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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KING'S STANLEY, formerly one of the most populous of the Stroudwater clothing parishes, lies 2 miles west of Stroud; it covers 1,664 a., (fn. 1) and is regular and compact in shape. In 1936 55 a. in the north-east of the parish, including part of the hamlet of Dudbridge, with a population of 56, became part of the Stroud Urban District, and under 1 a. was transferred to King's Stanley from Cainscross parish; (fn. 2) the history of Dudbridge is reserved with Rodborough for a later volume.
The eastern and northern boundaries of the parish follow the Nailsworth brook and the River Frome (or Stroudwater) at below 100 ft., the western boundary is marked by a small stream, and the southern boundary runs along the ridge of the Cotswolds at c. 700 ft. Several streams rise on the hills and flow northwards through the parish to join the Frome. The north-western, low-lying part of the parish is on the Lower Lias which is overlaid as the land rises to the south and south-east by successive layers of the Middle and Upper Lias, and the summit of the hills is formed by the Inferior Oolite. (fn. 3) Licence to dig deposits of fuller's earth which occur in the parish was granted to a number of clothiers from the surrounding parishes during the late 15th century and early 16th. (fn. 4) The thickly wooded hill slopes in the south-west are a prominent and ancient feature. There was a wood measuring one league by half a league on the manor in 1086, (fn. 5) 80 a. of woodland in 1295, (fn. 6) and 161 a. of woodland in 1322. (fn. 7) Stanley Wood formed part of the great wood called Buckholt, (fn. 8) and the whole of its 148 a. were covered with beech, mostly of 30-40 years growth, in 1568; (fn. 9) in 1839, when it was known as the Long Wood, it covered 162 a. (fn. 10) Pen Wood crowning the spur of Pen Hill to the east was recorded in 1686, (fn. 11) and covered 47 a. in 1839. (fn. 12) There was a woodman on the manor in 1522 when he reported the sale of 219 loads of timber, (fn. 13) and a woodward had a cottage on Selsley Hill in 1759. (fn. 14) The hill slopes in the east of the parish are bare of trees and are surmounted by the even plateau of Selsley Common, which remained a common pasture for the parish in 1967. (fn. 15) Stone has been extensively quarried on the common; a quarry leased from the manor in 1522 was presumably there, (fn. 16) and one there was worked until 1935 or later. (fn. 17) The quarries evidently provided much of the material for the houses and farm-buildings of the parish; those surviving from before the mid 19th century are nearly all of stone. Local stone was used for the building of Selsley church in 1862, (fn. 18) and recommended for the restoration of King's Stanley church in 1873. (fn. 19) An area on the south of Selsley Common, known in the early 19th century as the Warren, (fn. 20) was perhaps the cony warren on the manor mentioned in 1638; (fn. 21) it may have been held by the tenant who died in 1533 owing a heriot of a rabbit. (fn. 22) The low-lying north-western area of the parish and the lower hill slopes lay mainly in common meadows and open fields which were inclosed piecemeal before the late 19th century. (fn. 23) Stanley Park in the east of the parish was made by the Pettat family in the mid 18th century; (fn. 24) it included 85 a. in 1785. (fn. 25)
The parish was called Stantone in 1086, (fn. 26) but Stanley from 1160. (fn. 27) The prefix, adopted to distinguish the parish from its western neighbour, is first recorded in 1236 (fn. 28) and was evidently acquired during the period in the later 12th century when the manor was in the hands of the Crown, (fn. 29) although a tradition in existence c. 1703 associated the name with a residence of the Mercian kings. (fn. 30) The parish includes a round barrow just within the boundary south of Stanley Wood, (fn. 31) and a long barrow on Selsley Common, where there is also a number of shallow depressions, apparently the remains of hutdwellings occupied for a short period in the 13th century. (fn. 32) Evidence of Roman settlement has been found on a site north-west of Woodside Farm (fn. 33) and at another west of the church. There are a few Roman bricks built into the lower stage of the church tower, (fn. 34) and six Roman altars were found in the parish in 1781. (fn. 35) On the site by the church there was later a moated residence, occupied in the early 12th century, (fn. 36) and the church had been built near it before the end of that century; (fn. 37) there was probably a mill on the site of the near-by Stanley Mill by 1086. (fn. 38)
