The borough of Tewkesbury: Local government

Pages 146-153

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

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In the Middle Ages the main organ of local government within the town was the lord's court. The Abbot of Tewkesbury, however, also exercised extensive privileges, so that there was an interweaving of jurisdictions; and the existence of some of the features of a corporate borough before 1575, when the town achieved corporate status in law, made local government more complex. The borough corporation, succeeding to the title of the lords of Tewkesbury, had unusually full franchises, and had its own court of Quarter Sessions. The facts that the borough covered, from 1610, the whole area of the parish, and that the bailiffs, burgesses, and commonalty of the town had bought the abbey church from the Crown, also gave the borough more influence than it would otherwise have had in matters that belonged properly to the parish.

Seignorial government, liberties, and customs. The manor of Tewkesbury included the whole area of the liberty or hundred of Tewkesbury. The inhabitants of the town did not attend the court of the liberty, called Tewkesbury manor court, though the inhabitants of the Mythe and Southwick did. (fn. 1) There was a separate court for the town, called Tewkesbury borough court, which also had view of frankpledge. Rolls of only two sessions of that court are known to survive, for the views of 1532 and 1533, (fn. 2) but the court continued to serve as the borough's court of record; draft rolls survive for 1698–1704, 1730–69, (fn. 3) and 1809–52. (fn. 4) In 1532–3 the court received presentments of offensive trading and of the conferring of the freedom of the borough; it heard pleas of trespass and debt; and it appointed officers, 2 bailiffs, 2 constables, 2 serjeants, 2 meatinspectors (cardavatores), and 2 ale-conners. (fn. 5)

The Earls of Gloucester claimed extensive franchises in Tewkesbury, (fn. 6) but only because Tewkesbury was part of the liberty, and the earl's franchises were no wider in the town than in the hundred of Tewkesbury. (fn. 7) The abbots of Tewkesbury, however, claimed special jurisdiction in their Tewkesbury estates — view of frankpledge, waif, infangtheof, and toll in right of a grant by Robert FitzHamon, and quittance of shire and hundred in right of a charter of Henry I. (fn. 8) In 1273, in answer to the question whether the abbot had imprisonment and judgement of thieves in his fee, it was said that he ought to have the imprisonment and judgement of all his men in the town; (fn. 9) in 1287 one-third of the town belonged to the abbot's fee, and he had two views of frankpledge there. (fn. 10) The conflict of jurisdictions is likely to have been considerable; in 1540 a serjeant-at-mace for the abbey fee was appointed, in addition to those appointed in the borough court, to keep the peace. (fn. 11) The abbot's barton in 1540 included a prison for transgressors within the abbey's fee. (fn. 12) A prison in Tewkesbury mentioned in 1287 (fn. 13) was presumably the town prison. In 1547 the prison of the hundred was in the building called the earl's barton that gave its name to Barton Street. (fn. 14)

The Abbot of Tewkesbury's court for his manor of Tewkesbury Barton was mentioned in 1535, (fn. 15) and rolls survive for 1545 and 1546. (fn. 16) Of the other manors in the parish, Lord Craven's manor of the Mythe had a court at the court house there in 1652, (fn. 17) but no rolls are known to survive.

The customs of the borough derived from privileges granted to the burgesses in the 12th century by Earls William and Robert; the privileges were confirmed by Gilbert de Clare's charter of 1314 which was itself confirmed by royal charter of 1337. They touched on tenure, trading, and courts: they established the burgages as heritable and alienable freeholds, quit of relief and heriot; they gave freedom from tolls and the right to exclude outsiders from the burgess community; and they made the burgesses subject to their own borough court, instead of to the hundred, with the right to nominate bailiffs and tithingmen. (fn. 18) The burgesses owed the lord certain customary dues: in addition to market tolls, which amounted to between £2 and £4 a year in the 14th century, there were customs called fulstale or fynstall, which may have been connected with a customary drinking, and stallage, for the right to erect stalls at market-time. Fulstale and stallage together produced up to £1 16s. in the 14th century, (fn. 19) but in the 16th were represented by fixed yearly payments of 1s. 7½d. and 2s. 4d. respectively. The market tolls were then represented by a variable yearly payment of under £1 called the toll of the pyx. (fn. 20) In 1496 the Crown confirmed the town's quittance of a custom called 'tensell', (fn. 21) the nature of which is not clear. (fn. 22) In 1519 the town's status as ancient demesne was confirmed. (fn. 23)

The borough corporation. The privileges granted to the burgesses in the 12th century, especially those of having their own court, of being able to exclude outsiders, and of appointing officers or representatives, which are mentioned above, are the first indications that the town had a kind of corporate character in the centuries before it achieved corporate status in 1575. In the early 16th century it was said that the town had collected and enjoyed the market tolls given by King John for the repair of the Long Bridge. (fn. 24) From 1201 to 1208 the rents and dues of the town, then paid to the Crown, were a fixed yearly sum of £12 described as the farm of the borough, (fn. 25) but from 1208 to 1211 the sum was £16 a year and was said to be for assized rents. (fn. 26) Perhaps in the 14th century and certainly in the late 15th and early 16th what the lords of the town received for tolls was only part of what the traders in the market paid. (fn. 27) For the collection and expenditure of income the town had officers in the form of the bailiffs mentioned in the 12th-century privileges. In 1235 the Crown addressed a mandate to the bailiffs of Tewkesbury, (fn. 28) and the two bailiffs frequently witnessed deeds about property in the neighbourhood. (fn. 29) It is not clear whether in addition to the bailiffs there was any corporate or representative body outside the borough court, in which the bailiffs and other officers were appointed; (fn. 30) grants of protection to the burgesses and commonalty of Tewkesbury (fn. 31) and of pavage to the bailffs and good men of Tewkesbury, (fn. 32) and a reference to the common chest of the bailiffs and burgesses, (fn. 33) show either that there was such a body or that the borough court was in many of its functions independent of the lord and his steward. In the early 16th century the bailiffs, burgesses, and inhabitants claimed that certain of them, called 'tensiall men', had held the borough with its liberties and franchises at fee farm. (fn. 34) It is to be noted, however, that Tewkesbury was not described as a borough in 1316 (fn. 35) and was not taxed as a borough.

