Bishop's Cleeve

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Bishop's Cleeve
Bishop's Cleeve Church - - 1009305.jpg
Population: 15,000
OS Grid Reference: SO955277
Civil Parish: Bishop's Cleeve

District: Tewkesbury

Shire County: Gloucestershire

Region: South West

Country: England

Sovereign State: United Kingdom

Post Town: Cheltenham

Postcode district: GL52

Dialling code 01242

Police: Gloucestershire

Fire: Gloucestershire

Ambulance: Gloucestershire

EU Parliament: South West England

UK Parliament: Cheltenham & Tewkesbury

Bishop's Cleeve is an urbanised village in the Borough of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England, near Cheltenham. The village lies at the foot of Cleeve Hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds. Bishop's Cleeve has a population of 15,000 and is surrounded by many hamlets and villages. There are 3 Bishop's Cleeve parish wards within the village.


Bishop's Cleeve and Woodmancote as seen from Cleeve Hill.

Bishop's Cleeve dates back at least to the 8th century, though Iron Age and Roman remains have also been found. At the time of Domesday Book in 1086, about 100 people lived there. The oldest houses still standing are from the 12th and 13th centuries. The centrepiece of the village is the church, St Michael & All Angels, which has many Norman features. The tower and the nave arches were rebuilt in the 17th century when other features were enlarged.

In Saxon times, Bishop's Cleeve was called Wendlescliffe, later this name was shortened to Cliffe. The land around the village was called Timbingctun. A small Benedictine monastery was built in the village around the year 730 and Offa, the King of Mercia, granted 15 hides of land to the monastery in 770. A hide was a medieval unit of land area, which could agriculturally support one household. It was defined according to the land’s arable yield rather than an exact size. The size of the monastery’s lands thus could have been anywhere between 72 and 180 hectares. The monks were renting the land out, getting rich on their income, so much so that in 888 their monastery became a target of Danish invasion. After the invasion, in the late 9th century the monastery was given to the Bishop of Worcester and thus Bishop’s Cleeve got its current name. By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, the estate measured 30 hides and had about hundred villagers who were farming surrounding land and grazed sheep on Cleeve Hill. The Church of St. Michael and All Angels was built on a site of an older Saxon church in 1170. The Bishop built himself a fine residence in Bishop’s Cleeve in 1215. This building still exists and was used as the Rectory after the Reformation.

Half-timbered house in the centre of the village on Station Road

In 1445, a fire started in the village and many of the houses were damaged. The old timber-framed buildings, which were built after the fire can still be seen standing around the church. In the 16th century, after the dissolution of church institutions, Bishop’s Cleeve became the property of the King, who subsequently sold it to local manor lords. In 1643, during the Civil War, the Parliamentary army passed through the village of Southam, on its way to relieve the siege of Gloucester. In 1788, King George III came to Bishop's Cleeve during his royal visit to Cheltenham. In 1900 Bishop's Cleeve was a popular destination for family days out, when the Denley family opened Eversfield Pleasure Gardens at their home and 4-acre garden in Station Road. The entrance to the swings, roundabouts and see-saws was free, visitors just had to pay for their tea. Business received a boost on 1 June 1906 when the Great Western Railway from Cheltenham to Honeybourne (now part of Gloucestershire-Warwickshire steam railway) opened a railway station in the village.

At the beginning of the 20th century Bishop's Cleeve had barely 400 people, but by the 2001 census this had increased to 9,944; mainly due not to the close proximity to Cheltenham, but to the arrival of major employers in Bishop's Cleeve itself. The village expanded first in the 1950s with the opening of the nearby Smiths Industries factory: many new houses were built for the workers. Bishop's Cleeve Secondary School was opened in 1956. The village expanded again in the mid 1980s. A long-awaited bypass for the main A435 road was constructed in the late 1980s, and further housing was constructed around the new road. At around the same time, a large office building for Eagle Star Insurance (now part of Zurich Financial Services) was constructed alongside the old Priory building. The village used to have a police station on Cheltenham Road until it was closed in 2012, It is now being redeveloped as part of a small housing development.

Oldacres originally started the business 60 years ago. They were farmers who owned some of the land in Bishop's Cleeve. The company which W.J. Oldacre founded, used to make animal feed. They ran seven mills which are spread across the country. People who live in Bishop's Cleeve could smell the feed and hear the grinders. The large mill here had six silos. It was a highly automated business run by computers. 85% of the feed was delivered in bulk and the rest is put in sacks. Oldacres closed in the late 1990s and made way for Bishop's Cleeve's first major supermarket, Tesco. The new supermarket was the effect of development on the east side of the village.

