Bewdley - panoramio (7).jpg

The River Severn at Bewdley
Bewdley is located in Worcestershire
Location within Worcestershire
Population9,470 (2011)
OS grid referenceSO785752
• London134 mi (216 km)
Civil parish
  • Bewdley
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBEWDLEY
Postcode districtDY12
Dialling code01299
PoliceWest Mercia
FireHereford and Worcester
AmbulanceWest Midlands
UK Parliament
List of places
52°22′33″N 2°18′54″W / 52.3758°N 2.3150°W / 52.3758; -2.3150Coordinates: 52°22′33″N 2°18′54″W / 52.3758°N 2.3150°W / 52.3758; -2.3150

Bewdley (

pronunciation) is a town and civil parish in the Wyre Forest District in Worcestershire, England on the banks of the River Severn. It is in the Severn Valley three miles (five kilometres) west of Kidderminster and 22 miles (35 km) southwest of Birmingham.[1] It lies on the River Severn, at the gateway of the Wyre Forest national nature reserve, and at the time of the 2011 census had a population of 9,470.[2] Bewdley is a popular tourist destination and is known for the Bewdley Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, and the well preserved Georgian riverside.[3]

Town geography

Bewdley and surrounding area (Ordnance Survey)
Bewdley and surrounding area (Ordnance Survey)

The main part of Bewdley town is situated on the western bank of the River Severn, including the main street—Load Street. Its name derives from lode, an old word for ferry. Load Street is notable for its width: it once also served as the town's market place.

Most of Bewdley's shops and amenities are situated along Load Street, at the top of which lies St Anne's Church, built between 1745 and 1748 by Doctor Thomas Woodward of Chipping Campden.

Bewdley from the racks, 2019
Bewdley from the racks, 2019

Beyond the church, High Street leads off to the south towards Stourport along the B4194, a road known locally as "the switchback" because of its many sharp curves. Unlike in many English towns, High Street is so called not because of its importance to commerce, but because of its geographical position 'high' above the river.

On the west side of the church, the B4190, named Welch Gate within town limits (so called because it once contained a tollgate on the road towards Wales) climbs steeply up to the west, giving access to the south side of the Wyre Forest. Dowles Road, a continuation of the B4194, leads northwest to Button Oak, along the east and northeast side of the Wyre Forest. To the northeast of the town is the wooded hilltop of Wassel Wood in Trimpley, the southern terminus of Shatterford Hill.

In the area between Stourport and Bewdley are several large country houses. Witley Court, Astley Hall, and Pool House are considered particularly significant.

History and government

Bewdley Guildhall

See also: History of Worcestershire

Mesolithic-period settlers have been identified through excavations in Wribbenhall, which found 1,400 fragments of flint tools, as well as post holes, a hearth, gullies and a pit. This site has been dated to roughly 6,800 BC, making it the oldest settlement yet identified in Worcestershire. Pollen evidence shows that crops were already being grown and woodlands cleared at this time.[4]

The settlement of Wribbenhall, on the eastern side of the Severn, and now part of Bewdley, was recorded in the Domesday Book as being part of the manor of Kidderminster. By the 14th century, the town had come to be known as Beau lieu, French for "Beautiful place." Two centuries later John Leland wrote in his Itinerary that "a man cannot wish to see a towne better".

Bewdley was granted borough status, as well as a weekly market, by King Edward IV in 1472. It retained this status until the local government reorganisation in 1974. A parliamentary report of 1777 listed Bewdley as having a parish workhouse accommodating up to 80 inmates.

Samuel Kenrick (1728–1811) moved to Bewdley in 1765 and lived there as a banker for the rest of his life. Throughout that time he wrote lengthy letters to his old Glasgow University friend, Rev. James Wodrow, minister in Stevenston, Ayrshire. Their correspondence contains many insights into life in late eighteenth-century Bewdley. For example, Kenrick described one of the annual visits to the town by the Methodist preacher, Rev. John Wesley, who "has a little flock in this town whom he statedly visits in his regular excursions …. Sometimes he comes accompanied with the noise & parade of half a score horsemen, preceding his chariot, who set our whole streets in a gaze …. His friends consist of serious well disposed people of all denominations, who go under the name of Methodists." (Samuel Kenrick to James Wodrow, 20 March, 1786).[5]

The borough had a population in 1841 of 7,458.[6]

During the Second World War, Ribbesford House in Bewdley was used as the headquarters for the Free French officer cadets. The cadets consisted of 200 teenagers who undertook military training at Ribbesford House until they joined with other allied forces in the D Day invasion.[7]

Bewdley is now governed by three tiers of local government, in increasing order of size: Bewdley town council, Wyre Forest district council, and Worcestershire county council.

