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 northern half of the parish included several agricultural estates, (fn. 1) but the number of ploughteams is not recorded. In Ruddle there were three teams, of which one belonged to the demesne and two belonged to 2 villani and 4 bordars. (fn. 2) By 1220 there were four teams in Newnham excluding Stears and, apparently, Ruddle. (fn. 3) Arable land in the 13th century lay in open fields called Port field and Hyde croft north of the town, and presumably also in Charkefield west of the town. (fn. 4) Charkefield had evidently been inclosed by 1418, but then, and possibly in 1492 also, there was still some land in the northern half of the parish lying in selions. (fn. 5) In Ruddle an open field called Old field may be indicated in the 13th century; (fn. 6) another Port field, recorded in 1457, (fn. 7) and Bullo field had both been inclosed by 1618. A map of Ruddle in that year suggests that there was no open-field land then, (fn. 8) but 10 selions of arable in Crookwiry field in Ruddle were recorded in 1628. (fn. 9)
Inclosure of open arable land may have been partly for conversion to sheep-pastures, as suggested by the use in 1621 of a building called Holford's house, on Dean Hill, as a sheepcot. (fn. 10) In 1608, however, 8 yeomen and 7 husbandmen in Newnham township and 6 yeomen and 2 husbandmen in Ruddle were listed for the muster, (fn. 11) figures which show that agriculture remained a major occupation. The landholders of Ruddle included 6 free tenants in 1604, 1633, and 1714. In 1618 there were also 19 tenants by copy or lease, some of whom were also free tenants. In 1633 there were 24 tenants altogether, including the 6 free tenants, 10 leaseholders, and 11 copyholders. Copyhold tenure still survived in 1713, when there were 20 or 21 tenants in all. (fn. 12) In 1561 Ruddle manor court declared as customs of the manor that the lord might grant copyholds of up to five lives, of which the second life-holder had no right of surrender, that widows had no right of freebench, that reversions granted by copy were void, that all the tenants had the same rights as foresters to take fuel and to pasture their beasts without stint in the forest, and that the demesne lands of the manor were immemorially let as copyhold. (fn. 13)
In the late 18th century only a small part of the parish was under the plough: in 1794 244 a. and in 1801 240 a. were returned as sown, with wheat accounting for half the acreage in each instance. (fn. 14) In the earlier 19th century the arable acreage more than doubled: it was 547 a. in 1839, (fn. 15) and in 1859 over half of the 100 a. of Hyde farm in Newnham was arable. (fn. 16) By 1901, however, the arable acreage had shrunk to 139 a., (fn. 17) and it was not very much more in 1933 (fn. 18) or 1968. In 1831 there were 10 farmers, all employing labour, (fn. 19) and the number had risen to 12 by 1856 and 14 by 1927. (fn. 20)
MARKETS AND FAIRS.
In the later 12th century there was a market-place (forum) in Newnham, (fn. 21) and there are numerous references to stalls and to the shambles in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. (fn. 22) In 1276 the market was said to be suffering from the unlicensed competition of tradesmen dealing outside the town. (fn. 23) It was held every Friday at the end of the 16th century (fn. 24) and in the early 18th; there was then said to be a great dependence on the markets and fairs. The fairs, held on the feasts of St. Barnabas and St. Luke, (fn. 25) have not been found recorded earlier than 1603, (fn. 26) but presumably they originated, like the market, in the days when Newnham was Crown property. By 1740 the corn-market had been in abeyance for several years, because of the badness of the roads, but there was an intention to revive it; (fn. 27) in the seventies the weekly market was not much used because there were good supplies of produce brought every day. (fn. 28) In the same period the fairs are likely to have been neglected, for their dates were unaffected by the change in the calendar, and in the early 19th century they were mainly for horses and cattle. (fn. 29) In 1849 the fairs were unimportant and the market was not recorded. (fn. 30) In 1886 some inhabitants regarded the fairs as a nuisance and tried to have them stopped, but the attempt roused opposition from the tradesmen and foundered when the ownership of the fairs was acquired with the lordship of the manor by R. J. Kerr. By 1912 the fairs were partly pleasurefairs, and the sale of livestock came to an end during the First World War. (fn. 31) Pleasurefairs were no longer held in 1968, having ended c. 1928. (fn. 32)
MILLS AND IRON-WORKS.
