Bewdley Civic Society  Bewdley Civic Society -History Bewdley Civic Society - Newsletter  Bewdley Civic Society -  Events Bewdley Civic Society - Us Bewdley Civic Society - Us Bewdley Civic Society - Us Bewdley Civic Society Bewdley Civic Society was formed back in 1944 to conserve the architectural heritage of this charming Severn Valley town in Worcestershire and to encourage the appropriate and sustainable development of Bewdley.

          Bewdley Civic Society - a potted history of Bewdley

The early name for Bewdley is Wribbenhall, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as an “outlier” of Kidderminster and at that time, it covered both sides of the River Severn.  By 1100 the king had used the river as a boundary and given the western side to the Mortimer family. He later gave Kidderminster (including what is now called Wribbenhall) to Manser Biset.

The Mortimers had territory extending deep into Wales and by 1270 appear to have seen their manor on the Severn as an important part of their communications network.  Bewdley (the name Beaulieu means beautiful place) is first mentioned in 1275.  It certainly had a ferry by 1336 (probably earlier), an official market by 1376 and was developing well as an inland port.

A boost to the town came in 1448 when a bridge was built over the river.  This was in the turbulent period known as “The Wars of the Roses”.  Bewdley was still a Mortimer manor and in the hands of Richard Duke of York (whose mother was a Mortimer).  After his flight from Ludlow to York in 1459, it is possible Bewdley suffered at the hands of Lancastrian soldiers, as the bridge was reported as severely damaged and it is known that a spate of new house building occurred in the early 1460s.

Bewdley became a royal manor when Richard’s son became Edward IV and granted a charter (with special privileges and rights) in 1472 after, it is said, the inhabitants of Bewdley had done great service for the new king at the Battle of Tewkesbury the previous year.  Richard III ensured the town had a new bridge in 1484.

Bewdley continued to be a royal manor under the Tudors.  The Council of the Marches met here for six months of the year under Prince Arthur (the other six months being spent at Ludlow).  The royal palace of Tickenhill (which had been re-built in 1456) was Arthur’s home and here he was married by proxy to Catherine of Aragon in 1499. Arthur’s body lay in Bewdley for a night on its 1502 journey from Ludlow to interment at Worcester.

Wribbenhall continued to be part of the manor of Kidderminster and little is known of its early history.  It does, however, have the oldest house, as Nos 5, 7 and 9 Stourport Road date from 1310.  An even older building stands at Ribbesford.  This area was “sub-let” by the Mortimers and thus became a separate manor, but part of the church dates from c.1140 and is the mother church for Bewdley.  By the mid 15th century Bewdley had a chapel (where St. Anne’s now stands) and a curate to serve the busy town.  Wribbenhall had to wait until 1720 for its own church.  St. Anne’s in the centre of Bewdley was built in 1745.

Bewdley’s 1472 charter was only the first in a long line of charters.  More followed, granted by Henry VII, Henry VIII, James I, James II and Queen Anne.  From 1606 the Borough had the right to return a Member to serve in Parliament.  Bewdley has two maces from the time of Queen Anne; it is rare to have two, but not unique. Tickenhill ceased to be a palace once the manor was sold as a private house to Joseph Tangye. As there was no official manor house, William Nichols Marcy, a local solicitor and the Town Clerk who had acquired the Lordship of the Manor, took the opportunity of calling his residence  in High Street “The Manor House” a name it still bears.

Wyre Forest lies to the north west of Bewdley and has been a significant factor in its growth. The Forest was a medieval hunting ground for the Mortimers, but also yielded timber for building and burning (especially charcoal production), with the bark being used in the tanning industry.  The underlying coal measures were exploited by bell pits, evidence for which can still be found.

The river also meant Bewdley became a place of wealth.  Boats went downriver with products from the forest, leather, horn and caps.  Boats came upriver to disgorge their goods at Bewdley, where pack horses carried wares west into Wales and east to Birmingham and the Black Country.  The bridge was the only one between Worcester and Bridgnorth, though there were several ferries to enable the river to be crossed.  However, Bewdley was strategic in the system of communication and the point at which the river became more difficult to navigate going north.  At one time, the Severn was the second busiest river in Europe, the Meuse being the busiest.

Thus the town flourished and many grew wealthy.  Even the English Civil War of the 17th century had little impact on its prosperity.  There was no serious decline until the early 19th century after a canal had been opened up at Stourport, creating that town and linking it with the industrial heartland of the Midlands.  Bewdley was by-passed – not by its own choice, but by the landscape, the hills which meant the canal followed the River Stour.  Many boats now left Bewdley, but some industry continued, such as brass and pewter, and Skey chemical works at Dowles.

