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 Tetbury was a large agricultural estate. Including the separately assessed Upton estate, there were 10 demesne teams and 27 servi, and the tenants, who worked 17 teams, were 2 radknights, 37 villani, and 5 bordars. (fn. 1) Tetbury was assessed as 32 plough-lands in 1220, (fn. 2) but the estate was dismembered at that period by the creation of Charlton and Upton manors which took the bulk of the customary land, leaving Tetbury manor with the borough and demesne lands lying round about it. In 1296 it had only 2 customary yardland tenements, whose occupants owed 20 reaping works in the harvest months and 5 days' work each week in the remainder of the year. In demesne there were then 412 a. of arable, 56 a. of meadow, and a number of pastures. (fn. 3) By 1312 the demesne arable had been reduced to 300 a. (fn. 4) It is not known how long demesne farming continued, but the lord apparently still maintained a flock of sheep in 1401. (fn. 5) In 1594 there were c. 300 a. of demesne lands, which were leased among several tenants although John Savage held the bulk of them. (fn. 6) Several tenements in the outlying tithings belonged to the manor; two of 180 a. and 82 a. in Upton were held on lease by the Long family, and there were some smaller holdings in Charlton, one a copyhold. (fn. 7) At the sale of the manor in 1633 Lord Berkeley sold off the leasehold lands to the tenants, (fn. 8) and the feoffees' manor estate later included only the commons and the chief rents from the burgages in the town.
The manor of Upton, as extended in the grant to Walter Beauchamp in 1221, comprised 20 customary tenements of a yardland, 12 half-yardlands, and a number of smaller holdings; also included were the rents and service of 4 free tenants, including Robert of Charlton for his ½ hide in Charlton and Walter of Upton for 1½ yardland. (fn. 9) The yardland at Tetbury was presumably then, as in the 16th century, c. 40 a. (fn. 10) Sir George Huntley sold off most of the land of the manor between 1612 and 1616, (fn. 11) and on Doughton manor Nicholas Damory enfranchised the tenants' holdings at the same period. (fn. 12) At Charlton the land was held mainly by copy in the 1580s when the tenants' rights were challenged by the lord of the manor, John Seed. (fn. 13) There, alone of the estates of Tetbury parish, the manorial system survived the early 17th century in more than name.
Kingswood Abbey's grange, which comprised 3 plough-lands in 1291, (fn. 14) was worked in the 1250s by a number of farm-servants including 2 ploughmen and drivers, a carter, a groom, and a cowherd. (fn. 15) The absence of a shepherd suggests that sheep were not yet kept to any extent, although in the later medieval period Tetbury was probably used with the abbey's other granges primarily for raising sheep. (fn. 16)
In the Middle Ages most of the land of the parish lay in open fields with two-field systems for each tithing. For the town tithing there were a north and south field north-east of the town, extending along the Cirencester road; (fn. 17) Upton had large north and south fields (fn. 18) lying on each side of the Tetbury-Minchinhampton road; (fn. 19) and Charlton and Doughton also had north and south fields. (fn. 20) The Elmestree fields are not specifically recorded, but an inclosed 180-a. field called West field in the 18th century presumably represented one. (fn. 21) The open fields were inclosed piecemeal, mainly it seems after the early 17th century when the process was stimulated by the break-up of the various manor estates. Fifty acres were taken out of Upton's north field before 1612 (fn. 22) and 36 a. inclosed out of its south field were mentioned in 1672; (fn. 23) the north field was probably inclosed completely by 1683. (fn. 24) Some land had been taken out of Tetbury's south field by 1677. (fn. 25) Inclosures were made in Charlton's south field c. 1710 (fn. 26) but a considerable amount of land in the tithing remained open until the late 18th century, for it was still being stinted in 1792. (fn. 27) In 1799 the vicar's 61 a. of glebe in Charlton were inclosed by exchange with Lord Ducie, a transaction which probably marked the end of the tithing's open fields. (fn. 28) The whole parish was inclosed by 1838. (fn. 29)
