Bewdley shown within Worcestershire
|OS grid reference|
|- London||134.2 miles|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Hereford and Worcester|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||Wyre Forest|
Bewdley ( pronunciation) is a town and civil parish in the Wyre Forest District of Worcestershire, England, along the Severn Valley a few miles to the west of Kidderminster. It lies on the River Severn, and at the time of the 2001 census had a population of 9,178.
The main part of Bewdley town is situated on the western bank of the River Severn, including the main street — Load Street — whose name derives from lode, an old word for ferry. Load Street is notable for its width: this is because it once also served as the town's market place. Most of Bewdley's shops and amenities are situated along Load Street, at the top of which lies St Anne's Church, built between 1745 and 1748 by Doctor Thomas Woodward of Chipping Campden.
Beyond the church, High Street leads off to the south towards Stourport along the B4194, a road known locally as "the switchback" because of its many undulations. Unlike in many English towns, High Street is so called not because of its importance, but because of its geographical position 'high' above the river. A high, sandy slope locally known as 'Bewdley Beach', on the northern side, is a public space with a 180° panorama. Bewdley has several pubs (some of which are inns), cafés, houses, and restaurants along its facing riversides.
On the other side of the church, Welch Gate (so called because it once contained a tollgate on the road towards Wales) climbs steeply up to the west, while a continuation of the B4194 leads northwest towards the Wyre Forest. To the northeast of the town is the wooded hilltop of Wassel Wood in Trimpley, the southern terminus of Shatterford Hill.
History and government
The settlement of Wribbenhall, on the eastern side of the Severn, and now part of Bewdley, was recorded in the Domesday Book as being part of the manor of Kidderminster. By the 14th century, the town had come to be known as Beau lieu, French for "Beautiful place" - a compliment that fits well with John Leland's statement in his Itinerary two centuries later that "a man cannot wish to see a towne better".
Bewdley was granted borough status, as well as a weekly market, by King Edward IV in 1472, and retained this status until local government reorganisation in 1974. A parliamentary report of 1777 listed Bewdley as having a parish workhouse accommodating up to 80 inmates.
During the Second World War, Ribbesford House in Bewdley was used as the headquarters for the Free French officer cadets. The cadets consisted of 200 teenagers who undertook military training at Ribbesford House until they joined with other allied forces in the D Day invasion.
For many centuries Bewdley had its own Member of Parliament (MP), most famously the Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin who represented it from 1907–1937, but in 1950 the Bewdley constituency was abolished and the town was included in the Kidderminster constituency. In 1983, the Kidderminster constituency itself was absorbed into the Wyre Forest constituency, which currently encompasses all of Bewdley. The MP for Wyre Forest is Mark Garnier of the Conservative Party, who in 2010 unseated the incumbent, Richard Taylor of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (often simply Health Concern), a local organisation. The Labour Party held the seat from 1997-2001.
The former quayside on the western bank of the river has been much prettified and landscaped over the last few decades, and its rows of Georgian townhouses and buildings are well seen from Telford's bridge. Since the completion of the flood defences in 2006 (see below), a "Civic Space" has been introduced to replace the old bandstand. It is used on a variety of occasions including the regular local Farmers' markets.
River and bridges
The River Severn often used to burst its banks in winter, flooding many houses and commercial premises in Bewdley. However, after the 2000 floods, plans were made for flood defences on the western bank, and this work was completed in April 2006, costing £7 million. Temporary barriers are also put up to protect properties on the Eastern side of the river in Wribbenhall. Among the worst floods in living memory were those in 1947, 1968 and 2000, where 140 properties were affected. Bewdley's long experience of dealing with flooding led to the setting up of the National Flood Forum in the town in 2002.
Bewdley Bridge over the Severn was built in 1798 by Thomas Telford. It was erected to replace the 1483 medieval bridge which was swept away in the floods of 1795. There is some speculation locally that its continued ability to carry heavy motor traffic may be thanks to secret strengthening work carried out during the Second World War to allow the bridge to bear the weight of tanks if necessary.
A modern road bridge carries the Bewdley bypass, opened to the south-east of the town at Blackstone in 1987 after many decades of campaigning, across the river.