The Severn Valley Railway was built in the 1850s with a station for Bewdley on the Wribbenhall side, but this new-fangled transport was too late to save the town from its downward slide and it would be a hundred years before the area found a new lease of life as a centre for tourism.

Bewdley and Wribbenhall were re-united in the 1930s, though they are still separate parishes.  They are linked by a fine Telford bridge of 1798, which replaced the one from the 15th century.  The 21st century has seen the town’s precious historic buildings being preserved from flooding by the Severn with the completion of a flood defence system, which is called into use when the river threatens to overflow the quay.  Along the riverside are information boards giving visitors a glimpse into the town’s fascinating past.

Heather Flack

Stanley Baldwin

One of Bewdley’s most famous “sons” was Stanley Baldwin, who was born in Lower Park in 1867.  He was its MP for 29 years and also served the nation three times as Prime Minister.  He became Earl Baldwin of Bewdley in 1937.


 On 27 September 2018, the historic town of Bewdley in Worcestershire was honoured by a visit from His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester., KG. 


His Royal Highness  unveiled a newly completed statue of Stanley Baldwin, the first Earl Baldwin of Bewdley KG (1867-1947), three times Prime Minister during the inter-war years, who represented Bewdley in the House of Commons for nearly thirty years.


During his lifetime, Stanley Baldwin was regarded as one of Worcestershire’s two leading sons, the other being Sir Edward Elgar. He is recalled today with deep affection in his county, which well-known to His Royal Highness in his role as , who is Chancellor of the University of Worcester.


There are public memorials to Stanley Baldwin at Westminster. Now he is represented permanently in his own county among “my people”, as he referred to them.

Stanley Baldwin founded the Lord Baldwin Fund for Refugees raising some £500,000 to bring Jewish children (Kindertransportees) from Nazi Germany to Great Britain where they were placed with foster parents. Locally Stanley Baldwin became the first President of Stourport-on-Severn Workmen’s Club where he is still revered to this day. He was also the first President of The Bewdley Civic Society.


Baldwin was profoundly affected by the First World War and the sacrifices made during it by the men and women of his own county, and those of his country as a whole. In 1919 he gave a fifth of his wealth anonymously to the Treasury as a thank-offering on the conclusion of the peace treaties with Germany. He said that, to honour those who died, “we must live for each other, and not for ourselves.”

As Prime Minister he represented what came to be known as a “new conservatism”. Its central features were consensus, compassion and national unity. He detested class conflict and coined the term “One Nation”(wrongly ascribed to Disraeli), making spending on social services the largest item of government expenditure for the first time.


Widely read (Rudyard Kipling was his cousin), he was an inspired broadcaster in the early days of the BBC, adopting a relaxed, conversational style to stress the things that bound the nation together.

He venerated the Crown as the essential symbol of national unity. His skilful handling of the 1936 abdication crisis, which brought him immense praise, enabled the monarchy to survive its greatest crisis of modern times without damage.


Donations from many individuals and institutions made it possible to commission one of the country’s leading sculptors, Martin Jennings, who created the magnificent statue in bronze unveiled by  His Royal Highness . The successful fund-raising campaign by Bewdley Civic Society was overseen by a dedicated committee which included the Society’s President, Mrs Andrew Grant, Great Granddaughter of Stanley Baldwin, and The Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, Baldwin’s Grandson and Richard Perrin, Chairman of Bewdley Civic Society.




Oil on canvas, anonymous British school. An 18th century scene in Bewdley Town Hall depicting Wilson Aylesbury Roberts, Deputy Recorder, presenting George Lord Lyttelton, High Steward of Bewdley, to the Corporation. The Corporation is represented by seven men in the body of the hall with others in the doorway to the left. Picture by kind permission of Bewdley Museum.

More images of the past….

Click here to read Bewdley’s cherry history

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Brian Stephens,  July, 2020.

 North Worcestershire has been noted for cherries since at least 1650.  The Rev. Dr. John Beale FRS, (1608-1683), corresponding with Samuel Hartlib (1600-1662), wrote in 1657, “Worcestershire is more proper for pears and cherries and Herefordshire more proper for apples.”   The Florist , John Rea (1605-1677), of Kinlet, just north  of Bewdley,  a leading plantsman of his time, in his 1665 book ‘Flora, Ceres and Pomona’ described 16 sorts of cherry.  He first used the term ‘Dukes’ for hybrids of acid and sweet cherries and named one ‘Carnation’ still in the National Collection.   The pioneer of ‘scientific horticulture’ Thomas Andrew Knight (1759-1836), a son of the Rector of Bewdley and the first President of the (Royal) Horticultural Society, raised several new cherries at Elton Hall, near Ludlow, which are still growing in local orchards.  These were the first results of controlled breeding with known parentage.  Production of cherries flourished in the Teme Valley, in the numerous small-holdings of Rock and around Bewdley and Wyre Forest during the Industrial Revolution and particularly after the railway in 1861.    A Fair in Bewdley was set up by King Edward IV in 1472, on St. Anne’s Day, 26thJuly.  When or how this became a Cherry Fair, is not known, but as far as we know it is now the only one of its kind in the country.  Bewdley Civic Society, jointly with Bewdley Museum, revived the fair in 2011.

