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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In 1086 there were two teams on the demesne of Churcham manor. (fn. 1) A survey of 1649 extended 579 a. as being held in hand by the lessees of the manor but probably only 416 a. represented the demesne farm; the remainder was grouped as six holdings ranging in size from 11 a. to 47 a., each with a house, and may actually have been held by tenants on leases or at will. The 416 a. included 60 a. in the open fields but twice as much arable in closes; it also included 59 a. of meadow, of which 9 a. were in the common meadows, as well as 177 a. in pasture closes. (fn. 2)
The tenants of Churcham manor in 1086 were seven villani and two bordars with 6 ploughs. (fn. 3) By c. 1267 four freeholds had been created. The largest, held by Ralph Brown, was two yardlands (a yardland being 48 a.), there were two of ½ yardland and another of 12 a.; all four were held by charter in perpetuity but they still owed heriots and one owed a few labour-services. There were also 22 holdings of varying sizes, including three of ½ yardland, which were held either for life or at will. Most of them owed cash rents and several also owed some labourservices and other customs or else some specific service; a smith held by the service of providing ironwork for the lord's ploughs, two other tenants had to supply ploughshares, and three owed a fixed quota of honey. (fn. 4)
The customary tenants c. 1267 were 10 holding ½ yardlands, 7 pairs holding jointly a ½ yardland, 12 mondaymen each holding 4 a., and 5 cottars. In the October-July period the half-yardlander was required to work four days and plough ½ a. every other week; the work might include mowing, threshing, and carrying, but a moiety of his works might be commuted if he did woodward service at Birdwood instead. In August and September the half-yardlander had to work the whole of every other week and on one day of that week find three men to work; in the alternative weeks he had to find two men to work two days. He also owed a number of bedrips. The mondayman owed one day's work each week in the October-July period and two days in the harvest months. The cottars owed 8 bedrips. Other customs included toll on ale brewed for sale and on the sale of horses, two heriots, one to the abbey as lord and one as rector, and pannage of ½d. for a young pig and 1d. for a full-grown one. (fn. 5)
Between 1519 and 1527 the abbey granted leases of several tenements for terms of years or lives with heriots payable, (fn. 6) but in 1649 most of the land was held by copyhold, although there were also three freeholds, one of a yardland. There were 21 copyholders in 1649: one had 45 a., five had 30-40 a., seven 20-30 a., and eight 4-17 a. (fn. 7) The lessees of the manor could grant copyholds for up to three lives but could make no reversionary grants; widows had freebench. Heriots were paid in cash or chosen from the best goods. One labour service remained: on one day each year every tenant owning a cart had to collect and carry one load of wood from Birdwood to College Green in Gloucester for the use of the dean and chapter; they were provided with food by the lessee of the manor who also had to give 1d. to each and 2d. to the one who arrived and unloaded first. The dues of c. 1267 for pannage, then called tack pig, remained in force. (fn. 8) There were still 18 copyholders on the manor in 1812; there were then also 35 leaseholders, about half of them holding cottages built on the waste. (fn. 9) A large part of the estate continued to be held by copyhold tenure until the later 19th century. (fn. 10)
In 1649 there were seven open fields on Churcham manor. The largest, Hanlow field with 60 a. or more, lay in the north-east part of the manor near Highnam Woods. Easterworth field, between Church Lane and Oakle Street, and Oakle field, west of Oakle Street, each had over 30 a., and there were four smaller fields, Sainthill field north of Sainthill, Hook field to the south-west of it, and Dishland field and Landfurlong east and west of Oakle Street. One copyholder had land in four of the fields but the others had land in only either one or two; only three had more than 10 a. of open-field land, most having the bulk of their arable in closes. There were four main common meadows: Blakemoor, the largest with 25 a. or more, lay between Sainthill and Oakle Street, while Sow Meadow (later South Meadow), New Meadow, and Rod Meadow lay at different places by the brook on the southern boundary of the manor. Only five of the copyholders had parcels in more than one of the meadows, but most also had a few acres of meadow in closes. The copyholders had between 1 a. and 20 a. in pasture closes and they also had common in Birdwood and in the common meadows and open fields after the hay- and cornharvests. (fn. 11)
