Tewkesbury (/ˈtjksbəri/ TEWKS-bər-ee) is a market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It stands at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon, and also minor tributaries the Swilgate and Carrant Brook. It gives its name to the Borough of Tewkesbury, of which the town is the second largest settlement. It lies in the far north of the county, forming part of the border with Worcestershire.


Tewkesbury Abbey
Location within Gloucestershire
Population19,778 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceSO8932
 London94 miles (151 km) ESE
Civil parish
  • Tewkesbury
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townTewkesbury
Postcode districtGL20
Dialling code01684
AmbulanceSouth Western
EU ParliamentSouth West England
UK Parliament

The name Tewkesbury comes from Theoc, the name of a Saxon who founded a hermitage there in the 7th century, and in the Old English language was called Theocsbury.[2][3] An erroneous derivation from Theotokos (the Greek title of Mary, mother of God) enjoyed currency in the monastic period of the town's history.

The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses.


Nearby places


At the 2011 UK census the Tewkesbury parish had a population of 10,704. If the neighbouring parishes of Wheatpieces (3,577), Northway (5,080) and Ashchurch Rural (957) are added, the figure rises to 20,318. The Tewkesbury urban area is divided in two by the north-south running M5 motorway, opened in February 1971. However, the town is generally considered as the built-up area to the immediate east and west of the M5 at junction 9, with the town centre, abbey and old town situated to the west. The close proximity of large areas of land that are prone to flooding, as evidenced by the severe floods that struck the region in July 2007, would make further expansion difficult. However, the present Borough of Tewkesbury, created on 1 April 1974, also contains a large portion of rural north Gloucestershire, extending as far as the edges of Gloucester itself and also Cheltenham, and has a present population of 81,943.[4]


The town features many notable Medieval, Tudor buildings, but its major claim to fame is Tewkesbury Abbey, a fine Norman abbey church, originally part of a monastery, which was saved from the Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII after being bought by the townspeople for the price of the lead on the roof to use as their parish church.[5] Most of the monastery buildings, as well as the vineyards, were destroyed during this time. The Abbey Mill however still remains, resting upon the Mill Avon, a channel allegedly built by the monks. This channel represents one of the biggest projects in Tewkesbury's history, though the present weir dates only from the 1990s, replacing two sluice gates installed in the 1930s. The Abbey Mill is also sometimes known as "Abel Fletcher's Mill", but this is simply the name given to it in Dinah Craik's novel John Halifax, Gentleman, whose setting Norton Bury is based on Tewkesbury (see the Tewkesbury in Literature section below).

The abbey is thought to be the site of the place where the hermit Theoc once lived. The great Romanesque arch on the west front is particularly striking, and the stained glass window at that end has been restored. The monastery was founded by the Despensers as a family mausoleum, and the Despenser and Neville tombs are fine examples of small-scale late medieval stonework.

The tower is believed to be the largest Norman tower still in existence (though that at Norwich Cathedral is another strong contender). The tower once had a wooden spire which may have taken the total height of the building to as much as 260 feet (79 m), but this was blown off in a heavy storm on Easter Monday 1559; the present pinnacles and battlements were added in 1600 to give the tower a more "finished" look. The height to the top of the pinnacles is 148 feet (45 m). The abbey is thought to be the third largest church in Britain that is not a cathedral (after Westminster Abbey and Beverley Minster). From end to end it measures 331 feet (101 m), though prior to the destruction of the original Lady Chapel (also at the time of the dissolution), the total length was 375 feet (114 m). The abbey is a parish church, still used for daily services, and is believed to be the second-largest parish church in England, again, after Beverley Minster.[6]

Tewkesbury claims Gloucestershire's oldest public house, the Black Bear, dating from 1308,[7] although this is currently closed and for sale with its future as a pub in doubt.[8] Other notable buildings are the Royal Hop Pole Hotel in Church Street (which has recently been converted into a part of the Wetherspoons pub chain with the discovery of a former medieval banqueting hall in the structure), mentioned in Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers, the Bell Hotel, a large half-timbered structure opposite the Abbey gateway, and the House of the Nodding Gables in the High Street.