For many centuries Bewdley had its own Member of Parliament (MP), most notably Stanley Baldwin, who served as the Conservative Prime Minister, who represented it from 1908 to 1937. Reflecting changes in population, in 1950 the Bewdley constituency was abolished, and the town was included in the Kidderminster constituency.

In 1983, the Kidderminster constituency (including Bewdley) was absorbed into the Wyre Forest constituency. The MP for Wyre Forest is Mark Garnier of the Conservative Party, who in 2010 unseated the incumbent, Richard Taylor of Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern (often simply Health Concern), a local organisation. The Labour Party held the seat from 1997 to 2001.

The former quayside on the western bank of the river has been much upgraded and landscaped over the last few decades. Its rows of Georgian townhouses and buildings are well seen from Telford's bridge. Since the completion of the flood defences in 2006 (see below), a "Civic Space" has been introduced to replace the old bandstand. It is used on a variety of occasions, including the twice monthly Bewdley Riverside Market.

River and bridges

Bewdley Bridge and Severn Side South, 2003
Bewdley Bridge and Severn Side South, 2003

The River Severn often used to flood in winter, damaging many houses and commercial premises in Bewdley. Among the worst floods in living memory were those in 1947, 1968 and 2000, where 140 properties were affected but after the 2000 floods, plans were made for flood defences on the western bank, completed in April 2006, costing £7 million.[8] Temporary barriers are also put up to protect properties on the eastern side of the river in Wribbenhall. Bewdley's long experience of dealing with flooding resulted in the National Flood Forum being held in the town in 2002.

Bewdley Bridge over the Severn was built in 1798 by Thomas Telford. It was erected to replace the 1483 medieval bridge that was swept away in the floods of 1795. A modern road bridge, opened to the southeast of the town at Blackstone in 1987 after many decades of campaigning, carries the Bewdley bypass across the river.

The Tenbury and Bewdley Railway branched off Severn Valley Railway at Bewdley, and ran through the Wyre Forest to Tenbury Wells. It crossed the river at Dowles, a little to the north of Bewdley. The bridge was abandoned and dismantled in 1965, although its imposing brick and stone pillars remain. It was originally opened 100 years earlier, in August 1865.[9]


Three state schools are located in Bewdley. Of these, two are primary schools: St Anne's CE Primary School on the west side of town and Bewdley Primary School in Wribbenhall on the eastern side of the Severn. Both were founded in 2007 when the region returned to a two-tier education system, replacing the former first and middle schools. [10][11]

The single secondary school is The Bewdley School.

The Bewdley Grammar School on Lax Lane closed in the 1800s. Since then, the former grammar school has been adapted for many art galleries and art and craft activities. After the closure of Bewdley Grammar School, Bewdley High School & Sixth Form Centre was built on the opposite side of the river with new buildings. In 2007, Bewdley High School closed after 54 years due to an educational tier change that reorganised education as primary and secondary schools. All high schools were being replaced by new secondary schools.[12]

In 2007, after new construction, landscaping, building refurbishments and extensions, The Bewdley School opened as a new secondary school. It has extensive new facilities for the arts, science and outdoor learning.[13] The Bewdley Sixth Form is also part of The Bewdley School, collectively offering GCSE and A Level courses.

In 2019, The Bewdley School won 'Secondary School of the Year' at the Worcestershire Educational Awards.[14]

Local attractions

Bewdley Station, now restored as part of the Severn Valley Railway
Bewdley Station, now restored as part of the Severn Valley Railway


Bewdley also hosts one of the largest inland river regattas in the country. The Bewdley Beer Festival is held each August Bank Holiday weekend. Bewdley also has an annual carnival which takes place every June. The Bewdley Festival, featuring a variety of artistic performances, is held annually in the town each October.

