A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.
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Agriculture. In 1086 there was no demesne land in either Woolaston manor or Aluredston, though the king held two fisheries in demesne at Madgett. (fn. 1) By the late 13th century, shortly before the manor was granted to Tintern Abbey, there was considerable demesne at Aluredston. Three demesne servants were employed, and 22 boonworks at haymaking and 102 boonworks at harvest were worked; in addition, labour-services for threshing were provided by Tidenham tenants of the lordship of Striguil. The livestock usually consisted of eight oxen and two other draught animals, and wheat, barley, peas, and oats were grown, together with a small quantity of beans and rye. In 1286 four casks of cider were produced, and in 1293 two casks and eight quarters of apples. (fn. 2) An orchard belonging to the vicarage was recorded in 1261. (fn. 3)
There were 5 villani with 5 ploughs in the manor of Woolaston in 1086, and the two manors at Aluredston had respectively 5 villani and 3 bordars with 3 ploughs, and 2 villani with 2 ploughs. The larger manor at Aluredston had increased in value since 1066, and was worth more than Woolaston. (fn. 4) Rents of assize between £6 and £6 10s. were received from Aluredston manor by the lordship of Striguil in the late 13th century, and were increased from 1289 by the addition of rents for new assarts. (fn. 5) Shortly before the Dissolution the Tintern Abbey granges of Woolaston, Madgett, and Brockweir and the manor of Aluredston were all held at farm, Brockweir being leased to a number of tenants. Aluredston was worth only £3 10s., but receipts of £25 12s. 8d. from fixed rents and manorial courts at Woolaston, Aluredston, and Ashwell may have included a large proportion of rents from that manor. The grange of Woolaston, valued at £22, was worth about three times as much as any other Tintern Abbey grange. (fn. 6)
The only woodland and meadow in the parish in 1086 was within the manor of Aluredston, where there was a wood half a league long by half a league wide, and 10 a. of meadow. (fn. 7) Until 1300 the parish lay within the bounds of the Forest of Dean, which embraced Tidenham Chase, (fn. 8) and in 1170 receipts from forest pleas included 6s. 8d. from the men of Aluredston. (fn. 9) Besides the Abbot of Tintern's assart of 200 a. made without warrant before 1282, (fn. 10) some minor encroachments and assarts at both Woolaston and Aluredston were recorded then and in 1289-90. (fn. 11) In the higher part of the parish the place-name Redding is common, Monks Redding occurring at Madgett in 1476 and west of Woolaston Woodside in 1864, and in 1476 the abbey tenants held clearings called 'rydings' in addition to their arable land. (fn. 12) The abbey itself was paying a small annual rent in 1535 to the lordship of Striguil for land at Ashwell and the Roads Grove, part of Oakhill Wood, presumably for assarts or pasture rights. (fn. 13) The abbey and its tenants had been granted pasture rights in Tidenham Chase in 1223, (fn. 14) and payments for pannage were made by Aluredston tenants in the late 13th century. (fn. 15)
The pattern of landholding did not change significantly as a result of the grant of the Tintern Abbey estates to the Earl of Worcester, and up to the late 19th century most of the land belonged to the principal estate, but Plusterwine House, most of the land in the hamlets of Brookend and Netherend, and about one third of the cottages and lands enclosed from Woolaston Common were freehold. (fn. 16) Fifteen freeholders paid chief rents in 1771-2, (fn. 17) and 9 freeholders had land in the open fields at Plusterwine in 1789. (fn. 18) The enfranchisement of some copyholds was begun c. 1650, after the sequestration of the Earl of Worcester's estate, but the process was reversed by Cromwell, on whom the manor had been settled. (fn. 19) In 1771-2 in Woolaston there were 23 tenants paying rack-rents and 15 copyholders of small properties, holding them for the term of three lives; at Brockweir three tenants paid rack-rents and there were four copyhold tenements, including Townsend and Madgett farms. (fn. 20) Heriots were paid in the 1680s. (fn. 21)
The whole Beaufort estate in Tidenham and Woolaston amounted to 2,123 a. in 1769. The largest farm was Woolaston Grange, consisting of 484 a., chiefly arable but with a large amount of meadow. The other large farm was Madgett with 371 a., of which 44 a. lay in Tidenham. In 1769 it was about equally divided between arable, pasture, and meadow, but c. 1700, when its area was only 313 a., there was hardly any arable land. (fn. 22) The other farms near the Wye, Brockweir, Townsend, and Passage farms, each less than 100 a., also had a small proportion of arable, as did Keynsham farm and Ashwell Grange. (fn. 23) None of the other freehold farms was of any great size.
