The Tewkesbury Historical Society

Welcome to our local History Society website

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THS formed in 1991 to research and add to our knowledge of the history of the town of Tewkesbury. The Society meets monthly, on the third Thursday, at 7.45pm in the Methodist Church at The Cross. Society Meetings are open to non-members and speakers talk on aspects of history. In addition, THS publish books and an annual Bulletin of Research, to which contributions are invited. Members have the option of accessing online the Society's extensive Woodard Database of Local History data.
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                                         Please consider joining the Society.

Next Season's Talks

Our programme of talks for 2021-2022 has been established and is on our Meetings Page.


6 June is the anniversary of D-Day and the official opening of the new memorial in Normandy.
 A video of the official opening is available at the Normandy Memorial Trust.
You can read John Dixon's article on Tewkesbury's own D-Day hero, Edwin J. Davis.

Annual General Meeting

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Our Annual General Meeting was held via 'Zoom' on Thursday 20 May 2021. After AGM business, Roger Butwell presented home movies of Tewkesbury, which  included the Queen's visit in 1971 and the last train to Tewkesbury in 1961. Click here to view the video. [First couple of minutes has some comedic value as we get to grips with the technology!]

Woodard Award 2021

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The Woodard Award 2021 has been awarded to Karl Freeman for his article Great Balls of Fire (the Story of Tewkesbury Mustard). The award was made at our 'Zoom' AGM. 

Alderton Saxons

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The village of Alderton is looking to purchase an acre of land which has suggestions of Saxon remains. As we are considering planting trees in the area we are wondering how to investigate any historical remains. Thank you for any advice you can give - contact Julia Woodman.
John Dixon

The Duke of Edinburgh's Links With Tewkesbury

In response to the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, John Dixon has compiled the attached on Prince Philip's links with Tewkesbury.

Also, here is a link to an article on his visit to Tewkesbury Museum in 2006.

'Zoom' Meeting 22 April 2021

Nicola Nash gave a talk on Recovering the Remains of Lost Soldiers from World War One. A video of the talk is available on YouTube.

Results of recent Tree-Ring Dating for Tewkesbury Buildings

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The results are in!  During 2020 prominent Tewkesbury buildings were surveyed and tested for tree ring dates by Dr Andy Moir and his team at the Gloucestershire Dendrochronology Project. A fascinating talk was given on the 13th of March which can viewed on the Friends of Tewkesbury Abbey website. This extremely accurate process can give dates down to the season and since green wood was preferred by medieval builders, we can be fairly sure that the year they were cut down was the year (perhaps the next) when the wood was used to construct the timber frames and roofs. 

Tewkesbury Weather

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It is our great talking point but do our impressions agree with statistics?
Each month I will update the Rainfall and Temperature Statistics and offer my
Monthly Reflection on how the statistics underline or undermine our impressions.

Wars of the Roses stamps

Royal Mail selected Tewkesbury for their alternative first day cover postmark for the new stamps issued in May celebrating the key battles of The Wars of the Roses:

UK Census

With the 2021 Census held on 21 March you may be interested in a short guide to previous census returns - click on the PDF to read and click here to access our searchable transcriptions of past census returns for Tewkesbury. 

1832 Cholera Epidemic in Tewkesbury

One of our members, Dr Peter Raggatt, who is a retired NHS Clinical Biochemist at Addenbrookes Hospital and Lecturer in Cambridge University School, was moved to research and write an article about this epidemic with its comparisons with the present pandemic. [see attached PDF above]

It links in with previous research on Cholera in Tewkesbury.

Such was the impact of these two epidemics on the town that a monument was commissioned which now resides in the Cemetery, adjacent to the ‘Cholera Pit’ where many victims received a mass night burial [see attached]

Although John Snow, clean water for the Mythe Waterworks and improved housing conditions have ensured that 1849 was the last appearance of cholera, the brutality which occurred in World War II Japanese POW camps caused the death of several Tewkesbury soldiers of cholera in 1943-44. Here is a biography of one of them, Frederick Key.

Smallpox was another medical curse of the18-19th centuries but by the late 19thC vaccinations were made compulsory and a significant number of people in Tewkesbury became anti-vaccination. For more on this familiar tale, see Martin Holt's award winning article.

History is always so topical!

Zoom Meeting 25 February 2021

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A very successful 'Zoom' meeting was held on 25 February when John Reid gave a very interesting and informative talk on Henry VI. Once again, 'Zoom' enabled members near and far to participate. A video of the talk is available on YouTube.
John Dixon

Tony Skelsey

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I was very sad to learn of the death, on 13 February, of my valued collaborator, Tony Skelsey. He invited me to work with him in writing the History of Tewkesbury’s Municipal Cemetery. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole project - it will endure as a testimony to his ability and respect for this understated local institution.

He was by training an engineer and he worked for many years for the Borough Council. We shall often use the maps he drew, especially of the moorings on the Mill Avon. He was also an expert on the drainage system beneath the Cemetery.

His other interest was in military research of soldiers in the Napoleonic period and he worked with Roxy Base as his proof-reader for the articles he wrote for learned magazines.

