Tetbury in 1779 and 1820

A description of Tetbury two hundred years ago, taken from Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, Volume 5, Edited by W.P.W. Phillimore, M.A., B.C.L., and first published in 1894. The article was itself based on a yet earlier book.


Here is a picture of old Tetbury and the neighbourhood as it existed more than a hundred years ago. I am indebted for it to a friend who extracted it from an old book entitled the "Modern Universal British Traveller", published in 1779; "Tetbury is a tolerable good town, pleasantly situated on a rising ground. The houses in general are neat and handsome, but there is a great scarcity of water, the inhabitants being obliged to fetch it from wells and brooks at a considerable distance. The market house is in a good situation, and great quantities of yarn are sold at it weekly by the poor people, who, in return, take wool and such necessaries as they are in want of. The church is a venerable Gothic structure, and in it are several handsome monuments. Here is a free school, and an almshouse for eight people; and at the end of the town is a very high bridge of considerable length, half of which is in Wiltshire. The government of this town is vested in a bailiff, who is chosen annually, and assisted by some of the principal inhabitants. The weekly market is on Wednesday; and the town is distant from London 99 miles. Near Tetbury are the remains of Beverston Castle, formerly called Bureston, from the number of blue stones found near it. A little to the north of Malmesbury is another village, called Newton or Long Newton. It is pleasantly situated, and commands an advantageous prospect of Malmesbury church, as also of Charleton House and park, where the Earls of Berkshire had a seat before the civil wars, when it was demolished by the soldiers. At the upper end of the village was the seat of Sir Giles Estcourt, lord of the manor.

It is said that this village was built instead of one that stood near it a little higher in the fields; and this is confirmed by the foundation of houses being frequently discovered by the plough. The old ones being destroyed by fire, the inhabitants rebuilt it on the present spot, from whence it received the name of Newton or New Town.- Tetbury Advertiser for March 1889.

The town consists principally of four streets, which meet at the centre. In the year 1770 the old church was undermined by a flood, which occasioned the roof to fall, and in other respects did so much damage, that it was rebuilt at an expense of 6,000. The new building was opened for public worship October 7, 1781, and is a very handsome structure .... The inhabitants of this town are principally engaged in the woollen manufactory and sale of yarn, which is sold on the market-day in the market-house, in the middle of the town; whereas cheese, bacon, and other commodities are sold in great quantities at a smaller market-house.

The parish is ten miles in circumference, nearly the whole of which is the property of the inhabitants. The Avon rises in it, which runs through Bath and Bristol into the Severn, and at the end of the town is a long high bridge, half of which is in Wiltshire. The public revenue is managed by a bailiff, chosen every year. North of the town is a petrifying spring, which encrusts pieces of wood and stone with a strong stony substance. The annual races are run upon a large common about one mile eastward of the town, and are much frequented by the neighbouring gentry. The weekly market is on Monday. --- The Topographical and Statistical Description of the County of Gloucester.