In the late 17th and 18th centuries the only open fields were at High Woolaston and Plusterwine. Much of the north part of the parish was woodland or waste, and the former Tintern Abbey granges were enclosed. At High Woolaston in 1743 the open fields were on the north side of the hamlet and were called Keynsham, Hoardy or Worthy, High Woolaston, and Upper, Middle, and Lower Dean fields. (fn. 24) They were apparently enclosed between 1743 and 1769, when there also remained some evidence of strips north of Knights Farm. The open fields at Plusterwine lay almost entirely south of the road to Chepstow and east of Plusterwine Lane. The arable fields were Goose Land or Goosling field, Little field, Middle field, Little Thornwell or Thornhill, Lower field, and, adjoining the Severn on the west side of the lane, Cone House field. Along the Cone brook were the open meadows of Mickla Mead, Thornwell, and Little, Middle, and Great Clanna. (fn. 25) In the late 17th century the meadows were commonable after haymaking and the open fields until sowing time. The fields were mostly divided in ½-a. strips and were inclosed by the agreement of the ten landowners in 1789, when the Duke of Beaufort and James Woodroffe were the principal owners, with 82 a. in 109 strips and 42 a. in 74 strips respectively. (fn. 26) Winter corn and spring corn were chiefly grown, but rye, barley, oats, and peas were also recorded occasionally. (fn. 27) Tithes on those crops were payable in 1727, and on clover, apples, and pears as well as livestock. (fn. 28) The continued importance of fruit-growing is revealed in the presence of cider-mills at all the larger farms in 1813, (fn. 29) and a variety of pear called a Woolaston was recorded in 1801. (fn. 30) Potato gardens existed at High Woolaston and Keynsham farm in 1769, (fn. 31) and allotments for potato gardens were made under the Inclosure Act of 1810. (fn. 32)
Common rights were enjoyed in Woolaston Wood and claimed in Tidenham Chase in the 16th and 17th centuries, although the inhabitants of Tidenham and other parishes were denied similar rights in Woolaston Wood. (fn. 33) For a short time in 1660 the wood was committed to the care of the Commissioners of Dean Forest in order to check the felling of timber, coal-mining, and iron-works, which had become more extensive during Oliver Cromwell's ownership of the manor. (fn. 34) Minor encroachments on the waste, including the erection of cottages, were made at Park Hill, Woolaston Wood, and Brockweir in the late 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 35) Under the Inclosure Act of 1810 encroachments made before 1789 for which no rents were paid were allotted to the possessor, and encroachments made between 1789 and 1809 by freeholders were allotted to them, all others being allotted to the Duke of Beaufort as lord of the manor. (fn. 36) The lands inclosed in Woolaston were chiefly at Woolaston Woodside and Woolaston Common, but c. 60 a. of meadow at Plusterwine were also included. The Duke of Beaufort was awarded 40 a. for manorial rights, and the rector 47 a. for tithes; 36 a. were allotted for horseand cow-pastures and potato gardens for persons holding lands worth less than £10 a year. (fn. 37) There were 33 a. of common land at Woolaston Common and Common Wood in 1969. (fn. 38)
In 1842 apart from the Duke of Beaufort there were only two other important landowners paying tithes, James Stevens with 176 a. at Woolaston Woodside and Plusterwine and Francis Hammond with 126 a. chiefly at High Woolaston, (fn. 39) but altogether there were 16 freeholders paying chief rents. (fn. 40) A few additional tenancies had been created by 1845, when there were 116 copyholders holding small plots for terms of lives, 22 cottagers holding at will, and 33 farmers paying rack-rents for the larger holdings; nine tenants with leases for terms of years were recorded in 1845 but not in 1842. At Brockweir six tenants held by rack-rent and one for a term of years. (fn. 41) Later in the century many of the larger farms were held on yearly tenancies, (fn. 42) until after the sale of the Beaufort estate to S. S. Marling in 1872 when the tenancies were converted into leases. (fn. 43)