The Tenbury and Bewdley Railway branched off Severn Valley Railway at Bewdley, and ran through the Wyre Forest to Tenbury Wells. It crossed the river at Dowles, a little to the north of Bewdley. The bridge itself no longer exists, although its imposing brick pillars remain.
There are three state schools in Bewdley. Of these, two are primary schools: St Anne's CE Primary on the west side of town and Bewdley Primary in Wribbenhall on the eastern side of the Severn. The single secondary school is The Bewdley School and Sixth Form Centre. The Bewdley Grammar School closed in the 1800s which was located on Lax Lane. Since then, the former grammar school is now home to many art galleries and is venue to many different art and craft activities. After the closure of Bewdley Grammar School, Bewdley High School & Sixth Form Centre was built on the opposite side of the river with new buildings. In 2007, Bewdley High School closed due to an educational tier change after 54 years. After building refurbishments and extensions, The Bewdley School and Sixth Form Centre opened as a new secondary school.
The 'Discover Bewdley' weekend takes place on the May Bank Holiday weekend. The weekend features artists, events, market stalls, a parade and the launch of the Bewdley Heritage Trails. The Bewdley Festival, featuring a variety of artistic performances, is held in the town each October, and Bewdley also hosts one of the largest inland river regattas in the country. The successful Bewdley Beer Festival is held each August Bank Holiday weekend. Bewdley also has a carnival which takes place every June.
Bewdley is also the headquarters of the Severn Valley Railway, a heritage railway running the 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Gardens (usually abbreviated to simply "Jubilee Gardens") are tucked away between the rear of Bewdley Museum and the River Severn.
Bewdley is surrounded by the Wyre Forest, and there are many footpaths and cycle routes through the unspoilt woodlands. There is a visitor centre situated just outside Bewdley on the road to Cleobury Mortimer, where many waymarked trails through the forest start from. The Bewdley museum (admission free), housed in the Guildhall (alongside the Tourist Information Centre) explores the history of the town and has displays on local crafts such as coopering, basket making, agriculture and tanning.
A regular general market on Saturdays took place until late 2007, although specialized markets have continued. In June 2009, Wyre Forest District Council was approached by a former stall-holder with a view to reviving the market close to the bridge.
Just outside Bewdley is Beau Castle, a Victorian mock-Gothic house, built in 1877. It was developed by the industrialist and former Mayor of Birmingham and Bewdley, George Baker. Beau Castle was designed by John Ruskin and Richard Doubleday with stained-glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones.
- Stanley Baldwin, who served as prime minister three times between 1923 and 1937, was born at Lower Park House, Lower Park, in 1867. He served as MP for the town from 1908 for nearly thirty years and later became Earl Baldwin of Bewdley.
- Karl Hyde, musician, best known as a member of British techno/electronic music band Underworld was born in Bewdley
- Rustie Lee, TV chef and actor has lived in the town and local area for 20 years
- Kayleigh Pearson, model, grew up in Bewdley, and attended Bewdley High School, now The Bewdley School and Sixth Form Centre
- Brian Turner Tom Lawrence, awarded the Victoria Cross in the Boer War, was born in Bewdley
- Alun Evans, footballer, in 1968 became the most expensive teenage transfer in history, moving from Wolverhampton Wanderers to Liverpool FC, was born in the town.
- Will Holland (Quantic), musician, DJ and record producer is from Bewdley.
- Former Led Zeppelin lead- and now solo singer Robert Plant lives in the nearby village of Upper Arley, and is a member of Bewdley Tennis and Rowing Club(s).
- Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : Wyre Forest Retrieved 2009-11-24
- Upton, Chris (25 September 2009). "The European royalty who found a Midlands home during World War Two". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- , Geographical Society Bewdley Flood Defence Case Study.
- Nurinder, Johal (25 June 2009). "Market bid to lift Bewdley". Kidderminster Chronicle (Midland News Association Ltd).
- Bewdley Festival
- Bewdley Beer Festival
- Bewdley photographs at www.geograph.co.uk
- Bewdley Parish (Church of England)