There were two mills in Newnham in 1227, both belonging to Hugh Charke. (fn. 33) Both were on Whetstones brook: c. 1240 they were distinguished as the upper mill and the mill of the fee of Sir John of Monmouth. (fn. 34) The upper mill was evidently that on the mill-site 200 yds. north-west of the Culver House: it belonged to John Staure in 1418 and to Richard Water in 1492, (fn. 35) was leased by Richard Hill in 1647, (fn. 36) and was conveyed in 1717 as the water corn-mill belonging to Blythes Court; in 1851 it was said to have long since fallen into decay. (fn. 37) The other mill was granted by Hugh Charke c. 1240 to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Gloucester, (fn. 38) which retained it (fn. 39) until 1655 (fn. 40) or later. Gloucester corporation, as trustees of the hospital, leased it in 1582 to Richard Hodges, (fn. 41) and in 1698 it was recorded as Hodges Mill, since called Butchers Mill. (fn. 42) Its position is indicated by the name of Mill meadow, near the site of the railway station. (fn. 43) A possible water-mill on the stream running into Collow Pill is suggested by an allusion c. 1240, (fn. 44) and a possible windmill by the name Windmill Hill used in 1839 of the spur south-west of Hyde. (fn. 45)
Ruddle Mill, which in 1234 belonged to the Abbot of Gloucester and was being used to found lead for the abbey roof, (fn. 46) was presumably the mill at Ayleford, recorded as Arlefordes Mill in 1457. (fn. 47) In 1615 Richard Glastonbury was succeeded by his son Richard as tenant of Ayleford Mill, held of the lord of Ruddle manor for a term of years. (fn. 48) The tenant of the mill in 1713 was a Mr., possibly John, Witt, (fn. 49) and in 1735 the corn-mill was held by Michael Gladwin and William Charles in succession to Henry Pritchard and Richard Webb. (fn. 50) In 1765 the cornmill was being converted into a tilting mill which with forges and other buildings was the subject of a lease between the Purnells, the Dursley ironmasters. (fn. 51) By 1778 it was a wire-mill, and in 1792 the firm of Dobbs & Taylor had extensive forges there for working bar-iron and wire. (fn. 52) Dobbs & Co. had the mill in 1804, (fn. 53) Thomas Taylor, described as late of Ayleford, iron-master, being dead by 1805, (fn. 54) and in 1812 Browning & Co. were rated for the mill. (fn. 55) A group of mills entitled 'wire-works' was marked at Ayleford on a map of 1824, (fn. 56) and a rolling-mill was among property there mortgaged in 1830. (fn. 57) Samuel Hewlett of the Ayleford Foundry supplied rails for the Lydney-Parkend railway from 1823 to 1833, and occurs in 1849 as an iron-founder and carpenter. (fn. 58) Although the buildings have been demolished, a long leat, c. 6 ft. wide and following the twisting contour line from above Two Bridges to Ayleford Farm, (fn. 59) was readily discernible in 1968.
The works at Ayleford may have been replaced by the Lower Soudley iron-works, ½ mile further up the Soudley brook and, like Ayleford, on the Hayhill estate. The iron-works owned by Edward Jones that were rated in 1824 (fn. 60) may have been at Soudley rather than at Ayleford, for a map of the same year marked a pond, mill, and foundry at Soudley. (fn. 61) The works, which lay beside the mineral railway-line from Bullo Pill to the Forest of Dean, were occupied in 1839 by the Soudley Iron Co., (fn. 62) and were called the Great Western Iron Works in 1879. (fn. 63) By 1885 they had evidently gone out of use, (fn. 64) and by 1901 the course of the railway-line had been diverted to cross the site. The pond made in the brook above the works had gone by 1920. (fn. 65)
OTHER INDUSTRY AND TRADE.
Before the establishment of the iron-works on the Soudley brook there were various metal-workers in the town of Newnham. Leofric the smith of Newnham granted four houses with a forge there to Llanthony Priory in the 12th century. (fn. 66) Smiths are frequently recorded until 1939, (fn. 67) there being one at Bullo in 1968, and in the early 13th century John the ironmonger had land in Newnham. (fn. 68) Among the craftsmen of the town in 1608 were a pinner and a wire drawer. (fn. 69) In 1715 the liberty to weigh iron on the strand was specified as one of the rights deriving from the lord of the manor. (fn. 70) A nail-yard north of Station Road was apparently out of use by 1879. (fn. 71)
Tanning was a relatively important trade in Newnham because bark from the Forest of Dean was easily available. There was a tannery at Stears in 1276, (fn. 72) and tanners are regularly recorded from the early 17th century until the early 20th. (fn. 73) A tannery at Underhill, on the road between the town and Ruddle, was in use by 1645, when it belonged to the Trigge family, (fn. 74) and in the 18th century it passed into the ownership of the tanners, William Swayne and his descendants. (fn. 75) It was presumably the large tannery referred to in the later 19th century. (fn. 76) Tanning at Underhill ceased c. 1922: (fn. 77) the buildings survived in 1968 as farm buildings, with a house which was partly of the 17th century. Another tannery in Ruddle, recorded in 1735, (fn. 78) was presumably that which gave Tanhouse Farm its name.