Under the Inclosure Act 162 cottagers in Tidenham and Woolaston claimed ownership of their cottages. The Duke of Beaufort's agent, Zouch Turton, contested 59 claims in Woolaston, and the majority of the cottagers agreed to hold by lease for three lives, but in 1820 there were still ten unsettled claims. (fn. 44) There were 39 cottages at Woolaston Woodside, Woolaston Common, and Brookend belonging to the estate in 1872, (fn. 45) but by 1905 Sir William Henry Marling had sold them all. (fn. 46)
Throughout the 19th century Woolaston Grange remained the largest farm in the parish, its size varying between 570 a. and 586 a. It was described as one of the best belonging to the Duke of Beaufort in 1813, when some of the outbuildings, despite repairs by the tenant James Hammond, needed renewing. (fn. 47) It suffered from the neglect of a later tenant and in 1873, to overcome a labour shortage blamed on the proximity of the parish to the mining areas, a surveyor recommended the building of six new cottages, which was apparently carried out. It was a livestock farm, carrying 370 sheep and 200 lambs in 1888, but the offgoing crop in 1873 included 680 gallons of cider. (fn. 48) In 1921 it was primarily a dairy farm, although c. 200 a. were arable. (fn. 49) The other large farm on the Beaufort estate, Madgett, underwent several changes. In 1813 it was in a bad state handicapped by its shortage of water and with much of its land overgrown; the tenant also held a farm at High Woolaston, apparently working the two holdings as one unit of 461 a., some of which was in Tidenham parish. (fn. 50) By 1842 the High Woolaston land had been detached and Madgett divided into two holdings by the building of a dwelling at Sheepcot. (fn. 51) The area of both farms was enlarged in the 1860s by attaching 273 a. of neighbouring woods, (fn. 52) but the farm-land of Madgett in 1842 was 134 a. and in 1921 was 157 a. and at both dates Sheepcot was 91 a. (fn. 53)
Plusterwine farm was reduced in size from 344 a. in 1813 to c. 250 a. in 1842 and 1921, perhaps by the exchange or sale of lands with Plusterwine House farm which was twice as large in 1842 as in the late 18th century. (fn. 54) Most of the land was pasture for dairying in both 1873 and 1921, poorly drained and unsuitable for sheep. (fn. 55) The other bigger farms of the Beaufort estate, Ashwell Grange, Keynsham, Brockweir and Townsend (held together), and Edge farm at High Woolaston, changed little in character and size throughout the 19th century, each being between c. 100 a. and 150 a. There was more change among the farms of c. 50 a. Gumstalls was reduced to 30 a. by 1842, and later ceased to be a separate farm. Under the Marling family new holdings were created at Slade farm, Cross farm, Hill farm, and Common farm, where earlier there had been only cottages. (fn. 56) Whitewalls farm, standing on part of Monk Redding, consisted of 96 a. in 1769. (fn. 57) By 1864 the farm had grown to 182 a. excluding 35 a. of woodland, but the Marling family had the land replanted with trees so that in 1921 there were only a gamekeeper's house, a pheasantry, and 38 a. of land; (fn. 58) in 1969 it was owned by the Forestry Commission. (fn. 59)
During the 19th century much land was converted from arable to pasture, (fn. 60) and c. 1933 the only farms with any appreciable proportion of arable were Woolaston Grange and Madgett. (fn. 61) By 1969 Madgett and Sheepcot farms had both become dairy farms. The emphasis on dairying is also shown in the presence of cheese rooms at Ashwell Grange and Edge Farm in 1864. (fn. 62) Cider-apple-growing remained important and throughout the century all the farms had cider-mills; (fn. 63) a good orchard was a valuable part of a cottage holding. (fn. 64) Many such small orchards survived in 1969, but the only cider-mill in use after c. 1939 was a portable one at Luggs Cross. (fn. 65)
