A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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In 1086 Bisley hundred comprised Bisley (which then included Stroud), Througham (a tithing of Bisley), Painswick (then called Wick), Edgeworth, Sapperton, Frampton Mansell (a tithing of Sapperton), Winstone, and Miserden (then called Greenhampstead); the total number of hides given was only 27½ but Painswick and possibly other manors were under-assessed. (fn. 1) The constituents of the hundred later remained unchanged.
Bisley remained in the Crown's hands in the later 12th century when the sheriff accounted for fines levied in the hundred (fn. 2) but by 1274 it was held by the lords of Bisley manor Peter Corbet, Tibbald le Botiler, and Richard le Eyer. (fn. 3) Half the profits, which were valued at 20s. in 1287, belonged to Peter and the other half was shared equally by Tibbald and Richard. (fn. 4) The hundred descended with the portions of Bisley manor, re-uniting in 1434 and passing to the Crown in 1495. (fn. 5) The queens consort who held the manor during the next half century were endowed with the office of hundred bailiff, (fn. 6) and the office was conferred on Catherine Parr's widower Thomas Seymour. (fn. 7) The lordship of the hundred was included in grants of Bisley manor to Walter Mildmay in 1550 (fn. 8) and to Princess Elizabeth in 1551 (fn. 9) but it parted company with the manor in 1560 when Elizabeth granted it to Robert Davy and Henry Dynne. (fn. 10) They presumably sold it to Sir Thomas Parry who was succeeded in it the same year by his son Thomas; (fn. 11) from that time it was in the same ownership as the Seven Hundreds of Cirencester and as a result was often mistakenly regarded as a part of the Seven Hundreds. (fn. 12)
By 1586 Bisley hundred together with the Seven Hundreds had passed to Sir John Danvers, (fn. 13) who was succeeded at his death in 1594 by his son Sir Charles Danvers. (fn. 14) Sir Charles was attainted and executed for his part in Essex's rebellion in 1601 and his younger brother Henry, Lord Danvers, restored to his inheritance in 1605, (fn. 15) was lord of the hundred in 1607. (fn. 16) Lord Danvers sold the hundred in 1615 to Sir Henry Poole (fn. 17) and it descended with Sapperton manor until the death of the younger Sir Robert Atkyns in 1711. It then passed to Sir Robert's nephew Robert Atkyns (fn. 18) who had been declared a lunatic by 1741 when his estates were in the custody of Charles Coxe. (fn. 19) On Robert's death in 1753 the hundred passed to his daughters Elizabeth, who married Edmund Chamberlayne of Maugersbury (d. 1774), and Anne, who married Thomas Horde of Bourton-on-the-Water, and the daughters successfully resisted a claim laid by John Tracy Atkyns, a grandson of the elder Sir Robert Atkyns by his second wife. (fn. 20) Later, however, Henry Bathurst, Earl Bathurst, whose claim apparently derived from a settlement made by Sir William Poole in 1645, challenged the Revd. John Chamberlayne, son of Edmund and Elizabeth, and Thomas Horde, then trustee for his granddaughter Caroline Horde, for the ownership of Bisley hundred and the Seven Hundreds, (fn. 21) and John and Thomas sold their rights to the earl in 1778. (fn. 22) Subsequently the lordship was presumably enjoyed by the Earls Bathurst for as long as it had any significance.
Of the members of Bisley hundred only Painswick freed itself from the hundredal jurisdiction, apparently under a charter of Henry II. (fn. 23) The other members all attended the hundred view of frankpledge in the mid 15th century, Stroud being represented by tithingmen for its constituent tithings of Upper and Lower Lypiatt, Steanbridge, and Paganhill, Bisley by tithingmen for Througham, Tunley, and Bidfield as well as for Bisley manor, Sapperton by tithingmen for both Sapperton and Frampton, and Miserden, Edgeworth, and Winstone each by a single tithingman. The view, dealing with assaults and regulating tradesmen, was then held twice a year, while courts to hear pleas of debt, trespass, and covenant met 15 times in the year. The annual profits amounted to £4-£6 and included a common fine of 6d. from each tithing. (fn. 24) In the 1740s, when apparently only two sessions a year were held, the court dealt mainly with the upkeep of roads. (fn. 25) It had been merged with the court for the Seven Hundreds of Cirencester by 1792 when the jurisdiction over small debts in both was transferred to a statutory court of requests. (fn. 26) Court Rolls for Bisley hundred survive for 1545-9 (fn. 27) and draft rolls and court papers for 1739-48. (fn. 28).
A reference in 1510 to the hundred of Bisley Cross (fn. 29) suggests that the ancient meeting-place of the hundred court was at the Stancombe cross-roads on the old Painswick-Cirencester road north-west of Bisley village, (fn. 30) and the name Wittantree which occurs near by may recall such meetings. (fn. 31) In 1685, however, the court met in Bisley village in a building adjoining the churchyard. (fn. 32) It still met at Bisley in the 1740s. (fn. 33)
The seven parishes of the hundred form a compact group, which, apart from Sapperton in the south-east and Winstone in the north-east, is confined on the south and east sides by the river Frome. The steep sides of the valleys of the Frome and its tributaries, in many places masked by thick beech woods, provide the most characteristic feature of the landscape. Much of the flatter land above the valleys formerly lay in open fields, particularly in Bisley parish which also had extensive commons. The Great Oolite limestone, from which most of the high ground is formed, has given the hundred its numerous stone and stone-tiled farm-houses and clothiers' houses and stimulated a tradition of fine masonry which shows to best advantage in Painswick town. Communications within the hundred were difficult, depending largely on steep and narrow lanes climbing the hillsides from crossing-points on the streams, but in the early 19th century several new turnpike roads were built following the valley bottoms. The Thames and Severn canal, opened in 1789, ran along the Frome valley on the southern boundary of the hundred and the railway line from Swindon to Gloucester and Cheltenham, opened in 1845, followed the same route.
The four smaller parishes of the hundred, Miserden, Winstone, Edgeworth, and Sapperton, although ancient settlements, three of which had churches by the 11th century, remained relatively undeveloped and for the most part centred on single agricultural estates. The three large parishes of Painswick, Stroud, and Bisley, developed separate characteristics, largerly because they were dominated by the cloth industry. Painswick was the chief settlement in the medieval period, having a market from 1253, but from the 17th century the newer town of Stroud, which was better placed to act as the centre for the cloth-producing region, began to play the leading role. The cloth industry, although well established by the end of the Middle Ages, achieved its greatest prominence during the 17th and 18th centuries when some 40 or 50 clothmills, standing along the Frome and its tributaries, were worked in the hundred. The clothier families, such as the Arundells, Wathens, Pallings, and Tayloes, then held the leading position in local society. During that period also new cottage weaving settlements arose in outlying parts of the three parishes, most notably around the commons in the south part of Bisley. In the 19th century the industry came to be concentrated in fewer and more substantial mills, largely deserting Painswick and the upper reaches of the Frome at Chalford, but new industries moved in, including iron-founding, brewing, silk-throwing, and the manufacture of pins, walking-sticks, and ready-made clothing. Stroud town was much enlarged during the 19th century, mainly as a result of better road communications and the coming of the railway, and it continued to attract domestic and industrial development in the 20th, leaving the rest of the hundred predominantly rural and, particularly in Painswick and Bisley, a favoured residential area.