The two chief commons for the inhabitants of the town were the North Hayes (or Warren), occupying the north-east corner of the parish, (fn. 30) and the South Hayes, south of the town by the road to Shipton. (fn. 31) The burgesses' right to pasture in North Hayes was recognized by William de Breuse in 1291, (fn. 32) and in 1401 the lord of the manor confirmed their right in the summer months, while reserving part of the common as a sleight, or sheep-walk, for his own flock. (fn. 33) The right of the lord's flock was the subject of actions brought by the Estcourt family, as prominent freeholders in the parish, against the farmer of the demesne, John Savage, between 1586 and 1608, and it was finally established that a demesne flock of 400 had the right to pasture in the sleight and also in the open fields in winter regardless of stint. For the tenants the open fields were stinted at 3 sheep to the acre and all holders of burgages had the right to put cattle in the stubble in the fortnight following the harvest. (fn. 34) The North Hayes acquired its alternative name of the Warren from the stock of coneys which the lords of the manor kept on part of it, (fn. 35) presumably from before 1262 when the warrener of Tetbury was mentioned. (fn. 36) The South Hayes was reserved as a common pasture for the cattle of the townsfolk. (fn. 37) About 1300 Peter de Breuse confirmed Kingswood Abbey's right to pasture 12 oxen there, following disputes with the abbey. (fn. 38)
When they bought the manor in 1633 the townsfolk also bought in the current leases of the sleight and the coney warren and extinguished the demesne rights there, and both the Warren and the Hill (or Herd), a strip of waste extending along the Avon north-east of the town, were assigned as commons for the occupiers of burgages. The common rights in the South Hayes were released (fn. 39) and it was apparently sold. A town herdsman was later employed to administer the Warren, (fn. 40) but in the 18th century the winter pasture there was usually leased. (fn. 41) In 1814 the town feoffees, prompted by the decline in their other sources of revenue, obtained an Act for the inclosure of the Warren and the Hill, (fn. 42) which were afterwards leased in individual allotments, (fn. 43) which included potato grounds for small tenants. Part of the Hill was divided into ¼-a. allotments in 1857. (fn. 44) The Warren was sold by the feoffees in 1929. (fn. 45)
The outlying tithings had their sheep-downs, which were probably all once open to common rights. Upton Down lay in the north-west corner of the parish, and Doughton Down in the south-west corner. (fn. 46) The latter covered 112 a. in 1659 when it was apparently regarded as several to the lord of the manor, (fn. 47) but in 1760 inhabitants of Doughton were disputing the lord's right to waste ground on the manor, presumably in the down. (fn. 48) Charlton Down, north of Doughton Down, was open to some common rights until the inclosure in Charlton in 1799. (fn. 49) The Elmestree manor estate included a down of 84 a. in 1737. (fn. 50) The downs and commons of the parish appear to have been used principally as sheeppastures, supplying some of the wool which was for many years the staple commodity of Tetbury market. Walter Herne, a prominent burgess who died in 1485, employed a shepherd, and another inhabitant left 130 sheep in legacies in 1526. (fn. 51) A building called the shepherd's house in Doughton was mentioned in 1659, (fn. 52) and part of Doughton Down was called the Ewe Down. (fn. 53) Three graziers were recorded in the parish in 1792. (fn. 54) Grassland came to predominate over arable after the inclosure of the open fields, the proportions being 3,609 a. to 1,445 a. in 1838. (fn. 55)
After inclosure the land was farmed mainly in large units, particularly in the southern tithings. In 1838 the Elmestree manor estate comprised a single farm of 518 a., Doughton manor farm had 408 a., and the Charlton manor estate was organized as two farms of c. 450 a. and c. 350 a. In Upton and Tetbury tithings, which had a rather more fragmented pattern of landholding, the three main farms, each with c. 200 a., were Upton Grove, Lowfield, and Colly farms, and Grange farm was the only other with over 100 a. (fn. 56) There was a total of 17 farms in 1856; only 9 were recorded in 1906 and 5 in 1939, although the lists appear to be incomplete. (fn. 57) In 1974 the farms were large ones, usually at least 300 a., and were engaged chiefly in raising beef cattle and sheep.
A mill was recorded at Tetbury in 1086, (fn. 58) presumably the water-mill that belonged to the Breuses' estate in 1296; (fn. 59) Kingswood Abbey's estate included both a water-mill and a windmill in 1291. (fn. 60) The manor mill was returned at half its previous value in 1312 because it was dry in summer, (fn. 61) and lack of water presumably led to the early abandonment of the mills, for no record of water-mills has been found after 1327 when John atte Mill and William the millward were among the inhabitants of Tetbury. (fn. 62) A windmill was built on the close called the Barton south of the church c. 1718 (fn. 63) but it is not recorded later, and the proposal to set up a hand corn-mill at the workhouse in 1823 (fn. 64) suggests that no wind- or water-powered mill then existed in the parish.
Trade and Industry.