The Abbey Cottages, adjacent to Tewkesbury Abbey, were built between 1410 and 1412. They were restored 1967 to 1972 by the Abbey Lawn Trust, a building preservation charity. They house the John Moore Museum, residential homes and commercial offices. The John Moore Museum was established in 1980 in memory of the writer and naturalist, John Moore. The museum consists of three buildings: the main John Moore Museum, home to an extensive Natural History collection; the Merchant's House, restored to its Tudor appearance; and the Old Baptist Chapel. The Old Baptist Chapel, located off Church Street, is a timber-framed building, formally a medieval hall house dating to the 1480s. Sometime in the 17th century, it was converted[9] for use as a Nonconformist meeting house. Including the original baptistery and pastor's room, the building is of significant historic interest. The building was restored to its 1720 appearance in the 1970s by Tewkesbury Borough Council. It was further renovated and interpreted in 2015 by the Abbey Lawn Trust and is used as a venue for a variety of cultural events. Behind the chapel is a small cemetery for those who were members of the congregation. This includes the grave of William Shakespeare-Hart, fifth great grand nephew of William Shakespeare.[10] The cemetery is managed by Tewkesbury Borough Council.

Just to the west of the town is Thomas Telford's impressive Mythe Bridge over the River Severn, a cast-iron structure with a 170-foot span, opened in 1826. Tewkesbury's other notable bridge is the stone-built King John's Bridge over the Avon, commissioned by King John in the late 12th century as part of improvements to the main road from Gloucester to Worcester. Original stonework can still be seen on its north side; the bridge was widened in the mid-to-late 1950s to meet traffic requirements.


Modern Governance

Tewkesbury Town Council
Cllr Christine Danter
Deputy Mayor
Cllr Terry Walker
Town Clerk and RFO
Mrs Debbie Hill
Seats16 Councillors
16 / 16
Multiple non transferable vote
Last election
7 May 2015
Next election
2 May 2019
Meeting place
Town Hall, 18 High Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5AL

The Town of Tewkesbury is located within the Non-Metropolitan County of Gloucestershire and forms part of the Tewkesbury Urban Area. Civil Parishes of Tewkesbury Town, Wheatpieces and Northway form the Tewkesbury Urban Area. The Tewkesbury Town Civil Parish is the largest Parish within the Urban Area and is the location of the Deveraux Centre, Tewkesbury Community Hospital, Tewkesbury Leisure Centre, Tewkesbury Borough Council Public Services Centre and the main shopping streets.

The Town Council (not to be confused with Tewkesbury Borough, which covers a wider area than Tewkesbury Town) has 16 members from the 4 wards of Town with Mitton, Newtown, Priors Park, and Mythe who are elected every four years. Councillors were last elected in 2015, with all councillors sitting as independents. The Mayor of Tewkesbury Councillor Christine Danter is the civic head of the Council and chairs meetings of the Full Council. The Council also appoints a Deputy Mayor who supports the Mayor in their duties and often succeeds to the office of Mayor in the following civic year. The Council was formally established in 1974 following the dissolution of the municipal borough of Tewkesbury but continues to occupy the same premises and maintains the same civic role within the Town.

Following the 2019 Local Elections, the Town Council will continue to be formed of 16 members representing 3 wards of Tewkesbury North, Tewkesbury South and Newtown. The boundaries of these new Town Council Wards will mirror the new Tewkesbury Borough Wards of Tewkesbury North with Twyning, Tewkesbury South and Tewkesbury East. The Gloucestershire County Council divisions of Tewkesbury and Tewkesbury East will be unchanged by the new Ward Boundaries at the Town and Borough Councils.

Tewkesbury is also covered by Tewkesbury Borough Council (district level) and Gloucestershire County Council. Tewkesbury is part of the wider Tewkesbury constituency for elections to the House of Commons and is represented in the European Parliament as part of the South West England constituency in the European Parliament.

Through the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972, a new District Council was created comprising the pre-1974 Tewkesbury Borough, Cheltenham Rural District and parts of Gloucester Rural District. In May 1973 a joint committee of the predecessor Councils recommended that a new Royal Charter be applied for. This Royal Charter conferring Borough Status was granted on 27 February 1973 and took effect on 1 April 1974. By virtue of this Charter the Borough appoint a Mayor and Deputy Mayor which results in there being two Mayors covering Tewkesbury at different level of government. The Borough Mayor being the first citizen of Tewkesbury Borough and the Town Mayor being the first citizen of the Town itself.

Historical Governance and Town Mayoralty

The following table lists the Mayors of Tewkesbury between 1836 and 1973. After 1973 both Tewkesbury Borough and Tewkesbury Town Council have appointed the Borough Mayor and Town Mayor respectively. The date of the Mayors Election changed from November to May in 1947/48 during the term of office of J.O. Martin JP.

