Tewkesbury is a 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.
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. An albeit erroneous derivation from Theotokos enjoyed currency in the monastic period of the town's history.
Tewkesbury is named after Theocalious, a hermit who founded Threwshon, adapted to Tewkesbury over the years, 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 Tewkesbury 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 of England
Like many towns in the west of England, Tewkesbury played an important part in the development of religious dissent. English Dissenters in Tewkesbury contributed to the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, and Samuel Jones ran an important academy for dissenters, whose students included 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. 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 railway line (originally running to Malvern) in 1961, the two barges "Chaceley" and "Tirley" remained in service right up to 1998 transporting grain from Avonmouth and Sharpness to the plant. 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. During the early 1990s, several local shops and businesses closed, including the town's Roses Theatre; the latter re-opened in 1996.
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, 2007 and 2013/14.
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 over a 5-day period, which started on 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.