The attempt by William de Breuse to create a market town on his manor at the beginning of the 13th century was ensured of some success by the major through route on which Tetbury lay, but its situation in a rich wool-growing region proved to be a more important element in the town's prosperity. The first indication of trading activity comes with a record of two wine-merchants in 1221, (fn. 65) and Tetbury was well established as a market for agricultural produce by the mid 13th century. (fn. 66) The market and fairs were producing the fairly substantial sum of £11 10s. in tolls by 1296. (fn. 67) In 1327 the wealthier inhabitants of the town included a corn-monger, garlic-monger, baker, tailor, skinner, cordwainer, fisherman, and two weavers, (fn. 68) and by 1381 it had a considerable body of tradesmen, including shoemakers, tanners, weavers, tailors, mercers, smiths, butchers, bakers, and brewers, and a draper, skinner, and spicer. (fn. 69) By that time it was also established as a centre for the sale of wool from the surrounding area. The Tetbury fair was a recognized mart for wool by 1306, (fn. 70) and when Edward III licensed the Peruzzi to export 500 sacks of wool in 1338, 105 were bought at Tetbury and the neighbouring hamlet of Culkerton. (fn. 71)
Evidence for the economic development of the town in the later medieval period is scanty but there is enough indirect evidence to suggest that the prosperity it was enjoying by the early 17th century was not a recent phenomenon. The market, dealing mainly in wool and yarn, became the basis of the town's economy and such industry as the town had was closely connected with the market. The market was described as one of the best wool- and yarnmarkets in the county c. 1545, (fn. 72) and in 1622, when it was bringing in over £120 a year in tolls, it was said to be inferior to none in England. (fn. 73) A long established cloth industry, represented by two weavers in 1327 and 1381, (fn. 74) by a dyer recorded in 1376, (fn. 75) and by clothiers recorded from 1541, (fn. 76) flourished in association with the wool-market. It employed a large proportion of the 116 tradesmen listed in the town in 1608; there were 9 clothiers, 34 weavers, and a tucker. The trades allied to cloth manufacture were also well represented by 5 mercers, a draper, a hatter, 13 tailors, and 6 glovers, and together with 7 innkeepers, 7 butchers, 3 bakers, 2 cutlers, 2 barbers, and the more usual craftsmen they confirm that Tetbury was a thriving centre of the retail and service trades. (fn. 77)
Although references to weavers are noticeably lacking after 1608, cloth manufacture appears to have retained its importance to the end of the 17th century. The body called the Thirteen included 6 clothiers in 1623, (fn. 78) among them Toby Chapman who acted as one of the four trustees for the purchase of the manor. The town feoffees usually included more than one clothier up to 1701. (fn. 79) Manufacture of finished cloth was hampered, however, by the absence of sufficient water to drive fulling-mills, and it had declined by the early 18th century, leaving the preparation and marketing of the raw material as the principal support of the townspeople. (fn. 80) Woolstaplers, drawn from the Overbury, Tugwell, Wickes, and other families, (fn. 81) became something of an élite in the town. Three of the seven feoffees chosen in 1739 and four of those chosen in 1777 followed the trade, (fn. 82) and it was presumably to woolstaplers rather than clothiers that a visitor referred in 1769 when he wrote that 'to call a person a manufacturer in woollen and a gentleman in this seat of business are synonymous terms'. (fn. 83) The woolstaplers qualified for the description of manufacturers by their employment of combers, sorters, and spinners in the preliminary stages of woollen manufacture before distributing their products to the manufacturing valleys north and west of Tetbury and to Midland towns as far afield as Kidderminster and Leicester. (fn. 84)
The town's wool- and yarn-market continued to flourish in the early 18th century, (fn. 85) and in the 1730s the quantities brought for sale strained the accommodation at the market-house, forcing the Thirteen on one occasion to seek another meeting-place. (fn. 86) By that period, however, the wool and yarn trade was rivalled in the market by the trade in cheese and bacon, the former drawn from the dairying regions of north Wiltshire and the Vale of Gloucester. (fn. 87) The trade in agricultural produce gave employment to a number of townsfolk, including several prominent cheese-factors (fn. 88) and on a humbler level the butchers whose shamble-rents amounted to £32 a year in the 1740s. (fn. 89) One or two other trades supplied some fairly prosperous inhabitants, such as the two tobacconists mentioned in 1730 (fn. 90) and the Saunders family of mercers, (fn. 91) and the professions were represented among the feoffees by an attorney in 1721 (fn. 92) and an apothecary in 1739. (fn. 93)
