The town features many notable Tudor buildings, and was the site of the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. It also has a fine Norman abbey, originally a monastery, which was saved from dissolution by King Henry VIII after being bought by the townspeople for their parish church. Tewkesbury also lays claim to Gloucestershire's oldest public house, the Black Bear. Another notable building is the Royal Hop Pole Hotel, mentioned in Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers. The historic Abbey Cottages, over 500 years old, were rescued from dereliction in the 1970s. One houses the town museum, the others are residential homes.
Historically, Tewkesbury is a market town, serving the local rural area. It underwent some expansion in the period following World War Two, and today has a small but significant high technology industry. Tewkesbury has also been a centre for flour milling for many centuries, and the Abbey Mill still stands. Flour is still milled at a more modern factory a short way upriver. The town also hosts a large Army supply depot at nearby Ashchurch. The town suffered from some decline in the early 1990s, with many local shops and businesses closing.