Saturday, 1 August 2009

Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Tewkesbury (pronounced /ˈtjuːksbri/) is a town 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.
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 tongue was called Theocsbury

Tewkesbury is named after the Saxon hermit, Theoc, who is thought to have founded a hermitage there in the 7th century. Evidence of a church predating the abbey suggests that a considerable settlement rose up on the site previous to the Norman Conquest. Evidence of monastic buildings from the years immediately following the conquest can still be seen surrounding the abbey, which was begun in 1090 and consecrated on 23 October 1121.

Tewkesbury was the site of the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471. At the “Bloody Meadow,” south of the town, Edward IV's Yorkist forces defeated the House of Lancaster in a historic battle of the Wars of the Roses with a bloody aftermath. Tewkesbury was incorporated during the reign of Elizabeth I.
Like many towns in the west of England, Tewkesbury played an important part in the development of religious dissent. Tewkesbury dissenters contributed to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, and Samuel Jones ran an important academy for dissenters, including Samuel Chandler, future archbishop Thomas Secker and Joseph Butler, in the early 18th century.
Historically, Tewkesbury is a market town, serving the local rural area. It underwent some expansion in the period following World War II, and today has a small but significant high technology industry. Tewkesbury has also been a centre for flour milling for many centuries, and the water mill, the older Abbey Mill still stands though it has now been converted for residential use. Until recently flour was still milled at a more modern mill a short way upriver on the site of the town quay; parts of the mill dated to 1865 when it was built for Healings and it was once thought to be the largest and most modern flour mill in the world. The Mill has, in the course of its history, had three forms of transport in and out: road, railway, and canal and river barge. Whilst the railway line was brought up along with the rest of the Tewkesbury to Upton-upon-Severn, the two barges "Chaceley" and "Tirley" remained in service right up to 1998 transporting grain from Avonmouth and Sharpness to the plant, a practice that originated in the 1930s. However, the mill closed in November 2006, ending at least 800 years of milling in Tewkesbury and 140 years of milling on that particular site. The two barges were also sold and left Tewkesbury for the last time in March 2007.
The town also hosts a large Armed forces vehicle supply and maintenance depot at nearby Ashchurch. The town suffered from some decline in the early 1990s, with a few local shops and businesses closing, which included the town's Roses Theatre which re-opened in 1996.


Tewkesbury flooded in July 2007

The area around Tewkesbury is frequently affected by flooding. In general such flooding causes little damage to property as the town is surrounded by large areas of floodplain which restrict urban development and the ability for the town to spread. However, extreme flooding events have caused damage to property and affected transport links, the most significant events occurring in 1947, 1960 and 2007.

2007 Floods
In July 2007 the town came to both national and international prominence, appearing on the front page of numerous national newspapers, when it suffered from some of the worst flooding in recorded British history. Both rivers which meet at Tewkesbury were overwhelmed by the volume of rain that fell in the surrounding areas (up to 5 inches) on one day, Friday 20 July. All four access roads to the town, the Gloucester road (old A38) from the south, the A38 to the north-west, the B4080 north-east to Bredon and the A438 east were flooded and rendered impassable. The only major remaining access was via what was once a railway line, the embankment allowing for access via foot or cycle, although many braved a route through a residential estate, where the flood levels were low enough to wade through. Despite the lack of access several businesses remained open, most notably the Old Plough pub on Barton Street, where the clientele lined much of the street.
For the first time in its 100-year history the Mythe Water Treatment Works flooded, resulting in the loss of tap water for 140,000 homes over a period of two weeks.

The Forest of Dean is a geographical, historical and cultural region in the western part of the county of Gloucestershire, England. The forest is a roughly triangular plateau bounded by the River Wye to the west and north, the River Severn to the south, and the City of Gloucester to the east.
The area is characterised by over 110 square kilometers (42.5 sq mi) of mixed woodland, one of the surviving ancient woodlands in England. A large area was reserved for royal hunting before 1066, and remained as one of the largest Crown forests in England, the largest after the New Forest. Although the name is often used loosely to refer to that part of Gloucestershire between the Severn and Wye, the Forest of Dean proper has covered a much smaller area since mediaeval times. In 1327 it was defined to cover only the royal demesne and parts of parishes within the hundred of St Briavels, and after 1668 the Forest comprised the royal demesne only. This area is now within the civil parishes of West Dean, Lydbrook, Cinderford, Ruspidge, and Drybrook.
Traditionally the main sources of work in the area have been forestry – including charcoal production - iron working and coal mining. Evidence shows that the area was extensively mined for coal from about 8000 BC to 1965 AD.