In 1575, at the request of the Earl of Leicester, (fn. 36) the Crown granted Tewkesbury its first charter of incorporation, partly on the grounds that the existing borough officers could not execute their duties within the abbey fee in the town. The charter established a common council comprising the two bailiffs and 12 principal burgesses named in the charter, a self-renewing body that was to make bylaws to govern the tradesmen and other inhabitants of the town. The bailiffs were to hold a court of record every Friday for pleas of debt up to 40s. The bounds of the borough were defined — roughly, the area bounded by the Mill Avon, the Carrant brook, the eastern boundary of the parish, and the road to Ashchurch and the River Swilgate — and the first town clerk was appointed. (fn. 37) In addition to the bailiffs and the town clerk, the burgesses chose from among their own number a chamberlain (there were two until 1580) to act as treasurer, gave the Earl of Leicester the title of high steward, and employed intermittently a beadle of beggars. The borough corporation did not acquire the manor of Tewkesbury and the lordship of the town until 1610, but the burgesses appear to have assumed the functions of the former borough court, and the officers which that court had once elected were chosen by the common council; not only constables and serjeants but also churchwardens and surveyors were regarded as borough officials. (fn. 38)

From James I the town received two charters. The first, in 1605, confirmed the former incorporation and the former liberties, and raised the number of principal burgesses from 12 to 24 and the limit for the borough court of record from 40s. to £30. The borough was to have custody of orphans and, more important, a separate coroner and sessions of the peace, the justices being the two bailiffs and two others of the principal burgesses. (fn. 39)

James's second charter to the town, in 1610, (fn. 40) greatly enlarged the franchises. It was granted on the same day as the sale to the town of the manor and borough of Tewkesbury. (fn. 41) The charter of 1610 added to the 24 principal burgesses a body of 24 assistant burgesses, increased the number of justices from four to six, with an inhibition to the county justices from intermeddling in the affairs of the town or parish, and raised the limit for the court of record to £50. The borough was to have a gaol, in the keeping of the bailiffs, a free school, (fn. 42) and the power to press and to train and muster within the borough. For the first time the borough was to be represented in parliament. (fn. 43)

The charter of 1610 also enlarged the borough to extend over the whole hundred and liberty of Tewkesbury. Although that was comparable with the way in which other boroughs, such as Gloucester, included within their legal bounds large rural areas, the authority and jurisdiction of the borough council and officers outside the confines of the parish of Tewkesbury were nebulous and never clearly established. The extent of the borough as defined in 1610 was confirmed by charters of 1686 and 1698, but the charter of 1686 went to the length of adding to the borough the village of Walton Cardiff, (fn. 44) which was already in the hundred and therefore, in theory, in the borough. In 1700 an action of trespass at Bourton-on-the-Hill was heard in the borough court of record, and judgement was given and executed; similar actions from remote parts of the hundred were also heard in the same court, but the borough corporation did not maintain that geographical breadth of jurisdiction. (fn. 45) No evidence has been found that Tewkesbury tried in other ways to exercise its jurisdiction as a borough outside the parish, for example in training militia (fn. 46) or excluding the county justices: its claim to the lordship of a manor of Bourton-on-the-Hill (fn. 47) was a matter of tenure, not of jurisdiction, and the rights claimed in the parishes of Tewkesbury hundred in the 18th and 19th centuries derived from the leet jurisdiction of the hundred court, which was the property of the borough. (fn. 48) It was difficult enough for the borough to preserve its rights in the rural parts of Tewkesbury parish, where in the late 17th century the county justices successfully levied a rate. (fn. 49) Despite the wording of the charters, from the early 18th century the effective bounds of the borough were the bounds of the parish.

The Tewkesbury sessions of the peace survived into the mid-20th century. (fn. 50) The recorder, whose office was established by the charter of 1698, was added to the six justices, of whom two were the bailiffs, (fn. 51) of the earlier charters. In 1716 an assize judge said that the Tewkesbury justices in Quarter Sessions ought not to continue to hear appeals, on questions of parochial liability, between Tewkesbury and other parishes. (fn. 52) The gaol which the borough was allowed to have under the charter of 1610 was kept from 1612 (fn. 53) in the lower part of the belfry tower that stood north of the abbey church, (fn. 54) which in 1582 the justices had ordered should be adapted as a house of correction for half the county. (fn. 55) In 1621 one of the serjeants at mace undertook the keeping of the gaol and gave security to the bailiffs, an unprecedented step, for his doing so. (fn. 56) By 1734 there was a separate office of keeper of the gaol. (fn. 57) The use of the prison may not have been continuous, for in 1674 the gaoler of the county gaol at Gloucester was ordered to receive no more prisoners from Tewkesbury because Tewkesbury had refused to contribute towards the maintenance of prisoners in the county gaol and the Crown prisons, although it had so contributed until a few years before. (fn. 58) In 1704 the belfry was still being used as the town gaol, (fn. 59) and it continued to be so until 1816 when a new gaol in Bredon Road was built under an Act of 1813. (fn. 60) A treadmill was in use in the new gaol in 1828; (fn. 61) in 1830 82 people were committed to the gaol, and 235 in the year 1836–7; (fn. 62) at the census of 1841 there were 11 inmates. (fn. 63) The gaol was closed in 1854, and from then prisoners from Tewkesbury went to the county gaol at Gloucester. (fn. 64)

