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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Four of the manors had considerable demesnes in the late 13th century and early 14th. In 1291 Gloucester Abbey was assessed for tax on 3 plough-lands in Rudge and one in Farley. (fn. 1) Field Court manor in 1309 had a demesne farm that included 120 a. of arable. (fn. 2) Hardwicke manor in 1359 had 2 plough-lands of demesne. (fn. 3) Whereas Rudge and Farley demesnes were leased probably by the late 14th century, and certainly by the early 16th, (fn. 4) Field Court and Hardwicke, having resident lords, retained their demesnes. In 1497 Hardwicke manor's demesnes were reckoned as 170 a. (fn. 5)
Rudge manor in the mid 13th century contained 2 free tenements, 7 small tenements held at will, and 9 customary tenements. The customary tenant's characteristic holding was ¼ yardland, but the yardland was 64 a., roughly twice the normal size. The labour-services of the customars were comprehensive, and provided for the cultivation of the demesne. The value allowed for them (fn. 6) was many times greater than the abbey's notional income in 1291 from release of works and customs in Rudge. (fn. 7) The customs of the manor were fairly restrictive; a tenant's heir was obliged to redeem his land at the lord's will. (fn. 8) The manumission of a neif of Rudge manor was recorded in 1526. (fn. 9)
The 13th-century customs of Rudge manor indicate, at least in the western half of the parish, an extensive use of arable husbandry. In the late 13th century arable lands in the western half are recorded as lying in ten different fields, (fn. 10) but at least five of the fields were also used by Elmore and may have been in that parish. (fn. 11) Only four fields, Hockley field, Worthing field, Wickley field, and Up field, are recorded in Hardwicke later, and the other fields may have gone out of cultivation. In 1649 in the four which survived as open arable fields much of the land, perhaps the greater part, was grass leys or 'laynes'. (fn. 12) Later reference to the open fields has not been found. The conversion from arable to pasture is likely to have been made in the 14th or 15th century, perhaps parallel to a similar conversion in the eastern half of the parish.
In the eastern half the state of the demesne of Hardwicke manor in 1359 suggests open-field, arable husbandry; two-thirds of the 2 plough-lands of demesne arable was under crops, the remainder being valued at nothing because it was fallow and common, and the 10 a. of demesne meadow lay common after mowing. (fn. 13) By 1497, however, only 40 a. of the demesne remained arable, and much the greater part was in pasture. (fn. 14) The opinions that the soil is more suitable for pasture than for tillage, (fn. 15) and that it is cold, sour, and unproductive of any but the coarsest herbage, (fn. 16) apply more to the eastern than the western half, but open-field arable husbandry continued for a long while in the eastern half. The early evidence is only that relating to the demesne and a casual reference to Hardwicke field c. 1280. (fn. 17) In 1612, however, there were three small open fields in the east of the parish, and one large one: Broad field lay along the Bristol road, reaching to Hardwicke church at one end and into Haresfield parish at the other, Whitstones field lay in the angle between the Bristol and Little Haresfield roads, Bareland field lay east of Four Mile Elm, and Silla field may have been the field towards the centre of the parish that was later called Emny field, where traces of ridge and furrow could be seen beside the canal in 1967. In a ddition there were Haywick field, abutting Quedgeley, and Elmores field, presumably to the west, and Hardwicke shared in Pirton and Longhill fields, which were partly in Colethrop. To what extent the land in the open fields was arable is not clear; the ridges averaged ⅓ or ¼ a. but had been consolidated into parcels of up to 2 a. and more. (fn. 18)
Inclosure of the open fields in the east of the parish was slow and gradual. Some wrongful inclosure in the period 1562–91 was alleged, (fn. 19) and in 1666 land was described as lately inclosed. (fn. 20) By 1699 most of Hardwicke manor had been inclosed, but pieces of land remained open in Emny, Whitstones, Broad, and Bareland fields. (fn. 21) The inclosed land does not seem necessarily to have become grassland, for c. 1703 the parish was said to be mostly arable. (fn. 22) Some land remained as uninclosed ridges in Emny, Whitstones, and Broad fields in 1807, (fn. 23) but it may have been subject to piecemeal inclosure said to have taken place about that time. Westfield, the former Bareland, was the last piece of open arable to be inclosed. Until c. 1835 the field had continued to lie open after harvest and fallow in some years; at those times sheep and cattle, mostly belonging to cottagers, grazed it, but when D. J. Niblett became sole owner of the land in the field he excluded the commoners. (fn. 24)
The number of agricultural occupiers appears to have decreased gradually since 1608, when 16 yeomen and 13 husbandmen were listed. (fn. 25) In 1699 the Hardwicke manor estate, then comprising more than a third of the parish, included 11 farms, of which only two were over 100 a. (fn. 26) The same estate had only 9 farms in 1775, and all but two very small ones were over 100 a. (fn. 27) In 1808 in the whole parish there were c. 18 farms over 30 a., of which 5 were over 150 a. (fn. 28) In 1831 there were 17 agricultural occupiers who employed labour, and 4 who did not. (fn. 29) The sale and break-up of the estate presumably affected the size and number of farms, but by the middle of the century the Hardwicke Court estate was considerably larger than its predecessor in the later 18th century. (fn. 30) The number of farms fell from 20 in the mid 19th century to 16 in the mid 20th century. (fn. 31)
In the late 18th century and in the 19th arable farming predominated in the western part, pasturage in the east. In 1770 half of Hardwicke farm was arable (fn. 32) and more than half of Velthouse farm in 1830, (fn. 33) whereas only a fifth of Field Court farm was arable in 1794. (fn. 34) In 1839 in the parish as a whole twice as much land was pasture as was arable, (fn. 35) but at about the same date on two large farms in the west the proportions were reversed. (fn. 36) The land of the Hardwicke Court estate was greatly improved by comprehensive drainage in 1847–50, (fn. 37) but its use remained primarily for dairy-farming, (fn. 38) as in 1967. Although the amount of arable in the whole parish had shrunk to 153 a. in 1901 (fn. 39) and was even smaller in 1933, (fn. 40) the western part was largely ploughed once more in 1967.
The only evidence of a mill in the parish is the name of Mill field, ¼ mile west of the church, where there is a small stream. Little evidence has been found of trade and industry in Hardwicke before the 19th century. The spicer who witnessed a Hardwicke deed c. 1270 (fn. 41) may have been from Gloucester, and indeed the closeness of Gloucester could explain why the trades recorded in Hardwicke are so few. In 1608 there were 5 tailors, 2 smiths, a weaver, and a carpenter; (fn. 42) in 1671 a broadweaver there took an apprentice, (fn. 43) and there was a forge in 1672. (fn. 44) In the early 19th century about a quarter of the population was supported by trade or handicraft rather than by agriculture, but the proportion fluctuated widely. (fn. 45) The parish had a carpenter, a builder, a wheelwright, and a butcher up to the 1920's, and a blacksmith, shoemakers, and a coal merchant up to the Second World War. (fn. 46)