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 the demesne of Alkerton manor was cultivated by 3 servi with one plough, (fn. 1) and in 1322 it comprised 23 a. of arable, 10 a. of meadow, and 4 a. of pasture. The demesne of Eastington manor was apparently a fairly large acreage in 1322 to judge from the works owed by the customary tenants; both there and on Alkerton manor, however, the tenants apparently had the option of paying the cash value of the works. (fn. 2) About 1552 the demesne of the manors of Eastington and Alkerton comprised 28 a. of arable, 8 a. of common meadow, 65 a. of several pasture, and pasture for 100 sheep, 32 beasts, and 4 horses; a further 49 a. of former demesne was held by copyhold tenants. (fn. 3)
In 1322 there were 10 or 11 free tenants holding from Eastington manor, and 29 customary tenants. One customary tenant held a yardland, for which he owed 4 days' work and 1 day's ploughing each week except those of Easter, Whitsun, and Christmas; each day's work, valued at ½d. between October and July, was worth three times as much in August and twice as much in September, and each day's ploughing was worth 2d. Fourteen tenants held half-yardlands and owed half the works of the yardlander, 4 held fardels and owed a quarter of the works, 2 held 1/5-yardlands and owed cash rents and 4 bedrips, and there were 8 cottagers owing cash rents, two of whom owed in addition a day's mowing and a day's reaping. On Alkerton manor in 1322 there were 7 free tenants; 3 held yardlands, one a half-yardland, and 3 smaller estates. There were 5 customary tenants: two held 8 a. and owed 2 days' work a week, except the three festival weeks, from October to July, and 3 days' work in August and September, two held 4 a. and owed 1 day's work from October to July and two days during August and September, and a cottager owed a cash rent and 3 bedrips in autumn. (fn. 4) One of the customary tenements on Alkerton manor was described as a mondayland in 1451. The custom of widow's freebench was recorded on Eastington manor from 1454. (fn. 5)
About 1552 there were 24 copyholders holding for up to three lives on Eastington manor; the largest estate was 65 a. and comprised two former holdings, three were c. 40 a., eight were 20-30 a., six 10-20 a., and six under 10 a. Alkerton manor then had 10 copyholders, four holding c. 30 a., three 10-20 a., and three c. 5 a. (fn. 6) By 1611 the copyholds on Eastington manor were reduced to 13, and on Alkerton manor (including Amey Court) to 5. (fn. 7) In the early 18th century there were 7 leaseholders for lives and one copyholder on Eastington manor, and 6 leaseholders for lives and a tenant-at-will on Alkerton manor; most of the leaseholders owed heriots. One of the farms on Alkerton manor was 50 a., another 40 a., and two on Eastington manor 24 a.; the remainder were under 20 a. (fn. 8)
There were separate groups of open fields for Eastington and Alkerton. In 1439 the arable of an Eastington tenant was divided between Budlow field east of Nupend, West field south-west of Westend, and Nast field (fn. 9) lying east of Nastend and shared with Stonehouse. (fn. 10) In the mid 16th century the arable of the manor lay in 8 main fields - Budlow, West, and Nast fields, Westlow on the north near Mole Grove, North, Top, and Long Riding, and the Ham, presumably converted meadow-land. Most of the Eastington copyhold tenants had a few acres in 5 or 6 of the fields, and some had arable crofts. (fn. 11) Of the open fields of Alkerton manor Mead field, lying north and east of Claypits, and Middlecroft were mentioned in 1329, and Park field, apparently to the south of Alkerton village, in 1426; (fn. 12) c. 1552 those three fields with Nast field, probably that later called Stanley field near the boundary with Leonard Stanley, were the main Alkerton fields. A three-course