Near Lydney

The area gives its name to the local government district, Forest of Dean, and a Parliamentary constituency, all of which cover wider areas than the historic Forest. The administrative centre of the local authority is Coleford which is also one of the main towns in the historic Forest area, together with Cinderford and Lydney


The area was inhabited in Mesolithic times, and there are also remains of later megalithic monuments, including the Longstone near Staunton and the Broadstone at Wibdon, Stroat.

Queens Stone Staunton

LongStone, near Staunton
One of the few holed stones in existence, the main stone is made of oolite, and is 2.3m high and 46cm thick. A smaller stone is built into a dry stone wall. The two stones are possibly all that is left of a long barrow. As at other holed stones such as the Cornish Men-an-Tol and Tolvan, there are legends of people being healed by passing through the hole. In this case the holes are only big enough for an arm and a foot but presumably this is all one needs to insert
Barrows have also been identified at Tidenham and Blakeney. Bronze Age field systems have been identified at Welshbury Hill near Littledean, and there are several Iron Age hill forts, including those at Symonds Yat and Lydney. There is also archaeological evidence of early trading by sea, probably through Lydney. Before Roman times, the area may have been occupied by the British Dobunni tribe, although few of their coins have been found in the area and control may have been contested with the neighbouring Silures.

The Romans

Coin of the Dubunni

The area was occupied by the Romans around 50 AD. They were attracted by the natural resources of the area, which included iron ore, ochre and charcoal. The area was governed from the Roman town of Ariconium at Weston under Penyard near Ross-on-Wye, and a road was built from there to a river crossing at Newnham on Severn and port at Lydney. The "Dean Road" still visible at Soudley is believed to be a mediaeval rebuilding of the Roman road, and would have been an important route for the transport of iron ore and finished metal products. During Roman times there were important Roman villas at Blakeney, Woolaston and elsewhere, and towards the end of the Roman period, around the year 370, a major Roman temple complex dedicated to the god Nodens was completed at Lydney. The central parts of the woodlands in the Forest are believed to have been protected for hunting since Roman times.

The medieval period

Offa's Dyke

The history of the area is obscure for several centuries after the end of the Roman period during the so called Dark Ages, though at different times it may have been part of the Welsh kingdoms of Gwent and of Ergyng, and the Beachley and Lancaut peninsulas east of the Lower Wye remained in Welsh control at least until the 8th century. Around 790 the Saxon king Offa of Mercia built his Dyke high above the Wye, to mark the boundary with the Welsh. The Forest of Dean then came under the control of the diocese of Hereford. Throughout the next few centuries Vikings conducted raids up the Severn, but by the 11th century the kingdom of Wessex had established civil government in the area. The core of the forest was used by the late Anglo Saxon kings, and after 1066 the Normans, as their own personal hunting ground. The area was kept stocked with deer and wild boar, but also became important for its timber, charcoal, iron ore and limestone. The name of the area originates at this time, probably derived from the valley near Mitcheldean, with areas known as Dene Magna (large) and Dene Parva (small). The manor of Dean was the Forest's administrative centre in the late 11th century.

St. Biavels Castle

The Hundred of St. Briavels was established in the 12th century, at the same time as many of the Norman laws concerning the Forest of Dean were put in place. Verderers were appointed to act for the king and protect his royal rights, and local people were given some common rights. Flaxley Abbey was also built and given certain rights and privileges. In 1296, miners from the Hundred of St Briavels were used by King Edward I at the siege of Berwick-on-Tweed in the Scottish Wars of Independence to undermine the town's defences and regain it from the Scots. As a result, the king granted free mining rights within the forest to them and their descendants; the rights continue to the present day. Miners at that time were mainly involved in iron mining. Although the presence of coal deposits in the district was well known and limited amounts of it had been recovered in Roman times, it was not practicable to use it for iron making with the methods of smelting then in use. However, later the freeminer rights were used mainly for coal mining.

