Alcester's High Street
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Alcester (/ -/, (listen)) is a market town and civil parish of Roman origin at the junction of the River Alne and River Arrow in Warwickshire, England, approximately 8 miles (13 km) west of Stratford-upon-Avon, and 8 miles south of Redditch, close to the Worcestershire border. The 2011 census recorded a population of 6,273.
The poet and antiquary John Leland wrote in his Itinerary (ca. 1538-43) that the name Alcester was derived from that of the River Alne. The suffix 'cester' is derived from the Old English word 'ceaster', which meant a Roman fort or town, and derived from the Latin 'castrum', from which the modern word 'castle' also derives.
Alcester was founded by the Romans in around AD 47 as a walled fort. The walled colonia named Alauna developed from the military camp. It was sited on Icknield Street (or Ryknild Street), a Roman road that ran the length of Britannia from southwest England to south Yorkshire. The town was also just north of the Fosse Way, another important thoroughfare in Roman Britain. Alauna, which was a bustling market town, was within the commercial sphere of Salinae (modern-day Droitwich Spa), where rock salt and brine was extracted and processed. Archaeological investigations shows the colonia had streets, temples and workshops. Investigations into Alcester's Roman history began with local businessman B.W. Davis in the 1920s. Recent excavations have shown that a substantial part of the Roman town was built outside its defensive walls in the 3rd century AD.
Alcester was also the site of Alcester Abbey, a Benedictine monastery founded in 1138 by Ralph le Boteler. Richard de Tutbury, the last abbot, resigned his office in 1467 and Alcester Abbey was absorbed into the neighbouring Evesham Abbey. By 1515 Alcester Abbey was in ruins as a result of the neglect of various abbots, and later during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII it was largely demolished. The ruins were granted to the local Greville family, who used much of the stone to rebuild their family seat of Beauchamp Court.
Today the town features architecture from the Medieval, Tudor, Georgian, Victorian eras and the 20th century. The oldest house appears to be The Old Malthouse at the corner of Church Street and Malt Mill Lane, which probably dates from about 1500. The clock on St Nicholas's Church (Grade 2*) is in an unusual position on the south-west corner of the 14th-century tower, so as to make it visible from the High Street. The church also houses the tomb of Fulke Greville, grandfather of Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke. The church's Georgian nave with Doric columns and plastered ceiling is believed to have been designed by Francis Smith of Warwick, supervisor of its rebuild by the Woodward brothers of Chipping Campden in 1729.
Alcester was previously served by Alcester railway station belonging to the Midland Railway (later part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway), on the Gloucester Loop Line, branching off the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway main line at Ashchurch, passing through Evesham railway station, Alcester and Redditch and rejoining the main line at Barnt Green, near Bromsgrove. The loop was built to address the fact that the main line bypassed most of the towns it might otherwise have served, but it took three separate companies to complete, Alcester being on the Evesham and Redditch Railway prior to absorption by the Midland.
In addition a branch line provided by the Alcester Railway company (later part of the Great Western Railway) ran from Alcester to Bearley, thus giving access to Stratford-upon-Avon. This line, however, was an early casualty, closing in September 1939. The Midland loop was due to close between Ashchurch and Redditch in June 1963 but the poor condition of the track led to all trains between Evesham and Redditch being withdrawn in October 1962 and replaced by a bus service for the final eight months. Redditch to Barnt Green remains open on the electrified Birmingham suburban network.
Alcester is served by buses from Redditch, Evesham and Stratford upon Avon.
Alcester is also known for two nearby stately homes. To the north is Coughton Court, the family seat of the Throckmorton baronets as well as a National Trust property. To the south-west is Ragley Hall, the home of the Marquis of Hertford, whose gardens contain a children's adventure playground. Kinwarton, which is just north of Alcester, contains a church of Anglo Saxon origin and a historic dovecote, Kinwarton Dovecote, which is also a National Trust property.
On the first Monday and Tuesday in October, Alcester holds an annual mop fair where amusement rides, side stalls and food booths line the High Street, Church Street and Henley Street. The mop fair has gradually decreased in size over a period of years, likely an external influence since the people of Alcester still flock to the streets during the two nights.
The Alcester and Forest of Arden Food Festival is held every May and October.
The St Nicholas Night Fair is held on 6 December each year.
They annual duck race takes place on the 2nd Saturday in July to raise funds for the summer bunting and Christmas lights.
The rivers Arrow and Alne, which join on the outskirts of Alcester, have occasionally flooded and on a few occasions engulfed part of the town. The last occurrences were in 1956, 10 April 1998 (Maunday Thursday) and on 21 July 2007 when 200 homes were left uninhabitable.
In response to the severe flooding of 2007 Alcester flood scheme completed an underground storage tank with a 3.25 million litre capacity in June 2011, costing just over £1 million. The scheme attracted funding from the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee's Local Levy with contributions from Warwickshire County Council, Stratford District Council and Alcester Town Council. The scheme included work on the two pumping stations located at Bleachfield Street and Gas House Lane.
Places of worship
- St Nicholas Church
- Our Lady & St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church
- Alcester Baptist Church
- Alcester Methodist Church
- Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
Alcester is also home to Alcester & Ragley Park Cricket Club, situated in the grounds of Ragley Hall, the club has two Saturday teams who play in the Cotswold Hills League and two Sunday teams who play friendlies. There are also numerous junior teams (Up to U16), and a girls team.
Alcester Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1892. The club continued until the outbreak of the Second World War.
Great Alne Cricket Club (Great Alne Village) is a cricket club about 2 miles from Alcester centre that play in local competitions and have a summer fun week for children. Adults can also play in their "Adult Team".
This article's list of residents may not follow Wikipedia's verifiability policy. (October 2018)
- Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke (1554-1628), born at Beauchamp's Court, Alcester
- Richard Waldron, former President of New Hampshire Council, USA
- John Bridges, English Civil War soldier and MP
- Edward Scriven, portrait engraver
- Russell Brookes, rally driver
- Howard Bennett, cricketer
- Francis Summers, cricketer
- Gilbert Cox, cricketer
- Frederick George Jackson, Arctic Explorer, rescuer of Fridtjof Nansen
- Bernard Cuzner, silversmith and product designer
- Francis James Davies, First World War flying ace
- Tom Wilkes, footballer
- Nick Skelton, Olympic Gold Medallist
- "Alcester Town Council & Community Website".
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- "Parishes: Alcester | British History Online". british-history.ac.uk.
- "Alcester Town Hall". Our Warwickshire. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
- "Coughton Court". Archived from the original on 1 November 2014.
- "Ragley By Candlelight 6:00pm Tour Saturday 1st December". Ragley.
- "Roman Alcester Heritage Centre". romanalcester.org/.
- "Alcester Court Leet | Maintaining Traditions".
- "Alcester Food Festivals". Alcester Food Festival.
- "Environment Agency". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014.
- "Home :: Marselli Aluminium London". marselli.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012.
- "Alcester Golf Club, Warwickshire", "Golf’s Missing Links".
- George Edward Saville and Alcester and District Local History Society Staff (1986). Alcester—a History. Brewin Books.
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