In the 13th century Adam le Despenser created a borough in King's Stanley, probably in 1253 when he was granted a market and fair. There were burgages and a borough court, but King's Stanley did not have the other distinctive characteristics of a borough. That the identity of the borough survived was at least partly because the manor and borough were owned separately from 1617. Most of the 50 burgages (fn. 39) were presumably in the chief settlement of the parish, although the borough included a number of tenants in outlying areas: in the 18th century rents were owed to its lord from such places as Stanley Park, Peckstreet House, Stanley Mill, and a house at Middle Yard. (fn. 40) The chief settlement of the parish lay along the road running. south from the church, with the greater concentration of houses in the section called High Street, which forms the west side of a triangle of roads. The part of the village at the south-west angle, together with the road called Castle Street leading south-west from it, was later regarded as the part that lay within the borough: a farmhouse there became known as Borough House Farm, and a pond, which by 1967 had been filled, as Borough Pool; (fn. 41) c. 1710 the borough, containing 40 houses, was distinguished from High Street, containing 100 houses. (fn. 42) In the early 19th century, however, the borough court apparently claimed jurisdiction over most of the village. (fn. 43)
A small green at the south-west corner of the triangle was formerly larger, and the main village well was there. (fn. 44) The 17th-century Borough House Farm on the west side of Castle Street is mentioned below. (fn. 45) Old Castle House to the south was built or remodelled in 1563 by the clothier William Selwyn. (fn. 46) It is a house of two stories and attics built of coursed rubble faced in rough-cast and comprises a main block and a north wing to the. rear; it has stone-mullioned windows with dripmoulds and a four-centred arched stone doorway with a dripmould and carved spandrels. A central projection at the rear contains a stone newel staircase with arched doorways leading from it. The house was at one time in three occupations, (fn. 47) and later in two, and the north wing remained a separate dwelling in 1967. The house was the Old Castle Inn in 1891 and until 1960. (fn. 48) Several houses in the same part of the village were pulled down and replaced by modern ones in the late 1950s. They included a row of 8 stone cottages called Fletcher's Row south of Old Castle House, the timber-framed Old Crown Inn north of Borough House Farm, and a row of stone cottages, traditionally spinning-houses, running west from the 'Old Crown'. (fn. 49)
Another focal point of the village was at the northern point of the triangle of roads. There is a green on the west of the road there where the village stocks formerly stood; (fn. 50) their use was revived c. 1850 (fn. 51) but apparently only for a few years. (fn. 52) The King's Head Inn, recorded from 1766, (fn. 53) stands opposite facing up the road to the church, and the 'Red Lion', mentioned from 1838, (fn. 54) is one of several cottages set back to the west of the green. Britannia Cottage and adjoining buildings, part of a long range south of the 'King's Head', include a formerly cruck-framed house with a gabled cross-wing on the north; only one cruck blade apparently survives intact, although there are the remains of others, and the walls have been faced in stone or rough-cast. A timber-framed range of six bays was added north of the cross-wing in the 16th or early 17th century and includes a gable of close-studded timbers, below which the modern shop front of 'Tudor Stores' has been inserted. 'Yew Tree Stores' and the adjoining house, further south in High Street, together formed a medieval house with an open hall and a north cross-wing; a two-centred arched stone doorway gave access to a cross-passage at the north end of the hall. The other houses in High Street are of the 18th and 19th centuries in stone or brick, and there is a row of stone cottages on the south side of the road to Leonard Stanley. The road between High Street and the church was built up mainly in the 20th century although there are some earlier houses and cottages, well spaced out, and the rectory which has medieval features. (fn. 55) Beech House, north of the rectory, is a two-story house of brick with stone quoins, and has an east front of the early 18th century with a parapet, cornice, and doorway with a fan-light; the west front, which has two gables and some stone-mullioned windows, may survive from a 17th-century building. The gateposts have massive ball-finials. The interior has panelling and plasterwork of the later 18th century, possibly the work of Anthony Keck, an architect with a considerable practice in the West Midlands, (fn. 56) who was living at the house by 1777; (fn. 57) he was a churchwarden of the parish from 1771 or earlier until a few years before his death in 1797. (fn. 58) A few stone and brick cottages of the 18th and 19th centuries also survive in the road. The 16th-century Stanley House near the church (fn. 59) and the buildings at Stanley Mill are described below. (fn. 60)
