HISTORY OF EVESHAM
The History of Evesham begins even before Roman Britain, with materials from archaeological sites dating back to the Bronze Age showing the existence of early settlements along the river. There are also records of settlements near the River Avon.
Evesham and the Vale were in the Kingdom of the Hwicce, which included Worcestershire and the part of Gloucestershire east of the Severn. For much of the early Middle Ages, the Hwicce were semi-independent, under the Kingdom of Mercia
. Within the loop of the Avon, the first impulse for settlement occurred
King Osric of the Hwicce
Late 7th Century
Evesham With its Abbey
With the building of the Abbey at this famous site, the town grew quickly, and became an important location in the kingdom of Mercia. It was at this time that Evesham gained its Market Charter, allowing it to hold an annual fair, which would continue for centuries. In the middle ages after the Norman conquest, from the Domesday Book we know that Evesham Abbey was significantly wealthy, with a rough estimated wealth of around £300’000 income from its lands in feudal taxes.
The Abbey of Evesham went through its own trials and tribulations. Particularly during the Viking Age, the invading Danes and Vikings were known to strike as far south as Evesham. Eivor, on his way to Buckingham found the Abbey, and raided it in 874 AD, killing the small garrison, and seizing the wealth. Regardless, with the end of the Viking and Saxon ages, and the rise of the Norman kings, Evesham Abbey would see great prosperity over the next centuries.
The development of Evesham was greatly aided on a number of occasions by support from, firtly, the kings of Mercia and then the of England - in particular King John, and his brother King Richard.
The medieval bridge linking Evesham to Bengeworth was a major development, greatly enhancing the ferry at Hampton and the complex of bridge and fords at Littleton Abbey and town prospered up to the middle of the 16th century until, at its peak, the Abbey was one of the greatest and richest in England
During its life, the Abbey witnessed many significant visitors and events of which the most famous was
The Abbey would continue serving as an important building and institution in the community, until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Evesham was one of the last to be suppressed, in 1540. Most of the Abbey buildings were destroyed shortly after, although some remain, including
The History of Evesham Abbey was closely entwined within the History of Evesham up until this point, but no more.
The Civil War
Evesham featured significantly in the Civil Wars of the 17th Century. It had an important bridge over the Avon and controlled the main road from London and Oxford to Wales.
The main sympathies of the townsfolk were with the Parliamentarians (the vicar and mayor at the start of the war were both Puritans) but for most of the early period Worcestershire was under Royalist occupation and Evesham was occupied by a Royalist garrison - up to 1000 men, and hundreds of horses, in a town of 2000 civilians - and was a meeting point for larger forces. A brief relief came in June1644 when the Parliamentarians approached. The townsfolk repaired the bridge (destroyed by the retreating Royalists) to allow William Waller and the Parliamentarian army to come, and they occupied the town for a week before the Royalists returned. Evesham was then under Royalist control until
in 1645, fought on almost exactly the same site as the first.
Evesham and the Vale then remained in Parliamentarian hands until the end of the wars in 1651, acting as a centre of administration for the county and a point of rendezvous for the armies. Men were billeted around the Vale including at Pershore, Fladbury and the Lenches.
Evesham suffered under the occupation and garrisons, which damaged both the economy and the structures such as the bridge. it took a long time to recover
Charles I stayed at Evesham several times - at Langston House in Bridge Street in 1644 and then at Inkberrow in May 1645.
Edward Massey, the Parilamentary commander
More Modern Times
During the course of the later centuries, Evesham became a prosperous centre of market gardening and some manufacturing. It prospered with improved communications, with enhancements to navigation on the river, with the turnpike roads and - in particular - with the coming of the railways in the 19th century to enable its asparagus and other produce to reach across the country.
Evesham was not otherwise affected directly by warfare until the coming of the Great War in the 20th Century. The town and the Vale saw its own young men off to the trenches in the 8th Worcestershire Regiment and suffered its full share of casualties. A memorial to the men who lost their lives was erected in Abbey Park.
A large hospital was set up at Abbey Manor for men wounded in the Great War.
During WWII, Evesham was the site of an important RAF airbase at Defford. From here and over the skies the battle of Britain was fought. The airbase at Defford was an important location for the defence of the West Midlands from the onslaught of the Luftwaffe.
The Airbase, and an observation post at Sheriffs Lench worked closely with the research establishment at Malvern developing radar and other techniques during and after the war.
Modern History of Evesham
Evesham has continued to prosper and expand to the present day, building on its heritage. The town includes amenities such as the flourishing cafes and pubs in the centre, shopping both town-centre and out-film and holding events of many varieties..
The streets and buildings in the town have evolved with the coming of the motorcar, changes in the pattern of trade, and the fluctuations in prosperity
Over the course of its history, many prominent people have enhanced Evesham and its heritage, including Clement Lichfield, Frederick Preedy, Sir Henry Fowler. These people who have had great impact on Evesham’s History are honoured around the town in various ways, including displays set up by the Vale of Evesham Historical Society in remembrance of their deeds for the town.