I am sure that everyone, who met him and worked with him, appreciated that he was a real gentleman.

I shall attend his funeral at Worcester Crematorium at 16.00 hours on 11 March 2021.

Stone Stiles Project

Attached is a PDF detailing a project being run by Peter Wilson. If you would like to get involved, contact Peter via this email

Social Evening

A very successful THS Social Evening was held on 28 January when four very interesting talks were given by members near and far. The meeting was via 'Zoom' and included a best virtual Zoom background competition!

Tewkesbury Medical Volunteers at Mitton in WWI

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The new book by John Dixon & Linda Kean-Price, Tewkesbury's War Hospitals is available for sale see How to Buy.

Click here for BALH review of the book.

This is a recording of a Zoom Presentation made recently to Tewkesbury Civic Society. [Sadly co-author Linda does not do "zoom"] It gives an idea what might be found in this book. An ideal Historical Present!
With the vaccinations against Covid in progress, it is interesting to look back towards a big controversy at the end of the 19th Century, when a number of people were taken to court for refusing to accept vaccination against small-pox for their children. Will history repeat itself?

Martin Holt researched and wrote this article, "Irresponsible and Self Seeking Faddists" for THS Bulletin 13 [2004] whilst he was a trainee history PGCE student at Tewkesbury School.  As a result, he was given an award by the British Association of Local History.

Cemetery and Burials database for Tewkesbury

Over the years we have collated information from the various burial grounds in the town and now is the time to release a one-stop location for all of them on this site. The new Burials Database in our Research section tries to do this. There is also an accompanying history and guide to finding the resting place of persons buried in the town. There are currently an impressive 18,564 records. For the decades 1841 to 1881 we can also link to the Census Database (not guaranteed they are same people)

An Upsetting Discovery in our Cemetery

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I was sent this photograph; the wording on the gravestone shocked my correspondent and she asked me to explain the full story. It is very tragic but we benefit from its legacy today. Click here to read the full story. If anyone can add any more information, please contact us. [ John Dixon ]

"Anchor University" Lectures

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The talks have been cancelled until further notice due to Coronavirus situation.

We have had to come to the inevitable decision as the "professor and students" of the Anchor University mainly fall out of bounds by age - but, ever the optimistic, I hope only to postpone.  I send best wishes for your health over the next few weeks...  John

Bletchley Girls

Lou Beckett, a  Gloucestershire playwright, has written a radio play, Bletchley Girls, based on a true story about two women codebreakers at Bletchley Park. It recently featured as part of the virtual Gloucester History Festival.
The play is made up of three 30-minute episodes and can be accessed free via Lou’s website (click on the Performances tab) or on Spotify (search Radio Plays Bletchley Girls) and other podcasts.
The website also has a fascinating 45-minute interview with Tony Comer, GCHQ historian, who advised on the play, and an on-line programme that summarises the historical accuracy of the play.
Bletchley Park Museum has created codebreaking workshops for children aged 11-14 to accompany the play.

'The Making of Miss Brown'

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Message from David Elder, author of joint THS Publication, Literary Tewkesbury

One of the projects I've been doing during these strange times is to write and produce a film version of a play about the life of Elizabeth Brown (1830-99) who was an accomplished amateur astronomer who lived in Cirencester.

The 30-minute film is called ‘The Making of Miss Brown’. It is viewable online for £3 from the Stroud Theatre Festival 2020 web site. To access it:
1. Please set up a simple account at
2. Then go to Watch Now! ( Please note it will be available for a 24 hour period after registration.

Further information about the play
Cirencester 1883: Like so many dutiful Victorian women, 52-year old Miss Brown lives a mundane life, caring for her sick father. There are bills to be paid, sheets to be washed and, fulfilling one of her father’s duties, daily meteorological readings to be taken. As a devout Quaker she follows ‘the light within’, but, with her passion for astronomy, longs to see the invisible and explore the hidden depths of the universe. While some wing-clipped geese on her neighbour’s farm seem like an accurate metaphor of her life so far, the dark clouds that constantly hug the Cotswold horizon look like a vision perfectly predicting her remaining days. Suddenly, Elizabeth’s life changes, and she needs to decide whether to seek a life of comfortable mediocrity or chase her dream.

Winner of 2020 Woodard Award

VE & VJ Days 75: a Virtual Commemoration

Even though the government moved the May Day Bank Holiday away from the usual Monday so we could commemorate VE75 on 8 May, all public commemorations are now impossible.

THS, however, wishes to remember all those from Tewkesbury who lost their lives in this war but, the ‘silver lining’ may be that we can split the Victory Commemorations in two parts and give more prominence to VJ Day on 15 August 2020 when the public might themselves have been “liberated”.  Thus, VJ Day has always been of secondary importance to the public: this is partly why those who continued after May to fight the Japanese dubbed it the “Forgotten War”.

In this website's World-War-II Section we shall present
  1. Biographies of all those who lost their lives fighting the Germans from the Tewkesbury area [including neighbouring villages]
  2. The context of this war.
This is all based upon an updated version of the 2005 THS Publication “Never has so much been owed…  which is now available digitally.