The function of the 24 assistants to be elected under the charter of 1610 is not altogether clear. In 1639 a by-law stated that the assistants were to have equal voices with the principal burgesses in most matters, but not in elections or in other matters committed by charter to the principal burgesses. (fn. 65) The charter of 1686 replaced the bailiffs, 24 principal burgesses, and 24 assistants with a mayor and 12 aldermen, but the charter of 1698 restored the earlier arrangement, the bailiffs and 24 principal burgesses forming the common council. (fn. 66) Having no precise function, the office of assistant was superfluous, but before it fell into disuse it had become customary for the principal burgesses to be chosen from among the assistants, and when, from the mid-18th century, there had ceased to be a body of assistants, men chosen as principal burgesses were sworn as assistants immediately before being sworn as principal burgesses. (fn. 67)

The borough corporation regulated the trade of the town not only through its control of the markets and fairs but also through the authority it exercised over the guilds or companies (fn. 68) and through its power to admit to the freedom of the borough, without which it was illegal to follow a trade in the town. In 1639 a by-law was made that no one was to live in the town more than a month unless he were a freeman. The qualifications for freedom were inheritance, by the son born first after the father had become a freeman, or completed apprenticeship, or purchase. The corporation also conferred the freedom gratis on some distinguished people. In the late 17th century the corporation attracted particular trades to the town by limiting its right to grant the freedom of the borough to other people of those trades. Despite its indebtedness, the corporation does not appear to have exploited the freedom as a source of revenue, although it was resolved in 1639 that no stranger should be allowed to buy his freedom for under 20s. (fn. 69)

By its purchase of the manor and borough in 1610 the corporation incurred large debts. Part was represented by a 'great bond' of £1,500 to a Mr. Ferrers, which was redeemed in 1614 (fn. 70) apparently by the sale to William Ferrers of the reversion of Severn Ham. (fn. 71) Even so, in 1617 Eleanor Hatch, daughter and administratrix of John Barston, a former town clerk who had borrowed £1,800 at the request of the corporation, was imprisoned for debt and compelled to assure lands of her own to a creditor, while the corporation declined to make any recompense. (fn. 72)

In 1620 three of the principal burgesses and assistants, who presumably observed Saturday as the Sabbath of the Old Testament, (fn. 73) were warned that they would be removed from office if they would not acknowledge the Fourth Commandment, and one of them failed to make such acknowledgement. (fn. 74) In 1662, under the Corporation Act, the Lord Lieutenant of the county removed from office 13 members of the corporation, including one of the bailiffs, and also the town clerk, and replaced them with his own nominees. (fn. 75)

During the Civil War the town's charter had been lost, and the corporation, having failed to get a renewal of the charter in 1658, (fn. 76) was anxious about the security of its legal status until an exemplification was obtained in 1672. (fn. 77) In 1686 the charter was surrendered and a new one granted. (fn. 78) After the Revolution the town continued for some months to be governed under the charter of 1686: the surrender of the former charter had been enrolled and was in theory not annulled by James II's Proclamation of 1688. Town government, however, was subject to confusion and disputes, (fn. 79) and appears to have lost its effectiveness in 1689 or 1690. (fn. 80) A warrant for a new charter was issued in 1695, (fn. 81) and the charter was granted in 1698. (fn. 82)

In 1734 the number of officers of the corporation suggests that utility was already yielding to ceremonial pomp. Draft court rolls list the lord high steward, under-steward, two bailiffs, two bailiffs elect, recorder, deputy recorder, principal burgesses and assistants, four constables, bailiff of the hundred, two serjeants at mace, keeper of the gaol, beadle, and water-bailiff. (fn. 83) Apart from these officers, the town clerk, chamberlain, and coroner (fn. 84) were not listed presumably because they had no function in the borough court, though they were more active in running the affairs of the town than most of those who were listed. In the mid-18th century a town crier signed the charity accounts along with other officers of the manor, borough, and parish. (fn. 85)

The income of the corporation at that period came largely from tolls, which yielded nearly £200 a year. It was greatly reduced in the early 19th century when the corporation lost the right to collect tolls on the whole quantities of corn sold in the market by sample, and the cost of the successive legal proceedings about that right had put the corporation heavily in debt. (fn. 86) In 1828 the debt amounted to £6,000, compared with an annual income of little over £20. The creditors then agreed to accept a settlement of 6s. 8d. in the £, and £2,000 was advanced on the security of a mortgage by John Edmund Dowdeswell, recorder and M.P. for the borough. (fn. 87) From 1781 to 1837 attempts were made to exploit the financial possibilities of reviving the borough corporation's leet jurisdiction as lord of Tewkesbury manor and hundred. Courts were held until 1852 for the borough and until 1850 for what was then described as Barton hundred, but the effectiveness of the courts, both as organs of local government and as sources of income, appears to have been negligible. (fn. 88) The chief property of the corporation, comprising the market house and the 12 houses in the Bull Ring called Gloucester Place, had already been let on long leases. In 1830 the corporation's income, derived mainly from tolls on livestock sold in the fairs and markets, was barely sufficient to pay the salaries of the officers. (fn. 89) By 1835 the town clerk's salary (excluding fees of less than £100 a year) had been reduced from £35 to £10, the chamberlain's was £8, and the serjeants at mace, who received small fees, each got a salary of 5 guineas. (fn. 90)

Street Commissioners. In 1786 an Improvement Act appointed a body of street commissioners for the town, whose functions in maintaining and lighting the streets and in removing nuisances and encroachments (fn. 91) overlapped those of the borough court and the corporation. The need for such an Act may indicate the ineffectiveness of the existing institutions, but it does not seem that the street commissioners, whose authority did not extend to the Mythe, Southwick, and Oldbury field, were much more effective: (fn. 92) although watching was included among their powers, an ad hoc committee was established to employ and supervise a watch. (fn. 93) In the early 19th century vacancies in the commission were seldom filled and attendance was poor: though there was provision for more than 80 commissioners there were only 21 in 1847, and often too few attended to achieve the quorum of five. (fn. 94) In 1847 and 1848 the commissioners increased their own numbers, (fn. 95) and they tried to initiate improvements, (fn. 96) but without, it seems, much success. In 1850 they spent a little over £400 a year on lighting, scavenging, and repairing streets and culverts, and employed a surveyor at £12 and a clerk at £10 a year. (fn. 97) In 1848 there had been a proposal that the town council should adopt the Public Health Act, (fn. 98) and the functions of the street commissioners came to an end in 1850 when the council acquired the powers of a local board of health. (fn. 99)

