History of Tetbury
Tetbury in an area of outstanding natural beauty and the second largest town in the Cotswolds. It is the home of HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and, was an important market for Cotswold wool and yarn during the middle ages. Today, it is better associated with boutique shops, great food, and its Royal Connections.
Tetbury with over 1300 years of recorded history lies on the site of an ancient hill fort, on which an Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded, probably by Ine of Wessex in 681. The centre has many fine stone buildings in various styles indicating the architectural fashions of the last 400 years. Many of these fine houses were originally built and financed by the wool-staplers on the proceeds of the sale of wool. Tetbury has never manufactured cloth as it does not have continual running water to service mills.
The town is known as an ‘architectural gem’ as many of the wool merchants’ houses still look as they did years ago.
The Market House in the centre of Tetbury built in 1655 has had many uses, administration of the Town, sales (stapling) of wool and under the entrance steps storage for the hand fire pump and even used as a “lock up”. The Market Hall is still used today for Craft Fairs, Exhibitions, Sales and Private Functions with Markets taking place underneath.
St Marys’ Church has an impressive spire that can be seen from all directions as you enter the town. The nave of the church dates from the late 1770s, replacing a medieval church, with the tower and spire being rebuilt about 100 years later. The perpendicular interior with high box pews is light and airy and must be viewed.
Chipping Steps in the corner of The Chipping car park is an old entrance to the town and the cottages running down the side are very picturesque and probably originally weaver’s cottages.
The centre of Tetbury is a conservation area and many buildings have graded listing. Look up as you walk the streets and see the architecture and natural stone for which the Cotswolds are famous.
The picturesque Grade: I listed Market House is in the centre of Tetbury and is the most photographed attraction in our Cotswold town. It was built by the Feoffees in 1655 for the sale of wool and yarn on which Tetbury’s 17th and 18th century wealth originated.
In 1817, the Feoffees gave over £1,000 to restore the building and to take off an upper storey. At one time it stored the town’s fire engine and also served a lock-up until the Police Station was built. Around the perimeter you will also see several dolphins featured.
The building is still used today for regular weekly markets, exhibitions and meetings and is the best survival of a pilloried market house in England.
Ask any Tetburian or even historian why dolphins, and you will get some interesting, even amusing answers. The most common being that a member of the famous De Braose family, who came from Tetbury, had his life saved in the Irish Sea by two dolphins. When he returned to Tetbury, Dolphins then became part of the town’s crest and even now there’s a Dolphins running club, a Dolphins dramatic society and even a Dolphins Hall.
The Prince of Wales first arrived in 1980 at Highgrove and made it the family home. Since then he has transformed this into what is now regarded as one of the most creatively inspired gardens of today. The garden consists of a series of interlinked areas, each having its own character and purpose, and many people visit and tour this gaining a glimpse into royalty.The gardens at Highgrove are open from April until October for guided tours, which need to be booked in advance.
Prince Charles opened the Highgrove shop in Tetbury in 2008, which was the perfect complement for Tetbury shops who have served the Royal Household for many years and some have gained the prestigious Royal Warrant. Duchy Home Farm, which runs itself like the garden on organic principles, lies also very close to Tetbury.
Princess Anne, The Princess Royal lives about six miles from Tetbury between Avening and Minchinhampton at Gatcombe Park, famous for the Festival of British Eventing. The house and estate are not open to the public.
Tetbury’s Town Crier
A town crier, also known as a Bellman, performs various duties around the town such as announcing royal occasions such as the Queen’s birthday and opening local events – a tradition dating back to medieval times. Always dressed to impressed, Tony can often be seen around the town, particularly at major events like the Woolsack Races. Don’t worry if you can’t see him – you will definitely hear him!