rotation was followed in each group of fields c. 1552. The Eastington tenants then had meadowland, usually 1 a. or less, in Eastington Meadow, apparently that later called Westend Meadow lying between West field and the river, and the Alkerton tenants in Alkerton Meadow on the opposite side of the river; both were lot meadows. (fn. 13) There were small acreages of several pasture in most of the open fields of the parish, and most tenants had c. 5-10 a. in closes. The common of pasture was mainly in the open fields and meadows; the largest holdings in Eastington manor had pasture for c. 40 sheep, c. 14 beasts, and one or two horses, and the larger holdings in Alkerton, for c. 20 sheep, c. 8 beasts, and usually one horse. The stint was then only very roughly proportionate to the size of holding, (fn. 14) although the Alkerton manor court had laid down a stint of 60 sheep to the yardland and 30 to the ½-yardland in 1455 (fn. 15) and the common on that manor was again apportioned at 40 sheep, 16 cattle, and one horse to the yardland, in 1609. (fn. 16)
The gradual inclosure of the open fields, which had evidently begun by the mid 16th century, continued throughout the next three centuries: in the early 17th century the glebe included 18½ a. in several closes in Park field, (fn. 17) and a 'tyning' taken out of Budlow field was mentioned in 1674; (fn. 18) inclosure by exchange was taking place in Mead field, Middlecroft, and Nast field (Alkerton) in 1696, (fn. 19) and in Nast field (Eastington) and West field in 1774. (fn. 20) By 1839 c. 190 a. of the parish lay in 'tynings' inclosed out of the open fields. In Eastington tithing only Budlow field with c. 24 a. remained an open field, although at least 16 a. in West field and some land in Westlow had still been open in 1802. Stanley field in Alkerton tithing had at least 15 a. open in 1802, but by 1839 all the uninclosed land in the tithing lay in Mead field, then comprising an upper division with c. 46 a. and a lower division with c. 30 a. Westend Meadow still had c. 9 a. uninclosed in 1839, but Alkerton Meadow, which in 1802 had comprised 36 a. almost all belonging to the manorial estate, had been inclosed. (fn. 21) The inclosure of 69 a. in Upper and Lower Mead fields by Act of Parliament in 1867 apparently completed the process of inclosure in the parish. (fn. 22)
The parish was said to consist mainly of pasture c. 1775, (fn. 23) and in 1778 the manorial estate (704 a.) had only 128 a. arable. (fn. 24) In 1794 268 a. in the parish were under crops, mainly wheat, beans, and barley, with smaller acreages of peas and oats; (fn. 25) in 1801 there were also small acreages of turnips and potatoes. (fn. 26) About 1820 36 a. in the parish were growing teasels for use in the cloth-mills, (fn. 27) and a teasel-dealer lived in the parish in 1845. (fn. 28) There was a withy-bed in Alkerton Meadow c. 1830, (fn. 29) and osiers used by itinerant basket-makers were grown in the parish until the early 20th century. (fn. 30) There was some increase in arable in the early 19th century: c. 1830 the four largest estates, a total of 1,232 a., had 325 a., (fn. 31) and in 1839 520 a. out of a total acreage of 2,043 a. were arable. (fn. 32) In 1901 the reduced parish had 196 a. of arable. (fn. 33)
In 1778 the manorial estate included c. 10 farms, of which 6 were of 50 a. or more; Alkerton farm was 100 a. and Westend farm and one other were each c. 130 a. (fn. 34) By 1839 Alkerton farm had grown to 178 a. and Westend farm to 183 a., while there were 4 other farms of over 100 a. and 8 of 50-60 a. (fn. 35) The total number of farms was about the same in 1906 (fn. 36) and in 1939 when there were 6 at Alkerton, 3 near Middle Street and Cress Green, and 2 each at Nupend, Nastend, and Westend. (fn. 37) In 1968 the land was used mainly for dairying and stock-raising.