Parish government and poor relief. In the late 17th century the parish officers included 4 churchwardens and 4 overseers of the poor, (fn. 100) and there were 4 churchwardens in 1723. (fn. 101) In 1758 there were 2 churchwardens and 4 overseers, (fn. 102) and in the same period there were also 4 surveyors of highways. (fn. 103) The churchwardens and surveyors were treated in the town's by-laws of 1608 as officers of the borough corporation, (fn. 104) and the relief and supervision of the poor were functions of the borough. In 1623 the corporation made regulations to restrict overcrowding and a consequent increase in the number of poor, and the duty of the beadle of beggars appointed in 1616 was to keep vagabonds out of the town. (fn. 105) About 1630 it was alleged that the poor in Tewkesbury numbered over 500, (fn. 106) and a great increase in the number in 1638 and 1639 gave rise to a new regulation, that the name of a pauper might not be entered in the poor book, to qualify him for relief, without the assent of three of the borough bailiffs and justices and three of the churchwardens and overseers. In 1650 or 1651 the bailiffs procured from Lord Coventry £200 to be a permanent stock for setting the poor to work. (fn. 107)

In 1724 the vestry resolved that the parish might establish a workhouse, refusal to enter which would disqualify a pauper from relief, (fn. 108) but no record of a workhouse before the middle of the century has been found. In 1756, following a resolution that a workhouse was absolutely necessary, the vestry ordered that a house in Millbank offered by Sir William Strachan should be fitted up as a workhouse, and a contract for its keeping was made with Richard Allen, a glover. (fn. 109) The name Workhouse Alley, off Barton Street, recorded in 1849, (fn. 110) alludes to another workhouse, but whether it was in use before or after the one set up in 1756 is not known. In 1792 an Act of Parliament incorporated the 'guardians of the poor', a body composed of the leading inhabitants, from whom were to be chosen nine 'directors of the poor', who were entrusted with all the functions of poor relief. Under the Act (fn. 111) a new workhouse was begun in 1792 or 1793 (fn. 112) and completed in 1796. (fn. 113) It is a large red-brick building, south of Holm Bridge, which ceased to be a home for old people in 1955 and became simply a hospital. (fn. 114)

The inmates of the workhouse worked at stockingknitting in the early 19th century, (fn. 115) but the sale of their work produced little in proportion to the expenses of the poor: £119 in 1803 (fn. 116) compared with total expenses — which had been under £200 in 1723 and under £700 in 1768 — of more than £2,000. (fn. 117) In 1802–3 regular outside relief was given to 93 people, 83 were in the workhouse, and 302 were occasionally relieved. (fn. 118) There were 77 people in the workhouse in 1834, when in one week 233 heads of families received outside relief; it was then said that outside relief was generally cheaper than relief in the workhouse, and the directors of the poor favoured giving relief in the form of a loan because the recipient who failed to repay a loan was debarred from applying for further relief for some time. (fn. 119) In 1833, when £3,143 was spent on the poor, the highest figure for 12 years, (fn. 120) the increase was attributed to an outbreak of cholera. (fn. 121) In 1835 the parish became part of the Tewkesbury Poor Law Union, (fn. 122) to which the workhouse was sold in 1837. (fn. 123)

The reformed borough. The Municipal Corporations Act left Tewkesbury with a borough corporation comprising a mayor, aldermen, and councillors, numbering 16 in all, with authority over an area coextensive with the parish. A borough Quarter Sessions was granted in 1836, and there were eight justices apart from the recorder, mayor, and ex-mayor. The town gaol and exemption from county rates also survived reform. (fn. 124) The responsibilities of the town council were increased in 1850 when an Act of Parliament gave the council the powers of a local board of health. (fn. 125) The borough Quarter Sessions were abolished under the Justices of the Peace Act of 1949, (fn. 126) and the office of borough coroner in 1965. The town clerk became a full-time officer in 1944. (fn. 127) In 1964 the corporation was responsible for housing, the cemetery, water-supply, and sewage disposal, and it ran a children's swimming-pool and a museum. (fn. 128) Those and services provided by other bodies are outlined below.

Public services and public health. For a considerable period the River Avon served as Tewkesbury's chief water-supply and as its chief sewer. Reference to a stone-walled part of the Avon's bank in 1557 as the 'waterdrawyng' shows that water was being taken from the river, (fn. 129) as it was for domestic use in 1850 by those many households which had no well, were far from the three public pumps, and could not beg from neighbours. A report of 1850 describes in detail the way in which water was taken in cooking vessels from below the point where sewage was drained into the river. (fn. 130) The borough council, as local board of health, supplied water from the works (fn. 131) built for Cheltenham Borough at the Mythe Bridge in the 1870's. (fn. 132) By 1921 piped water want to 900 out of 1,173 houses in the parish, the remainder getting their water from wells generally not suitable for drinking purposes. (fn. 133)

The by-laws made by the corporation in 1608 included regulations, seemingly of no great efficacy, for the disposal of refuse. (fn. 134) The first drainage system in the town was built between 1825 and 1831, but the sewage ran untreated into the Swilgate, which had not enough water, and the Avon, which passed close by many of the houses and from which drinking-water was taken. In addition the greater part of the town, and particularly the courts and alleys, remained undrained. (fn. 135) Nearly one-fifth of the alleys, containing nearly 200 houses, had no privies, and the condition of all of them was said to be 'exceedingly filthy and unwholesome'. (fn. 136) The borough council afterwards began to improve conditions and built a sewage works by Lower Lode Lane, below the confluence of the Swilgate and the Mill Avon. (fn. 137) Another works was built at Newtown, but the whole sewerage system was essentially evolved from that started in the early 19th century. In the 1940's conditions were described as 'appalling'. (fn. 138) Later, improvements were made, and new sewage works by Lower Lode Lane provided for the whole town.