Cherries have always been a challenge to produce.  Until about 1970 world production of sweet cherries relied on wild, vigorous root-stocks, (Mazzards). These produced large trees which grew for years before being fully productive.  Cherries cannot be propagated from cuttings. Cultivars arose, like apples and other fruits, from selection by observation over generations.  Scions had to be grafted on to the root-stocks.   

 Cherry scions were not self-fertile and, with at least a dozen pollination groups, suitable pollinators were needed throughout an orchard.  In addition, early, mid-season and late varieties were selected to spread the blossom period, to reduce the effects of frost, and extend the fruiting time to exploit markets.  Thus, every orchard would have had several varieties.  Even then, cropping was unreliable, dependent on weather, vulnerable to frosts, rain, birds, pests and endemic diseases.   The fruit was difficult and costly to pick, and very perishable.  All these factors made cherries uneconomic as a crop, and the local trade ended in the early 1960s.  Of the 59,000 cherry trees and 1500 acres, (6 sq km), of plantations recorded from Worcestershire in 1957, only a few derelict orchards and decaying trees survive.

 Since the 1990s there has been much interest in the survival of old varieties of fruit, but cherries have received little attention.  The Wyre Forest Study Group has played a part in these developments.  Their study of local orchards, published by English Nature as Research Report Number 707,2006, was the first of its kind, confirming the value of orchards for wild-life.   There have been several articles on cherries in the WFSG ‘Review’, over recent years.   (Copies in the Library, Local Studies.).  Identifying cherries is problematic and only with the recent development of DNA fingerprinting has reliable identification become possible.  

 Three innovations, since 1970, have re-vitalised profitable cherry production, now expanding and developing in over 40 countries.    Firstly, a self-fertile cultivar, Stella, was released in 1970, by K.O. Lapins, at Summerland Research Station, in British Columbia.  Secondly, has been the introduction of dwarf and early-fruiting root-stocks. Colt, a new root-stock which gives a semi-dwarf tree, was introduced by A.D.Webster at the  East Malling Research Station, in Kent, in 1980, and in 1985 a series of dwarf stocks, Gisela, from Giessen in Germany became available.  Hence, high density planting and reliable cropping could be achieved under protective polythene.   A third stimulus was the 1996 publication of a review of cherry biology and production by A.D. Webster of East Malling and N.E. Looney of Summeland BC, the first new information on cherries since N.H.Grubb’s 1949 book, ‘Cherries’, also from East Malling.

With this impetus for research and development both sweet and sour cherry production world-wide has increased steadily in over forty countries during  the past twenty years.  Between 1991 and 2004, 230 new sweet cherry cultivars were introduced; 116 from Europe, 71 from North America and 33 from Asia.  However, the range of genetic material used to produce the new varieties, especially the self-fertile ones, is extremely limited, which is why the recovery of the old varieties is so vital.

The significance of the different sorts of cherry is not merely the names, but the distinct genetic make-up within each.  It is important to retain these genetic resources, particularly the local “land-race” of unique West Midlands types, including the wild Mazzards in the Wyre Forest,  adapted to local climate and soils.  From this gene-pool new varieties may be developed permitting improvement and future adaptation to changing conditions.  The larger this gene-pool the more potential for adaptation.

With the support of The Wyre Forest Study Group and Bewdley Civic Society,  and others, with as much funding as possible,  the Cherry Rescue Project aims to sample as many  local cherry trees for DNA fingerprinting at East Malling, as funds allow. We are grateful to have received funding from the Helen Rachel Mackaness Trust to enable the DNA analysis and the identity of a 100 local cherry trees.    This is an encouraging start for a long- term project.    By propagating from the known varieties as a genetic resource a type collection of known provenance can be established.  Further propagation from the known varieties could supply graft-wood for wider distribution, and perhaps, eventually, harvests of fruit from the old varieties. It is pleasing to record that there are now several local enterprises producing cherries on a considerable scale so that once more, after a break of forty years, the North Worcestershire area is again becoming known for its cherries.

Brian Stephens,  July, 2020.

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