The Beaufort estate possessed 96 a. of woodland in the north part of the parish in 1769 and a further 66 a. attached to Ashwell and Madgett farms. (fn. 66) Arrears of wood-sales in 1771-2 amounted to c. £220, but no timber or bark was sold that year. (fn. 67) The figure of 500 a. of woodland c. 1800 (fn. 68) is almost certainly an exaggeration, for there were only 227 a. c. 1840, of which 207 a. belonged to the Duke of Beaufort. (fn. 69) In 1841 there were 14 men dependent on wood-working trades. (fn. 70) In the late 19th century the woods of the Marling estate were managed for profit, (fn. 71) and they comprised 156 a. in 1920, when, despite the presence of charcoal-burners, they appear to have been chiefly valued as game preserves. (fn. 72)
There was a mill at Woolaston in 1086, (fn. 73) and a mill at Aluredston was recorded from 1274, when an agreement was made for its tithes to be paid to the Vicar of Woolaston. (fn. 74) The Aluredston watermill was leased between 1279 and 1293, and a new mill made in 1289-90. (fn. 75) Two millers were recorded in 1608, (fn. 76) and in 1777 there was one water-mill a short distance north-west of Woolaston Grange and another on the Cone brook at Netherend. (fn. 77) The former was called Clap Mill by 1488. (fn. 78) In 1813 it was held with Woolaston Grange and was a gristmill containing a breast wheel with two pairs of stones; the wheel also drove a threshing machine, and the building was apparently new, as the old mill had been converted into a dwelling. (fn. 79) Usually called Grange Mill in the later 19th century, the mill contained similar machinery in 1921, (fn. 80) and was worked up to 1950 when it was converted to electricity. (fn. 81)
A mill and land in Woolaston, Hewelsfield, and St. Briavels conveyed to Thomas James by Edward Shere and others in 1583 (fn. 82) was possibly the watermill on the Cone, for the Shere family later had other property near-by. (fn. 83) In 1618 and 1623 the same cornmill was apparently held by Edmund and George Maddocks. (fn. 84) Later in the 17th century it was converted into a fulling-mill, for the tuck mill recorded in 1690 may be most probably identified as Cone Mill. (fn. 85) By 1774 Cone Mill was a paper-mill, where writing and other papers were manufactured. It was owned by Richard Barrow (d. 1777), and by 1815 had passed to John Barrow. (fn. 86) In 1793 it was held by John Ward, who went bankrupt that year, and in 1795 and 1801 by Samuel Jenkins. In 1820 John Reece began his long association with it. In 1841 ten paper-makers and an engineer lived in the parish. (fn. 87) Reece was the sole owner and occupier in 1842, (fn. 88) but by 1856 the mill was worked by John Sandford. Messrs. Reece and Sandford also had paper-mills in Monmouthshire, and operated Cone Mill in the 1860s, but rapid changes in ownership followed. In 1870 it was owned by the Gloucestershire Paper Making Co. Ltd., and in 1876 by the trustees of James Randle, (fn. 89) when news, printing, and coloured papers were manufactured. A gasometer adjoining the mill had been built by 1880. (fn. 90) and in 1882-3 the owner John Macpherson constructed a reservoir to improve the water supply. (fn. 91) Larger machinery was fitted at about the same time and in 1885 and 1890 Thomas Paterson Gillespie was manufacturing printing, news, and writing papers. (fn. 92) The mill was closed in 1895, and it is said that 300 people were put out of work when the papermill and near-by corn-mill in Alvington (closed in 1914) went out of production, partly because of high transport costs to the station. Cone Mill was then used as a laundry until c. 1945. The factory chimneys were dismantled in the 1940s and the paper-sorting house demolished in 1968, but a few buildings and traces of the pond, reservoir, and mill-race remained in 1969. (fn. 93)
Fisheries were recorded in 1086 at Woolaston and Aluredston, both presumably in the River Severn. (fn. 94) The former was included in the gift of the lordship of Woolaston to Tintern Abbey in 1131, (fn. 95) and in 1223 William, Earl Marshal, granted Tintern Abbey the right to make fish-pools between Aluredston and Walden Pill. (fn. 96) Although there is nothing to suggest that it was artificial, one such tidal pool used for taking salmon, called Gale Pool, was disputed between the lords of Tidenham and Woolaston manors c. 1540, and was therefore presumably near Horse Pill. (fn. 97) The Duke of Beaufort had 400 salmon putchers at Horse Pill in 1866 (fn. 98) and owned the fishing rights in the river between Beachley and Cone Pill. About 1820 