The insanitary conditions of the town in the 19th century and earlier, in which overcrowding combined with a damp, low-lying situation and the problems of water-supply and drainage, made Tewkesbury an unhealthy town. In the early 16th century an epidemic or 'great death then reigning in the town' made it necessary to double the amount normally spent out of a charitable endowment on finding a priest, presumably to bury the dead. (fn. 139) Thirty people died from an epidemic in 1578, but 560 in 1591–2. There were minor epidemics in 1593 and 1598, and in 1604 plague allegedly brought up the river from Bristol by trowmen (fn. 140) was credited with the deaths of 31 out of 51 people buried between February and May. (fn. 141) In 1624 the bailiffs, who in 1579 had put suspected houses in quarantine, (fn. 142) established a pesthouse in Oldbury field and limited to under 20 the deaths from what had threatened to be a severe outbreak. (fn. 143) Many deaths from fever were recorded in the years 1727–9, and in 1741 (fn. 144) and 1758 there were outbreaks of smallpox. (fn. 145) In 1832 a board of health was formed to counter a threatened attack of cholera; when the disease reached the town the board established a temporary hospital in the Oldbury and set up soup-kitchens; 76 people died. (fn. 146) Another cholera epidemic killed 54 people in 1849. (fn. 147) The next year the inspector of the General Board of Health noted the unusually high death rate of the town. (fn. 148)

A public dispensary was established in Tewkesbury in 1815, (fn. 149) and it survived (fn. 150) until the era of the National Health Service. Its endowments, and those of the trust for distributing dispensary tickets, under the will of Charles William Grove (proved 1896), were directed, by Schemes of 1954 and 1959, to the general benefit of the sick poor. (fn. 151) A permanent hospital, the Tewkesbury Rural Hospital, was opened in the Oldbury in 1865, and treated 60 patients in its first year; (fn. 152) the number of beds rose from 10 in 1885 to 26 in 1910. (fn. 153) It originated as a voluntary hospital, and was placed under a joint hospital board of the borough and Tewkesbury Rural District that was established in 1910 (fn. 154) and abolished in 1938. (fn. 155) In 1934 the building in the Oldbury, which later became the municipal offices, was replaced by a new building with 22 beds off Barton Street. (fn. 156) In 1964 the Barton Street hospital, called Tewkesbury Hospital, was used for acute cases, while Holm Hospital — the former workhouse — had 65 beds for chronic cases; both hospitals were under the Cheltenham Hospital Group Management Committee. (fn. 157) By 1901 the borough corporation had opened an isolation hospital (fn. 158) in Gloucester Road, (fn. 159) which was replaced in 1910 when the joint hospital board took over the isolation hospital in Elmstone Hardwicke parish. (fn. 160)

In 1856 a burial board was formed for the parish and opened the graveyard south of the town. (fn. 161) The graveyard was enlarged from 8 a. to 16 a. in 1880 (fn. 162) and includes a part for Roman Catholics. By 1935 the borough council acted as burial board. (fn. 163) The abbey church was closed for burials in 1855, its churchyard in 1857, and Holy Trinity church and churchyard in 1867. (fn. 164)

The borough by-laws of 1608 provided that the principal burgesses, innkeepers, taverners, chandlers, and victuallers should hang lights outside their houses every winter evening when there was no moon. (fn. 165) The street commissioners set up in 1786 were responsible for lighting the streets, (fn. 166) and after the formation of the Tewkesbury Gas Light Co. in 1832 (fn. 167) the streets were first lit by gas in 1833. (fn. 168) In 1850, however, only one of the alleys had a lamp and few more than 100 houses were connected with the gas mains. (fn. 169) The gas company, with its works at the north end of Oldbury Road, was formally merged with the Cheltenham Gas Co. Ltd. in 1931. (fn. 170) The borough council was empowered to generate and supply electricity by an Act of 1905, (fn. 171) but three years later it transferred the undertaking to the Tewkesbury Electric Light Company, (fn. 172) which became a subsidiary of the Shropshire, Worcestershire & Staffordshire Electric Power Co. (fn. 173) In 1921 the electricity works were beside the Mill Avon behind St. Mary's Lane. (fn. 174)

For police purposes the town was divided in 1596 into five wards; Bridge ward, Church ward, and Barton ward each had a petty constable in charge, while St. Mary's ward had two and Middle ward was under the direct supervision of two high constables. (fn. 175) The division into wards survived until the end of the 17th century at least, (fn. 176) and in 1672 there were apparently still two high constables. (fn. 177) By 1734, however, there were four constables; (fn. 178) they were concerned only with the town, for the tithings of the Mythe and Southwick had their own tithingmen (in the 16th century) (fn. 179) or constables (in the 17th). (fn. 180) In 1831 a public meeting in the town appointed a committee empowered to maintain, by subscription, a paid constabulary that was to keep watch at night during winter. (fn. 181) Under the Municipal Corporations Act the town council established a police force, and in 1839 provided a police station in the enlarged town hall. (fn. 182) In 1850 the watch committee employed an inspector and four constables. (fn. 183) The force was merged with the county constabulary in 1869, (fn. 184) and the police station was moved to the former town gaol in Bredon Road, (fn. 185) which was converted for use as a police station in 1882–3. (fn. 186)