Shute Lane, which forms the southern side of the triangle of roads in the main village, was recorded by that name in 1487. (fn. 61) It was built up in the 18th century and early 19th with stone and brick cottages often faced in rough-cast; the Luggs, running south from its junction with Castle Street, has similar houses. A stone cottage at the corner of the two roads is dated 1790. Broad Street, the eastern side of the triangle, has the fewest houses, and was apparently the road called Back Lane in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 62) A chapel and some cottages were built at its southern end in the 19th century. New Street, the narrow lane running between Broad Street and Shute. Lane, did not exist in 1817 (fn. 63) and contains late-19th-century houses. The extension of Shute Lane running east towards Middle Yard crossed a stream at Blakeford. Thomas Twissell, one of a family which held a house near-by, (fn. 64) left money in his will proved 1545 to build a bridge at Blakeford, (fn. 65) and the bridge there was mentioned in 1734. (fn. 66) Blakeford House to the east of the bridge is a tall early-19th-century brick house with a fan-light over the doorway. Beyond Blakeford there is a small green where the parish pound was situated in 1777 (fn. 67) and until the early 20th century. (fn. 68) The 17th-century Court Farm (fn. 69) stands to the south. Peckstreet, running north from the green, was in existence by 1327; (fn. 70) 5 houses there were mentioned in 1635, (fn. 71) and there were 8 houses there c. 1710. (fn. 72) Two fairly large houses were built in the lane in the 17th century, only one of which survives, (fn. 73) and five cottages there in 1839 (fn. 74) have been demolished.
In the 17th century and later a number of cottages was built in Woodside Lane running from Castle Street up to Stanley Wood. Some of the cottages, including some that were timber-framed, were pulled down c. 1958; a few stone and brick cottages of the 18th or 19th centuries survive. The cottages presumably originated as squatter dwellings on the waste close to the parish boundary, and in the late 19th century the rents paid for them to the manor were believed to be for former common land which they occupied. (fn. 75) The Blackbirds, a stone cottage at the top of the lane, was recorded in 1733 when it was an alehouse. (fn. 76) Woodside Farm is a small stone farmhouse of the 17th or 18th century, partly faced in rough-cast and with dormer windows.
The hamlet of Selsley in the east of the parish was known as Stanley's End until the mid 19th century (fn. 77) when the name of the hill to the south (fn. 78) was adopted for the new ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 79) The western part of the settlement is apparently the earliest part. There was a house on the site of Stanley Park by the late 16th century; (fn. 80) Park Farm, a restored stone house, and Picked Elm Farm nearby were built in the 17th century; (fn. 81) and there are a few 17th-century Cotswold-style cottages, one with an 18th-century addition with sash windows, along the road towards Middle Yard. There were, however, some houses further east around the small triangle of roads, including the Bell Inn, a Cotswoldstyle house with gables and stone-mullioned windows with dripmoulds, and a cottage of similar type west of the triangle, dated 1676. The whole hamlet of Stanley's End was said to comprise 15 houses c. 1710. (fn. 82) A cottage called Green Court at the eastern triangle of roads was mentioned in 1735, (fn. 83) and the 'Nag's Head', also there, from 1762, (fn. 84) but that area of the hamlet was developed mainly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with stone houses. A chapel and a school were built there in the 1860s. (fn. 85)
Middle Yard, a straggling settlement along the road between Selsley and King's Stanley village, was perhaps the hamlet called the Leighs with 20 houses recorded c. 1710; (fn. 86) a common called the Leighs was mentioned in 1656. (fn. 87) The name Middle Yard was apparently used only for a single house in 1749. (fn. 88) The hamlet includes two stone-built farmhouses and a few cottages built in the Cotswold style in the 17th century; one house of that period, which stood at the corner of Pen Lane leading south from Middle Yard, was demolished c. 1960. (fn. 89) The hamlet had a nonconformist chapel by the mid 18th century, or earlier according to tradition. (fn. 90) Most of the houses date from the late 18th century and early 19th and are the plain stone cottages typical of the locality in pairs or longer terraces. One of the cottages houses the 'Weavers' Arms', recalling the occupation that probably engaged the majority of the inhabitants of the hamlet. (fn. 91) There are also some brick cottages of the later 19th century. A cottage built at Pen Hill c. 1610 (fn. 92) was probably one of those clustered below the wood on Pen Lane and Coombe Lane, also leading south from Middle Yard, in 1817; some have evidently been destroyed since. (fn. 93) Stanley Hall to the east of Middle Yard and Walnut Tree House to the west are middle-sized late-18th- or early-19th-century stone houses. In the mid 20th century a housing estate was built south-west of Middle Yard around Pen Lane, and a number of bungalows north of the road.
