Tewkesbury in old picture postcards volume 1

Tewkesbury in old picture postcards volume 1

:   Charles Hilton
:   Gloucestershire
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2133-0
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Historie Tewkesbury, in the county of Gloucestershire, lies at the conf1uence of the rivers Severn and Avon. It was known to the Celts, and to the invading Romans who settled at Gloucester, Worcester and Tewkesbury, and linked the three places with a road which bridged the Avon at Tewkesbury. When the Romans left, by 410 A.D., the Saxons filled the gap, and established a manor at Tewkesbury. Brictric was its overlord at the time of the Norman invasion in 1066. William the Conqueror confiscated Brietric's estate and gave it to his wife, Queen Maude. She secured the area, probably by means of a wooden castle on Mythe Hill, a strategie site commanding a view of the bridge over the Avon as well as of the low land to the south and west. Queen Maude encouraged trade and markets, and appointed thirteen burgesses, who were given privileges concerning land-tenure and trade, to collect tolls and dues,

William II granted the manor to Robert FitzHarnon who began the building of the Abbey, and in 1102 also endowed a Benedictine monastery with Abbot Gerard as its head. The Abbey was consecrated in 1123, and thus a large and wealthy monastic manor developed alongside the secular one. For almost four hundred years the secular manor was in the hands of the de Clares, Despensers, Beaucharnps, Nevilles and Warwicks - some of the most powerful barons in the country. The tombs of many of them are in the Abbey, The town developed on the high ground between the rivers Avon and the smaller Swilgate. The large meadow to the west of the town, known as the Ham, was for centuries shared between the two manors for sheep grazing. King J ohn (1199-1216), of Magria Carta farne, played an important part

in the town's history. As Prince John he replaced the wooden bridge over the Avon with a stone-built one, and gave the tolls of the Wednesday and Saturday markets for its upkeep. Completely rebuilt in more recent times, it is nevertheless still known as King John's Bridge.

During Medieval times the privileges of the burgesses we re extended, and by 1327 their numbers had risen to 114. The present-day system of local government evolved from the duties of the burgesses. In 1471 a battle was fought at Tewkesbury between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. The latter were routed, and the site of the conflict is known to this day as 'Bloody Meadow'. This battle ended the so-ealled Wars of the Roses. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 Tewkesbury's monastic property was sold, but the town was able to save the Abbey as its church. Edward VI sold the secular manor, which had reverted to the Crown in Henry VII's reign, and so the rule of the feudal lords came to an end. Soon after, a building boom occurred, and many of Tewkesbury's most interesting houses date from this period of Tudor history. During the Civil Wars of the 17th century, the town was caught between the battling Royalists and Parliamentarians. Trade became depressed, but c1oth-making and mustard manufacture held up.

The next two centuries saw framework-knitting, leatherworking, malting, milling, glove-making, and tanning as prosperous industries and, later, the making of ropes, cottonthread, and nails was added. Improvements were made to roads, and travel by coach becarne general. Coaching inns, where horses were changed and passengers refreshed, becarne a feature of the town. All the while, Tewkesbury had been

growing along the axes formed by High Street, Church Street, and Barton Street, and from 1800 onwards close in-rilling with houses, shops and work-premises took place, especially in the Oldbury at the rear of the High Street. The alleys and courts, formerly the old pathways alongside the plots ofland (burgages) owned by the burgesses, were retained and built up very much as we find them today.

The Severn had for centuries been a busy river, its boats carrying coal, corn, iron, and general cargoes. With improved roads, and a new bridge at the Mythe in 1826, the town's small but busy port began a slow decline. A branch railway line, an extension to Malvern from Tewkesbury, was opened in 1861. The quay had already been linked by a rail track from the station and, for a time, the river trade was given a further . stimulus. Eventually, however, the port lost its cargoes to the quicker service provided by the railway systern. Nevertheless, the Borough Mill (Healings), established in 1865, continued to ship corn by the Severn, and some is conveyed in this way even today,

There was litt1e new building in Tewkesbury between 1850 and 1930. This had the fortunate result of ensuring the survival of the earlier buildings, most of which have now been given statu tory proteetion by the Ministry of the Environment. In 1887 a writer said of the town: ft is little more than a village of 5000 inhabitants. At the end of its tall, gabled houses you step into meadows and find yourself wandering by the banks of rivers and narrow, high-banked lanes, glorious with wild flowers. and thickly grown with [erns. The writer had convenient1y ignored the fact that Tewkesbury typified the small market town, with numerous family shops

stocking everything required by the householder. Only after the Second World War have the big multiple stores moved in and industrial sites been established.

The Avon has always been a popular river for fishing, pleasure-boating and yachting, and facilities for these activities have been increased during the present century. Tewkesbury's fine examples of Medieval, Tudor, and Georgian architecture, make it an attractive centre for tourists. lts Wednesday and Saturday markets, though changed in character, are busy, and so are the main shopping streets. Until the turn of the century, photographs were not as comrnonly used in newspapers as now, but local amateur and professional photographers captured events on their own cameras. Many photographs were done up as postcards, especially those with scenic or architectural appeal.

It is these which now open a window on events between 1880 and 1930.

Acknowledgements, with thanks, are made to the following for their help with illustrations: 6, 73, Mrs. L. Bell; 67, Miss V. Bowen; 7, 15, 19, Mrs. E. Dixon; 27, 51, 68, Mrs. A. Finnigan; 61, Mr. H. Farmiloe; 9, 21, 40, 43, 74, Mrs. F. Gittos; 3, 8, 10, 11, 32, 36, 44, 45, 46, 63, 64, Mrs. M. Hayward; 52, 59, Mrs. J. Hayward ; 26, Borough MiJl (Healings); 4, 5, 14, 17, 18, 29, 30, 34, 35, 39,41,49,53, 55, 56, 57, 58,,66, Mrs. N. Newman; 24, 54,60,65,69,71, 75, Gloucestershire Records Office; 23, 25, 31, 38, 76, Gloucester Reference Library.