Table 1: Tewkesbury Mayors between 1836 and 1973.
1836 J.B. Lewis JP
1837 C. Porter JP
1838 S. Healing JP
1839 C. Porter JP
1840 R.Phelps
1841 C. Porter JP
1842 J. Packer
1845 I. Gregory
1846 J. Richards
1847 H.P. Strickland
1848 H.E. Strickland
1849 N. Chandler JP
1852 W.L. Chandler JP
1854 H. Brown M.P.
1856 S. Healing M.P.
1857 G. Banaster
1858 F.J. Prior JP
1859 T. Weaver JP.
1860 F.J. Price JP
1861 S. Hitch
1864 W. Allard JP
1865 G. Blizard
1866 J.F. Prosser JP
1868 G. Blizard
1869 I. Nind
1870 J. Hanford
1871 W.G. Healing
1872 J.F. Prosser JP
1873 F. Thomas
1874 J.F. Prosser JP
1875 A. Healing
1876 J.H. Boughton
1877 J.F. Prosser JP
1878 J.H. Boughton
1879 J.F. Prosser JP
1881 W.G. Healing
1882 M.C. Smart
1883 J.H. Boughton JP
1886 B.T. Moore JP
1888 E. Thomas JP
1890 T. Collins JP
1891 M.C. Smart
1892 T. Collins JP
1896 T.W. Moore JP
1897 A. Baker JP
1898 A. Baker JP
1899 W.E. Hayward
1900 T.W. Moore JP
1902 C.C. Moore JP
1903 P.A. Pike
1904 L. Jones JP
1905 G.M. Rice
1906 J. Willis
1908 G.C. Bayliss
1909 F.W. Godfrey
1910 A. Baker JP
1912 W.H. Hayward
1914 G. Hone JP
1915 H. Bishop
1917 C.W. Jones
1918 A. Baker JP
1920 W.T. Boughton JP
1923 G.P. Howell JP
1925 W.T. Boughton JP
1929 G.P. Howell JP
1930 L.L. Stroud
1931 R.A. Gaze
1935 S.C.J. Moulder JP
1937 R.A. Gaze
1941 Rev. H.G. Brown
1945 H. Crouch
1946 J.O. Martin JP
1949 F.H. Knight JP
1952 T.G. Bannister
1956 W. Bettany
1957 F.H. Knight
1958 W.E. Lane
1960 H.O. Workman
1962 L.G. Marston
1964 P.K. Holding
1966 G.S. Brown
1967 G.M. Workman (Mrs)
1968 J.R. Griffiths
1969 G.P. Long JP
1970 L.A. Webster M.C.S.P
1972 M.R. Shepard (Mrs)
1973 F.J.O. Martin JP


Tewkesbury is served by Ashchurch for Tewkesbury railway station.[11] It was the last mainline station in Gloucestershire to be reopened after British Rail was fragmented into Railtrack.

The first station was opened by the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway in 1840 and was sited in the High Street. It was replaced in 1864 by a new station built for the Tewkesbury and Malvern Railway. This closed on 14 August 1961, when the Ashchurch to Upton-on-Severn passenger service was withdrawn by British Railways (through trains to Great Malvern had previously ceased in December 1952). Freight traffic continued until final closure in December 1964.

Road transport

Tewkesbury is served by the M5 and M50 motorways and the A38 and A46 trunk roads. There are frequent direct buses to Ashchurch for Tewkesbury railway station and to Cheltenham. Other direct bus services include Gloucester and Evesham. Congestion on the A46 around Ashchurch and junction 9 of the M5 is being addressed through a series of road works starting in 2014.[12]


In Newtown, Tewkesbury 10 per cent of all work trips are made by bicycle.[13] There are some bicycle paths in the built up area of Tewkesbury.


Festivals and fairs

  • In February Tewkesbury holds a Winter Beer Festival, organised by the Tewkesbury branch of CAMRA.
  • Since 2005, an annual Food and Drink Festival has been held, in or near the Abbey grounds.[15]
  • On the second full weekend of July the town hosts Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, "Europe's largest battle re-enactment and fair". Thousands of re-enactors travel to the town from around the world to re-enact the Battle of Tewkesbury near to the original battle site. The festival includes a "living history" recreation of a medieval encampment, games, food and a large fair where re-enactment clothing, furniture and weaponry can be purchased. In 2008 the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary.
  • In July the Water Festival takes place with events on the river and the banks including an evening procession of lit boats ending with a firework display. The festival started in 1996 but its future is now in question due to funding issues and the 2006 event was much reduced in scale. The event was cancelled in 2007 as it coincided with the Summer 2007 Flood (it went ahead later in the year). The event was scheduled for 2008 on Saturday, 20 September, but was again cancelled due to flooding in the weeks prior to the event.
  • In October the town holds the annual mop fair. Originally a hiring fair where people came to seek employment, the event is now a large travelling funfair taking over much of the centre of town. The fair itself is also an underlining point of Tewkesbury's industrial past, as Walker Gallopers were produced in the area by Walkers in the early 20th century.[16] The fair is organised by The Showmen's Guild of Great Britain (Western Section)[17]
  • Every year at the end of July and into August the Abbey hosts a festival of liturgical music entitled Musica Deo Sacra (Music Sacred to God).[18]

