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Tamworth (St. Edith)

TAMWORTH (St. Edith), a borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, partly in the N., and partly in the S., division of the hundred of Offlow, S. division of the county of Stafford; and partly in the Tamworth division of the hundred of Hemlingford, N. division of the county of Warwick; containing 7746 inhabitants, of whom 3789 are in the old borough, 24 miles (S. E. by E.) from Stafford, 28 (N. by W.) from Warwick, and 108 (N. W. by N.) from London. This town, which is considered the most ancient in the county of Stafford, derives its name from the river Tame, and from Waert or Worthidge, a water farm. It was the site of a Mercian fortification and royal residence, and was the seat of government under Offa, Cenwulf, Beornwulf, and others, at which period it had also a mint. Having been nearly destroyed by the Danes, it was rebuilt early in the 10th century, by Etbelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great, who also erected a castle for its defence, which was for ages the seat of the lords of Tamworth, and was recently repaired as a private residence, though it is now uninhabited: the ancient fosse that surrounded the town, called the King's Dyke, is still visible.

The town is about equally divided between the counties of Stafford and Warwick, though commonly considered a Staffordshire place: it consists of good streets, and is situated near the confluence of the rivers Tame and Anker, which are crossed by bridges about a mile distant from the Coventry canal. The manufacture of paper and tape affords employment to several persons; and many others are engaged in raising fruit and vegetables: veins of coal are worked in the vicinity, and bricks and tiles of great durability are made from a clay which abounds in the district. Here is a station on the Birmingham and Derby railway: the highest embankment on the line, elevated 30 feet above the level of the surrounding country, is situated to the south of the town; and between Tamworth and Kingsbury the railway crosses the river Anker, by a beautiful viaduct of 18 arches of 30 feet span, and one oblique arch of 60 feet, the whole erected at a cost of £18,000. The first sod of the Trent-Valley railway was raised by Sir Robert Peel, Bart., M. P. for the borough, in November 1845, about half a mile from the town; the line was privately opened June 26th, 1847, when a grand banquet was given at Tamworth. In the town is a permanent library, under the direction of a committee; and a reading-room, with a collection of books, was established under the auspices of Sir Robert Peel, in 1841. The market is on Saturday; fairs are held by charter on May 4th, July 26th, and October 24th, for cattle and merchandise, and there are five new fairs for the sale of cattle only. Till the passing of the Municipal act, the town was governed under a charter granted by Charles II. upon the surrender of one which had been conferred by Elizabeth. The government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, and the total number of magistrates is four, but the county justices have concurrent jurisdiction. The borough returns two members to parliament. The elective franchise was extended in 1832, to the £10 householders of the entire parish, which was made to constitute the new borough, comprising an area of 11,000 acres, of which 4649 are in Warwickshire; the old boundaries included only 83 acres: the mayor is returning officer. The corporation hold courts leet and baron; and petty-sessions for the borough take place every alternate Wednesday. The powers of the county debt-court of Tamworth, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Tamworth. The town-hall is a handsome building in the market place.

The parish comprises the townships of Syerscote and Fazeley, and the chapelry of Wigginton, in the county of Stafford; and the townships of Amington with Stony-Delph, and Bolehall with Glascote, the liberty of the Castle, and the hamlet of Wilnecote with Dosthill, in the county of Warwick. The living is a vicarage; net income, £170; patron, Admiral A'Court Repington. The church, situated in the county of Stafford, is spacious and handsome, with a fine tower, in which are two remarkable spiral staircases communicating with separate floors, their entrances being within and without the church, respectively. Beneath the edifice is a crypt, 33 yards long, filled with human bones. The building combines the decorated and later English styles, and has two Norman arches; the roof is of very fine carved oak. The church was formerly collegiate, and occupies the site of an ancient monastery: the foundation of the college, which consisted of a dean and six prebendaries, is uncertain, but is attributed, with the greatest probability, to the Marmions, who were owners of the castle. Queen Elizabeth broke up the deanery, and sold the land. Some tessellated pavement, now placed in front of the communion-table, was discovered a few years since, when the church was undergoing repair. At Fazeley, Wigginton, and Wilnecote, are separate incumbencies. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans; and a Roman Catholic chapel.

The free grammar school was refounded in the reign of Edward VI., and a stipend of £10. 13. 2¼. was confirmed to the master from the revenues of the crown: in the reign of Elizabeth the town bailiffs were incorporated governors, and in 1677 the schoolroom was rebuilt. The revenue has been increased by various benefactors, and now amounts to £33. 11. Boys from the school are eligible to a scholarship at Catherine Hall, Cambridge, established by Mr. Frankland; and a native of the town to a fellowship in St. John's College, Cambridge, on the foundation of Mr. Bailey. A school was endowed with the interest of £6000 by the late Sir Robert Peel; and anew school-house, in the Elizabethan style, has been built by the present baronet: about 80 boys are clothed and educated. A free school for twelve boys and ten girls has an income of £20 per annum, partially arising from a bequest. In 1686, the Rev. John Rawlett bequeathed land and houses for teaching and apprenticing children; and there is an almshouse for fourteen men and women, endowed in 1678 by Thomas Guy, founder of Guy's Hospital, London, who represented the borough in seven parliaments, and in 1701 rebuilt the town-hall. The town is rich in charities of all kinds, an account of which has been published in a separate volume by the Commissioners of Charities. The poor-law union of Tamworth comprises 24 parishes or places, 11 of which are in Stafford, 10 in Warwick, and 3 in Derby; and contains a population of 12,897. Lord Thurlow was a representative of the borough until his elevation to the peerage, and continued recorder until his death. Tamworth confers the inferior title of Viscount on Earl Ferrers.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.