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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FRETHERNE AND SAUL
FRETHERNE AND SAUL were formerly separate parishes lying 8 miles south-west of Gloucester. They are washed on two sides by the River Severn, and as a source of livelihood the water has rivalled the land. Fretherne and Saul are described here in a single account because the boundaries between them were extremely complex, a complexity that was increased by the existence, within their combined area, of five detached pieces of Eastington parish and, to the north-east, of eleven small detached pieces of Saul within or beside Moreton Valence. (fn. 1) In 1884 the detached parts of Saul were transferred to Standish and to Moreton Valence, and the remainder of Saul, along with the detached parts of Eastington, was merged with the parish of Fretherne. The resultant parish of Fretherne with Saul, as it was officially named later in 1884, comprised a compact area of 1,140 a. (fn. 2) hexagonal in shape and 1½ mile across. (fn. 3) It is to that area that the account here printed relates.
The compactness of the combined area and the irregularity of the former parish boundary within it, which was not determined until the open fields and wastes of Fretherne and Saul were inclosed in 1843 (fn. 4) and which divided Saul into three pieces, (fn. 5) suggests that Fretherne and Saul were originally a single parish, in which the later parish of Saul represented the lands belonging to the abbey of Gloucester. (fn. 6) The parochial division may have been achieved by the affiliation of Saul church to Standish church and the founding of a separate church for Fretherne. (fn. 7)
Fretherne and Saul lie across the neck of the sharp bend in the Severn that incloses the parish of Arlingham, so that the river is the boundary of the two parishes both on the north at Framilode and on the south-west by Saul Warth. The land is flat and low lying, rising at the western edge to only a little above the 50 ft. contour. It is drained by the River Frome, one arm of which marks the north-eastboundary of Saul, and by a small stream flowing into the Severn on the south-west side. (fn. 8) The heavy clay soil (fn. 9) is liable to flooding (fn. 10) at high tides. Part of the land lay in open fields, shared between the two parishes, until inclosure in 1843, (fn. 11) and there was once a park belonging to Fretherne manor. (fn. 12) In 1858 there appear to have been large numbers of elm and ash trees, (fn. 13) and in the mid 19th century a deer park was formed for Fretherne Court. (fn. 14) Sand field, by the south-west boundary of Saul, was being worked for gravel in the 1960s. The land and its use, however, have had less effect on the peculiar character of Fretherne and Saul than the proximity of the Severn.
The Severn has been an influence as a means of communication, as an obstacle to communication, and as a source of fish. Changes in its course have from time to time enlarged, and presumably also diminished, the land area: in Saul Warth, where the river retreated in the early 17th century, (fn. 15) the line of the former sea wall can be seen.
The existence of a passage across the Severn near Fretherne, either at Framilode in Saul or at Newnham, may have been thought to support the identification of Fretherne with Fethanleag, (fn. 16) where in 584 Ceawlin and Cutha fought a battle against the Britons in which Cutha died, but the identification is unlikely on other grounds. (fn. 17) Nevertheless the name of Framilode, signifying a crossing of the Severn by the mouth of the Frome, had taken its form by the 7th century. (fn. 18) The original crossing is likely to have been at Upper Framilode, where the Frome empties into the Severn, but by the late 16th century the crossing was from a passage house (fn. 19) at Lower Framilode, 700 yds. downstream. At each place there was until 1884 a small detached piece of Eastington parish: (fn. 20) in 1377 Alice, widow of Thomas Freeman of Framilode, held Framilode passage as copyhold of Eastington manor, (fn. 21) and in 1491 Kenelm Dygas paid rent to Eastington manor for his lease of the passage. (fn. 22) In 1530 the ferry was said to have been leased c. 1482 by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, to John or Alice Dygas, Kenelm's parents. (fn. 23) It was in the Crown's hands in 1531, when Ambrose Skelton received a 40-year lease. (fn. 24) In or before 1575 Edward Stafford, Lord Stafford, conveyed Framilode passage to his brother Richard, (fn. 25) and in 1652 Richard Clifford, lord of Fretherne manor, sold it to Thomas Morwent. Another