The mill of Eastington manor recorded from 1390 was apparently Churchend Mill. It was held before 1390 by John Bridley and in that year his successor as tenant asked for a reduction in rent because the mill was dilapidated. (fn. 38) In 1439 the mill estate, which included a cottage, corn-mill, fullingmill, and 14 a. of land, was held by Richard Bridley; (fn. 39) Bridley surrendered it to the lord of the manor in 1444 and it was leased instead to Thomas Webb. The mill had been described as ruinous in 1440 and Thomas was being ordered to rebuild it in 1448 and later. (fn. 40) Thomas or his son of the same name held it until at least 1491. (fn. 41) A Thomas Webb died c. 1509, leaving the furnace and vats in his dyehouse to his son John; his widow Margery married a fuller, John Clutterbuck, who may have held the mill at his death in 1524, and have been succeeded by Walter Clutterbuck, mentioned as a cloth-maker in 1525. (fn. 42) In 1540 the mill was granted by copy to Catherine Clutterbuck, a widow, and her sons, (fn. 43) and in 1547 and 1554 the tenant was Walter Clutterbuck. (fn. 44) In 1547 the Crown granted the mill to Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley, (fn. 45) and in 1550 to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, later Duke of Northumberland; (fn. 46) after Dudley's attainder the Crown granted it in 1554 to William Wytt and William Breton. (fn. 47) By another grant later in 1550, however, the same mill was granted to Sir William Herbert, (fn. 48) later Earl of Pembroke (d. 1570), and in 1575 his son Henry, Earl of Pembroke, sold it to a group including Richard and Edward Stephens. (fn. 49) In 1588 Churchend Mill was being worked by the clothier James Stephens, brother of the lord of the manor, (fn. 50) and he owned the mill and 44 a. at his death in 1591. He was succeeded by his son Edward, who was recorded as a clothier in 1608 (fn. 51) and was still alive in 1653 when his son Nathaniel was also mentioned. (fn. 52) The son was presumably that Nathaniel Stephens who owned the mill in 1674 and died before 1696. (fn. 53) In 1729 Edward Stephens was described as a clothier of Churchend, and his son Edward was living at Churchend in 1735. (fn. 54) In 1770 Churchend Mill, which still combined a grist-mill and fulling-mill, was settled on the marriage of Mary Sinclair, a widow, and Thomas Oliver, who sold it in 1771 to Ellis James. Ellis James settled it on the marriage of his son Ellis in 1773; the younger Ellis was dead by 1775 when his widow Elizabeth conveyed her life interest in the mill to her husband's brother and heir John James. John James's trustees sold the mill in 1799 to Henry Hicks; (fn. 55) its later history is given below.
Millend Mill was perhaps the mill recorded in Alkerton manor in 1086. (fn. 56) There was certainly a mill on or near the site by 1329, (fn. 57) and it was probably the mill of Alkerton mentioned in 1379, (fn. 58) Millend Mill had become the property of Leonard Stanley Priory by 1456, (fn. 59) and it was the fulling-mill held by Thomas Clutterbuck and sold with the other priory land to Anthony Bourchier in 1548, and to John Sandford in 1549; (fn. 60) John Sandford sold it c. 1552 to Richard Clutterbuck, and the descendants of Richard's son, William, owned the mill until the end of the 18th century, although they may not have worked it after the mid 17th century. (fn. 61)
From 1785 Millend Mill was leased by William Fryer to the partnership of Henry Hicks and Edward Sheppard who worked it in conjunction with a mill at Uley until 1795 or later. (fn. 62) Hicks, who became lord of the manor in 1806, (fn. 63) acquired Churchend Mill in 1799 and rebuilt it before 1806, (fn. 64) and he had bought and rebuilt Millend Mill by 1820. (fn. 65) Hicks also built a third mill, Meadow Mill to the northwest of Churchend, which was presumably the New Mill he was occupying in 1811. (fn. 66) In 1833 the three mills were managed by Charles Hooper for Hicks Bros. Steam-engines had been installed by then, but water-power, said to be very irregular, was still used; c. 300 people were employed at the mills and c. 200 outdoor weavers. (fn. 67) After Henry Hicks's death in 1836 the mills were worked by lessees although the Hicks family retained ownership of Millend Mill until 1872 and Churchend and Meadow Mills until c. 1900. (fn. 68) In 1839 Charles Hooper was manufacturing cloth at Churchend and Millend Mills, and had 59 handlooms at work in them. Meadow Mill was