Tradition tell us that the town of Beaulieu was originally seated on the side of Wyre-hill, within the jurisdiction of the marches of Wales; but by the stat. 34 & 35 Henry 8th, ch. 26. “the town of Bewdley, in the parish of Ribbesford, in com. Wigorn, is made parcel of the county of Wigorn, and united to the hundred of Doddingtree, in that county, saving to the inhabitants of Bewdley their ancient liberties and franchises.”
From the first notice that we have of the inhabitants of Bewdley, we find them employed in what their situation on the side of a fine river naturally directed them to; and they appear to have improved themselves so much in the practice, as to be the principal persons concerned in the navigation of that river. We may call them trow-men, for so it seems the great vessels in which they carried on their profession were then termed; and we have the burgesses of Bristol and Gloucester, 13 Henry 4th, bearing testimony in parliament to their superiority in this way.
The Severn as its first entrance into this county, runs between Kidderminster and Bewdley, the latter justly taking that name from its most pleasant and delightful situation upon the declivity of a hill over the Western bank of the river. Leland, whose Itinerary was begun about 1538, 30th Henry 8th, has left us a clear and descriptive account of it; he observes, “that it was remarkable for the wonderful height of the trees in the adjacent forest of Wyre; that this little town was then celebrated for its delicate situation and beauty, together with the palace of Ticken-hall, which king Henry the 7th built to be a place of retirement or occasional residence for Prince Arthur.” The true name is probably Ticcen-hill, i.e. Goat’s-hill, and was the name of the place before the house or hall was built. The ceremony of Prince Arthur’s marriage in his own proper person, with Katherine the Infanta of Spain, by her proxy, was here performed on Whit-Sunday, May 19th, 1499; the solemn and orderly proceeding whereof may be read in an instrument drawn up by a public notary, in Rymer’s Foedera; and here his corpse rested on the night after St. Mark’s-day, 1502, in its way from Ludlow to Worcester, the place of its interment. Since which time Bewdley has continued in the crown and royal family; and, from the reign of Charles 2nd, it has been held by several lessees under the crown, of whom the present one is Sir Edward Winnington, Bart. The manor is bounded by the river Severn, the lordship of Ribbesford, part of the parish of Rock, Dowles-brook, and the lordship of Dowles; which bounds are particularly set forth and described in the presentment of a jury at a court of survey of the said manor, holden 30th Sept. 10 Jac. 1612. The said presentment also gives an account of the coppices, wastes, and commons, within the manor, with their admeasurement; with the capital messuage call Ticknel, the king’s stables, Bewdley-park, and Lady-meadows; the number and value of the trees growing in the park, and other circumstances relating to the manor: it mentions also the chapel and town of Bewdley, within the said manor; with the number of fairs and markets there. The said presentment contains likewise the several customs concerning the copyholders and copyhold lands with the manor.
King Henry 6th, 38th year of his reign, gave all the stone for the building of the bridge at Bewdley, and it is not to be doubted but that work was immediately carried into execution under his successor, Edward 4th, who, in the following year, took his place on the throne, and whose own town and manor in particular were to be benefited by the undertaking. On the middle pier of the bridge stands a gate-house of timber; the North end serves as a dwelling-house for the toll-gatherer; and the other is used for the corporation’s prison, and called the Bridge-house. On the front towards the town, has been set up of late years a board with an account of tolls to be paid, one of which is most enormous, viz. for a millstone 6s. 8d.!
The old timber chapel was a chapel of ease to the parish church of Ribbesford, and had chauntries within it; which, with others throughout the kingdom, were dissolved by stat. 1 Edward 6th, and their estates vested in the crown; but the chapel remained in its original state: to which chapel king Philip and queen Mary, by their letters patent under their great seals, granted a stipend of 8l per annum. At the West end of the old chapel, just above the South door, there was a strong tower with an inscription on its front to wards the town-hall, expressing its builder, and the time of its erection; both which were taken down in 1745, in order to be rebuilt; towards which William Bowles, Esq. who then represented the borough, contributed considerably. – The Rev. Thomas Knight, then rector of the parish of Ribbesford, took down the steeple, and rebuilt it so far as the old materials went, at his own expence; and there were other voluntary subscribers to the work. The new chapel, which is a neat edifice, situate in the centre of the town, was finished, and divine service performed in it for the first time on Lady-day, 1748. At no great distance below the chapel, were the old shambles, in the Walk, as commonly called, being a long range of timber-building open on both sides, which, upon the building of the new shambles in 1783, were taken down.