By the beginning of the 19th century some inclosure had taken place in Easterworth field, which was evidently represented by 15 a. lying in two fields called Great and Little Easterwood, and in Oakle field which had also been reduced to 15 a., but there had been little reduction of the other open fields and little or no reduction of the common meadow land. All the fields and meadows were inclosed under Act of Parliament in 1803; the award also inclosed Birdwood Common and small strips of roadside waste in Oakle Street, and reallotted certain old inclosures. The Dean and Chapter of Gloucester as lords of the manor were allotted a number of cottages built on the waste, but the remainder of the land of their estate was allotted directly to the various leaseholders and copyholders. Ninety-five acres of the waste, most of it in Birdwood Common, were sold to meet the cost of the inclosure. (fn. 12)
In 1649 the cultivated land of Churcham manor was under crops and grass in roughly equal proportions. (fn. 13) About 1780 the whole of Churcham parish was said to consist of arable and grassland in nearly equal proportions, (fn. 14) but c. 1803 arable predominated. (fn. 15) The crops being grown in Churcham manor c. 1267 included wheat, rye, barley, beans, and oats, (fn. 16) and later in the medieval period flax was also being grown in the parish. (fn. 17) Flax, hemp, and turnips were among tithable produce in 1681. (fn. 18) Cider-making was recorded from 1649 when four tenants of Churcham manor had cider-mills, (fn. 19) and a cider-retailer lived at Birdwood in 1841. (fn. 20) The main farms on Churcham manor in 1812 were 265 a. farmed from Churcham Court, 120 a. farmed from the house west of the church, another farm of 105 a., Stone End (later Church Lane) farm with 68 a., and Cursleys (later Beauchamp House) farm with 67 a. (fn. 21) There were 14 farms in the Churcham division of the parish in 1856 (fn. 22) but the number had risen to 20 by 1879; (fn. 23) by 1906 there had been an apparent reduction to 14 (fn. 24) but there was another increase to 20 by 1939 when four of the farms were over 150 a. (fn. 25) By 1970 the number of farms had been reduced by about half; most of them then specialized in dairying but two had considerable proportions of arable.
In 1086 there were three plough-teams and eight servi on the demesne of Highnam manor. (fn. 26) In 1291 Gloucester Abbey had seven plough-lands in Highnam and Highleadon. (fn. 27) In 1607 the demesne of Highnam manor comprised, apart from the immediate grounds of Highnam Court and the woods and park, 153 a. of arable, 77½ a. of meadow and 139 a. of pasture; only 14½ a. of the arable lay in the open fields but 53 a. of the meadow was common meadow land. The lords of the manor then also claimed the right to pasture 280 sheep in the Town Ham east of Over Bridge; (fn. 28) the right to pasture two horses in another of the Gloucester city meadows, Wallham, further east, was retained by the manor until 1797. (fn. 29) The vineyard belonging to Gloucester Abbey at Over north-west of the bridge was recorded from the mid 13th century. (fn. 30)
The tenants of Highnam manor in 1086 were 22 villani and four bordars with seven ploughs. (fn. 31) By c. 1267 a variety of tenements and tenures had evolved. There was then one tenant holding ½ yardland freely but still owing some boon-reapings. There were 43 tenements held for life or at the will of the lord; they were of varying sizes, although several, being evidently former mondaylands or cottars' holdings, comprised either 4 a. of land and ½ a. of meadow or a messuage and curtilage. Most of the holders of those tenements owed cash rents and aid and eight also owed a few bedrips and works in the hay-harvest; four owed ploughshares as rent and one owed service to the sub-cellarer of the abbey. The customary tenants c. 1267 were 19 half-yardlanders each holding 24 a. of arable and 3 a. of meadow, 16 pairs of tenants jointly holding ½ yardlands, 15 mondaymen holding 4 a. of land and ½ a. of meadow, and 12 cottars holding just a messuage and curtilage. The labour-services owed from ½ yardland every other week in the October- July period were a day's ploughing (and harrowing at seed-time) and four days' manual work which might include threshing, mowing, weeding, haymaking, and carrying; in August and September the half-yardlander had to provide two men to work each Monday and one man for the four days following. He also owed bedrips, and customary ploughings called unlawenherthe and a harrowing called lonegginge. The mondayman owed one day's work each week in the October-July period and two days' in the harvest months; he also owed two bedrips and had to collect rushes at the feast of St. Peter. Some of the cottars owed eight bedrips and three days' haymaking and others sixteen bedrips and three days' haymaking. The customary tenants also owed toll on ale and animals sold, pannage of 1d. for each fully-grown pig and ½d. for a young pig, and heriots of their best beast, and they had to have the lord's licence for their daughters to marry or for their sons to be tonsured. (fn. 32)
