A guide to Tetbury

Tetbury, or Royal Tetbury as it has come to be known, is an historic market town in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

Buildings on the corner of Hampton Street in Tetbury
Not so much the stereotypical Cotswolds stone houses here

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 HRH 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.

Long st in Tetbury, looking towards the Market House
Prince Charles’ Highgrove shop on the right of the picture

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.

Princess Anne (Prince Charles’ sister) also lives approximately 6 miles from the town.

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.

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.

Long street in Tetbury
This is a really long street

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.

Tetbury Market Hall
Tetbury Market House is the yellow building, with the clock

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.

Chipping Steps

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.

Looking down from the top of the Chipping Steps in Tetbury
Looking down from the top of the Chipping Steps

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 weavers cottages alongside the Chipping Steps in Tetbury
Looking up the Chipping Steps, lined by weavers’ cottages

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.

Plaque marking the start of the Tetbury Woolsack races
The Prince’s plaque

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.

Gumstool Hill in Tetbury
This doesn’t really show how steep Gumstool hill is

The traditional race had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the Coronavirus.

Getting here

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.

Long Street Tetbury
There are hotels on Long Street

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.