A farmhouse was built in Water Lane in the south-east corner of the parish in the 17th century. It is a gabled stone house faced in rough-cast; a long stone barn with blocked stone-mullioned windows with dripmoulds, probably once a malt-house, (fn. 94) adjoins it on the west. The other buildings in Water Lane are later stone cottages. A few cottages had been built in the same area along the west of the road leading up to Selsley Common by 1817, (fn. 95) and some more houses were built there in the mid 20th century.
Eighteen inhabitants of King's Stanley were mentioned in 1086, (fn. 96) and 17 people were assessed for tax in 1327. (fn. 97) In 1551 there were c. 140 communicants, (fn. 98) and there were 54 households in 1563. (fn. 99) A rapid increase in population then occurred: 436 communicants were recorded in 1603, (fn. 100) 180 families in 1650, (fn. 101) and c. 1710 there were said to be c. 1,100 inhabitants in 250 houses. (fn. 102) There was a gradual increase during the 18th century to 1,257 c. 1775 (fn. 103) and 1,434 in 321 houses in 1801, and then a rapid increase by c. 1,000 people in the first 30 years of the 19th century when c. 150 new houses were built. Seventy-four houses were unoccupied, however, in 1841, (fn. 104) perhaps partly because of emigration, (fn. 105) and between 1831 and 1841 the population fell from 2,438 to 2,200. It remained at about 2,000 during the later 19th century, but fell during the 20th century to 1,530 in 1961. (fn. 106)
The attempt made in the 13th century to establish King's Stanley as a trading centre by the creation of a borough and a grant of a market and fair (fn. 107) proved unsuccessful, presumably because of the competition of other market towns and the absence of an important through route. After the 16th century, however, the growth of the clothing industry enabled the parish to support a large population, and a number of fairly wealthy families mostly connected with the trade owned estates there. In the later 19th century the Marling family, which bought up many of the estates, became the dominant influence in the parish.
All alehouses in the parish except two were ordered to be suppressed in 1690. (fn. 108) In 1838 the parish had three public houses, probably the 'Red Lion', 'King's Head', and 'Nag's Head', mentioned above, and 23 beershops; (fn. 109) in 1856 there were those three public houses and eight beer-shops. (fn. 110) In 1891 there were 17 public houses in the parish, (fn. 111) but by 1967 most of them, including four or five in King's Stanley village, (fn. 112) had closed. In 1766 the parish had a friendly society and a benefit society; (fn. 113) 91 inhabitants were members of friendly societies in 1803. (fn. 114) A People's Hall in King's Stanley village was opened by 1879. (fn. 115) A playing-field on the east of the village was given by the Marling family in 1921. (fn. 116)
Jeptha Young (fl. 1858), a handloom weaver of King's Stanley, was the author of Rural Poems; or Rhymes from the Loom and Lays for the Cottage, collections of poems celebrating local personalities and places. (fn. 117)