The borough corporation, which in 1608 had made by-laws for the prevention of fires, (fn. 187) acquired a fireengine in 1734 as a gift from Viscount Gage. (fn. 188) Whether or not the corporation was effective as a fire-fighting authority, in 1756 two fire-engines were bought by subscription, (fn. 189) and engines and other equipment were apparently maintained and replaced when necessary by subscription until 1836, when they were placed under the care and control of the town council. (fn. 190) In 1839 the council provided for a fire-engine house in the enlarged town hall. (fn. 191) In the late 19th century the fire station was in Sun Street, (fn. 192) and afterwards in Mill Street, (fn. 193) in the former abbey barton, until a new station was built for the county fire service in 1951 on the site of the former theatre in Oldbury Road. (fn. 194)

By 1964 the borough council had provided 744 houses and flats. (fn. 195) The children's swimming pool, near the Swilgate Bridge, was opened by the corporation in 1957; (fn. 196) the museum, in a timberframed house rebuilt in the 17th century (fn. 197) (No. 64 Barton Street), which contains a collection that bears mainly on the history of Tewkesbury and the neighbourhood, was opened in 1960. (fn. 198) A post office was established in the town, in High Street, by 1820. (fn. 199)

Seals and insignia of the borough. A deed of 1651 bears an impression, poorly made and broken, of the borough seal, circular, 1¼ in. in diameter, with the legend, only partly legible,
SIGILLUM COMMUNE BURG . . . TEUKESBURY in humanistic lettering, and the device of an embattled gateway flanked by turrets. (fn. 200) Impressions are recorded of a circular seal in use in the reign of Charles II, with an engrailed cross in the centre and the legend
SIGILLUM OFFICII BURGI DE TEWKESBURIA in roman lettering, and of a smaller but similar seal with the same device on a shield and the legend
SIGILLUM OFFICII BURGI DE TEWKESBURY which was in use in 1797. (fn. 201) Between the periods when those seals were used, in 1698, 1737, and 1785, the borough seal was a circular one, 21/8 in. in diameter, bearing as a device an embattled gateway flanked by turrets and with the legend in roman letters
COMUNE SIGILLUM BALLIVORUM BURGENSIUM ET COMMUNITATIS BURGI DE TEWKESBURY The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth words of the legend are larger and appear to have been inserted, (fn. 202) suggesting that the matrix had been struck when the bailiffs and burgesses were replaced by a mayor and aldermen under the borough charter of 1686 and altered when the offices of bailiffs and burgesses were restored by the charter of 1698. (fn. 203) Although a new seal with a similar device and the legend
MUNICIPII TEUKSBURIENSIS COMMUNE SIGILLUM MDCCCXXXV was acquired after municipal reform, possibly in 1837, (fn. 204) and used in 1859, (fn. 205) by 1882 the corporation was using a circular seal 11/8 in. in diameter (fn. 206) with the same device and legend as the seal used in 1698, 1737, and 1785, and by 1895 that seal itself was the official seal of the borough. (fn. 207) Its matrix, then in the town clerk's office, was not to be found in 1964. The borough then had a stamp with a similar device and legend.

Borough of Tewkesbury. Gules a cross engrailed or, on a chief per pale argent and gules a castle proper flying from each flanking turret a flag counter charged between two roses counter charged barbed and seeded proper. [Granted 1964]

The two town maces have the hall-marks for 1646–7; the crown of the smaller mace is later than the mace itself, and may have replaced the original crown when both maces were repaired in 1733. (fn. 208) In 1878 Capt. W. E. Price, who had been M.P. for Tewkesbury for 10 years, gave the corporation a gold mayoral chain and badge, the badge bearing the embattled gateway that was represented on the seals and regarded as the characteristic emblem of the town. (fn. 209) The town bore no arms until 1964 when it received a grant through the generosity of Sir George Dowty. The arms include references to the abbey, the town's seals, the battle of Tewkesbury, and (in the crest, supporters, and compartment) to the preConquest origins of the town, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Sir George Dowty, the Earls of Coventry, the Dukes of Beaufort, and the rivers Severn and Avon. (fn. 210)