Cultural references

  • Victorian author Dinah Craik (1826–1887) visited Tewkesbury in 1852, and later set her most famous work John Halifax, Gentleman (pub. 1857) in the town, calling it Norton Bury in the book. There is a "Craik House" in Church Street, near the Abbey, but Mrs Craik never lived there and had no other connection with Tewkesbury. There is a memorial to her in the Abbey's south transept.
  • Author John Moore (1907–1967) was born and lived in Tewkesbury. He set his novel Portrait of Elmbury (pub. 1945) as a "fictionalised biography" of Tewkesbury, the town being the "Elmbury" of the book. Another of his books, Brensham Village (pub. 1946) used nearby Bredon as its basis. A local museum has been named after him.
  • A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad also mentions Tewkesbury, as well as nearby Bredon Hill, even though neither place is in Shropshire.
  • The opening scene of the 1995 film version of Richard III takes place at the Field Headquarters of King Henry's army at Tewkesbury.

Notable people

Sports and recreation

  • Tewkesbury has one of the 471 King George's Fields as its recreation ground.
  • The football club, Tewkesbury Town FC have three men's teams in the Saturday Cheltenham Leagues, two teams in the Evesham Birdseye Sunday Leagues, a Veterans team for ages 35+ in the Gloucestershire North County League and hold weekly training sessions for Ladies in preparation for starting a team in the 2014/15 season. They are holders of the Gloucestershire County Cup as well as the Evesham Bluck cup, Pershore Hospital cup, are Evesham League Division 3 Champions and are the Evesham Leagues Team of the Year 2012/13.
  • The cricket team, Tewkesbury Cricket Club 1st XI play in the Glos/wilts Division of the West of England Premier League.
  • The rugby team, Tewkesbury RFC, plays Rugby Union in Gloucestershire Division One and has gained promotion to Gloucester Division Premiership
  • The running club, Tewkesbury AC compete in local, national and international running events.
  • Cheltenham College Boathouse is situated at Lower Lode
  • Facilities at Tewkesbury School are used as a public sports centre for swimming, gym, squash and other sports.
  • The Tewkesbury lawn green Bowling Club plays in the Gloucestershire men's and ladies leagues.

Twin town

Tewkesbury Borough is twinned with Miesbach in Bavaria, Germany.[19] Tewkesbury Town has had a sister city relationship twinned with Tewksbury Township, New Jersey, United States of America since 2003.


  1. "Tewkesbury (Gloucestershire, South West England, United Kingdom) - Population Statistics, Charts, Map, Location, Weather and Web Information". www.citypopulation.de.
  2. Toulmin Smith L., ed. 1909, The Itinerary of John Leland, London, IV, 150
  3. Open Domesday Online: Tewkesbury
  4. Tewkesbury Borough Council – Statistics Archived 18 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. C. J. Litzenberger, ed. Tewkesbury Churchwardens' Accounts, 1563-1624 (Stroud, Gloucester: 1994) vii.
  6. Jenkins, Simon (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches. p. 228.
  7. Pub-explorer.com. Pub-explorer.com.
  8. Secret meetings, codes & community: the story of the Old Baptist Chapel in Tewkesbury - official guidebook, ISBN 978 1 78442 134 2, published 2015
  9. "William Shakespeare's family roots traced to Tewkesbury". 29 January 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  10. "Ashchurch and Tewkesbury District Rail Promotion Group". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 June 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Gloucestershire Local Transport Plan 2015-2031". Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  13. Tewkesbury Grammar School 1576 – 1972, Paul Fluck, Grenfell Publications 1987
  14. Archived 6 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. Anthea Jones Tewkesbury
  16. "Showmen's Guild of Great Britain Central Office". Showmensguild.co.uk.
  17. "Musica Deo Sacra".
  18. "Bavarian twin has much in common with sibling". Gloucester Citizen. Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
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