The most noted occupations among the inhabitants of Bewdley that we can find any traces of, were the following, viz. the cornesers or cordwainers, whose fraternity were possessed of the principal chauntry in the chapel, and appeared to be honoured with the royal patronage. If it was a principal trade in the town, it may owe its decay to the dissolution of the guild. The cappers – When the capping trade was first established here, is not clearly ascertained. These caps evidently appear to have been worn in the reign of queen Elizabeth; and we may observe the endeavours made by the legislature to keep up the usage of them, for in 1571 it was enacted, “that all above the age of six years, except some of a certain state and condition, shall wear upon the Sabbath and holidays upon their heads, one cap of wool knit, thicked and dressed in England, upon the forfeiture of 3s. 4d. 13th Eliz. Ch.19.” The trade greatly declined with the general introduction of hats; but it is even now carried on is some degree. Tanners – A considerable number of the inhabitants formerly employed themselves in the tanning business. They have left proofs of it in the remains of the tan-yards, and in their benefactions to the public, the first advance towards establishing a free grammar-school in the town was made by a tanner; and the names of several others of this profession are recorded for their charitable donations. There were a few years since 10 or more yards, which are now reduced to three. The foregoing employment of tanning in so many hands, must consequently furnish materials for another set of manufacturers. The workers in horn, though we have no particular evidence of the fact, any further than the probability of the thing, and that there are at present, and have been for may years past, several of that trade in the town. Maltsters – The great number of old malt-houses which have been, and of which many still remain in the several parts of the town, point out another very extensive object of the trade of the inhabitants of Bewdley; several of the tanners were maltsters. The chief vent for the article was into the parts of Shropshire towards Tenbury and Ludlow; and possibly the opening of a communication of those parts with Worcester by a turnpike-road may have lessened the demand from Bewdley. The grocers too have been a flourishing set of people, and carried on a very considerable and extensive wholesale trade, in furnishing the inland shops of the country round them with such articles as Bristol could not supply them with; but we are induced to believe that the trade of the town of Bewdley has materially diminished since a navigation form the manufacturing towns Northward was opened into the Severn at Stourport.
There is a free grammar-school within the borough, which was erected in the latter part of queen Elizabeth’s reign, and has been supported by the gifts and benevolence of divers well-disposed persons whose names are recorded in a memorial made in the year 1643, and which is preserved in the school-room. Also, several alms-houses well endowed, and many other charitable and highly commendable institutions for the better relief and education of the poor. The charity-school lately instituted here, is supported by the annual subscription of the burgesses and inhabitants of the borough, and other liberal and well-disposed persons. The boys and girls are instructed in reading and in the catechism. The girls are taught to knit and sew. All the children are clothed annually, and regularly attend divine service. A fund has been raised by voluntary contributions, for establishing an extensive flannel manufactory for the employment of the poor within the borough; where the purchasers of that article may be supplied. The plan is similar to the Shrewsbury institution; but without the aid of parliament.
Formerly there were tow markets weekly, and four fairs yearly. The markets on Wednesday and Saturday. The fairs, 1st, on the feast of St. Agatha, 5th February; 2d, on the feast of St. George, April 23rd; 3d, on the feast of St. Ann, July 26th; 4th, on St. Andrew’s-day, November 30th. The marker on Saturday, and the three last specified fairs, together with the tolls, and all other emoluments to them belonging, are confirmed to the bailiff and burgesses of Bewdley by the charter of king James I. but the market on Wednesday, and the fair on the feast of St. Agatha, are disused. The town seems to have been first incorporated by the name of “the burgesses of Bewdley, and the precincts thereof,” by king Edward IV. Whose charter grants them great privileges by land and sea. These immunities were twice confirmed by Henry VIII. The present corporation had its beginning by the charter of James I and at this day subsists by it: it consists of a bailiff, 12 aldermen, and burgesses, with powers vested in them to constitute laws and ordinances for the good government of the said borough, and concerning the free grammar-school, the reparation of the bridge, &c. &c. It now returns only one member to parliament. The present representative is the honourable George F. Lyttleton. The right of election is on the bailiff and twelve capital burgesses, who elect other burgesses to vote with them – In the bailiff and burgesses appointed by the charter 3 Jac. Primi, exclusive of all others.