Country music scene and festivals

Bewdley has a distinguished music scene. It is particularly well known for its intimate country music venues and its many local festivals including Hop Fest, Bewdley music festival, Arley festival, and Bewdley Live.[15][16] Former Led Zeppelin lead, and now solo singer, Robert Plant lives in the nearby village of Upper Arley, and has been known to perform in the River Rooms; a small, intimate country music venue above the Cock and Magpie pub on the north riverside. The River Rooms attract country, soul, rock, jazz and pop performers from all across Europe and North America.[17] Bewdley remains a significant centre for country music within the United Kingdom.[18]

Other amenities

The West Midland Safari Park is located nearby on the A456 towards Kidderminster.[19]

Until the office moved in 2014 to Kidderminster, Bewdley was the headquarters of the Severn Valley Railway. This heritage railway runs the 16 miles (26 km) between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth. Bewdley remains the principal intermediate station on the line.[20]

The Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Gardens (usually abbreviated to simply "Jubilee Gardens") are located just off the High Street.[21]

Bewdley is on the southeastern edge of the Wyre Forest, and there are many footpaths and cycle routes through the woodlands. A visitor centre is situated just outside Bewdley at Callow Hill on the road to Cleobury Mortimer, the head of many waymarked trails through the forest.[22] Knowles Mill, a former corn mill owned by the National Trust is located within the forest.[23]

The Bewdley Museum explores the history of the town and surrounding areas; it is located in the former butchers' shambles just behind Bewdley Guildhall.[24]

Just outside Bewdley is Beaucastle, a Victorian mock-Gothic house, built in 1877. It was developed by George Baker, an industrialist and former Mayor of Birmingham and Bewdley. Beaucastle was designed by John Ruskin and Richard Doubleday.[25]

Notable residents

Bewdley Bridge

Twin towns


  1. ^ "Birmingham to Bewdley". Google Maps. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  2. ^ "Wyre Forest". UK Census Data. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Bewdley Bridge". Engineering Timelines. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
  4. ^ Pevsner & Brookes 2007, pp. 10–11
  5. ^ Fitzpatrick, Martin; Macleod, Emma; Page, Anthony, eds. (20 August 2020). The Wodrow-Kenrick Correspondence 1750-1810: Volume I: 1750-1783. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-19-880901-2.
  6. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge Vol III, (1847) London, Charles Knight, p.281.
  7. ^ Upton, Chris (25 September 2009). "The European royalty who found a Midlands home during World War Two". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
  8. ^ "Bewdley Case Study: The Bewdley Flood Defence Scheme". Geographical Association. Archived from the original on 6 June 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  9. ^ "Severn Bridges Demolished". Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Bewdley, Wribbenhall First School". UK Government. 29 November 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  11. ^ "Bewdley Primary School". UK Government. 24 July 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Wyre Forest schools shake-up". Kidderminster Shuttle. Retrieved 24 May 2019.
  13. ^ "The Bewdley School and Sixth Form Centre - Tes Jobs".
  14. ^ "WEA 2019: Secondary School of the Year winner goes that 'extra mile'".
  15. ^ "Home". Bewdley Live. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Hopfest on Fire, Live Music". Hopfest. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  17. ^ "Live music events". The Cock & Magpie, Bewdley. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  18. ^ "Bewdley". Ents24. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  19. ^ "West Midland Safari Park". Diamond Publishing Ltd. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  20. ^ "Bewdley Station". Severn Valley Railway. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  21. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Gardens". Green Flag Award. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  22. ^ "Wyre Forest Park". Countryside Mobility. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  23. ^ "Knowles Mill". National Trust. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  24. ^ "Bewdley Museum". Discover Worcestershire. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  25. ^ "Beaucastle". Parks and Gardens. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  26. ^ "Stanley Baldwin". Archived from the original on 16 December 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  27. ^ James, TE (1912). "Beddoe, John". Dictionary of National Biography (2nd supplement). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  28. ^ Hyde, Karl (2016). I am Dogboy. London: Faber & Faber. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-571-32865-9.
  29. ^ "Fearsome Mary and her fight to rid TV of 'filth'". Shropshire Star. 11 October 2021. p. 29.Report by Toby Neal, part of 'Great Lives' series on Midlands worthies, which noted she was reportedly living there in 1968.

Further reading