Of the textile trades in Newnham there is scant trace: Roger the wool-monger was arrested there c. 1220; (fn. 79) dyers are recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries; (fn. 80) and in the early 17th century there were a feltmaker, (fn. 81) a broad-weaver, and two other weavers. (fn. 82) Spinning and weaving were done in the parish workhouse in the early 19th century. (fn. 83)
Glass making was established in Newnham by 1662, when James de Hugh, a glass maker of the town, married. (fn. 84) There is no earlier evidence that the Hughs or Hoes, glass makers in Gloucestershire from the late 16th century, (fn. 85) worked in Newnham, and despite the 18th-century statement that Newnham gave rise to the art of glass making in England (fn. 86) it is more likely that the earliest glass house in Gloucestershire was at Bristol, Gloucester, or Newent. After 1653 James Legree or Legury acquired a lease of land beside the Severn just south of Newnham Pill, and had built a glass house there by 1671. In 1673 he was making green glass, and entered a contract with a London brewer. Stephen Wilcox (d. by 1671) acquired an interest in the property, and in the eighties his son Thomas (d. 1698) carried on the glass-works until a fire destroyed the glass-house. Thomas and his brother John (d. 1684) were also tenants of another glasshouse in Newnham, (fn. 87) and in 1696 there were two bottle-factories in the town. One apparently went out of use in 1706, (fn. 88) but the other was represented by the great glass-house with which the brothers John Wilcox of Gloucester and William Wilcox of London were concerned in 1710. John and Thomas Wilcox were dealing with the great glass-house, and with the lower glass-house in Gloucester, in 1714, (fn. 89) but in 1715 the parish was unable to collect a rate for Mr. Wilcox's glass-house, (fn. 90) presumably because it had been destroyed. By 1744 the site was called Glasshouse Bank, where the glass-house lately stood. (fn. 91) The foundations of the building were still visible in the seventies, although by then a considerable verdigris factory had been set up in its place. (fn. 92) The verdigris factory may have been started in 1768, when Robert Pyrke licensed a group of London druggists, John Hopkins, Henry Bailey, William Bartlett, Samuel Sharp, and Thomas Kent, to dam the stream flowing through his land into Newnham Pill to a depth of 6 ft. (fn. 93) A belief that the factory, producing other chemicals in addition to verdigris for dyeing or for medicinal purposes, consumed locally produced foodstuffs led in 1774 to a riot; Hopkins, Bartlett, and Kent made an affidavit that the works used only malt and coal apart from imported materials, and the justices, at whose request they had forborne to prosecute the rioters, advertised their intention of punishing any further riot severely. (fn. 94) The factory survived in 1804, (fn. 95) but later record of it has not been found. The building on the lane behind Hill House (later Unlawater House or Newnham House) appears to have been part of the works, having an upper floor of stone; it was converted into a private house in 1953. (fn. 96)
The use of Newnham as a port has been briefly outlined above; (fn. 97) ships were being built there by 1764, when a brig of 180 tons burden, at the time the largest built so far up the river, was launched, apparently from Hawkins Pill. (fn. 98) In 1776 a ship of 400 tons burden, claimed to be the largest ever built on the Severn, was to be launched, (fn. 99) but it was surpassed by another Newnham ship of 600 tons in 1778. (fn. 100) Other ships of up to 137 tons were built there between 1783 and 1802, (fn. 101) and shipbuilding was carried on in a small way c. 1803. (fn. 102) Rope-making in Newnham is recorded from 1816 to 1849. (fn. 103)
Apart from trades occurring in most small places and those already mentioned, there were in Newnham in 1608 three coopers, a glover, a millwright, a sieve-maker, and a turner, (fn. 104) and in the 18th and 19th centuries the trades followed included those of apothecary, cooper, glazier, haberdasher, maltster, mercer, printer, saddler, skinner, and tallow-chandler. (fn. 105) In 1831 there were 9 men employed in manufacture and 86 in retail trade or handicraft, as masters or workmen. (fn. 106) Already by then the facilities at Bullo Pill may have been attracting minor industry, for near by there was in 1824 a marble-works, (fn. 107) about which nothing further has been discovered. By 1897 the Standard Wagon Co. Ltd. had works at Bullo Pill; in the 1920s the Bullo Docks Concrete Co. was also established there, and the wagon company was replaced by Healey Bros., makers of perambulator tyres. (fn. 108) Healey Bros. later became the Newnham Rubber Mills and in 1968 employed 17 people to make perambulator tyres, radiator hose-pipes, and other tubing. (fn. 109)