Thomas Morwent in 1724 settled it in reversion on Thomas Barron, whose widow Mary sold it in 1778 to Mary Morris, and John Morris sold it in 1788 to William Shorland; (fn. 26) Shorland sold it in 1802 to William Purnell, from whom it passed to R. J. Cooper and thence to Sir W. L. Darell. (fn. 27) In 1535 a band of Welsh thieves chose Framilode as a place to cross the Severn; (fn. 28) in 1586 a mob at Framilode took the malt from a ship going to Wales; (fn. 29) in 1643 Sir William Waller took his troops across the river there in boats brought from London. (fn. 30) The occupier of the passage house in 1746 was a prosperous farmer and made large quantities of malt, (fn. 31) and in 1770 the passage house was evidently the New Inn of which the tenant proposed to sell salt and coal and bricks brought down the Severn. (fn. 32) In 1803 the ferry made no profit but brought good trade to the passage house inn, (fn. 33) which was rebuilt in the late 19th century and named the 'Darell Arms'. The ferry continued in occasional use until the Second World War. (fn. 34)
The fishery of Framilode was said to have been given to Gloucester Abbey c. 700. (fn. 35) Edward the Confessor, perhaps in 1049, gave a fishery at Framilode in equal shares to the abbeys of Gloucester and Winchcombe, (fn. 36) and at about the same time Elsi Mattok built a fishing weir at Putchacre. The weir built by Elsi (fn. 37) and Gloucester Abbey's half share of a fishery were both regarded as part of the abbey's manor of Standish, (fn. 38) and were presumably the same franchise. In 1243 John of Fretherne complained that the abbey had built a weir opposite Putchacre to the harm of his free tenement, (fn. 39) which led to an agreement that the abbey should use only 20 putchers or fish traps, and no other means for fishing there, and that John should claim no fishery. The weir may then have been in the hands of William of Framilode as the abbey's tenant, (fn. 40) and in 1261 Simon of Framilode quitclaimed his right in the fishery by Putchacre to the abbey. (fn. 41) Walter Priday of Framilode was alleged in 1248 to have constructed illegal putchers in the Severn, (fn. 42) and in 1295 Gloucester Abbey's weir was said to be so closely made that no small fish or fry could escape. (fn. 43) In 1320 Winchcombe Abbey, which retained some land at Framilode, gave its half of the fishery there to Gloucester Abbey in return for an annual rent. (fn. 44) Lampreys were bought at Framilode in 1401, (fn. 45) perhaps from the same 'lamprey-laying' mentioned there in 1746. (fn. 46) In 1525 Gloucester Abbey licensed Arthur Porter to build a new house by Framilode weir, which he held under a lease to his father Roger of 1506. (fn. 47) The weir, which had been worth £20 a year, was demolished in or before 1535 on the king's order, (fn. 48) but in 1548 the Crown granted the staithe called Framilode weir to Thomas Heneage and William Willoughby, Lord Willoughby. (fn. 49) Though fishing naturally continued to be important, no later record has been found of a fishing weir at Framilode. (fn. 50) Putchers were placed in the river off Saul Warth in 1595, but the change in the river's course c. 1615 left them high and dry. (fn. 51) Four fisheries at Framilode were distinguished in 1779. (fn. 52)
The influence of the Severn as a means of communication is shown partly by the occupations, mentioned below, linked with water borne traffic. (fn. 53) The tradition that the inhabitants of Fretherne were quit of tolls (fn. 54) is likely to rest on no more than association with traffic on the river, the general freedom of the river from tolls, (fn. 55) and popular etymology. The landing of a cargo of wine at Framilode in 1414 (fn. 56) was apparently an isolated event. After the opening of the Stroudwater Canal in 1779, (fn. 57) with a basin at Framilode built in 1794 and 1795, (fn. 58) and of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal in 1827, (fn. 59) along the south-eastern edge of Fretherne and Saul, the nautical character at least of Saul became dominant. The junction of the two canals lies in Saul, and the Junction Inn is well known among those plying the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal. The Stroudwater Canal has been disused since the 1950s, the basin at Framilode has been filled, the warehouse beside it was derelict in 1967, and the two swing bridges have been replaced by permanent bridges. Frampton Bridge and Sandfield Bridge, the two swing bridges across the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal in Fretherne and Saul, with keepers' cottages in the Doric style, remained in frequent use in 1967.
