A History of Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury is a town rich in both architecture and history. The town actually started off as a resting place for travelers on the highway. A Benedictine monastery was setup in the 11th century. From then on, the town became synonymous with this monastery. Roman Fitz Hamon who built the abbey brought in stone for the construction from Normandy by river. Tewkesbury Abbey is said to be one of Britain’s biggest churches.

For over 300 years, the town was under the control of three families, namely the de Clares, the Fitzhamons and the de Despensers. Tewkesbury also carries the scars of war. It was the site of a fierce battle during the War of the Roses in 1471. It was in this battle that Prince Edward of Wales, son of Henry VI and the Lancastrian cause, was killed.

Another scar in the history of Tewkesbury is a civil war between feuding Norman settlements. This led to a peace charter that was granted by the Earls of Gloucester. Both Edward II and Edward III also later confirmed these charters. Tewkesbury got its incorporation charter, the first one, in 1574. This charter from Queen Elizabeth I confirmed that Tewkesbury was a free borough and went ahead to set up a market on Wednesdays. The Town also got its first Town Clerk. Later, during the civil war, the Queens Charter was lost and a new one to replace it was granted by William III in 1698. It is known as the Charter of Liberties and is currently held for public viewing at Tewkesbury Museum.

By the 17th century, Tewkesbury had developed its own architectural thumbprint on the landscape. This were mainly due to the floods and the increasing population. Most of the buildings were now built with wide and continuous windows on the first floor. Buildings were built taller and alleys constructed in between to access the cottages whenever there were floods. With this structure, it became a town synonymous with overcrowding and poverty.

The town has since shed off this reputation and has become a leading business centre. Newer buildings have come in place of the old ones, though over 200 old buildings remain conserved. In 1967, the local authority designated Tewkesbury as a conserved town so that new buildings were strictly controlled to preserve the valuable image of the old buildings.

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