In the town itself the Manor House became a factory making clinical thermometers when G. H. Zeal Ltd., which came from London c. 1940, moved there from the Old Vicarage in 1952; (fn. 110) in 1968 the firm employed c. 100 people. (fn. 111) Aldrex Ltd., a firm packaging corsetry which derived from an older packaging firm formerly established in the town, started in 1954 in premises on the Green; in 1968 it employed c. 15 people. (fn. 112)
Fishing has been an important activity in Newnham: in the mid 13th century the bailiffs bought lampreys and cod to send for the king's use, (fn. 113) and fisheries are recorded from the 12th century. Henry I granted to Gloucester Abbey an exclusive fishery in the Severn where it bounded Ruddle manor, with the right of erecting fishingweirs. (fn. 114) Henry III confirmed the grant after Ralph Musard and William de Putot had interfered, as sheriffs, with the abbey's rights. (fn. 115) In 1326 Richard of Blaisdon died holding from the abbey a free tenement in Ruddle that included a fishery in the Severn; his heir was his kinsman John son of John Head. (fn. 116) In 1382 William Brayne of Newnham acquired from John, son of John Fletcher, and his wife Joan land and a fishery called Head's row in Ruddle which had been Joan's inheritance. (fn. 117) In 1617 Head's row contained 6 putchers. (fn. 118) Other fishing-weirs were held of the manor by copy or indenture: in 1523 the abbey leased a putcher fishery to members of the Witt family, (fn. 119) predecessors presumably of the Richard Witt to whom in 1602 the 18 putchers called Court row and the putchers called Gilbert row were demised for 21 years, and who in 1617 was presented in Ruddle manor court for building a great fishing-weir to the harm of all the king's subjects; (fn. 120) six copyhold putchers were recorded in 1598 as part of a holding for which the rent included a kilderkin of pickled herrings, and the 22 putchers in Putchmeadow row recorded in 1561 and 1604 may also have been copyhold. (fn. 121) A map of 1618 shows a fishing-weir stretching across the river opposite Bullo Pill. (fn. 122) In 1866 the Fisheries Commission refused to grant W. C. Kerr a certificate for his 50 putchers and 3 putts near Bullo, which he claimed as part of the fishery that had belonged to Gloucester Abbey, because the evidence of continuous use was not good and the river was navigable. (fn. 123) The fishing between Newnham's Ladder and Box Grove that had belonged to the abbey and which the Crown leased to Henry Brayne in 1547 and granted in 1548 to Sir Thomas Heneage and William Willoughby, Lord Willoughby, (fn. 124) presumably included the long-net fishing that later belonged to the lord of Ruddle manor and was said in 1615 to be greatly decayed: the rent-salmon, paid apparently by copyholders, were then reduced from four to two, and arrears were forgiven. (fn. 125) Two fisheries called Bullo and Collow were claimed for the manor in 1803. (fn. 126) Long-net fishing continued into the 20th century. (fn. 127)
In Richard I's reign Roger of Westbury and William of Garne disputed two fishing-weirs in the Severn between Garne and Newnham. (fn. 128) Later part of the fishing upstream from Newnham's Ladder belonged to St. Augustine's Abbey, Bristol; with the Ruddle fishery it was leased to Henry Brayne in 1547 and granted to Heneage and Willoughby in 1548. (fn. 129) A fishery also belonged to Newnham manor and was mentioned in 1563, (fn. 130) 1595; (fn. 131) and 1835. (fn. 132) A fishery belonged to the Hill House estate in 1605, (fn. 133) and in 1752 a fishery with seven putchers near Hawkins Pill was conveyed. (fn. 134) In 1839 there was a fish-house, presumably belonging to that fishery, a little downstream from Hawkins Pill, and another, belonging to the lord of Ruddle, at Collow Pill, which was in use in 1968. (fn. 135) The bridge carrying Church Road across Newnham Pill bears the words 'Unlawater Salmon Fishery 1632', but both the lettering and the wording suggest that the inscription derives from the early 19th rather than the early 17th century.