The town of Tetbury, or Royal Tetbury as it has come to be known, is an historic market town in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.
Situated on the site of an ancient hill fort and an Anglo Saxon monastery, the town has a population of around 5500 residents.
Tetbury is approximately 12 miles south of Cirencester (the capital of the Cotswolds) and has some notable neighbours.
Putting the royal in Royal Tetbury
In the 1980s His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, bought the nearby Highgrove Estate. Anecdotally, it is said that property prices in Tetbury doubled shortly after this happened.
Princess Anne also lives approximately 6 miles from the town at Gatcombe Park.
History of Tetbury
The settlement has a history stretching back at least 1300 years, to the time of an ancient hill fort, from the early middle ages.
The first records of Tetbury began in AD681, when King Ethelred of Mercia issued a charter granting land near “Tette’s Minster” to the Abbot and Monks of Malmesbury.
The centre of Tetbury has remained largely unchanged since the 16th and 17th centuries when the town was at the height of prosperity as a major wool town. Most of the buildings that survive in the main street were there during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I but it can be difficult to establish the age because of the 18th and 19th century fronts.
It flourished as a centre for the wool trade (as did many parts of the Cotswolds), and has many surviving examples of buildings from throughout 100s of years of history.
Although wool is no longer the same highly prized commodity that it once was, Tetbury continues to thrive. The town centre features somewhere in the region of 25 antique shops and Tetbury is well known for its wide array of independent establishments.
It’s the second largest town in the Cotswolds, the largest being the aforementioned Cirencester.
Although the Spa town of Cheltenham is larger still, this sits just outside of the Cotswolds, so doesn’t count (at least not in this context).
Tetbury Market House
The market hall in Tetbury is a prominent feature of the town, located at the junction of several streets.
A Grade I listed building, it was built in 1655 by the Tetbury Feoffees (a sort of medieval chamber of commerce) and is still owned by them today.
The Tetbury Feoffees are a group that was originally founded in 1633, consisting of a number of local residents, who were given the option to purchase the freeholds to their properties.
The Chipping Steps are one of the oldest parts of the town. Originally the entrance to the market place, the steps are lined by a row of cottages built up the side of the hill.
Chipping derives from an old English word that features in a number of Cotswolds place names, such as Chipping Campden, Chipping Norton and here in Tetbury.
The origin of the word is thought to be from ceapen or chepynge meaning market or long market square.
Tetbury Music Festivals
Every year Tetbury plays host to at least two music festivals.
The Tetbury Music Festival is an annual classical music festival, started in 2003, usually held in October.
Tet Fest is an annual festival for local musicians to showcase their talents, usually held in July.
Tetbury Woolsack Race
The Tetbury Woolsack race is another feature of the annual events calendar in the town. As you might expect from a town that was originally the site of a hill fort, Tetbury is largely on top of a hill.
The wool sack race involves running up and down (actually down and then back up) one of these hills.
The race takes place on Gumstool Street, one of the oldest and steepest streets in Tetbury.
Competitors start at the top of the hill, run down to the bottom, where the collect a wool sack (approx 30kgs for the men and 17kgs for the women) then run back to the top of the hill carrying it.
The traditional race had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus, as did Tetbury’s Wacky Races that are usually held on May Day bank holiday.
Tetbury is south of Cirencester on the A433.
It does not have a train station and if you’re planning on arriving by helicopter you will need to get permission from Prince Charles first.
As with many Cotswold’s towns, the parish church is a prominent feature of the town. In Tetbury the church of St Mary is an unmissable feature of the town.
Tetbury Goods Shed
The Goods Shed is a part volunteer run arts centre that was opened in 2017. A former Great Western Railway building was converted to provide the facility and future plans include opening a cinema.
Alongside the church of St Mary it provides one of the venues for the Tetbury Music Festival.
Handily located not far from the historic Royal Oak pub on the Cirencester road.
Other attractions in and around Tetbury include:
- Westonbirt Arboretum
- Tetbury Police Museum and Courtroom, located at the Old Court House
- Chavenage House
Places to stay
As might be expected in a town of this size, which is a popular destination for visitors all year round, there are plenty of places to stay throughout the town and too numerous for us to list them all here. Further information on those to follow.