Bredon is a village and parish at the southern edge of Worcestershire. It lies on the banks of the River Avon on the lower slopes of Bredon Hill, at “the beginning of the Cotswolds”. As “Brensham Village”, it has been made famous by the writer John Moore, whose descriptions of village life between the wars are widely celebrated.
Location and geography
Bredon is located three miles north of the Gloucestershire town of Tewkesbury on the B4080 road. The Avon forms the western boundary of the parish, and two of its tributaries, the Carrant Brook and Squitter Brook form the southern boundary.
The parish (including Bredon's Norton, formerly a separate parish to the north) extends from the Avon valley floor at an elevation of 32 feet in the south-west to the upper slopes of Bredon Hill at an elevation of 820 feet in the north-east. The northern third of the parish falls within the Cotswolds AONB. At its greatest extent the parish measures approximately 4.8 miles long by 2.2 miles wide, and covers around 4,125 acres.
Bredon parish includes the hamlets of Bredon's Hardwick, Kinsham and Westmancote. At the 2011 census the parish had a population of 2,542. The parish is now combined with that of Bredon's Norton, which had a population of 247 at the 2011 census.
Bredon's history of farming and settlement goes back at least four thousand years. Archaeological remains establish that parts of the parish were settled early in the Bronze Age (2500–800 BC). There are numerous Iron Age (800 BC–AD 100) remains, some of which would have related to Kemerton Camp, a large univallate hillfort at the summit of Bredon Hill. The parish is also rich in remains from the Roman Period (AD 43–410), revealing a continuing history of settlement and farming.
Modern Bredon has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon period (c.500–1066), when c.716 Æthelbald, King of Mercia, gave land to his kinsman Eanwulf the grandfather of Offa to found a monastery. For some time, the manor of Bredon continued under an abbot of its own, but by 844, it had become the property of the Bishop of Worcester. It remained part of the Worcester Monastic Estate until the Reformation. Bredon’s name evolved during the Saxon period, deriving from bree (Celtic for hill) and don (Old English for hill).
From the Norman Conquest (1066) to the end of the Late Mediæval Period (1500), the parish was governed under the feudal system. The manor was held by the Bishop of Worcester, who maintained a summer residence, park and fisheries on the site of the first monastery, and the mediæval village developed around these church buildings. Following the Reformation in the 16th century, the manor passed to the Crown.
In 1718, wealthy resident William Hancock founded Bredon Hancock's Endowed Church of England First School. Bredon’s Act of Inclosure was passed in 1811, and among those gaining large consolidated holdings were the lord of the manor, Rev. Richard Darke, and the rector, Rev. John Keysall.
The Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, one of the world's oldest main line railways, was constructed during the 1830s and 1840s through the village, with Bredon station opening in 1841. This remained in operation until 1965, when it was closed under the Beeching Axe. In February 1971, a new section of the M5 motorway was opened, cutting through the parish to the west of the village.
In the 1960s, a housing estate of some 600 dwellings was developed on land formerly belonging to Mitton Manor in the extreme south of the parish, which was then transferred to neighbouring Tewkesbury parish. The 1970s and 1980s saw a very rapid growth in the residential population of the village, with the addition of approximately 600 new homes located on former orchards, allotments and farmland. Much of this growth was poorly planned, resulting in a dormitory settlement, reliant on nearby towns for employment and services.
There are 43 listed buildings in the village, including St Giles’s Church and Bredon Barn (both Grade I), and the Old Rectory (Grade II*); the remainder are Grade II. A further 41 buildings were formerly listed prior to the abolition of the Grade III category in 1970. As is the case in most Cotswold villages, a variety of architectural styles and materials are in evidence, but almost all historic buildings are at least partly built from Cotswold limestone, quarried on Bredon Hill. Timber frame construction was used as a secondary material up until the mid-17th century (often not painted black and white until the 20th century).
The earliest surviving building in the village, the parish church of St Giles, is one of England's most admired churches. It is built largely in the Norman, Early English and Decorated styles. A substantial part of the nave, the north porch and the western tower arch date from the 12th century, with significant additions in the 13th and 14th centuries – the most visible being a tall, octagonal spire, dating from 1300–1350, made famous by the poet, John Masefield. A number of 14th century heraldic tiles are set in the sanctuary steps, showing the arms of England, France, Beauchamp of Powick, Beauchamp of Warwick, Mortimer, Berkeley and others. The church contains many interesting monuments, including several to members of the interrelated Reed, Copley and Parsons families.
To the west of the church is Bredon Barn, a late 14th century threshing barn (often incorrectly referred to as a tithe barn) measuring approximately 130 feet by 40 feet. It has an enormous steep pitched roof covered in Cotswold limestone tiles. Walls are of limestone rubble masonry, divided into nine bays by oak posts on stone plinths forming aisles, and carrying the open timber roof. The barn was badly damaged by fire in 1980. Now restored, it is in the care of the National Trust.
Bredon and its surroundings are exceptionally rich in wildlife, boasting sites of international importance for their rare fauna. The parish contains parts of the Bredon Hill Special Area of Conservation; parts of three Sites of Special Scientific Interest; and parts of twelve Local Wildlife Sites (the best sites in Worcestershire not covered by national designations).
Bredon Hill has been recognised as the third most important site in the UK for dead-wood beetles and other invertebrates, a large proportion of which are in Bredon. The north of the parish is the richest area in Worcestershire for rare arable plants. Kemerton Lake Nature Reserve (half in the parish), managed by the Kemerton Conservation Trust, is the West Midlands Region’s most important site for dragonflies, with 22 species recorded. It is also Worcestershire’s most important site for jack snipe, and more than 170 other bird species have been recorded here. Purple milk-vetch, violet click beetle, barbastelle bat, lesser horseshoe bat, otter, polecat and great-crested newt are some of the other interesting species found in and around the village.
- Antarctic explorer Raymond Priestley was born in the village and pieces relating to his life are in Tewkesbury Borough Museum.
- American women's rights activist Victoria Woodhull retired and died in Bredon's Norton.
- Stanley Baldwin, former Prime Minister.
- Moore, J. (1946). Brensham Village.
- Bredon Village Design Statement, retrieved 23 November 2011.
- Victoria County History, A History of the County of Worcester: volume 3, 1913.
- Bredon Village Design Statement.
- Jenkins, S. (1999). England's Thousand Best Churches.
- Bredon Barn, National Trust, retrieved 27 June 2009.
- Natural England, Bredon Hill SSSI citation.
- Whitehead P & J. (1991–96). Articles published in The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England.
- The 1 km square (SO9438) is ranked by Plantlife as the richest in Worcestershire for arable flora.
- Kemerton Conservation Trust, retrieved 23 November 2011.
- Museum's artefacts suffering from cold. thisisdorset.co.uk 11 November 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- King, Vanessa (2012). "From Minster to Manor: The Early History of Bredon". in Roffe, David. The English and their Legacy, 900-1200: Essays in Honour of Ann Williams. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press. ISBN 978 1 84383 794 7.
- Bredon, Bredon's Norton & Westmancote Parish Council
- Victoria County History, A History of the County of Worcester: volume 3, 1913
- Bredon at the Open Directory Project
- Bredon Hill SSSI citation
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