Alcester and District Local History Society

Bringing our past to life

Alcester and District Local History Society was founded in 1974 by the late Edward Saville. The aims of the Society then, as now, were to make local history and the study of local history accessible to all and to establish a museum in the town.


During this time a range of research projects have been undertaken by the Society with the aim of providing resources for future generations of local historians as well as those currently engaged on their own researches.


The Society has also indexed the former local newspaper, the Alcester Chronicle, from its first edition in 1864 to1900. The Society also hosts the Alcester Heritage Archive. See RESEARCHING LOCAL HISTORY for more details


In 1986 the society published “Alcester - a History”, a definitive history of the town from its earliest beginnings to the present day. The Society has also published two guides, to introduce visitors to the town, “Alcester - a Stroll with History” and “Roman Alcester - a Further Stroll with History”. Both leaflets are available at Alcester Library and Museum. Twice-yearly the society publishes “Local Past”, a magazine with articles of local interest.  See PUBLICATIONS for details of the Society’s publications.

Membership


Membership of the Society currently stands at over 200 . If you enjoy local history and are interested in learning more about the town and its surrounding area and history, then why not come along? You will be assured of a warm welcome!


Membership is open to everyone. The annual subscription currently stands at £5 per person and membership runs from January to December. Members receive a monthly Newsletter by email, to those who have the facility. Alternatively a copy can be delivered free of charge to those living in Alcester and the surrounding area. Members wishing to receive their Newsletter by post are asked to pay the cost of postage.


Membership entitles you to admission to meetings at half the normal price.

Download A Membership Form

The Committee

PRESIDENT - David Moulson MBE

CHAIR - Alan Godfrey

VICE-CHAIR AND WEBMASTER - Stephen Godfrey

SECRETARY /  MEMBERSHIP- Sue Fisher

TREASURER - Martin Popplewell

ARCHIVIST / LOCAL PAST EDITOR - Ian Greig

COMMITTEE MEMBER - Lord Hertford

COMMITTEE MEMBER - Vacancy

COMMITTEE MEMBER - Jane Bowen

COMMITTEE MEMBER - Wendy Mills

COMMITTEE MEMBER - Dr Richard Churchley

The Coat of Arms of the old Alcester Rural District Council

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The Town of Alcester

Alcester is a small market town in the south of Warwickshire. It stands at the junction of the rivers Arrow and Alne, and was once surrounded by the Forest of Arden. The town has Roman origins and was an important market town in mediaeval times. There are over sixty half-timbered buildings surviving. The town now has a population of around 12,000 and there is a bustling High Street dominated by the tower of St Nicholas Church.


The town hall was completed in 1641. The building was originally open underneath and market stalls were held there. There was a lock up for petty criminals. The arches were filled in in the 1800s to provide storage for the fire engine and a new courtroom. The upstairs room was for meetings and social functions, a purpose it still fulfils today.

The Town Hall

The first records of occupation date from the Roman invasion of AD 46 when a fort was built on a hilltop to the south of the town, to defend the river crossing. Two Roman roads crossed here, the Icknield St running north to south connecting Lichfield with Cirencester, and the Salt Way linking Droitwich with the Fosse Way. A small Roman town became established, which was later protected by walls and gates, and the earlier fort was abandoned. 



The Romans left in around AD 410 and the town appears to have been left almost deserted. Not much is known about the activity in the area until the Normans arrived in around 1080 and built a motte and bailey castle to the south-west of the town. The Norman lord of the manor also built a manor house at Beauchamp Court and paid for an abbey to be built near the river in 1138.


The town became more important after this as a weekly market was held in the streets selling a wide variety of products from cattle and leather to butter and ale. There were also a number of fairs through the year, which were larger markets with a better range of goods and entertainers. However, when transport links improved in the early 18th century the importance of the market began to diminish.


From the 1800s to the end of the second world war things stayed much the same, without the industrial development seen in surrounding towns. After the war things began to change. A new council housing estate were built to offer improved living conditions to many families living in overcrowded, poor quality accommodation. New private estates were built and many commuters moved into the town to take advantage of the low cost housing. Despite the influx of newcomers the town nevertheless lost its railway in 1963. But at least there is a bypass now and the heavy traffic on the busy A46 misses the town.


Today the old cottages around the town centre have been extensively renovated and many historic buildings have been saved. Alcester continues to flourish as a commercial centre, but retains a very strong sense of community.

Malt Mill Lane

The Court Leet

Court Leets are ancient bodies that were responsible for administering local matters such as operation of the markets, maintenance of roads and watercourses, and boundary disputes on behalf of the local Lord of the Manor. Although Court Leets existed in towns and villages the country over, these became redundant when local councils were established. However, around forty courts have survived, in an honorary capacity no longer with any statutory powers, but still electing officers and raising money for charity.



Alcester Court Leet has been in existence for around 700 years. Every October the court meets to elect the officers for the next year. The Court Leet is led by the High Bailiff and includes a number of other officers such as marshall, constable, town crier, ale tasters, bread weighers etc. 


The Lord of the Manor of Alcester is Lord Hertford who lives in nearby Ragley Hall.


Traditionally the officers have all been male, and elected by the menfolk of the town, but this tradition is now changing to allow participation by women as well.


For more information visit 


https://www.alcestercourtleet.co.uk

The Court Leet at Ragley Hall

The Court Leet Ale Tasting at Alcester Mop

Roman Alcester Heritage Centre

In 2004 a long campaign to establish a Roman museum in the town succeeded with the opening of the Alcester Roman Heritage Centre. The museum shares a building with the public library and Town Council, formerly the magistrates court.


The museum has an impressive range of exhibits from stone statues to a superb collection of Samian Ware pottery.


The museum is run by the Alcester Heritage Trust under an agreement with Warwickshire County Council and is manned by local volunteers.


For more information visit

http://romanalcester.org

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The images on this site are used by kind permission of the owners and must not be copied or otherwise re-used without the express permission of the Society. 

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