Some customary tenements were leased for terms of years or lives in the 1520s and 1530s, (fn. 33) but in 1607 the bulk of the land of the manor was held by copy. There were 36 copyhold tenements, 18 in Highnam, 13 in Over, and 5 in Linton. The largest copyhold was 71 a., three were c. 40 a., ten were 30-40 a., five 20-30 a., and the remainder under 20 a. The copyholds were granted for up to three lives and widows had freebench. In 1607 there were also four free tenements, including one of 69 a. held by the heirs of John Browne, 14 leaseholds, only one of which with 39 a. was of any size, and four small tenements held at will. (fn. 34)
There was a total of 15 open fields on Highnam manor in 1607. Six were reserved to the tenants in Highnam hamlet and lay between Highnam village and Highnam Woods and north-west of the village by the Newent road; they included the largest field, the inappropriately-named Twelve Acre field with 86 a., Forehill field with 46 a., and Northway field, Longhurst, Bleach field, and West field with between 7 a. and 28 a. There were four fields at Over reserved to the inhabitants of that hamlet, Boulton, Ryecroft, Bargus field, and Bovernhill, all lying in the vicinity of Over Farm and ranging in size from 4 a. to 23 a. The Linton tenants had two fields, Crash field with 21 a. and Gunnell field with 8 a., both lying west of the lane leading to Linton Cottages. In addition there was an open field called East Downs with 45 a. lying east of the Newent road between Highnam and Over and shared by the tenants of all three hamlets, and two smaller fields, Reddings and Ell field lying north and south of the junction of the Gloucester and Newent roads and shared by the tenants of Over and Linton. Most of the common meadow land of the manor lay in two large meadows, Mickle Mead with 107 a. and the Ham with 57 a., bordering the Severn in the south-east part of the manor; there were three smaller meadows with between 5 a. and 13 a., Rodway by the Leadon in the north-west, Bickley by the Leadon north of Over, and Darley near the Ham; and some tenants had meadow in Maddox Holm and Kay Meadow, two common meadows in Rudford parish. (fn. 35) In the mid 18th century the Ham and Mickle Mead comprised eight 'lengths' of intermixed meadow and two lengths held in hand by the lords of the manor. About 1 a. of the Ham was lot-meadow; it was then divided into 19 lots held among 16 tenants. (fn. 36) In 1607 the copyholders had the bulk of their arable in the open fields although most also had some arable in closes; the open-field land of each tenant lay in from one to six fields with holdings in five fields the most usual. Most had meadow in three or four of the common meadows and there were only a few meadow closes. All the tenants had a fairly high proportion of their land in pasture closes. (fn. 37) Common of pasture in the open fields and common meadow after the harvests was stinted at a beast and two sheep for every 2 a. of land held. (fn. 38) There were also two small common pastures, Over Pigham with 6 a. and Linton Pigham with 4 a.; c. 1755 the former was divided into 18 pastures shared among 13 tenants and the latter into 7 pastures shared among 4 tenants. (fn. 39)
Considerable inclosure took place in Highnam manor during the 17th and earlier 18th centuries; between 1607 and c. 1755 the open-field arable was reduced from 351 a. to 199 a. Little inclosure of common meadow land took place in that period. (fn. 40) The process of inclosure by private agreement had been completed by 1841. (fn. 41)
Wheat, rye, peas, beans, barley, and oats were among the crops being grown on Highnam manor c. 1267. (fn. 42) The cultivation of hops had given its name to one of the fields adjoining Highnam Court by 1607 (fn. 43) and hops were still being grown there in the early 18th century. (fn. 44) In 1769 turnips were being grown on the home farm of the manor and in 1792 oats, barley, wheat, and potatoes; large numbers of cheeses were also produced in the late 18th century. (fn. 45) In the 1750s the main farms on the manor were Home farm at Highnam with 251 a., others at Highnam with 181 a. and 72 a., Over farm with 103 a., another at Over with 69 a., and three farms at Linton, in the vicinity of Linton Cottages, with 148 a., 108 a., and 100 a. The land was then predominantly pasture, meadow, and orchard; only one of the eight largest farms had more than one third of its acreage arable. (fn. 46) From the mid 19th century there have been four fair-sized farms in Highnam, Linton, and Over: in 1854 they were Linton farm with 500 a., Over farm with 330 a., Home farm with 269 a., and Highnam farm with 270 a. (fn. 47) In the later 19th century cheese-making and the production of cider were carried on at all the farms. (fn. 48) In 1970 Linton farm, which remained the largest, specialized in stock-raising.
