1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alcester

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ALCESTER [pronounced Auster], a market-town in the Stratford-on-Avon parliamentary division of Warwickshire, England, 16 m. W.S.W. from Warwick by the Great Western railway, served also by the Birmingham-Evesham branch of the Midland railway. Pop. (1901) 2303. It is pleasantly situated among low wooded hills at the junction of the small stream Alne with the Arrow, a northern tributary of the Avon. The church of St Nicholas, with the exception of the Decorated tower, is a reconstruction of 1734; among several monuments is a fine example of Chantrey's work, to the 2nd marquess of Hertford (d. 1822). There are a picturesque town hall (1641), raised on stone columns, and a free grammar school. The manufacture of needles is less important than formerly, having been absorbed into the centre of the industry at Redditch in the neighbouring county of Worcestershire. There are implement works and cycle works, and brewing is prosecuted.

The name (Alnecestre, Alyncester) signifies "the camp on the Alne." A small Romano-British town or village was situated here, on the road which runs from Derby and Wall, near Lichfield, to join the Fosse Way near Cirencester. Its name is not known. A relief figure in stone, some pavements, potsherds, coins and burials have been found, but nothing to indicate an important station. No written document relating to Alcester exists before the reign of Henry I. No mention occurs in Domesday, but it is given in a list of serjeanties of the reign of Henry III. as having been a royal borough in the time of Henry I., and in 1177 it rendered four marks' aid with the other boroughs of the county. However, there is no evidence of the grant of a royal charter, and the title of borough soon lapsed. In the reign of Henry III. a moiety of the manor was purchased by Sir Walter Beauchamp, who granted a charter to the inhabitants of the town establishing a Tuesday market for corn, cattle, and all kinds of merchandise, and also obtained grants of fairs at the feasts of St Giles (afterwards transferred to the feast of St Faith) and St Barnabas. In 1444 Sir John Beauchamp purchased the remaining moiety of the manor, and was granted an additional fair at the feast of St Dunstan. From this date the Beauchamps were lords of the whole manor until it passed by female descent to the Grevilles in the reign of Henry VIII. In 1140 a Benedictine monastery was founded here by Ralph Boteler of Oversley, and received the name of the Church of Our Lady of the Isle, owing to its insulation by a moat meeting the river Arrow. The monastery was suppressed among the smaller houses in 1536. Traces of the moat and the foundations are still to be seen in Priory Close. The ancient fairs survived to the end of the 19th century. In 1830 the needle-manufacture employed nearly a thousand hands.