Evesham in 1837
EVESHAM, a borough and market-town, having seperate jurisdiction, locally situated in the hundred of Blackenhurst, in the county of Worcester, 15 miles south-east from Worcester, and 96 north-west-by-west from London. Evesham was formerly called ‘Eovesham,’ or ‘Eovesholme,’ an appellation derived from ‘Eoves,’ a swineherd of Egwin, bishop of Wiccii, who was superstitiously supposed to have had an interview with the Virgin Mary on this spot. It owes its importance to an abbey that was founded here in 709, and dedicated to the Virgin.
The abbot and the convent received numerous grants of land, as well as ecclesiastical and temporal privileges from various kings and other benefactors. The last abbot but one was Clement Lichfield, who built the isolated tower, now almost the only relic of this once celebrated abbey. This tower, called the Abbot’s Tower, is a beautiful specimen of the pointed architecture of the period immediately preceding the Reformation it is supported by panelled buttresses. adorned with windows having rich ogee mouldings, and surmounted by open embattled parapets, and eight pinnacles. It was originally intended for a campanile, to which purpose it was converted in 1745. The tower is 110 feet in height, and is 22 feet square at the base.
A battle was fought near Evesham on the 4th of August, 1265, between Prince Edward (afterwards Edward I) and Simon Montfort, earl of Leicester. Leicester placed King Henry III, whom he had made prisoner, in the van of his army, hoping that he might be killed by his son’s troops, who were fighting for his release. However, the king was recognised nearly at the first onset by the prince, who rushed through the thickest of the battle to the assistance of his father, and soon placed him in safety. Leicester’s defeat was complete, and he himself, as well as his son, fell in the field of battle.
The corporation claim prescriptive rights and privileges, but they were all confirmed by charter in the 3rd year of the reign of James I. They had the power of trying and executing for all capital offences, except high treason ; and as late as 1740 a woman was burnt for petty treason. A court of record is held every Tuesday for the recovery of debts to £100 ; a court of session is also held for the borough on the Friday after the county quarter-session. The borough returned two members to parliament in 23rd of Edward I, and again in the reign of James I, since which time it has continued to do so. In 1831 there were 3,991 inhabitants ; the number registered is 359. Evesham is one of the few municipal boroughs the boundaries of which were not altered by the Reform and Municipal Corporation Acts. The town is pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Avon, over which is a stone bridge, which connects it with the parish of Bengworth, which is within the boundaries of the borough. The two principal streets are wide and clean, and the town has a cheerful appearance. The Vale of Evesham is famous for the richness of its soil; and large portions of land near the town are laid out in gardens, which supply the neighbouring towns and villages with vegetables and fruit. There are also some corn-mills, and a linseed-oil mill. The market-day is Monday. Fairs are held on the 2nd of February, the Monday after Easter, Whit-Monday, and the 21st of September : the latter is famous for cattle and horses.
The borough comprises the parishes of All-Saints, St. Lawrence, and Bengworth, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester. The living of All-Saints is a vicarage, which, with the curacy of St. Lawrence, is of the clear annual value of £208. The church is said to have formed part of the abbey, it is in the later style of English architecture, and has a tower, spire, and a handsome porch. The church of St. Lawrence is now quite in ruins, and forms a beautiful specimen of the ornamented Gothic. In the south aisle is the chapel of Clement Lichfield ; it is only 18 feet by 16, but is (as Tindal says) of such elegance and delicacy of construction as a verbal description would but very imperfectly convey to the reader’s imagination.
There are places of worship for Baptists, Quakers, Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians. The free grammar-school, endowed originally by Abbot Lichfield, was re-founded by Henry VIII, and again re-modelled by James I. The master receives £10 per annum from the crown, a house, and some other emoluments. At Bengworth there is a school, founded by John Deacle in 1709, for poor children of that parish. There are also several donations to the poor, and for apprenticing children.
In the parish of Bengworth was a castle belonging to the Beauchamp family, but it was destroyed by Abbot William D’Andeville in 1169, and the site was converted into a burying-ground, for which we believe it has continued to be gown to the present day.