The inhabitants have among them a considerable number of Presbyterians, some anabaptists, and a few quakers; each of which have their peculiar meeting-houses. The houses of the town originally were of timber; but are now in a great measure of brick; yet with some timber ones remaining interspersed. Bewdley, exclusive of its suburbs, it is said, in 1773, contained 327 houses, 329 families, consisting of 943 males and 989 females, in all 1932; which are 5 7-8ths to a family. The births in Bewdley, as appears form the parish register for 40 years, since 1742, have been one year with another 92; the burials 97; marriages 33. – Nash’s Worcestersh. Vol. 2. p. 2794. But, it is to be observed, that in the foregoing numbers of births, burials, and marriages, those of the foreign of Bewdley, and of the parish of Ribsford, are included; and in the number of births, those of the dissenters in the town of all denominations are not taken into the account. Bewdley pays to the land-tax at 4s. in the pound 372l. 17s. the births in 1791 were 142; burials 51; marriages 39. formerly particular towns and private persons made and gave out pieces of metal, brass, or copper, with several marks and impressions upon them, to pass among themselves in exchange for pence, half-pence, or farthings. There is one town piece and four tradesmen’s tokens of this kind issued and current at Bewdley, engraved in the plate of that sort of coins in Nash’s Worcestersh. Vol I. p. xci.
Bankers. – Roberts, J. Skey, and Kenrick, Old Bank. – Samuel Skey, Son, and Co. New Bank. The London mail from hence through Birmingham every morning in the week; comes in every night except Monday. North mail goes out every morning; returns every night. West mail through Worcester every evening; comes in every morning. A coach goes from the George inn to the Swan, Birmingham, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 o’clock in the morning; returns on Tuesday and Friday evenings. The London wagons, through Birmingham, come in every Tuesday and Saturday morning; and go back the same evenings.
The following are the principal inhabitants:
Baugh Rev. Edward
Morgan Rev. William
Wigan Rev. Thomas
Fryer James, Surgeon
Gomery Robert, Surgeon
Gunn Jonah, Druggist
Jones Richard, Surgeon
Seager Edmund, Surgeon
Brasier James, Attorney
Hayley Thomas, Attorney
Messrs. W. A. Roberts, and Samuel Baker, Attorneys
Messrs. Robert Pardoo, Daniel Clarke, and George Clarke, Attorneys
Allport Richard, Tanner
Bancks William, Pewterer
Bancks Christopher, Pewterer
Bancks Thomas, Copper, Brass, and Iron-founder
Baldwin Samuel, Mercer
Baugh Thomas, Mercer
Brookholding John & Sons, Merchants
Bennett Richard, Tobacconist
Bowes Samuel, Mercer
Baker Thomas, Tanner
Barnet Thomas, Barge-owner
Belchain – , Barge-owner
Caldwell Bonham, Mercer
Cartwright James, Grocer, Oil, Cyder, and Hop-merchant
Cartwright Thomas, Mercer
Crump George, Owner
Crump Widow, Victualler, (George Inn)
Crump John, Cooper
Corker Richard, Owner
Clare Miss, Stationer
Crane Widow, Chandler
Crane Joseph, Ironmonger
Edwards John, Owner
Fidkin Sarah, Widow, Maltster and Tea-dealer
Field John, Owner
Flint – , Mercer
Griffin Richard, Cabinet-maker
Gower George, Stationer
Haddock John, Comb-maker
Jefferys John, Maltster
Milner and Hurst, Glaziers
Milner John and Nath. Whitesmiths
Payton Wm. Victualler, (Talbot Inn)
Prattinton William, Grocer
Powney James, Starch-maker
Plowman – , Grocer
Payton Nathaniel, Cabinet-maker
Palmer Thomas, Glover and Maltster
Radnall Francis, Comb-maker
Richards Edward, Grocer
Rowland David, Victualler, (Wheatsheaf Inn)
Rose James, Builder
Scarlet Widow, Glazier
Scrimshire John, Mercer
Shelton – , Owner
Skey Samuel and Son, Merchants
Skey Jonathan, Merchant
Slaney William, Hatter
Tibbits John, Cyder-merchant
Vobe James, Maltster and Grazier
Walker William, Grocer & Chandler
Wharton Widow, Ironmonger
Within half a mile of this town are the following seats: Winterdyne, one of the residences of Sir Edward Winnington, Bart. – Spring-grove, the seat of Samuel Skey, Esq. – Ticken-hill, the occasional residence of Francis Ingram, Esq. deputy remembrancer of his Majesty’s court of exchequer. – Sandbourn, the seat of John Soley, Esq. clerk of the peace for the county of Worcester. – Not far from Bewdley is Blackstone-hill, where is an hermitage very curiously cut out of a rock, with a chapel and several apartments. Near it is a pretty rock upon the edge of the water, covered with oaks, and many curious plants. Near this, is the parish of Roch, where the famous Augustine’s oak stood, so called, from a conference held under it by Augustine, and the British bishops, about the celebration of Easter, and preaching God’s word, and administering baptism after the rites of the church of Rome, which the British bishops refused. This fact is memorable, as it shews, that all out Christianity did not come originally from St. Augustine and the papalists.
Source: Universal British Directory 1791