On 23rd August about 30 members of MFHS gathered in Tewkesbury for a guided tour of the maze of alleys existing in the town.
Why the alleys exist
The alleys arose as a result of the burgage plot system which was used in Tewkesbury as the town grew in the Middle Ages. Each plot was half a chain wide (11 yards) and half a furlong deep (110 yards); about 1/4 acre in area. On the street frontage people would have had their houses/shops and behind the workshops and gardens etc. Behind this were the open fields where people had strips for growing food. The alleys originated as paths alongside the plots to give access to the fields.
Over time, as the population grew cottages, mainly hovels, were built along the alleys. They were often one-up-one-down cottages with no water or sewerage systems and were not very pleasant or healthy places to live.
In the 19th century Tewkesbury’s main industries declined. The East Midlands became the centre of stocking making and river transport was replaced by railways. As a result the town was very poor and could not redevelop itself as other richer towns did. Thus today, despite some clearances, a lot of the alleys remain.
You can find out more about the alleys here: https://alleycat.org.uk/history/
Steven Goodchild, our tour guide, took us up and down the alleys with stories and information about each one. Generally, they are named after the person who owned the burgage plot and our guide had plenty of information to hand about each alleys and the people who owned or lived and worked there.
The tours are available for the public and all who went on our tour would recommend them highly. https://www.visittewkesbury.info/whats-on/stroll-around-the-lanes-and-alleys-of-tewkesbury-2023/