(First World War biographies and extensive other material can be found in the World War I Section.) 

Ray Base

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The Society is saddened to learn of the death of the husband of former Chairman, Roxy Base.

Janet Benson (nee Martin)

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We regret to announce that our secretary, Janet Benson, passed away on December 28th. This news is something of a shock to us all, even though Janet had been bravely fighting a long illness. She had been our secretary for many years and will be sadly missed by all her friends here in the Society.

Herbert Gyngell

New in History - World War II Section: - P.O. Herbert Francis Eric Gyngell, R.N. Killed in action 17 January 1942.

Book by John Dixon: 'Tewkesbury's Two Forgotten Railways!'

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With the support of THS, John Dixon has published his labour of love – Tewkesbury’s Two Forgotten Railways! – along with a reissue of Roger Butwell's 2011 commemoration dvd.

Although THS has now sold out, digital copies are available from the 'Shop'. 

Review Railways Dec 2019

Dear John As a birthday present, Cathy gave me a copy of "Tewkesbury's two Forgotten Railways!" earlier this week. I have not been able to put it down (except when forced to the sink to do the washing up). I have to tell you that it is quite wonderful, really well written and evidently the product of much and exemplary research. Rarely have I enjoyed an historical document so much. I have often wondered why I have never seen a photo of a steam engine crossing the high street, but now I have and I understand why I haven't (if you see what I mean).     Best wishes Spencer

Also reviewed by David Aldred and Andrew Reekes:

Two large scale maps of Tewkesbury from 1811 and 1880

We are proud to present two maps on our site using new zoom and pan technology.
We have the 1811 Enclosure Map of Tewkesbury and the huge 1:500 scale map of Tewkesbury created in the 1880s, both full of amazing detail. Use your mouse wheel to zoom and left mouse to drag.
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Bryan Jerrard Award

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Each year the county Local History Association [GLHA] makes an award for what the judges believe to be the best published article on an aspect of Gloucestershire’s local history during the preceding year. It is named after Bryan Jerrard, the first chairman of the GLHA. It came to the notice of THS in 2005 when it was won by Sam Eedle and since then we have been nominated 19 times. The most successful THS nominee has been Derek Benson whose first article appeared in 2005 and, in all, he has been nominated eight times. In recent years, in addition to the winner, a runner up has been announced – and it was Derek for his article in THS Bulletin 27 [2018] entitled ‘The 1714 Coronation Riot in Tewkesbury’.
Derek’s article was inspired by a visit to the ‘Secret Garden’ of the Tudor House Hotel where there is a plaque: “This old oak door carries the battle-axe scars inflicted upon it by Jacobite rioters during the Coronation of King George I”. 1714-1715 was a turbulent time in British politics as apparently supporters of Catholics and Protestants competed to ensure that their nominee became successor to Queen Anne [made famous by ‘The Favourite’ film]. This passion was felt in this riot in which the occupier of the house suffered the indignity of losing his wig as well as his windows.
Derek has revealed that nothing is as simple in history as we would like it to be and he explains thoroughly all the issues surrounding it. Suffice it to say that Baron Tewkesbury was the winner and reigned - reasonably happily ever after - as King George I!
THS Bulletin 27 is available from Alison’s Bookshop in the High Street.

[Photograph: At the GLHA Local History Day on 11 May when the awards were presented. Bryan Jerrard, Derek Benson, Louise Ryland-Epton, the Jerrard Award winner for her article Cirencester Workhouse under the Old Poor Law published in 'Transactions of the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society' 135 (2017)]
John Dixon

Tewkesbury's Own D-Day Hero

Read about Tewkesbury's own D-Day hero, Edwin Davis. Written by John Dixon in 2005/6 about the only military victim from Tewkesbury that we then knew about.

Through the Magic Door

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Through the Magic Door is a 244-page illustrated biography by Colin Davison of local author Moray Williams. She was a prolific author of the children's classics Gobbolino, The Little Wooden Horse and many others. She lived for much of her life at Teddington Hands - where she wrote and illustrated The Good Little Christmas Tree, and then at Beckford and Kemerton. The biography tells of an exceptional life and how many of her stories were drawn from an extraordinary childhood with her identical twin sister at an isolated, tumble-down mansion in the woods. Ursula was also a very talented artist and the book includes many illustrations, a large number of them her own. The biography had endorsements from fan Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit, friend Anne Wood, creator of Teletubbies, and Ursula's illustrator Shirley Hughes.

If anyone would like a signed copy, they are available from the author at £6 each, of which £1 would go to THS. Colin can be contacted on

Friends of Glos. Archives

FOGA Spring 2017 Newsletter

Archives & Friends
Digital Magazine (PDF)

Even more Census Data

We are pleased to announce that the Tewkesbury Census Data for 1841 to 1891 has doubled in size. We now have 37,608 people spread over 9,575 property records. Take a look here.

A Noble Band of Heroes

Review by John Moore Society Add to Cart

The 1914-1915 Medal unveils the Rowley Family

The discovery of this medal on 'ebay' and its subsequent purchase by local enthusiasts for presentation to the Town’s Museum unveils some important aspects of World War I.