To Edward the Confessor we learn the town owed certain rights connected with its market, and during the Middle Ages it was an important centre for the trade of the district. On account of this market, and from the fact that the greater part of the abbey lands lay on the left bank of the river, it would seem probable that a bridge of some kind was built quite early in the Middle Ages, if not before. In monastic times there existed a Guildhall, which betokens of itself a community of active citizens, and social and commercial organisation. The education of the children was probably looked after by the monks, and before the dissolution a grammar school was founded by the abbot. In Merstow Green we have the public pasture and recreation ground. When the parent abbey was removed, the town was quite able to take care of itself: in the same century a new and more spacious Town Hall and Market was built, suggesting that the old Booth Hall was insufficient for the requirements of the time; and in the early years of the reign of James I. a Royal Charter was granted to the inhabitants in the name of Prince Henry, and the little town became a corporate borough.
In the seventeenth century a revolution was effected by the river being rendered navigable from the Severn up to Stratford-on-Avon. Wharves were built, and numerous barges plied their trade up and down the stream. Through Stratford, Birmingham and the Midlands became accessible for heavy traffic by canal. In this century the peaceful vale is once more disturbed by the clang of arms. During the Civil War Evesham was an important military post, on account of its position between the Royalist cities of Worcester and Oxford, and the engagement which took place here will be recounted in due order.
No very notable events took place for many years; the gardening industry flourished, the town retained its importance as an agricultural trading centre, but progress was slow, and life free from incident. But the change from those days of leisure to these in which we live is great. Now the river has ceased to be utilised for commerce: two railways connect the town with every other place of note in the country, and the whole aspect of things is altered. The Evesham of to-day is with us; over the past a glamour is spread.
It may be that, even if we had the chance, we would not return to the past, but over many of us few other studies exercise so great a fascination as the contemplation of the “good old days” which are gone.
Eoves here dwelt and was a swain, Wherefore men call this Eovesholme.
—LEGEND ON MONASTIC