The market business, although fluctuating, tended to decline in the later 18th century: the profits from the tolls of the wool- and yarn-market and of the cheese and bacon market were respectively £52 and £54 in 1741, £42 and £13 in 1757, £15 and £20 in 1770, (fn. 94) £30 and £30 in 1777, £29 and £17 in 1793, and £21 and £10 in 1801. (fn. 95) The decline was attributed to the growing practice of going direct to the producer for the purchase of those commodities. The town's wool trade, at least, did not immediately reflect the decline in market business; it was said to give employment to about 150 people c. 1775 (fn. 96) and 15 wool-staplers were in business at Tetbury in 1792. The dairy trade was represented in 1792 by two cheese-factors, and there was also a cornfactor, (fn. 97) who possibly represented a trade that was more important than the surviving evidence suggests, for 20 corn-dealers from the Sodbury and Hawkesbury area were buying regularly at the market in 1761. (fn. 98) Numbers of small retailers, including in 1792 a milliner, an upholsterer, a cutler, a saddler, and a currier, also gained a livelihood in the town, and the inns and public houses serving the main road traffic and market traders remained an important source of employment. The town also offered considerable scope for professional men, represented in the 1790s by 5 attorneys, 3 surgeons, and an auctioneer. (fn. 99)
In the early years of the 19th century, however, the reduction in trade became marked. The total market tolls were reduced to c. £14 by 1811 (fn. 100) and the wool-stapling trade was by then in decline. (fn. 101) There were only 3 wool-staplers still in business by 1822, although there were then also 2 clothiers, probably employing weavers from outside the parish, and 4 worsted-spinners; (fn. 102) some sack-weaving was also done at that period. (fn. 103) The wool and cloth trade had disappeared altogether by the middle of the century, (fn. 104) and the only later representative of the textile industries was a silk factory in Charlton Road which was in production from 1875 (fn. 105) until c. 1887. (fn. 106)
In the later 19th century brewing was the only industry established in the town on any scale; it developed from the 18th-century malting industry in which 4 maltsters were engaged in 1792. (fn. 107) In the early years of the 19th century John Cook started a brewery in the former wool warehouses at the entrance to Hampton Street built by Matthew Bamford, (fn. 108) and two malt-houses in the town, run by John Warn and Thomas Witchell in 1820, (fn. 109) later extended their operations to brewing. The three families carried on their separate breweries into the 20th century, (fn. 110) but the Cooks' business was absorbed by the Stroud Brewery Co. in 1913 (fn. 111) and at about the same period the Warns' brewery took over the Witchells', which occupied an adjoining site in Church Street. The breweries apparently closed down in the 1930s. (fn. 112)
Otherwise the decline of its market trade and traditional industry left Tetbury largely dependent on its role as a supplier of service and retail trades to the surrounding agricultural region. Eight grocers, 3 linen-drapers, 2 haberdashers, 2 milliners, 2 druggists, and 2 booksellers were among the considerable body of small tradesmen recorded in 1823, (fn. 113) and in the middle of the century over 130 shopkeepers, tradesmen, and craftsmen were working in the town. The late arrival of the railway probably preserved the number and diversity of such trades, although hindering the introduction of new industries or a revival in the market business. The trades recorded in 1856 extended to less usual ones such as rope-maker, gunsmith, toy dealer, basket- and sievemaker, umbrella-maker, and piano-tuner. Road transport remained a source of employment for 5 carriers, 2 coach-builders, and an omnibus proprietor, and there was no marked reduction in the number of inns. The appearance of 2 cattle-dealers, 2 pig-dealers, a corn- and seed-factor, a seedsman, a mealman, and a threshing-machine proprietor, (fn. 114) reflects the town's relationship with the surrounding farming area and the continuing although much reduced role of the market, of which the corn trade was apparently then the chief support. (fn. 115)
The town although it did not decay in any obvious way settled into a limited economic role, becoming essentially a community of small shopkeepers, who were apparently largely dependent on the custom of the prosperous gentry who settled in the surrounding countryside. A speaker at the court leet dinner of 1912 remarked that without the good hunting for which the locality was famed Tetbury would be poor and insignificant. (fn. 116) In the mid 20th century, however, the building trade became of some importance in the town. Holborow & Sons Ltd., which had originated as a firm of plumbers in 1815, expanded to build housing estates and in the late 1940s were employing 450-500 men. At the same period the Cotswold Dale Stone Co., which worked a quarry by the railway, produced fittings such as balustrading and fireplaces. (fn. 117) Industry came to Tetbury on a larger scale c. 1970 with the establishment of an industrial estate on the north-east side of the town. In 1974 eight firms were sited there, (fn. 118) including manufacturers of earth-moving equipment, plastics, electrical circuits, and automatic vending machinery, a small joinery works, and a firm of construction engineers; Tetbury Mills Ltd., on an adjoining site, made cattle- and poultry-feed. Nevertheless many of the people living on the new housing estates of the town still went outside to work, particularly to the Stroud area. (fn. 119) In the town itself the antiques trade had become prominent by 1974 occupying about 12 shops; a business specializing in period clocks, in two houses on the east side of the market-place, was established by Brig. Meyrick Neilson in 1966. (fn. 120) Otherwise the shops of the town were still largely old-established family businesses.