  • 1. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/1–23.
  • 2. Ibid. 20, m. 3.
  • 3. Ibid. D 361/X 1.
  • 4. Worcs. R.O. 705:139/10, 20 (BA 1365); the last group of drafts represents an attempted revival.
  • 5. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/20, m. 3.
  • 6. E.g. Pleas of the Crown for Glos. ed. Maitland, p. 58; J.I. 1/278 rot. 50d.
  • 7. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 253.
  • 8. Ibid. 246
  • 9. Dugdale, Mon. ii. 83.
  • 10. Plac. de Quo Warr. 253.
  • 11. Glos. R.O., P 329/MI 1, rot. 9d.
  • 12. Ibid. P 329/MI 1, rot. 10; cf. rot. 6.
  • 13. J.I. 1/284 rot. 14. It is doubtful whether the reference to a prison at Teukebyri in Cal. Close, 1288–96, 4, is to Tewkesbury.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., D 621/E 1, pp. 1–5.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 479.
  • 16. S.C. 2/175/3 ff. 4–5, 33; S.C. 2/176/17.
  • 17. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 17.
  • 18. Cal. Chart. R. 1327–41, 424–6.
  • 19. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1301–58, 95, 149, 263, 333; 1359–1413, 3; S.C. 11/249. In the first of these references fulstale and stallage are rendered as scotale and fulstale.
  • 20. S.C. 12/8/4 f. 4; cf. D.L. 29/638/10362 rot. 3. For buildings connected with the markets see above, p. 118.
  • 21. Cal. Pat. 1494–1509, 102, where the word is rendered 'teusell'.
  • 22. Possibly 'tensell' is to be connected with 'tinsel' in its meaning of loss or damage; or with 'tenser' — an inhabitant who is not a freeman of the town — and 'tenserie' — a payment paid to the lord for protection: O.E.D.
  • 23. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii (1), p. 96.
  • 24. Leland, Itin. ed. Toulmin Smith, iv. 137.
  • 25. Pipe R. 1201 (P.R.S. N.S. xiv), 54; 1202 (P.R.S. N.S. xv), 280; 1203 (P.R.S. N.S. xvi), 40; 1206 (P.R.S. N.S. xx), 17; 1207 (P.R.S. n.s. xxii), 219; 1208 (P.R.S. n.s. xxiii), 114.
  • 26. Pipe R. 1211 (P.R.S. N.S. xxviii), 67.
  • 27. See above.
  • 28. Close R. 1234–7, 42.
  • 29. Brasenose Coll., Oxford, Southwick deeds, 3; Cal. Close, 1468–76, p. 220; B.M. Add. Ch. 40793; Balliol Coll., Oxford, deeds F. 2.5–6; Cat. Anct. D. i, C 979; Hockaday Abs. ccclxix, 1542.
  • 30. Glos. R.O., D 184/M 14/20, m. 3.
  • 31. Cal. Pat. 1324–7, 343.
  • 32. E.g. ibid. 1338–40, 321; cf. above, p. 110, n. 23.
  • 33. Hockaday Abs. ccclxix, 1519.
  • 34. Sta. Cha. 2/31/118. The word 'tensiall' may be connected with 'tensell': see above, n. 78.
  • 35. Feud. Aids, ii. 272.
  • 36. Bennett, Tewkes. 42–43.
  • 37. C 66/1133 m. 21. The charter is printed in abstract in Bennett, Tewkes. 378–81, where the year is wrongly given as 1574.
  • 38. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. vols. i–ii.
  • 39. The charter is printed in abstract in Bennett, Tewkes. 381–2.
  • 40. The date is wrongly given as 1609 in Bennett, Tewkes. 382, where an abstract of the charter is printed.
  • 41. Bennett, Tewkes. 334–6.
  • 42. See p. 165.
  • 43. See p. 153.
  • 44. Bennett, Tewkes. 383, 390.
  • 45. Ibid. 212.
  • 46. The inhabitants of the town in 1618 refused to be mustered by the Lord Lieutenant, because they claimed the right to be mustered by the bailiffs: Acts of P.C. 1618–19, 252; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611–18, 599. In 1639 the bailiffs asked leave to muster and train the inhabitants: Hist. MSS. Com. 4th Rep. App. 317.
  • 47. V.C.H. Glos. vi. 200.
  • 48. Worcs.R.O. 705: 139/9–10 (BA 1365).
  • 49. Glos. Q.S. Archives, 66–67.
  • 50. See p. 150.
  • 51. Bennett, Tewkes. 396, 398.
  • 52. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 4 (Mich.).
  • 53. Willcox, Glos. 1590–1640, 210n.
  • 54. See p. 125.
  • 55. Bennett, Tewkes. 307.
  • 56. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 57. Glos.R.O., D 361/X 1.
  • 58. Ibid. Q/SO 1, f. 72.
  • 59. B.M. Lansd. MS. 989, p. 21.
  • 60. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 357; Bennett, Tewkes. 219.
  • 61. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 8.
  • 62. Ibid. 51, 328.
  • 63. Census, 1841.
  • 64. Glos. R.O., Q/AG 28/2; QT/S, 13 Jan., 31 Mar. 1854, & sqq.
  • 65. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. vol. ii.
  • 66. Bennett, Tewkes. 383, 393–4.
  • 67. Ibid. 213; cf. 1st Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. H.C. 116, App. I, p. 125 (1835), xxiii.
  • 68. See Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxv. 166–9.
  • 69. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. iii–v.
  • 70. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 71. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 39.
  • 72. Acts of P.C. 1616–17, 404.
  • 73. Cf. p. 187.
  • 74. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii.
  • 75. Bennett, Tewkes. 420n.
  • 76. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1658–9, 99, 152, 274.
  • 77. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 78. Bennett, Tewkes. 210, 383.
  • 79. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. c. 2, f. 142.
  • 80. Bennett, Tewkes. 422 and n. There is a gap in the records of the corporation, 1689–98.
  • 81. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1694–5, 462–3.
  • 82. Bennett, Tewkes. 387–415.
  • 83. Glos.R.O., D 361/X 1.
  • 84. Cf. 1st Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. H.C. 116, App. I, p. 125 (1835), xxiii.
  • 85. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 86. See p. 141.
  • 87. 1st Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. p. 127.
  • 88. Worcs. R.O. 705:139/9–10, 20 (BA 1365).
  • 89. Bennett, Tewkes. 215.
  • 90. 1st Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. p. 125.
  • 91. 26 Geo. III, c. 17.
  • 92. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health on . . . Tewkes. (1850), 9–11.
  • 93. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 71.
  • 94. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 11.
  • 95. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 203.
  • 96. E.g. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 347.
  • 97. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 11.
  • 98. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. ii. 340.
  • 99. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 358.
