"WINCHCOMBE, a parish, market town, and borough by prescription, locally situated in the lower division of Kiftsgate hundred, county Gloucester, 7 miles from Cheltenham, 14 N.E. of Gloucester, and 94 from London. It is situated in a valley at the northern base of the Cotswold hills, and on the banks of the small river Isborne, which joins the Avon at Evesham. In the Saxon times it had a royal palace, and a mitred Benedictine abbey, founded by Kenulph, king of Mercia in 798, who was buried here.
The abbey having been destroyed by the Danes, was rebuilt in 985 by Bishop Oswald, but was partially spoiled by William the Conqueror. At the Dissolution it was valued at £769 11s. 9d., and the site granted by Edward VI. to Sir Thomas Seymour. In the Domesday survey it is mentioned as Winchelcombe, at which time the town was incorporated by a charter of Edward the Confessor, and had 2 bailiffs, who were appointed annually by the lord of the manor, and 12 burgesses. The bailiffs continue to be chosen, but have long ceased to exercise jurisdiction. The courts leet and baron are held at Easter by John Dent, Esq., who is lord of the manors of Winchcombe and Sudeley. Petty sessions are held on the last Friday, and the county court on the first Monday in each month.
The Poor-law Union of Winchcombe comprises 29 parishes, and the guardians meet weekly on Saturday. The town consists mainly of three streets running from E. to W., and crossed by a few smaller streets. The houses are substantial, being built of stone, but generally old-fashioned. The principal buildings are the townhall, which has just been rebuilt, the union poorhouse, savings-bank, public reading-rooms, a mechanics' institute, agricultural institution, and a branch of the Gloucestershire Banking Company. Great improvements have recently been effected by the lighting and new sewering of the town. There are a silk factory, paper mills, flour mills, a tanyard and skin-yard. Prior to the statute of Charles I., tobacco was largely cultivated in this district.
The parish includes, besides the town, the chapelries of Greet and Gretton, and the hamlets of Abbey Demesnes, Coates, Cockbury, Corndean, Langley, Naunton-with-Frampton, Postlip, and Sudeley-Tenements. There are several mineral springs. The principal seats are Toddington Abbey, the modern mansion of Lord Sudeley, about 3 miles from the town, and Sudeley Castle, erected by Ralph le Boteler, treasurer and lord high admiral in the reign of Henry VI.; it was reduced to a mere wreck by the parliamentarians during the civil war, but the first quadrangle has been recently restored by William and John Dent, Esqs. Winchcombe gives name to a deanery in the archdeaconry and diocese of Gloucester.
The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol, value with the curacy of Gretton annexed, £150. The church is dedicated to St. Peter. The Wesleyans and Baptists have chapels. There are two grammar schools, one founded by Henry VIII., called the King's School, for 10 boys, now united with the Townshend Charity school, founded in 1683, and the other founded by the Lady Frances Chandos, of Sudeley Castle, in the reign of James I., for 14 boys, natives of the town - which number has recently been increased by the trustees to 24 boys. There are besides National and infant schools, the silk factory school, and Sunday-schools in connection with the Church, Wesleyan and Baptist chapels.
The local charities, including the school endowments, produce about £130 per annum. In the vicinity are the ruins of the Cistercian mitred abbey of Hailes, founded by Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans in the reign of John. Market day is on Saturday. Fairs are held on the 6th May for cattle, last Saturday in March and 28th July for cattle, and two statute fairs at Michaelmas."
"ABBEY DEMENSES, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, in the hundred of Lower Kiftsgate, in the county of Gloucester, not far from Winchcombe. An abbey of the Benedictine order was founded, here by Cenwulf, King of Mercia, in the year 798."
"COATES, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, in the county of Gloucester, 14 miles N.E. of Gloucester. It is situated under the Cotswold hills, on the river Isborne."
"COCKBURY, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, in the county of Gloucester."
"CORNDEAN, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, in the county of Gloucester, 1 mile S. of Winchcombe."
"FRAMPTON-WITH-NAUNTON, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, county Gloucester, 2 miles from Winchcombe."
"LANGLEY, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, county Gloucester, 1 mile W. of Winchcombe. It is situated under Langley Hill."
"NAUNTON, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, lower division of the hundred of Kiftsgate, county Gloucester, 14 miles N.E. of Gloucester. It is situated near the river Isborne, under the Cotswolds."
"POSTLIP, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, county Gloucester, 2 miles S.W. of Winchcombe. It is situated under Cleeve Down, in the Cotswolds."
"SUDELEY-TENEMENTS, a hamlet in the parish of Winchcombe, lower division of Kiftsgate hundred, county Gloucester."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]
- Original source material relating to Winchcombe, and other parishes in Diocese of Gloucester may be found at the Gloucestershire Archives.
- Transcription of section of Pigot's Directory of Gloucestershire, 1830 for Winchcombe, by Ted Wildy.
- The transcription of the section for Winchcombe from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
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- Extracts from Winchcombe Petty Sessions (26 Oct1849 and 30 Aug 1850) transcribed from the Cheltenham Journal by Phil Mustoe.