Although there is no firm evidence of an early nucleated village at Saul, which is on a patch of gravel, the church there, established by the 11th century, (fn. 60) may represent a village focus: the roadjunction west of the church was on a small green, inclosed in 1843, (fn. 61) which included a pound. (fn. 62) The church house recorded in 1547 (fn. 63) may have been on the green. Close by on the south is Saul Farm, the chief house of Saul manor, and along the road running south from the green by Saul Corner some houses appear to have been demolished. (fn. 64) At Saul Corner, where the road makes a double bend, is a cruck framed house of four bays, retaining its thatched roof. An upper floor, lit by a gabled dormer, and a central chimney have been inserted. North from the green the road (called High Street) runs to another junction, where the roads to Upper Framilode (Moor Street) and Lower Framilode (Passage Road) diverge, and east from the green runs Church Lane. High Street north of the green, Passage Road, and Moor Street on its west side are lined with about 40 small brick houses of the mid and late 19th century, mainly detached and of two stories; they are uniform in style but individual in treatment, and show a modest flamboyance in their use of stone dressings and variegated brickwork; some incorporate carved figures. They are said to have been built mostly by ships' masters with their own hands. An unusually high proportion have stones incised with a name and date: of the 20 so dated nine were built in the period 1841-54 and nine (including three in Church Lane) in the period 1873-94. Three pairs of council houses were built in Passage Road before the Second World War, and 14 council houses were built in Church Lane after the war. Eleven private houses were built in terraces off Passage Road in 1966.
Fretherne has no village. The church, with Fretherne Lodge (fn. 65) nearby, stands where a road to Lower Framilode leaves the road to Arlingham. Also near the church are a farmhouse, a pair of cottages, and the site of Fretherne Court, a large house demolished in 1924. (fn. 66) Other houses are widely scattered along the road to Lower Framilode: most of them were built in brick in the mid or late 19th century, including the rectory, (fn. 67) Fretherne Court Farm, and some Gothic cottages built apparently by the owner of Fretherne Court. There is also a former hallhouse, called Luffinghams after the family of freeholders with which it is traditionally associated; (fn. 68) it is constructed of four pairs of crucks, smokeblackened near the ridge, has large curved braces in the east side wall, and contains several old doors and arched doorheads. There is a newel stair at each end of the house. An intermediate floor in the centre bay and a central stone chimney were inserted in the late 16th century or early 17th. Another old house on the same road was Benhall, which stood west of the cross (fn. 69) at the junction of the roads from Fretherne and from Saul to Lower Framilode. There was a habitation at Benhall by 1269, (fn. 70) and there may have been more than one house there in 1338. (fn. 71) The house, west of the road junction, was demolished between 1841 (fn. 72) and 1879; (fn. 73) the site was visible in 1967, and there were a farmhouse and two other small houses of the late 18th century east of the road junction.
Framilode, which was a separate tithing in 1175, (fn. 74) is divided between two hamlets. Lower Framilode comprises the 'Darell Arms', formerly the passage house inn belonging to the ferry and mentioned above, a mill building (fn. 75) and beside it a brick house with stone dressings and string-courses built c. 1800, and a dozen brick cottages and small houses of the 19th century. The houses mostly look over the river: the passage house was evidently the origin of the settlement. Upper Framilode, at the mouth of one branch of the Frome, is likely, as stated above, to have been the original location of the ferry. It may once have formed an essentially riverside settlement similar in character to Lower Framilode, but in 1967 only one riverside cottage remained, and that had been modernized and enlarged; others may have been on the site of the 19th-century church and rectory, (fn. 76) which lie beside the river. Upper Framilode, moreover, contains three farm-houses, standing back from the river, of which one, occupied in 1967 as Barn Cottages, is a formerly timber-framed house with a large central stone chimney. In the later 18th century industrial development (fn. 77) began to alter the nature of the settlement, and the building of the Stroudwater Canal brought further changes. Several rows of small cottages, one of them 14 cottages long, were built on the east bank of the canal, hard against the tow-path. The cottages are only one room deep, and mostly seem to have been built only one room wide before a gradual process of amalgamation (fn. 78) began to make them more habitable. A group of cottages on the west bank near the canal basin was replaced in 1966 by four new detached houses standing in small gardens. About 1846 the two hamlets of Framilode were described as being inhabited by watermen and their families in a most demoralized and unenlightened state. (fn. 79) The condition of the inhabitants was at least partly attributable to the closing of Framilode Mills. (fn. 80) After the mills were closed some houses to the east of them (fn. 81) were demolished. In the late 19th century and early 20th a few new middle-class houses were built at Upper Framilode. They include a group of 13 at the Framilode end of Moor Street which are akin in character to the 19th-century houses of Saul village, but unlike those houses 10 of them were built as uniform pairs.