Railway past[edit]

Bishop's Cleeve was once served by a railway line, a relative latecomer in British railway history, opened on 1 June 1906 by the Great Western Railway and running from Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham, part of a main line from Birmingham to the South West and South Wales. Bishop's Cleeve railway station along with almost all others on this section closed on 7 March 1960 and was subsequently demolished, but the nearby Cheltenham Racecourse railway station remained in operation for royal visits to the racecourse until 1965; through passenger services continued until 25 March 1968, and goods until 1976 when a derailment (railway accident) at Broadway damaged the line.

With the damage done, It was decided not to bring the section back into use and by 1980 the entire line had been dismantled. However the 12-mile (19 km) stretch of track between Laverton and Cheltenham Racecourse had since been reconstructed, reopened and preserved as the Heritage Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.

Bishop's Cleeve was also served, though less well, by a station, called Cleeve railway station, on the present Birmingham to Bristol main line (ex-Midland Railway, later LMS), about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the west, but this station closed on 20 February 1950.

Bishop's Cleeve is bordered by the village of Woodmancote to the east, the former Great Western railway line dividing the two parishes. In November 2012, the population of Bishop's Cleeve was approximately 15,000[1]


Bishop's Cleeve has two primary schools: Grangefield Primary School is the newer, having been built after the western extension of Bishop's Cleeve, on land owned by the Zurich and Capita who are housed in the tallest and biggest commercial building in Bishop's Cleeve behind the school. The school also has a playgroup known as Little Hoots Care Facility. The other, bigger and older, primary school (Bishop's Cleeve Primary Academy School) is near the village centre and was built in 1981. The school educates over 550 pupils in the local area and also has a playgroup known as Elmtree Playgroup.

Cleeve Secondary School is in the south-east of the village, and has over 1,650 pupils from Bishop's Cleeve and the surrounding area. The school has a sports centre which is open for public use, with a gym, large sports hall, dance studios and two indoor squash courts. The school also has enclosed tennis/netball courts, an enclosed all-weather cricket area, and an arts centre which is open for local use as well. The school has recently spent over £10 million on a new modern building which incorporates many school departments. The school was built in 1956, when major employers moved to the village and Bishop's Cleeve was expanding.

The first school to be built in Bishop's Cleeve was in 1846 to the east side of St Michael's Church and is now known as St Michael's Hall. It was financed by local people: the largest donation was from William Lawrence Townsend, the then Rector of Bishop's Cleeve. He donated £100 and land for the school to be built on. The National Society who were C of E charity in England & Wales who wanted to build a school in every parish (this was before school was mandatory), they too also donated money and designed the school to fit National Society teaching purposes. In 1981, the school closed and made way for Bishop's Cleeve Primary School. Now the old school is a village hall and is used by the church for administrative purposes.

Before the first school in Bishop's Cleeve was built, local children were taught in the church "porch room" in the roof space of the church. Here many village children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic. These were the prices of education at the porch room school.

Subject s d
Reading 3 6
Writing 6 0
Arithmetic 9 0

The main room was constructed in the 13th century: it stood on top of the church porch and was detached from the main church building (evidence for this is an original Norman corbel inside the room, which matches one outside on the south transept.) The room was accessed by an external staircase in the north-west corner of the church, which has since been removed.




Bishop's Cleeve Parish Wards

  • Cleeve St Michael's Ward
  • Cleeve Grange Ward
  • Cleeve West Ward

Nearby Places

Bishop's Cleeve is situated in a rural environment, a mile north of Cheltenham. Around Bishop's Cleeve there are clusters of villages and hamlets. Most are situated in the green-belt and are 'places of outstanding natural beauty'. Although Bishop's Cleeve is a large urbanised village, it is set amid superb Cotswold countryside.