Thanks are also due to Mrs. L. White for her invaluabie help and interest, and to many others for their active support.

1. A suitab1e starring-point in a tour of Tewkesbury is its Abbey church. It was consecrated in 1121, and is now highly regarded because of its fine Norman architecture. This 1895 view gives a true impression of how the massive tower dominates its surroundings. In 1877, Williarn Manis, the great Pre-Raphaelite writer and artist, was able to halt some ill-conceived aspects of its restoration through his protest in The Times newspaper. The publicity which fol1owed led to the founding of the Society for the Proteetion of Ancient Buildings. The Abbey's most prominent features are the massive tower and the arch at its western front ... 65 feet high and 34 feet wide. The Perpendicular-style window set within the arch was built in 1686, but its stained-glass is the gift of the Reverend Charles Grove, made in 1886. It contrasts pleasantly with the 14th century stained-glass in the windows of the clerestory.

2. The interior of the Abbey is impressive because of the huge circular piers of the Norman nave. Like most Norman churches its original roof was of wood, but the tower and nave were vaulted in the mid-14th century. Monuments form an important architectural feature within the church, especially the chapels of Robert FitzHamon and the Despensers, and the curious Wakeman Cenotaph. A copy of the canopy of the latter embellishes the throne of the House of Lords. There are two organs, the Milton organ, dating from about 1580 and acquired by the Abbey in 1737, and the Grove organ, a memorial to Queen Victoria's Jubilee given by the Reverend Charles Grove in 1887. 1t has recently been restored, and may be heard when guest organists are invited to give recitals.

3. This is a view of the town, in 1892, taken from the top of the Abbey tower. In the distance lies Bredon Hili, a favourite subject for writers and artists, and a popular place for picnics in Edwardian times. The building dominating the skyline on the left is the Borough Mill (Healings), and the river beside it is the New Avon, cut in Medieval times to divert water from the Old Avon to power the Abbey Mills further south. On the right of the photograph is the small river Swilgate, and the town lies huddled on the high ground between it and the New Avon. The street running radiaIly from the centre is Church Street. A view from the summit of the Abbey tower today will reveal many changes, not least the disappearance of all the taIl chimneys, but the Severn and Avon valleys, the Malvern HiIls and the Cotswold Hills remain as beautiful as ever.

4. Until wel! into the present century the view from the top of the Abbey tower was extensively over open countryside. In summer, cat tie and sheep grazed in the meadows or rested within the shade of the many tall elm trees which were a striking feature of the dividing hedgerows. The meadow here, beside the Abbey, in 1909 was devoted to farming interests. The cobbled cut to the water's edge allowed cattle, sheep and horses to drink from the River Swilgate. In late autumn and winter the river of ten floods, but more recent preventive measures have kept the Abbey safe. In 1770, however, such an event happened, and the whole of the Abbey floors and all of Church Street nearby were under water. The meadow is still used for its hay, but others adjoining it have been tumed into leisure and sports' grounds.

5. The Bell Hotel, opposite the Abbey gates, occupies the site of an earlier hostelry for pilgrims to the Abbey in Medieval times. Here, in 1895, it is seen as a timber-framed building with a double overhang and three gables. The date, 1696, above its entrance, is the year in which major a1terations were made, for parts of it are of a much earlier period. By the beginning of the present century it had become famous as Abel Fletcher's House in Mrs. Craik's novel 'John Halifax, Gentleman'. She is said to have stayed at the Bell and used the town as a setting for her characters. The Tewkesbury Brewery Company supplied the hotel with their ales and stout. The notice in the wind ow by the entrance advertises that a horse and trap are for hire. The adjoining house was for some time the home of the headmaster of the Grammar School, but was pulled down many years ago to make way for a car park.

6. The building on the left of the Bell Hotel is the Old Grammar School, built in 1906. Many scholars will have cause to be grateful for the education they received there. It functioned on this site for forty-six years before traffic-noise and the need to expand led to its removal to Southwick Park. The building beside the Bell now serves as the Public Library. Tewkesbury has had a long tradition of grammar school education, for the first school was founded in 1576 in premises adjoining the Abbey church. In the Town Charter, granted by William III in 1698, it is listed as 'the free grammar school of William Ferrers', a London mereer and its chief benefactor. Most likely he was an old scholar of the school. In 1972 the Grammar School for Boys and the High School for Girls were amalgamated to form a Comprehensive School in new buildings to the east of the town.

7. During the two decades following the publication of Mrs. Craik's novel, from which Tewkesbury gained much publicity, local drama groups of ten staged episodes from the book, while others met together in their homes for a series of readings from it. It was aperiod when literary societies Ilourished, and popular authors had their followers just as pop-groups have today. Dickens was particularly remembered in the town because he associated the Royal Hop Pole Hotel with his characters from Piekwiek Papers. Similarly, Mrs. Craik had her admirers since she linked her characters with many places in the town. Public pageants usually included people who dressed themselves up as the characters in the books. During and after the 1914-1918 War this kind of adulation weakened as society adopted new sets of values and wider interests.

8. Within the grounds of the Bell Hotel was a famous Bowling Green. The monks of the Benedictine monastery probably laid it out and played on it throughout Medieval times and beyond. It is still spoken of as the Monks' Green by a few of the older citizens of Tewkesbury. The County Bowling Match shown here is between Oxford and Gloucester, and was held on July 9th, 1912. The fact that county matches were played here indicates that the green was kept in first-class condition. Not without interest is the dress of the participants as they pose for the photograph.

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