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 2 plough-teams and 4 servi were employed on the demesne of William son of Baderon's Westonbirt estate. (fn. 1) There were 1 team and 7 servi on the demesne of Lasborough manor. (fn. 2) For the estates of Hugh d'Avranches no details were returned. Lasborough manor was farmed from the early 1380s (fn. 3) but was taken in hand by the lord in 1589. (fn. 4)
The tenants on William son of Baderon's estate in 1086 included 3 villani and 3 bordars working 2 ploughs. (fn. 5) The tenants on Lasborough manor were 5 villani and a priest with 2 ploughs. (fn. 6) In 1547 Westonbirt manor had seven copyhold tenants, four of whom each held a yardland, which varied between 42 a. and 58 a. (fn. 7) The customs of the manor compiled in 1639 recorded that copyholds were granted for up to 4 lives and widows retained a life-interest provided they remained single. In 1671 a heriot was paid by composition. (fn. 8) Leaseholds were granted from the manor in the late 17th century (fn. 9) and gradually replaced copyholds: in 1665 there were 8 copyholders and 1 leaseholder (fn. 10) but by 1720 there were at least 8 leaseholders and 3 copyholders. (fn. 11) The lord was entitled to heriots in 1743 (fn. 12) but copyhold probably disappeared in 1745, at inclosure, or soon after. In the mid 17th century Lasborough manor comprised two farms, Lasborough park and Bowldown farm, which were cultivated by tenant farmers. (fn. 13) Westonbirt manor was leased in the mid 16th century (fn. 14) and in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. (fn. 15) The Minchins estate later formed a separate farm on the manor. (fn. 16) At the beginning of the 18th century Sir Richard Holford had difficult relationships with his tenants, notably Isaac Humphreys who later farmed at Bowldown (fn. 17) which he refused to quit when given notice by Thomas Estcourt in 1728. (fn. 18)
Two open fields, the north field and the south field, were recorded in Westonbirt in 1547 (fn. 19) when they contained at least 416 a. and 410 a. respectively. (fn. 20) In the early 17th century they were worked on a two-field system. (fn. 21) Common of pasture in the fields was chiefly for sheep but cattle were also allowed in. (fn. 22) In 1612 10 sheep were admitted for every 4 a. of land held (fn. 23) but the stint was lowered to 2 sheep an acre in 1667. Two sheep-tellers were appointed from 1650. (fn. 24) Six acres of meadow were recorded in Westonbirt in 1086. (fn. 25) The amount of common meadow recorded in 1547 was only 4½ a. but the area had certainly expanded by 1579 when the tenants of the manor had pasture in the common meadows for 2 beasts for every acre they held. (fn. 27) A common meadow called Overmead was recorded in 1613. (fn. 28) The main common pasture was on Weston Downs north-west of the village. (fn. 29) In 1612 the rector was allowed to pasture 2 beasts there by virtue of his glebe yardland of c. 40 a. (fn. 30) Common of pasture on the down, which was also known as Hedge or Edge field in the mid 17th century, was used primarily for sheep during the winter. (fn. 31)
Large numbers of sheep were recorded at Westonbirt in the wills of William and Thomas Clark in 1493 and 1503 respectively. (fn. 32) Sheepfarming was especially important on the uplands in Lasborough, where in the early 16th century the lord of the manor or his tenant had common rights in a sheep-walk shared with the neighbouring parishes of Newington Bagpath, Hawkesbury, and Kingscote. (fn. 33) The existence of a large sheep-run near Bowldown Farm is suggested by the field-name, the Old Sheep Sleight, recorded in 1774. (fn. 34) In the mid 17th century the Bowldown farmer had access to a pool in Lasborough park for washing his sheep. (fn. 35)
No evidence of open fields in Lasborough has been found and in the valley Lasborough park was inclosed shortly before 1612. (fn. 36) Piecemeal inclosure of the Westonbirt open fields had begun by the early 17th century. By 1612 it seems that the common of Weston Downs was sometimes cultivated as part of the manor, for a payment from the lord to the rector in lieu of his common rights there was recorded. (fn. 37) By 1632 5 closes belonging to the manor had been taken from the down, (fn. 38) which was given over to arable in 1687 and to pasture and meadow land in 1700, (fn. 39) and in 1709 Sir Richard Holford permitted further inclosures there. (fn. 40) Inclosure of the open fields proceeded spasmodically. (fn. 41) By 1744 the south field and part of the north field had been inclosed; the remaining open land was inclosed in 1745 by Act of Parliament, under which 350 a. were reallotted. The principal beneficiaries were Robert Holford and the rector. Three other proprietors received small allotments. (fn. 42)
In 1798 Westonbirt manor included two farms which comprised c. 460 a. and 242 a. (fn. 43) In 1797 the Lasborough estate had two larger farms, Lasborough farm (684 a.) and Bowldown farm (586 a.). (fn. 44) The latter was run in the late 18th century on a six-course rotation of crops (fn. 45) and in 1782 roughly equal acreages of the farm were given over to exhaustive and improving crops, the latter including large areas of clover and sainfoin. Turnips accounted for 77 a. (fn. 46) and were grown on a considerable scale in Lasborough in 1801. The main crops in the combined parish were then wheat, barley, and oats. (fn. 47) Sheep-farming continued to be important at Bowldown where in 1809 some 2,000 merino sheep were sold. (fn. 48) Nevertheless in the 19th century both Lasborough and Bowldown farms, which in 1844 contained 677 a. and 627 a. respectively, (fn. 49) were given over principally to arable. (fn. 50) The higher area of pasture on Lasborough farm (fn. 51) presumably included the park. In 1831 there were 4 farmers in the parish who employed 18 labourers. (fn. 52) In 1840 Westonbirt had 358 a. of arable and 413 a. of meadow or pasture (fn. 53) but almost all the arable land was later swallowed up by the extension of Westonbirt park. (fn. 54) In the late 19th century the manor estate was managed from Home Farm. (fn. 55) In 1901 Westonbirt with Lasborough comprised 819 a. of arable, 1,111 a. of permanent grass, and 220 a. of woods and plantations. (fn. 56) In 1974 the 600-a. Westonbirt estate was devoted almost entirely to dairy-farming (fn. 57) while Bowldown farm, on which there was some cereal cultivation, was used mainly for raising sheep and beef-cattle. (fn. 58)
There may have been a windmill on the east side of the Lasborough valley where the field-name Windmill hill was recorded in 1727. (fn. 59)
There were apparently few craftsmen or tradesmen in the parish. Westonbirt had a cook in 1327 (fn. 60) and masons in 1608 (fn. 61) and 1613. (fn. 62) In 1811 only 3 families in the parish were supported by trade compared with 44 supported by agriculture. (fn. 63) From 1846 the Westonbirt estate was served by blacksmiths of the Banks family (fn. 64) who occupied the smithy west of the new Hare and Hounds until at least 1939. (fn. 65) The village had at least one carpenter in the mid 19th century. (fn. 66) In the 1820s a sawyer was mentioned there (fn. 67) and by 1881 Home Farm had a steam saw-mill as well as a small gas-works. (fn. 68) Several carters were recorded in Westonbirt in the 19th century. (fn. 69) The village had a cobbler in 1856 (fn. 70) and there was a shopkeeper there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (fn. 71) A malt-house recorded in 1718 had been demolished by 1819. (fn. 72) The importance of the Bath-Cheltenham road led to the establishment of a garage in Lasborough in the 1930s in one of the former airfield buildings. (fn. 73)