Roughly equidistant between Worcester, Cheltenham, and Stratford-upon-Avon, it was originally built within a loop of the River Avon, which flows through the Vale of Evesham. The surrounding area (the Vale of Evesham) is known for fruit growing and market gardening, due to its unusually fertile soil which, on a commercial level, has led to a large number of migrant temporary workers living in the Vale, but also means it is one of the country's most well-known production centres for fruit and vegetables. The Vale of Evesham at its height was second only to Kent as the Garden of England.
A decline in the second half of the 20th century in domestic agriculture and home cleaning led to the closing of Evesham garden market in the 1990s, and many orchards in the town's Greenhill area fell into disuse.
The distinctive local dialect, now declining in use but strong still in older generations of the town's inhabitants, has 'Asum' as a contraction of the town's name. Asum was the name given to the produce of a popular micro-brewery based at the historic Green Dragon public house (built 1510 and boasting fine Tudor architecture) - Asum Ale. The pub has since been relaunched and the micro-brewery closed.
Another quirk of local language gives rise to the debate as to the pronunciation of the town's name itself. 'Eve-shum' is the more common phonetic pronunciation, but the pronunciation 'Eve-er-shum' is not uncommon. Younger generations of the town's inhabitants give a pseudo-affectionate name, The Sham, to the town.
Evesham was the site of a major battle—the Battle of Evesham, in which Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed on 4 August 1265. It was also home to one of Europe's largest abbeys, of which only Abbot Lichfield's Bell Tower remains. Evesham Abbey was founded by Saint Egwin, third Bishop of Worcester, following the vision of the Virgin Mary by a local swineherd or shepherd named Eof (sometimes Eoves). Eof legendarily went straight to Egwin, who journeyed to the site and shared the vision. He was moved to establish a Benedictine abbey on the site.
While Egwin was beatified and later canonised (a local Church of England middle school is named after him), Eof arguably had the greater historical resonance and posterity. The name of Evesham is derived from "Eof's ham" ("ham" in English placenames meaning "homestead"). Evesham Abbey funded smaller abbeys and churches in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. A large source of income came from pilgrims to the abbey to celebrate both the vision and the tomb of de Montfort.
One historical quirk of Evesham is that the town consists of Evesham "proper" within the loop of the river and Bengeworth to the east on the other side of the river. Bengeworth at one stage had a castle vying for control with the abbey across on the other side. Unfortunately for Bengeworth, the knights went on a drunken spree and damaged a grave or two in the abbey graveyard, giving the monks an excuse to attack and level the castle. To prevent its rebuilding the site was sanctified as a graveyard. This historic imbalance is still visible in the distribution of shops and roads.
Also to the southern side of the town is the parish of Greater and Little Hampton, an independent village of the town until approximate 80 years ago. To celebrate the linking of the village to the town and improve access Abbey bridge, or "New Bridge" as it was often known was built. The bridge was also the first completely structural concrete bridge to be built in the UK. Hampton has come into a resurgence in recent years, thanks partly to redevelopment of Hampton and the redrawing of the electoral boundaries.
The presence of the abbey, its residents and the pilgrims coming to the site led to a growth in the town within the loop of the river. A model of the town in the middle ages is sited in the Almonry Museum in the town centre. With what is thought to have been the third biggest abbey in Britain and a strong agricultural economy, the town became well-known. Henry VIII's Dissolution of the monasteries saw the Abbey dismantled and sold as building stone, leaving little but Evesham's landmark Lichfield Bell Tower. Had the Abbey survived, its size would have been greater than that of St. Paul's Cathedral.
In May 1998 Evesham was one of the towns hit by record flooding along the River Avon. The river rose 19 feet in just a few hours, sinking tethered narrowboats, flooding areas of Bengeworth, and threatening the 19th century Workman Bridge as static homes from a riverside caravan site broke up and became wedged in the bridge's arches. In July 2007 the town came to national prominence when it suffered some of the worst flooding in recorded British history.
As it is situated within Wychavon District Council Evesham's schools conform to the 3-tier model of First School (ages 5-10), Middle School (ages 10-13), High School (ages 13-18). This has been the situation since 1974, before then the model was primary school (ages 5-11), Secondary School (ages 11-18). Between 1974 and 1977 there was a period of transition between the two.
Because of its situation on the river the town is home to various watersports activities:
The town also has a Petanque Team (Evesham Petanque Club).
Although both of Evesham's cinemas have now closed, the town does have a modern purpose built theatre in Evesham Arts Centre.