Markets and Fairs.
Tetbury evidently acquired a market and fair at the creation of the borough c. 1200, although no specific mention of them has been found before 1287. (fn. 121) In 1350 Thomas de Breuse was allowed to extend a fair held at St. Mary Magdalene to seven days. (fn. 122) In the mid 16th century, presumably by ancient usage, the market was being held on Wednesdays and fairs at St. Mary Magdalene and Ash Wednesday. (fn. 123) The fortunes of the market and its role in the town's economy have been outlined above. Although wool, yarn, cheese, and bacon were the principal commodities bought and sold in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was also some trade in leather, butter, and livestock. (fn. 124) In 1810 a toll-free great market for cattle was established on every second Wednesday in the month. (fn. 125) The fairs dealt in cattle, sheep, and horses in the mid 18th century. (fn. 126) In 1834 an additional livestock fair was instituted in November in response to pressure from local farmers. (fn. 127) By 1775 an October hiring fair, or mop, was being held, (fn. 128) and another mop, on the Wednesday before 5 April, was held from 1802. (fn. 129) By the late 19th century cheap post and newspaper advertizing had much reduced the role of the mops, and in 1878 it was said that the better class of employer no longer hired at them; by 1904 they were largely pleasure fairs. Neither the market nor the fairs did any significant trade by then and their abolition was considered, (fn. 130) but there was apparently some revival in market business in the 1920s. (fn. 131) The corn and produce market apparently lapsed at the Second World War and only a small weekly cattle-market was held in 1974. The fairs were then represented by pleasure fairs held on the old mop days. (fn. 132)
After being acquired by the townsfolk in the early 17th century, (fn. 133) the markets and fairs were administered by the feoffees, while the manor court, through the market officers and the presentments of the town jury, attempted to regulate the quality and weight of goods and check forestalling. (fn. 134) Wool-weighers and toll-collectors were employed by the feoffees in the earlier 18th century but later the tolls were usually leased. (fn. 135) From the beginning of the 20th century until 1936 the U.D.C. leased the tolls from the feoffees, (fn. 136) who remained owners of them in 1974.
The market was originally held in the Chipping but by the late 16th century the market activities were focused on the junction of streets at the centre of the town. (fn. 137) The fairs continued to be held at the Chipping. (fn. 138) The building called the tolsey in 1623 (fn. 139) was probably on the site where a new market-house, with an open colonnaded ground floor and an upper storey which served as the town hall and meetingplace of the manor court, was built in 1655. In the following year the court ordered that all wool formerly sold in the streets should be henceforth sold in the market-house, (fn. 140) and it was subsequently reserved for the weighing and sale of wool and yarn. (fn. 141) In 1740 the market-house was reroofed and extended to the south-west to provide a new court-room and additional storage space for wool. (fn. 142) It was extensively remodelled in 1817 when gables were removed from the roof. (fn. 143) Cheese was being sold in 1656 in a penthouse adjoining the Talbot inn, (fn. 144) but by 1667 another market-house, usually distinguished as the little market-house, had been built at the top of Cirencester Street for the sale of cheese and bacon. (fn. 145) It fell into disrepair in the late 18th century, (fn. 146) and was apparently demolished in 1816. (fn. 147)
The corn-market was held at the White Hart in the earlier 19th century, and in 1856, when a system of pitched samples and other improvements had been introduced, it was said to be one of the best in the country. (fn. 148) In 1884 it was moved to the town hall but it had lapsed by 1900 when there was said to be no chance of reviving it. (fn. 149) It was revived, however, on a reduced scale before the Second World War on its former site at the White Hart. (fn. 150) The main group of stalls in the market-place was the butchers' shambles adjoining the market-house. (fn. 151) The livestock market spread along the surrounding streets. Sheep were penned in Church Street in the 1660s, (fn. 152) but the sheep and pig market was being held at the Green in the early 19th century and was moved to Cirencester Street in 1834. (fn. 153) A new cattle-market was opened by the railway in 1888 (fn. 154) and remained in use in 1974.