There was a smith on Churcham manor c. 1267. (fn. 49) In 1608 the only inhabitants recorded in nonagricultural occupations in the Churcham division of the parish were a sailor and a carpenter. (fn. 50) There was a smith's shop at a cottage on the GloucesterRoss road west of Church Lane in 1803, (fn. 51) and between 1856 and the 1920s Churcham had two blacksmiths, (fn. 52) evidently occupying that smithy and another at Stone End. (fn. 53) A shoemaker was recorded at Churcham in 1856. In 1856 there were also a carpenter and a cooper there, (fn. 54) and two wheelwrights were working there in the earlier 20th century. (fn. 55) A surgeon of Churcham was admitted to practise in 1704, (fn. 56) and a veterinary surgeon lived there in 1856. (fn. 57)
Alexander the smith held land at Over from Highnam manor before 1258 (fn. 58) and there were three smiths living on the manor c. 1267. (fn. 59) In 1803 there was a blacksmith's shop at Over, (fn. 60) presumably that on the north of the main road west of the hamlet which was demolished in the 1840s and replaced by another smithy nearer the Dog Inn. (fn. 61) During the later 19th century Highnam, Over, and Linton had a carpenter, a shoemaker, a tailor, and a straw-hat maker, (fn. 62) the two last occupying Pope's Cottages west of Over, which were built by Thomas Gambier Parry for the purpose of settling new tradesmen on the Highnam estate. (fn. 63) There were coach-builders at Over from 1863 until the early 20th century. (fn. 64)
A mill was built or rebuilt on the New Leadon at Over (fn. 65) in the mid 13th century by Gloucester Abbey, which as a result became involved in a dispute with Walter Mucegros, lord of Lassington, apparently because the mill was causing the Leadon to flood in Lassington; the dispute was settled by an agreement of c. 1248 when the abbey undertook to restrict the height of the sluice gates and mill-pond. (fn. 66) In 1525 the abbey leased Over Mill to Adam Lye of Evesham who agreed to build a new corn-mill on the site. (fn. 67) It comprised two water-mills in 1607 (fn. 68) and three by 1682, (fn. 69) and in 1772 it was described as a complete stack of corn-mills. (fn. 70) Over Mill remained in the possession of lords of Highnam manor in 1843 (fn. 71) and apparently until the 1860s when it was purchased by the Leadon drainage commissioners whose works involved a considerable reduction in the flow of water to the mill. (fn. 72) It may have ceased functioning as a water-mill at that time; by 1885, at least, it was driven by steam. It apparently ceased working soon afterwards, and was demolished in 1903. (fn. 73) There was another water corn-mill on Highnam manor by 1607 situated at the south of the Great Pool; it had apparently been built fairly recently, being described as the new mill. (fn. 74) The mill was rebuilt in 1797, (fn. 75) but it presumably ceased working c. 1818 when the Great Pool was drained. (fn. 76) A windmill which stood near the boundary of Churcham and Highnam manors, west of Highnam Woods, had apparently been demolished by 1765; (fn. 77) it may have existed by 1607 when part of the woods in that area was known as Windmillhill Wood. (fn. 78)
