Dursley is a market town in Gloucestershire, England. It is under the North East flank of Stinchcombe Hill (part of the ‘Cotswold Edge’), and about 6 km South East of the River Severn. The town is adjacent with Cam which, though a village, is a community of double the size. The two communities (combined population about 12,000) share many facilities.
Dursley gained borough status in 1471 and lost it in 1886. From then until 1974 it was the administrative centre of Dursley Rural District (RDC). In 1974 the RDC became part of Stroud District.
The Parish Church of St. James the Great dates from the 13th century, but the modern building is largely of 14th and 15th century construction. The original church spire collapsed in January 1699 during a bell-ringing session, causing casualties. The current bell tower, in an imposing ‘Gothic Survival’ style was built by Thomas Sumsion of Colerne in the years 1708-09.
The pillared market house, complete with statue of Queen Anne and bell turret, dates from 1738, when the town’s markets attracted farmers and traders from miles around.
In 1856 a short branch line railway opened, linking Dursley and Cam to the Bristol – Gloucester main line at Coaley Junction. The branch line was closed in 1968. Coaley Junction station was also closed at about this time. However, in 1994 a new railway station called Cam and Dursley was opened on the main line near the site of Coaley Junction.
Ancient historical sites in the vicinity give evidence of earlier occupation. Uley Bury, in nearby Uley, is an Iron Age hill fort dating from around 300BC, and the village also has neolithic long barrows, which are evident further afield at Selsley Common and Nympsfield to the north. Notable Roman remains exist at Frocester, West Hill near Uley, Woodchester and Calcot Manor.
The town sits on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment where it drops off towards the Severn Vale and the River Severn. Dursley’s main watercourse is the River Cam, and the town is surrounded by beautiful woodland and countryside. The Cotswold Way long distance trail passes through Dursley.
Stinchcombe Hill provides a scenic backdrop to much of the town. It has an 18 hole golf course, said to be a favourite of the actor Hugh Grant. The Hill has had a great deal of work carried out by volunteers (SHV, led by John Smallwood), since 1992, in an attempt to restore the open views over the Severn Vale. The cleared areas can be seen from the M5 motorway. The Cotswold Way has now been re-routed around the Hill to take advantage of this work.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Dursley was a large-scale manufacturing town, and the engines built here by Lister stationary engine company were seen around the world. That company’s successor, Lister-Petter, is still based in the town, though much of the original 92-acre (370,000 m2) factory site was acquired in 2000 by the South West Regional Development Agency and is now part of a large housing development. The Towers, a large gothic-style house, formerly part of the Lister Petter estate, still overlooks the town and the site has been converted into flats and a residential care home.
Historically, other large factories based in the town included Mawdsleys, an electrical equipment manufacturer, Bymacks an upholsterers and the Bailey Newspaper Group, a newspaper printer, all of which have reduced or closed operations in recent years.
In March 2010 Sainsbury’s opened a newly built 20,000 Sq Ft supermarket located within walking distance of the town centre . Other recent arrivals include Lidl (November 2009, in premises on Kingshill Rd previously occupied by Kwik Save) and Iceland (July 2010, replacing Somerfield in the town centre). The Co-Op has operated a smaller store in Roseberry Road since 2002. Although some people dismiss Dursley as the “supermarket and charity shop” district of Gloucestershire, the town centre also hosts a wider range of shops including a traditional ironmongers, a haberdashery, an old fashioned sweet shop, a butcher, a baker and a greengrocer.
A range of markets are held at the Market Place in the centre of the town and a Farmers Market is held there on the second Saturday of every month. Continuing urban sprawl now joins Dursley and the near-by village of Cam.
Dursley has a number of licensed premises and the Old Spot pub is regularly voted Gloucestershire Pub of the Year. The pub was also named as 2007 CAMRA National Pub of the year.
Around 1496, the famous Christian writer and martyr, William Tyndale was born here.