In 2010, the development of 450 houses began at Homelands Farm, with the developers, Comparo, wanting to build an extra 550 houses on top of this. This was rejected by Tewkesbury Borough Council in 2007, but the developers appealed to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government about the decision, which triggered a full planning inquiry. The main concerns stated were the strain on the local infrastructure it would create, and that the site is prone to flooding. Tewkesbury Borough Council persevered to stop the developments from being built. But in 2013 the Secretary of State upheld the appeal, so 550 dwellings are to be built in the north-west of Bishop's Cleeve and a further 500 dwellings between Gotherington and Cleeve. Within the accepted developments there are many more shops, sports facilities such as a gym, swimming pool or other entertainment sports and plans for a 'mega surgery'. Once the development goes ahead Bishop's Cleeve will soon become overwhelmingly bigger than Tewkesbury, which is the Borough Town.

There are future plans for Gloucestershire Police to build a new 'Police HQ' in Bishop's Cleeve near GE Aviation. This would benefit the village after the closure of the police station in 2012 to make way for a small housing development on Cheltenham Road. Recently old garages on the Smith's Estate in Bishop's Cleeve are being demolished to make way for more houses and make the surrounding area more appealing.

Village events[edit]

  • Bishop's Cleeve Street Fair is held every year in the village centre. Expanding every year it is one of the largets events in Bishop's Cleeve. There are dozens of stalls and rides for adults and children of all ages. There is a vintage car showcase at Cleeve Manor when this is ongoing.
  • Bishop's Cleeve Bonfire and Fireworks Display is held at Bishop's Cleeve Primary Academy on the school playing fields. This event draws in crowds across Cheltenham to watch a spectacular firework display. There is a different bonfire theme each year as well as this there is a barbecue and stalls across the area.
  • Cleeve Concerts is regularly held at the Tithe Barn. Here you can listen to cultural and diverse music from a variety of performers.
  • Christmas markets are held annually in a variety of places across the village, often at St Michael's Church and the Methodist Church.

Local shops and businesses[edit]

Lidl store in Bishop's Cleeve in the centre of the village

There are over 50 shops in the village, with 3 large superstores and many large local businesses.

There is a large industrial estate with many employers as well as a gym and other facilities. There is also a large business HQ shared by Capita and Zurich behind Grangefield School. GE Aviation also own a large collection of industrial buildings to the west of the A-road through the village. As well as GE there are many hangars used by companies for helicopter construction and flying; these are especially used during the races in Cheltenham.

Bishop's Cleeve is also a very safe place to live.

Sport & leisure[edit]

Bishop's Cleeve has a Non-League football team, Bishop's Cleeve F.C., who play at Kayte Lane. Bishop's Cleeve Colts FC youth football is the grassroots football club that partners BCC FC and has teams from U5s to U16s for both boys and girls, Bishops's Cleeve Colts F.C. There is also a local sports and arts centre on Two Hedges Road which provides tarmac netball pitches, hockey pitches, astro-turf pitch, tennis courts, squash courts and a very large sports hall. There are also plans to build a swimming pool for community use.

There are also two local gyms and large sports fields such as Kayte Lane used by the secondary school, Newlands Park and plans for four football pitches in the new development to the north west of Bishop's Cleeve.

North Cheltenham RFC play at a ground to the west of the village, next to Grundon and the industrial estate.

There are many local parks within the village maintained by the council. Most withhold play-equipment and are enjoyed by the local community.

Finlay Way - Here there is equipment for under-5s and separate equipment for under-14s, with a large grass area including football posts. A new youth and community shelter was installed in December 2012. Play Gloucestershire & Play Rangers visit every Thursday evening.

Pecked Lane - Boasts equipment for under-8s with a large grass area including football posts. A new youth/community shelter was installed in December 2012. Play Gloucestershire & Play Rangers visit every Friday evening

South Park - Located at the sportsfield on Cheltenham Road. Includes equipment for under-5s with an extra emphasis on disability access. Plenty of car parking is available.

Nottingham Road / Sunrise Avenue - Homelands 1 developer will be providing new equipment for under-8s. There is a large grass area including football posts, outdoor gym equipment and a new community shelter. Young Gloucestershire meets here on Wednesday evenings for free outreach sessions.

Millham Road - Homelands 1 developer will be providing MUGA, skate park and equipment for under-8s in a new area behind the existing Millham Road playing field, which retains the football posts and a large grass area.

Cheltenham Road sportsfield - has a skate park and bike track, adjacent to the pavilion, and outdoor gym equipment near to South Park.


External links[edit]

Fossil ammonite collected near Bishop's Cleeve

Coordinates: 51°56′51″N 2°03′39″W / 51.9474°N 2.0609°W / 51.9474; -2.0609