The 16th - 18th centuries
The forest later went on to be used exclusively as a royal hunting ground by the Tudor Kings, and subsequently a source of food for the Royal Court. Its rich deposits of iron ore led to its becoming a major source of iron. Timber from the forest was particularly fine and was regarded as the best source for building ships, and it is possible that this timber was used to build the Mary Rose and Admiral Lord Nelson's ship, the HMS Victory.
During the 18th century, squatters began to establish roughly-built hamlets around the fringes of the Crown forest demesne. By about 1800, these new settlements had become well established at places such as Berry Hill and Parkend.

The Dean Forest Riots
In 1808 Parliament passed the Dean Forest (Timber) Act in response to a severe shortage of naval timber. The act included the provision to enclose 11,000 acres (4,452 ha) and responsibility for its execution fell to a young, newly appointed, deputy surveyor named Edward Machen. He established his office at Whitemead Park, in Parkend, and in 1814 he enclosed and replanted Nagshead, the main woodland of Parkend. By 1816 all 11,000 acres (4,452 ha) had been enclosed.
Ordinary Foresters were already poverty stricken, and now their plight had grown worse. They were denied access to the enclosed areas and so were unable to hunt in them or remove timber. In particular, they lost their ancient grazing and mining rights. Unrest was growing and the Committee of Freeminers called the Foresters to action in an attempt to retake possession of the enclosures. Warren James emerged as a populist leader. He and Machen knew each other well, as both were regular churchgoers at Parkend. On Sunday 5 June 1831, the two held a public meeting outside the church gates in Parkend. It was a final attempt to resolve the matter peaceably, but they could agree on nothing. Three days later the two men met again.
This time James, leading a group of around 200 foresters, proceeded to demolish the enclosure at Parkhill, between Parkend and Bream. Machen, and about 50 unarmed Crown Officers, were powerless to intervene. He returned to Parkend and sent for troops. On the Friday, a party of 50 soldiers arrived from Monmouth, but by now the number of Foresters had grown to around 2000 and the soldiers returned to their barracks. On Sunday a squadron of heavily armed soldiers arrived from Doncaster and the day after, another 180 infantrymen arrived from Plymouth.
The Foresters’ resistance soon crumbled and most of those arrested elected to voluntarily rebuild the enclosures, rather than be charged with rioting. James was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to transportation. He was sent to Van Damien’s Land (Tasmania) in October 1831, only to be pardoned five years later. He never returned home, nor it seems, did he ever contact his friends or relations. During his final years he suffered much illness caused by his time in imprisonment, and he died in 1841 aged just 49.
Ironically, by the time Machen's trees were large enough, naval ships were no longer being built of wood and many of the oaks he planted still grow at Nagshead.

Industrial development in the 19th and early 20th centuries

Robert Mushet

Industry in the area was transformed in the early 19th century, particularly with the growth of coal mining for the iron and steel industry. In 1819 David Mushet built a foundry at Darkhill, and experimented with steel making from pig iron. He could not perfect the process and retired, leaving the business to his three sons. The brothers, principally Robert, carried out over ten thousand experiments, in just ten years, and eventually perfected the process. Sadly, whilst others made fortunes from their discoveries, the brothers failed to capitalise on their successes and by 1866 Robert Mushet was destitute and in ill health. In that year Mary Mushet, Robert’s 16 year old daughter, travelled to London alone, to confront Henry Bessemer at his offices, arguing that his success was based on the results of her father’s work. Bessemer, who was now claiming the process as his own, decided to pay Robert Mushet an annual pension of £300, a very considerable sum, which he paid for over 20 years; possibly with a view to keeping the Mushets from legal action. The remains of Dark Hill are now preserved as an Industrial Archaeological Site of International Importance and are open to the public.
In the later 19th century and the early 20th the Forest was a complex industrial region, including deep coal mines and iron mines, iron and tinplate works, foundries, quarries and stone-dressing works, wood distillation works producing chemicals, a network of railways, and numerous minor tramroads. Cinderford was laid out as a planned town in the mid 19th century, but the characteristic form of settlement remained the sprawling hamlets of haphazardly placed cottages. Characteristics shared with other British coalfields, such as a devotion to sport, the central role of miners' clubs, and the formation of brass bands, also helped to create a distinct community identity.