There were five fishermen among the tenants of Highnam manor c. 1267. (fn. 79) Gloucester Abbey had two fishing weirs, called Lille Weir and New Weir, in the Severn appertaining to Highnam manor in 1395 when the abbot and the kitchener were reported to use 'seines, drags, fornwiles, and cornwiles' there and another fish-trap called a 'butt' which was too closely wrought and trapped the fry of lamprey and salmon. (fn. 80) The two weirs were thrown down by royal commissioners before 1541 when neither they nor the fishery of a stretch of the Severn called the Abbot's Pool yielded any profits. (fn. 81) A lease of the Abbot's Pool fishery was granted by Sir Thomas Lucy in 1598. (fn. 82) The lords of Highnam manor also owned the fishing rights in the part of the Leadon adjoining the manor; they were leased with Over Mill in 1603. (fn. 83) The fishponds in the grounds of Highnam Court are described above. (fn. 84)
Court rolls for Churcham manor survive for the years 1291-2, (fn. 85) 1389, 1439-40, and 1443-5; (fn. 86) there are draft rolls and other records of the courts held by the lessees of the two moieties of the manor for several years in the period 1719-77, (fn. 87) and a book of records of courts held by the Dean and Chapter of Gloucester between 1778 and 1847, (fn. 88) presumably relating until c. 1800 to only one moiety of the manor. (fn. 89) For Highnam manor court rolls survive for 1291-2, (fn. 90) 1385, 1388, 1396, 1417-18, 1421-2, and 1558-9, (fn. 91) and there is an isolated record for 1779. (fn. 92) In the medieval period the courts of both manors were merely courts baron dealing mainly with tenurial and estate matters and occasionally hearing pleas; by 1558, however, the Highnam court claimed view of frankpledge. From c. 1800 the Churcham court dealt solely with admissions and surrenders of copyholds and it evidently ceased to be held altogether after 1847. (fn. 93) The Highnam court had jurisdiction over Highleadon in Rudford parish as well as over Highnam, Linton, and Over, and the four townships made separate presentments in the court in the medieval period and in the mid 16th century. The court elected a tithingman and constable in the mid 16th century, (fn. 94) and in 1679 there was one constable for Highnam, Linton, Over, Highleadon, and Lassington, and another for the Churcham division. (fn. 95)
Four churchwardens were sworn for the parish in 1576, (fn. 96) and in 1681 there were two for the Churcham division and one for Highnam, Linton, and Over. (fn. 97) By the late 18th century, however, there was one for each of the two divisions of the parish; they kept separate accounts, those of the churchwarden for Highnam, Linton, and Over surviving from 1767. (fn. 98) The two divisions were also separate for the purposes of poor-relief in the early 19th century when there were two overseers levying rates and accounting for Highnam, Linton, and Over; their accounts survive from 1819. (fn. 99) The usual forms of relief were then being administered by the overseers for Highnam, Linton, and Over who had the use of a poorhouse at Over. (fn. 100) The cost of relief in that division increased steadily during the late 18th and early 19th centuries from £38 in 1776 to £210 in 1814; (fn. 101) it remained about the same in 1824 but by 1831 had risen again to £307. (fn. 102) Ten people were receiving permanent relief in 1803 (fn. 103) but from 1813 the number was usually about 19. (fn. 104) The cost of poor relief in the Churcham division of the parish rose from £75 in 1776 to £274 in 1814; (fn. 105) by 1825 the cost had fallen to £133, but later it was usually higher, reaching a peak of £289 in 1833. (fn. 106) Ten people were receiving permanent relief there in 1803 and 24 in 1815. (fn. 107) Highnam, Linton, and Over became part of the Gloucester Union in 1835 (fn. 108) and remained in the Gloucester Rural District in 1970. The Churcham division of the parish was included in the Westbury Union in 1835 (fn. 109) and became part of East Dean Rural District. (fn. 110)