the tenant complained of losses caused by poaching which had been prevalent for 60 years. (fn. 99) The fisheries were conveyed to the Crown by the Duke of Beaufort in 1901, and by the Crown to the Wye Board of Conservators in 1924, the fishing rights being vested in the Wye River Authority in 1969. (fn. 100) The tenants of the Horse Pill fishery since 1926 have been E. J. Harris and his son Mr. J. Harris of Luggs Cross. (fn. 101) One fisherman was recorded in the parish in 1841 and 1856, (fn. 102) and many cottagers at Brookend were employed in the trade part-time c. 1955. (fn. 103) Although salmon fishing has been more important, shrimp fishing has been carried out since at least 1707 when inhabitants were presented at the manor court for throwing shrimps' heads in the highway. (fn. 104) The fishery at Aluredston in 1086 may have been that called 'Aluredeswere' in the fee of Woolaston, granted in 1131 by Walter de Clare to Tintern Abbey but by 1148 exchanged for other Woolaston fisheries. (fn. 105) No record of the Aluredston fishery after 1290 (fn. 106) has been found. There was a fishery at the Guscar Rocks, with which it may be identified, in the late 19th century, but it has not been fished since c. 1875. (fn. 107)
In the River Wye were other fisheries, of which strictly speaking only the moiety that could be fished from the east bank of the river belonged to Woolaston. In 1086 four fisheries in the Wye were attached to the Madgett estates. Two belonged to the king, one to Roger de Lacy, and one to Malmesbury Abbey; all four were of some value, rendering £4 together, and were claimed by William of Eu. (fn. 108) His claim was apparently allowed, at least in part for three fisheries may be identified with those shares of Wall Weir, Half Weir, and Baddings Weir granted by his successors. Walter de Clare and Gilbert, Earl of Pembroke, to Tintern Abbey by 1148. (fn. 109) The fourth was probably Ash Weir, a moiety of which was given to the abbey by William, Earl Marshal, in 1223. William also gave land at Kiddenham with a pool called Waihisers between Londemere and Lyn Weir. (fn. 110) The other moiety of Ash Weir belonged to Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, in 1398, (fn. 111) but the whole fishery had passed to Tintern Abbey before the Dissolution and was named with Wall Weir in the grant of the abbey's lands to Henry, Earl of Worcester, in 1537. (fn. 112) The fisheries of Brockweir (which lay just outside Woolaston) and Lyn Weir both belonged to Joan de Clare (d. 1307) and her son Gilbert de Clare (d. 1314). (fn. 113) There was a complaint that the Woolaston moiety of Lyn Weir had been raised c. 1670 and was obstructing barges. (fn. 114)
OTHER INDUSTRY AND TRADE.
The River Severn provided the parish with other maritime activities. The Roman villa at Chesters is believed to have had a small lighthouse to guide vessels past Guscar Rocks to a landing-place, which was apparently used for the shipment of iron ore in the Middle Ages. (fn. 115) At the mouth of the Cone brook there was a ferry rendering 4d. to Aluredston manor in 1279, (fn. 116) with a landing-place from which deer-poachers in the Forest of Dean were conveyed to Bristol c. 1282. (fn. 117) Naval frigates are said to have been built at Cone Pill up to 1646, (fn. 118) and the right of loading and landing with access 'to transport our goods to Bristoll or any other places' was asserted in 1708 by the tenants of the manor, who declared it to be a full market pill in 1719 and 1742. (fn. 119) Silting of both Cone Pill and the landing-place near Chesters may have begun about that time, (fn. 120) but in 1772 two sloops sailed regularly to Bristol with market goods, and a 50-ton sloop, the 'Forester', was built at Woolaston, presumably at Cone Pill, c. 1794. (fn. 121) Meadows adjoining Cone Pill were called the Old Wharf and the Wharf in 1842, (fn. 122) and flour and paper were sent by ship from the pill in the late 19th century. (fn. 123) Two sailors, a boatman, a waterman, and a ship-carpenter or boat-builder were recorded in 1608, (fn. 124) a family of sail-makers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, (fn. 125) two mariners and a sail-maker in 1841, (fn. 126) and