Near the southern boundary of Fretherne and Saul is a late-18th-century stuccoed house called Denhalls with a brick farm-house and three cottages of the 19th century near-by. Dunstalls, an isolated 19th-century farm-house, may have replaced the house of William Hill recorded in the 17th century as by Saul Warth. (fn. 82) In the same area the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal Co. before 1824 (fn. 83) built Saul Lodge on the west bank of the canal as a house for their engineer. (fn. 84) In the 20th century it was acquired and occupied by Sir Lionel E. H. M. Darell, (fn. 85) after whose death it was divided into flats. It is a threestoried building in rendered brick, enlarged c. 1920. (fn. 86) On the east bank of the canal, by Frampton Bridge, Cadbury Bros. Ltd. opened a factory in 1916, (fn. 87) and by Sandfield Bridge is a grain-store on the site (and incorporating some of the buildings) of a military store built in the Second World War. (fn. 88)
The roads in Fretherne and Saul, once of less importance than the River Severn and the canals, form a large loop off the relatively main road to Arlingham, recorded in 1269 as the lane to Fretherne, (fn. 89) and from the loop there are roads branching off to Whitminster, to Upper Framilode and Longney, and to Lower Framilode. The road to Arlingham and the route from it through Saul to Lower Framilode, providing access to the two crossings of the Severn, were under a turnpike trust from 1726 to 1874. (fn. 90) That to Longney from Upper Framilode was mentioned in 1316 as the king's highway; (fn. 91) at Upper Framilode it was given a new course after 1776, and formerly it had apparently been a little further north, along what was called Cheese Lane (fn. 92) by 1680. (fn. 93) Between Upper Framilode and Saul the road that was called Moor Street by the early 18th century (fn. 94) follows a straight course, apparently replacing an early round-about route, for in 1368 there was a bridge, presumably over the Frome, between Saul and Framilode. (fn. 95) Cross Lane, named in 1634, (fn. 96) was perhaps called after the cross at the turning to Lower Framilode. (fn. 97) A road that ran from Upper to Lower Framilode in the 18th century (fn. 98) had gone out of use by the early 19th century, (fn. 99) but its course was still partly visible in 1967.
In 1327 15 people in Fretherne and Saul were assessed for tax. (fn. 100) Saul had 66 men named on the muster roll of 1542, a figure above average (fn. 101) which may have included Fretherne, especially since in 1551 there were said to be c. 67 communicants in Saul and c. 63 in Fretherne. (fn. 102) The population of Saul may have fallen in the later 16th century, for while Fretherne was credited with 20 households in 1563, 65 communicants in 1603, 28 families in 1650, and 65 communicants in 1676, Saul, with 14 households in 1563, was reckoned to have only 50 communicants in 1603 and 40 in 1676. (fn. 103) The number of houses assessed for or discharged from hearth tax in 1672 in Fretherne and Saul together was only 41, (fn. 104) which suggests that the population had contracted. In the early 18th century the estimated population of Fretherne, at 125, was slightly lower than that of Saul, at 130, (fn. 105) and while Fretherne's fell in the 18th century (fn. 106) Saul's rose rapidly, from 151 c. 1775 to 349 in 1801, (fn. 107) and then rose again markedly in the second decade of the 19th century to 467, and in the fourth and fifth decades to 607. The first period of rapid growth reflected industrial activity at Framilode, the second the expansion, referred to above, of Saul village. Meanwhile the population of Fretherne had risen to a peak of 267 in 1851. After the merging of the parishes numbers fell from 854 in 1891 to 718 in 1961. (fn. 108)
Fretherne and Saul each had an alehouse in 1755; (fn. 109) in 1838 there were said to be one public house and four beer shops in Saul, and two beershops in Fretherne. (fn. 110) A public house called the 'Crown' by the corner of Fretherne churchyard was removed in 1846. (fn. 111) In 1967 in addition to the 'Darell Arms' and the Junction Inn (also known as the 'Drum and Monkey') already mentioned, there was at Upper Framilode the Ship Inn, which went by that name in 1856. (fn. 112) A village hall in Saul village, standing beside a playing field, was built in 1960, (fn. 113) as a memorial of the First and Second World Wars. A branch of the Cainscross & Ebley Co-operative Society was one of several shops in Saul village.
For most of their history Fretherne and Saul have been without resident major landowners, but Sir William Lionel Darell, Bt. (d. 1883) established himself as an important local figure, first as rector, from 1844, and then as the largest landowner, living at Fretherne Court, a house of unusual size and splendour. His son enlarged the family estate, (fn. 114) and his grandson had a local reputation as a colourful character. (fn. 115)