  • 100. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 101. Hockaday Abs. ccclxxi.
  • 102. Glos. N. & Q. ii. 473–4.
  • 103. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 104. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii.
  • 105. Ibid.
  • 106. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1629–31, 445.
  • 107. Giles Geast char. bk.; Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii.
  • 108. Glos. R.O., P 329/CW 2/2, f. 63.
  • 109. Ibid. ff. 204–6.
  • 110. Ibid. Q/RZ 1.
  • 111. An Act for the better Relief and Employment of the poor of . . . Tewkesbury, 48 Geo. III, c. 70.
  • 112. Glos. R.O., D 1137/3.
  • 113. Bennett, Tewkes. 221.
  • 114. Glos. R.O., CW/M 8/2, p. 364; see below, p. 151.
  • 115. Rudge, Hist. of Glos. i. 145.
  • 116. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 186–7.
  • 117. Bennett, Tewkes. 220–1.
  • 118. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 186–7.
  • 119. Rep. Com. Poor Laws [44], H.C. (1834), xxxi–xxxiii, pp. 201b–d.
  • 120. Poor Law Returns, H.C. 83, p. 72 (1830–1), xi; H.C. 444, p. 71 (1835), xlvii.
  • 121. 1st Rep. Com. Mun. Corp. H.C. 116, App. I, p. 127 (1835), xxiii.
  • 122. Poor Law Com. 2nd Rep. p. 524.
  • 123. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ix.
  • 124. Cf. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 9.
  • 125. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 358.
  • 126. Glos. Q.S. Archives, 67.
  • 127. Ex inf. the town clerk.
  • 128. Municipal Yr. Bk. (1964), 1149–50.
  • 129. Cal. Pat. 1557–8, 135.
  • 130. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 13, 17.
  • 131. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1889), 912.
  • 132. Ibid. (1879), 762.
  • 133. Richardson, Wells and Springs of Glos. 203.
  • 134. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii.
  • 135. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 13.
  • 136. Ibid. 14–15.
  • 137. Marked on O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XII. 13 (1886 edn.).
  • 138. Payne, Glos. Survey, 238.
  • 139. Chantry Certificates, Trans. B.G.A.S. viii. 282.
  • 140. Bennett, Tewkes. 306–9.
  • 141. Glos. R.O., P 329/IN 1/1.
  • 142. Bennett, Tewkes. 306.
  • 143. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 144. Ibid.
  • 145. Glos. N. & Q. ii. 473.
  • 146. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 104–8.
  • 147. Ibid. ii. 397–8.
  • 148. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 8.
  • 149. Glos. Colln. RX 302.7 (15–16).
  • 150. E.g. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 346.
  • 151. Char. Com. Reg.; Char. Com. files.
  • 152. Rules and Report of the Tewkesbury Rural Hospital, (Glos. Colln. (H) C 4.4).
  • 153. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 597; (1910), 331.
  • 154. Loc. Govt. Bd.'s Prov. Order Confirmation (No. 1) Act, 1910, 10 Edw. VII & 1 Geo. V, c. 78 (local act).
  • 155. Glos. R.O., CL/O 8/38.
  • 156. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 346.
  • 157. The Medical Dir. (1964), ii. 2939, 2942.
  • 158. Census, 1901.
  • 159. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1906), 329.
  • 160. See p. 52.
  • 161. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., burial board mins.
  • 162. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1885), 596.
  • 163. Ibid. (1935), 327.
  • 164. Lond Gaz. 1855, p. 475; 1857, p. 9; 1867, p. 16.
  • 165. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii; cf. Trans. B.G.A.S. vii. 96n.
  • 166. Manual of Glos. Lit. ii. 357.
  • 167. Cat. of Glos. Colln. p. 832.
  • 168. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 127.
  • 169. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 12.
  • 170. Index to Priv. and Local Acts, 1801–1947, p. 686.
  • 171. Electric Lighting Orders Confirmation (No. 5) Act, 1905, 5 Edw. VII, c. 113 (local act).
  • 172. Ibid. (No. 3) Act, 1908, 8 Edw. VII, c. 117 (local act).
  • 173. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 342.
  • 174. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XII. 13 (1923 edn.).
  • 175. Bennett, Tewkes. 307–8.
  • 176. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. c. 2, f. 142.
  • 177. E 179/247/14 rot. 20d.
  • 178. Glos. R.O., D 361/X 1; cf. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 179. Ibid. D 184/M 14/1–20.
  • 180. Ibid. Q/SIb 1, ff. 34, 47v., 64, 144, 144v.
  • 181. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 71.
  • 182. Ibid. 433.
  • 183. Rep. to Gen. Bd. of Health, 9.
  • 184. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., watch cttee. mins.
  • 185. Glos. R.O., Q/AP 21/2 Easter 1881.
  • 186. Ibid. Q/AP 29; DC/SJ 61.
  • 187. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., minutes etc. ii.
  • 188. Bennett, Tewkes. 311.
  • 189. Giles Geast char. bk.
  • 190. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 311.
  • 191. Ibid. 433.
  • 192. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1889), 918.
  • 193. Ibid. (1906), 332; (1939), 347.
  • 194. Glos. R.O., DC/F 42.
  • 195. Municipal Yr. Bk. (1964), 1149.
  • 196. Date on bldg.
  • 197. See p. 130.
  • 198. Char. Com. Reg.
  • 199. Gell and Bradshaw, Glos. Dir. (1820), 187.
  • 200. Glos. Colln., Walton Cardiff deeds (Dowdeswell fam.), agreement of 1651.
  • 201. Jewitt and Hope, Corporation Plate and Insignia, i. 255.
  • 202. Tewkes. Boro. Recs., cordwainers' charter; Glos. R.O. D 760/17; Worcs. R.O. 705:82/6 (BA 1553). A woodcut of a similar seal, but with no variation in the size of the letters of the legend, is in Visit. Glos. (priv. print. 1884), 215.
  • 203. See p. 149.
  • 204. Tewkes. Yearly Reg. i. 352.
  • 205. Glos. Colln. RQ 302.12.
  • 206. Glos. R.O., Q/AP 29.
  • 207. Jewitt and Hope, Corporation Plate and Insignia, i. 255.
  • 208. Ibid. pp. xl–xli, cxxiv, 253–4.
  • 209. W. H. Spurrier, Notes on a gold chain of office presented to the corporation (Tewkesbury, 1878).
  • 210. Programme of presentation of the arms by Sir George Dowty [1964]. The cross engrailed that is associated with the abbey is believed by some to be a 'cusped cross', a form otherwise unknown, in which there is a single lozenge-shaped swelling on each arm of the cross. Representations of such a cross, on stone and glass in the abbey church, give some support to the belief.