199, 251, 299.
  • 38. Bennett, Tewkes. 206, 222.
  • 39. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 231, 237.
  • 40. Ibid. ii. 200.
  • 41. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1910), 337–8; cf. ibid. (1939), 351, which does not mention football, golf, or rowing clubs.
  • 42. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 37.
  • 43. Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rott. 1–1d., 4d.
  • 44. Smith, Men and Armour, 126.
  • 45. Glos. R.O., D 361/X 1.
  • 46. Smith, Men and Armour, 124.
  • 47. Bailey's Brit. Dir. (1784), 456–7.
  • 48. Gell and Bradshaw, Glos. Dir. (1820), 194.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., D 247 (Keen 44); Q/SIb 1, f. 61v.; Westm. Abb. Mun. 55426; for Wm. Sleight see Bigland, Glos. iii; two apothecaries issued tokens: ex inf. Mr. I. E. Gray.
  • 50. Pigot's Dir. (1842), 136–8.
  • 51. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 312.
  • 52. Cal. Pat. 1467–77, 143.
  • 53. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1623–5, 518; cf. Hist. MSS. Com. 12th Rep. App. I, 414.
  • 54. Bailey's Brit. Dir. (1784), 456–7.
  • 55. Gell and Bradshaw, Glos. Dir. (1820), 190.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1910), 335–8.
  • 57. Gell and Bradshaw, Glos. Dir. (1820), 190.
  • 58. Slater's Glos. Dir. (1852–3), 168.
  • 59. Bennett, Tewkes. 203.
  • 60. Glos. R.O., D 1406 (Dipper), Tirley deeds, 1614–1788.
  • 61. E.g. Cat. of Glos. Colln. p. 1236; Pigot's Dir. (1842), 136.
  • 62. Glos. N. & Q. iii. 226–8.
  • 63. Cat. of Glos. Colln. p. 832.
  • 64. Tewkes. Register and Gazette, centenary issue 1958.
  • 65. Ex inf. Mr. E. J. Lavell, editor of the Register.
  • 66. Cat. of Glos. Colln. p. 832.
  • 67. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/20, m. 3.
  • 68. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., poor-rate assessment, 1781.
  • 69. Gell and Bradshaw, Glos. Dir. (1820), 176–94.
  • 70. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 655–6.
  • 71. Licensed Houses in Glos. 1891, 214–17 (excluding offlicences).
  • 72. Cal. Proc. in Chanc. Eliz. I (Rec. Com.), ii. 221.
  • 73. Licensed Houses in Glos. 1891, 214.
  • 74. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., Trans. of Cordwainers' Soc. 1718–1826.
  • 75. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 351; for the buildings see below, p. 130.
  • 76. E 164/39 f. 410.
  • 77. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., Accts. of Cordwainers' Soc. 1599–1625.
  • 78. Ibid. 1677–1733.
  • 79. The buildings of the 'Hop Pole' and the 'Bell' are described below, pp. 126, 131; the 'Mason's Arms' was in the western end of Abbey Cottages (see p. 129) and became the headquarters of the British Legion.
  • 80. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 140–1.
  • 81. P.N. Glos. (E.P.N.S.), ii. 63.
  • 82. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 141n.
  • 83. Licensed Houses in Glos. 1891, 216.
  • 84. Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rot. 6d.; Hockaday Abs. ccclxix, 1542, f. 3.
  • 85. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 141.
  • 86. Licensed Houses in Glos. 1891, 216.
  • 87. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/22.
  • 88. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 656.
  • 89. See p. 133.
  • 90. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/3-16.
  • 91. B.M. Harl. MS. 4131, f. 535v.
  • 92. B.M. Add. MS. 29928, ff. 46–47.
  • 93. For the market buildings at the Cross and those by which they were replaced see p. 118; for the hamlets see p. 122.
  • 94. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, iv. 134, 137.
  • 95. Camden, Britannia, ed. Gough, i. 380.
  • 96. 'Battle of Tewkesbury', Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxx. 102, 110.
  • 97. See p. 131.
  • 98. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 163.
  • 99. See p. 110.
  • 100. See p. 119.
  • 101. Pipe R. 1201 (P.R.S. N.S. xiv), 55.
  • 102. See p. 110.
  • 103. Pleas of the Crown for Glos. ed. Maitland, p. 56.
  • 104. Cal. Lib. 1240–5, 66.
  • 105. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236–1300, 180.
  • 106. Ibid. 1302–58, 89, 148.
  • 107. Ibid. 262, 332; 1359–1413, 3, 95; S.C. 11/249.
  • 108. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxx. 109; cf. Cal. Pat. 1494–1509, 371.
  • 109. See p. 132.
  • 110. See pp. 135–6.
  • 111. Glos. R.O., P 329/IN 1/6.
  • 112. Ann. Mon. (Rolls Ser.), i. 52.
  • 113. Bennett, Tewkes. 125.
  • 114. Cf. 'Outline Hist. of the Abbey House' (duplicated TS. by Paterson & Bishop, chartered architects, 1964; copy in Glos. R.O.), on which the present account draws heavily.
  • 115. See p. 137.
  • 116. See p. 155.
  • 117. As shown by views of the gatehouse (e.g. Lysons's; Buckler's, B.M. Add. MS. 36426, f. 41) before 1849.
  • 118. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 427.
  • 119. 'Outline Hist. of the Abbey House'.
  • 120. H. P. & F. Moore, 'Old Houses of Tewkes.' p. 31, in Notes on Old Tewkes. (W. North, Tewkes. [1890]).
  • 121. Glos. Colln. RF 302.13 (survey).
  • 122. Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rot. 5d.
  • 123. Bennett, Tewkes. 125.
  • 124. Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rott. 4, 5d., 6d.
  • 125. Gent. Mag. 1820, xc (1), 502, 526.
  • 126. See pp. 148, 166.
  • 127. See p. 139.
  • 128. Hockaday Abs. ccclxix.
  • 129. Cal. Pat. 1557–8, 135.
  • 130. See p. 146.
  • 131. See p. 152.
  • 132. Select Coroners' Rolls (Selden Soc. ix), 48: in domo suo noctanter cecidit de gradu solarii.
  • 133. 'Old Houses of Tewkes.' p. 25, in Notes on Old Tewkes. (W. North, Tewkes. [1890]).
  • 134. They are apparently included in the 29 tenements and small tenements recorded between Gander Lane and the Churchyard in 1540: Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rot. 3.
  • 135. For elevations see pl. facing p. 144.
  • 136. The description is based on a measured survey of No. 48 in 1965 and inspection of Nos. 37–40 during partial demolition prior to reconstruction of the terrace in 1967.
  • 137. Cal. Glouc. Wills, 1660–1800, 144.
  • 138. The initials B.K.R. are presumably for Bartholomew and Katherine Read, who had a house in Church Street: G.D.R. will of Bartholomew Read, 1681.
  • 139. See p. 152.
  • 140. 'Old Houses of Tewkes.' p. 25.
  • 141. See p. 165.
  • 142. Date on rainwater heads; Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 441.
  • 143. Bigland, Glos. iii (Tewkesbury mons. col. 8).
  • 144. Date on rainwater head.