occupied in 1839 by H. Fletcher & Son, (fn. 69) but their clothing machinery there was for sale in 1841, (fn. 70) and soon afterwards Meadow Mill too was occupied by Charles Hooper. (fn. 71) The business, known as Charles Hooper & Co., was inherited at Hooper's death in 1869 by his son, Charles Henry Hooper, (fn. 72) and in the later 19th century the three mills were worked in conjunction with Bond's Mill, Stonehouse, and Beard's Mill, Leonard Stanley, each housing different processes. (fn. 73) The mills continued to employ a large proportion of the population of the parish until the three at Eastington closed down c. 1906. (fn. 74) Churchend Mill, which in 1892 comprised a new block of four stories, an old mill with one water-wheel, and other buildings, (fn. 75) was demolished c. 1912; (fn. 76) it stood just to the southeast of the school. (fn. 77) Meadow Mill was occupied in 1910 and until 1935 by a firm of leather-board manufacturers, and in 1939 by a firm making fibreboard; in 1968 it housed an engineering works. Millend Mill apparently housed the Automatic Malting Co. which was recorded in the parish between 1914 and 1931; it was operating as a cornmill in 1939, (fn. 78) but was unoccupied in 1968. Meadow Mill comprises a three-story main block of stone with a longer and lower brick range adjoining, and Millend Mill a stone block of four stories and attics with brick additions; in the late 19th century each mill had four water-wheels. (fn. 79)
OTHER INDUSTRY AND TRADE
A weekly market and a fair in July were granted to the lord of Alkerton manor in 1304; (fn. 80) tolls were leased from the manor in 1402, (fn. 81) but no later record of either market or fair has been found.
A dyer was a tenant of Eastington manor in 1322, (fn. 82) the earliest record of the clothing industry in the parish. From the 16th century or earlier a large proportion of the inhabitants were employed by or in the cloth-mills of the parish. In 1608 51 people associated with the industry were recorded and 16 in other trades, compared with 31 in agriculture. The clothworkers included 5 clothiers, 10 tuckers, and 36 broadweavers. (fn. 83) In 1831, when there was evidently still a fairly high number of outdoor weavers, (fn. 84) 206 families in the parish were supported by trade compared with 88 by agriculture. (fn. 85) Among clothiers of the parish recorded in the 17th and 18th centuries were the Blanch family of Alkerton: Giles Blanch was mentioned in 1608, (fn. 86) and Richard Blanch died in 1636; William Blanch, possibly Richard's son, (fn. 87) was mentioned in 1653, (fn. 88) John Blanch in 1688, (fn. 89) and Thomas Blanch in 1691; (fn. 90) Alice Blanch, Thomas's widow, lived at Millend in 1710. (fn. 91)
A mason lived in the parish c. 1425. (fn. 92) In 1608 the majority of the weavers and other craftsmen lived in Alkerton tithing; they included 4 carpenters, a smith, a cobbler, 2 tailors, and a glover. In Eastington tithing there were 2 tailors, a hosier, a miller, presumably working the corn-mill at Churchend, and a shipwright (fn. 93) who may have lived in the detached part of the parish at Framilode. Tailors were fairly regularly mentioned in the parish until the late 19th century. (fn. 94) Shoemakers were recorded in 1677 and 1798; (fn. 95) there were at least two in the parish in the 1840s, (fn. 96) and two bootmakers and a shoemaker at Alkerton in 1879. (fn. 97) A carpenter was mentioned in 1686, (fn. 98) and two wheelwrights and three carpenters in the 1840s; (fn. 99) a wheelwright was working at Alkerton in 1879, and two carpenters in 1906. There was a cabinet-works at Middle Street in 1935. (fn. 100) A blacksmith was mentioned in 1844, (fn. 101) and there were two in the parish in 1856; (fn. 102) there were two at Alkerton in 1879, (fn. 103) and a smithy stood at the fork in the road there until 1914. (fn. 104) In the early 19th century there was a brick-yard on the south side of Middle Street. (fn. 105) A butcher and a pig-killer lived in the parish in 1789. (fn. 106) Two bakers and a grocer were recorded in 1842, (fn. 107) and the parish had 6 butchers and 3 grocers in 1856. (fn. 108) A malt-house in the parish was owned by Samuel Purnell of Nupend in 1790. (fn. 109) With the closure of the cloth-mills in the early 20th century a number of the inhabitants began to go outside the parish to work, some to Dursley; in 1968 the great majority of the inhabitants worked in the factories of Stonehouse and the locality. (fn. 110)