a master mariner in 1923. (fn. 127) Local merchantships were a form of investment; John Berrow of Woolaston (later of Tidenham) had shares in Chepstow-registered vessels in 1785 and 1787, James Hammond in 1787, and Thomas Wade in 1828. (fn. 128) Using the Wye, ships carrying between 40 and 138 tons of stone sailed frequently between Tintern Quarry and Avonmouth from 1872 to 1876, (fn. 129) and a little farther up the Wye a timber-merchant made a quay and warehouse in 1851. (fn. 130) It was in use until 1930, and quays south of the Moravian church at Brockweir were used until the building of the roadbridge in 1906. (fn. 131)
Two tanners and a glover were recorded in 1608, (fn. 132) a bark house stood at Grange Pill in the late 18th century, and there were occasional references to tanners between those dates. (fn. 133) Tan House Orchard at High Woolaston in 1769 was perhaps associated with James Hammond (d. 1819), tanner of that hamlet. (fn. 134) At Brookend a house known as Tan House in 1771 (fn. 135) was bought from the Hammond family by John Barrow in 1806 and converted between 1808 and 1833 by William Packer into a house with leather-room and drying loft. It was sold in 1849 to Francis Clark, a Chepstow currier, (fn. 136) whose business there was recorded up to 1876. (fn. 137) The tannery closed c. 1925 but some of the buildings remain.
Evidence of the iron industry is afforded by the discovery of medieval iron ore nodules on the shore near Woolaston Grange, from where metal is said to have been shipped, and by references to the export of iron ore in the late 17th century from Brockweir and Cone Pill; (fn. 138) the field-name Cinder Mead near the Cone brook was recorded from 1714. (fn. 139) James Woodroffe, declared bankrupt in 1804, was an iron-manufacturer and dealer. (fn. 140) A blacksmith occurs in 1661, there was a blacksmith's shop at High Woolaston in 1769, (fn. 141) and another at Brookend in 1842. (fn. 142) There were eight smiths and a farrier in 1841, and two between 1856 and 1880 at Brookend and Luggs Cross; one remained in 1923. (fn. 143)
Tiles were made at Plusterwine in 1292-3 (fn. 144) and 1661, (fn. 145) and tiles and paving sold in 1682 probably came from Woolaston Woodside. (fn. 146) Tintern Quarry at Passage Farm was worked for a few years in the 1870s. It was leased to W. F. Laurence, of Clifton, in 1870 and extended by him in 1873. Between 15,000 and 20,000 tons of stone were extracted each year, most being conveyed by ship to Bristol where Laurence was a contractor for the Avonmouth docks and railway. The lease expired in 1876 and the quarry went out of use. (fn. 147) Other disused quarries in 1880 were situated at Madgett, Woolaston Woodside, and near Cone Mill. A former coal-pit a short distance south of Whitewalls farm was then visible, and a lime-kiln at Woolaston Slade. (fn. 148) Another lime-kiln stood in Ashwell Grove in 1842, (fn. 149) and former limestone-quarries and kilns were recorded at Woolaston and Park Hill c. 1955. (fn. 150)
In 1526 a parishioner excusing his absence from church pleaded that he had no domicile because he was a player. (fn. 151) The parish contained a wheelwright, two weavers, a tailor, and baker in 1608, (fn. 152) a shoemaker in 1620, (fn. 153) and a butcher in 1813. (fn. 154) In 1841 there were 9 shoemakers, 4 masons, 3 tailors, 2 butchers, 2 hawkers, a shopkeeper, a miller, and a saddler, as well as specialist tradesmen already mentioned, but most men were employed in agriculture. (fn. 155) In the later 19th century retail tradesmen included two shoemakers and five shopkeepers in 1856, a threshing machine contractor, a haulier, a coal merchant, and a corn-dealer in 1876, and a mason in 1885. Unusual occupations were those of well-sinker in 1897 and photographer and motor engineer in 1939. A police station, post office, and grocery at Brookend existed by 1856. Two grocers and a butcher had shops at Netherend c. 1955, but the village's shopping needs were also served by mobile shops. (fn. 156) A surgeon was licensed in 1731, (fn. 157) and William Somerset, rector from 1859 to 1902, practised as a doctor in the mid 19th century, (fn. 158) as did William Gould, (fn. 159) the rector in 1969.