Changes since the mid-20th century
The last commercial iron mine in the District closed in 1946 and this was followed in 1965 by the closure of the last large colliery. There were, and are still, a number of small private mines in operation, and Freeminers, with Hopewell colliery now open to the public. With the decline of the mines, the area itself suffered a decline, but this was ameliorated to some extent when a number of high technology industries established themselves in the area, attracted by grants and a willing workforce.
The area is still mainly an industrial area but the decline in factories has now pushed the area to create more jobs from increasing tourism attractions. Significant numbers of residents also now work outside the area, commuting to such places as Gloucester, Bristol and Cardiff.

If you were born within the hundred of St Briavels, an ancient administrative area covering most of what is now considered the Forest of Dean, one is classed as a true Forester. This classification bestows a unique right for males who are over 21 and have worked in a mine for a year and a day—they can register to be a freeminer. Residents of the hundred who are over 18 can also graze sheep in the Forest. These ancient rights that were put on the statute books in the Dean Forest (Mines) Act 1838, the only public act to affect private individuals.


Wild Boar

The forest is composed of both deciduous and evergreen trees. Predominant is oak, both pedunculate and sessile. Beech is also common, and sweet chestnut has grown here for many centuries. Conifers include some Weymouth Pine dating from 1781, Norway spruce, douglas fir and larch. The deer are predominantly fallow deer and these have been present in the forest since the 13th century currently numbering around 400. A number of the fallow in the central area of the forest are melanistic. More recently roe deer and muntjac deer have arrived spreading in from the East but they are in much smaller numbers.
The Forest is also home to wild boar; the exact number is currently unknown but possibly a hundred. The boar were illegally re-introduced to the Forest in 2005. A population in the Ross on Wye area on the northern edge of the forest escaped from a wild boar farm around 1999 and are believed to be of pure Eastern European origin, a second introduction was when a domestic herd was dumped near Staunton in 2004 but these were not pure bred wild boar —attempts to locate the source of the illegal dumps have been unsuccessful. The boar can now be found in many parts of the Forest. Locally there are mixed feelings about the presence of boar. Problems have included the ploughing up of gardens and picnic areas, panicking horses, road traffic accidents, and ripping open of rubbish bags. While in the future some control may be necessary, the return of the boar is also welcomed by many as a valuable addition to the national wildlife. Indeed, under its international obligations the UK government is obliged to consider the reintroduction of species made extinct through the activities of man, the wild boar included. Furthermore there is increasing evidence that wild boar enhance biodiversity by breaking up ground vegetation and have an important role in clearing bracken.
The Dean is well known for its western birds, in particular the pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler. Hawfinch are regularly seen. The mixed forest supports what is probably Britain's best concentration of goshawk; a viewing site at New Fancy is manned during February and March when the soaring birds are best seen. The Peregrine Falcon can be easily seen nesting from the viewpoint at Symonds Yat rock. The ponds in the Forest are good for mandarin duck which nest up in the trees. Butterflies of note are small pearl bordered fritillary, Wood White, white admiral or Limenitis camilla. Gorsty Knoll is famed for its glow-worms and Woorgreen's lake for its dragonflies.

The Vale of Evesham is the name used for the flat and fertile area of southern Worcestershire, England, along the valley of the River Avon, centred on the town of Evesham.

Vale of Evesham
Flat and Fertile Vale
The Vale of Evesham has little heavy or even light industry, land use being mostly agricultural and including fruit farms, livestock farming and market gardening on varying scales from small producers to very large concerns.

Vegetable varieties
The sheltered climate beneath the escarpment of the Cotswolds, the light alluvial soils and the ready availability of river water for irrigation in dry weather has led to a great deal of vegetable production: spring onions, leeks, cabbages, brussels sprouts, runner beans but also rhubarb, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, beetroot, courgettes and pumpkins.

Fruit Orchards
There are numerous orchards in the area, producing apples and plums. Plums are still grown here in traditional British varieties such as 'Pershore Purple' and 'Pershore Yellow Egg'. Though orchard numbers have declined somewhat in recent decades, they still make a sufficient show of blossom in spring that they are touted as a minor tourist attraction. The plum trees blossom first in early spring with a delicate white blossom, even before the Sloe also known as the Blackthorn.

In the villages to the east of Evesham, such as Offenham and Badsey, there are growers specialising in asparagus production. Every year there are asparagus auctions, notably at the historic Fleece Inn in Bretforton, which is now owned by the National Trust.

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