A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In the early 15th century the view of frankpledge for Westonbirt and Lasborough tithings was held in the hundred court. (fn. 1) In 1287 the Knights Templar had claimed view of frankpledge and waif of their tenants in Westonbirt. (fn. 2) Suit to the abbot of Cirencester's court was owed in 1353 by the payers of the rents given to the abbey in Westonbirt. (fn. 3) There is no evidence of a manor court for Lasborough, but court rolls survive for Westonbirt manor for 1579 and the period 1633- 1734. The lord then claimed the view of frankpledge, and a court leet and baron met irregularly and infrequently to deal with the usual estate matters and with the maintenance of roads and bridges. In 1708 the lord claimed waif and stray and felons' goods. A hayward, tithingman, and two sheep-tellers were appointed. (fn. 4) In 1708 the court met in the church and the homage dined at the lord's expense. (fn. 5)
There is no evidence that Lasborough was ever effective as a parish for civil purposes. It was being rated with Westonbirt in the mid 17th century; (fn. 6) c. 1660 it was said that Lasborough contributed 8s. to every £1 rate. (fn. 7) Poor-relief for Lasborough was being administered with Westonbirt in 1682. (fn. 8) Westonbirt had three churchwardens in 1540. (fn. 9) Later there were two (fn. 10) but for periods in the 17th (fn. 11) and 18th centuries only one was appointed. Their accounts survive for the period 1722-1815. (fn. 12) Lasborough had one churchwarden in 1540 and later (fn. 13) but in 1642 the office was unfilled (fn. 14) and it was again left unfilled in the period c. 1787-1807. (fn. 15) The united parish had a single surveyor of the highways in 1708. (fn. 16) In 1671 there was probably only one overseer of the poor (fn. 17) and in 1687 it was decided to combine the office with that of churchwarden for Westonbirt. (fn. 18) Nevertheless in 1703 there were evidently two overseers, (fn. 19) presumably for both parts of the parish. In the early 18th century the parishioners neglected to make provision for the poor (fn. 20) and consequently the poor-book was irregularly kept and no old rates were to be seen in 1717. (fn. 21) Nevertheless the old were helped by weekly payments (fn. 22) and boys were apprenticed to farmers. (fn. 23) On account of high grain prices resulting from the hard winter of 1708-9 the parish encouraged local farmers to employ the poor at the usual rates of pay. (fn. 24) The cost of relief rose considerably in the late 18th century (fn. 25) and in 1813, when 22 people were being relieved permanently, it was £215. The cost had dropped by 1815 although the number helped had fallen only to 19. (fn. 26) Average expenditure between 1825 and 1834 was £148. (fn. 27) The parish became part of the Tetbury union in 1836 (fn. 28) and remained part of Tetbury rural district in 1974.
Architectural evidence shows that the church at Westonbirt existed by the 12th century. The living was a rectory in 1291. (fn. 29) It was united with Lasborough rectory in 1868 (fn. 30) and since the livings were not adjacent the intervening part of Tetbury was added to Westonbirt ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 31)
Westonbirt was probably the living of Weston to which the bishop collated in 1286 (fn. 32) possibly as the result of a disputed patronage. In 1292 presentation was made by John le Bret, (fn. 33) lord of the manor, but in 1304 a dispute over the patronage led to an episcopal collation. (fn. 34) In 1305 John de la Sale of Lambourn (Berks.) presented (fn. 35) and in 1307 William le Scay. (fn. 36) The advowson then descended with the manor (fn. 37) until 1343 when it was claimed successfully by William's widow Margaret. (fn. 38) She presumably had the right at every fourth vacancy, since in the later 14th century only three-quarters of the advowson passed with the manor. (fn. 39) The other quarter descended with the estate later called Minchins farm (fn. 40) which was evidently held in 1543 by John Clark, patron for the turn. (fn. 41) John Taylor, who presented in 1594, was the lessee of Westonbirt manor. (fn. 42) Christopher Clark included his share of the advowson in the sale of Minchins in 1652 (fn. 43) but the patron in 1655 was John Gawen, husband of Elizabeth, widow of Ambrose Clark. (fn. 44) In 1702 the patronage was disputed by the holders of the two estates, (fn. 45) but after 1707, when Sir Richard Holford bought Minchins, the whole advowson descended with the manor. (fn. 46) The governors of Westonbirt School held the advowson of the united benefice in 1974. (fn. 47)
The living of Westonbirt was worth £5 in 1291. (fn. 48) In 1632 the rector received all the tithes of the parish. (fn. 49) The glebe in 1612 included c. 37 a. in the open fields and several small closes. (fn. 50) At inclosure in 1745 the rector was allotted c. 110 a. for the glebe and great tithes arising from the open fields. (fn. 51) The remaining tithes were commuted in 1840 for a rentcharge of £133 5s. (fn. 52) By 1856 the glebe included 90 a., (fn. 53) and in 1868 80 a. were exchanged for 71 a., mostly in Tetbury. (fn. 54) In 1974 9 a. of glebe remained. (fn. 55) The rectory was valued at £6 2s. in 1535 (fn. 56) and £30 in 1650. (fn. 57) Queen Anne's Bounty augmented the living in 1725 with a sum of £200 to meet benefactions of £100 by Robert Holford and £100 out of Dr. Godolphin's bequest. (fn. 58) The living was worth £60 in 1750 (fn. 59) and £226 in 1856. (fn. 60)
The rectory house, recorded in 1612, (fn. 61) had 2 storeys and 9 rooms in 1677; (fn. 62) it was in decay in 1710. (fn. 63) It was exchanged in 1727 for a new house of 7 bays north of the village street. (fn. 64) That in turn fell into decay and was sold in 1868 to R. S. Holford (fn. 65) and the site taken into the park. (fn. 66) It was replaced by a new rectory north-west of the village. That house was sold in 1969 and it had not been replaced in 1974 as there were plans to unite the benefice with Shipton Moyne. (fn. 67)
In 1314 the rector John Sewell had leave of absence while in the service of Margaret Giffard. (fn. 68) Thomas of Baddesley, instituted in 1317, had leave of absence for study on several occasions in the period 1317-1323. (fn. 69) In 1340 Henry of Bradewas had leave of absence for one year (fn. 70) as had William Flaxmonger in 1395. (fn. 71) In 1551 William Bocwell was found satisfactory on some points but was unable to prove the Articles. (fn. 72) John Brown, formerly a monk, (fn. 73) possibly of Bath Abbey, (fn. 74) was found in 1576 to understand Latin and to have a good knowledge of the Scriptures; (fn. 75) in 1593 he was considered a sufficient scholar. (fn. 76) Christopher Leigh, rector from c. 1600, (fn. 77) was described as a preaching minister in 1650 (fn. 78) and Simon Gawen, admitted in 1655, was approved of as a public preacher. Samuel Broadhurst, rector from 1695, (fn. 79) had such an unsettled relationship with the parishioners that he departed to serve as a ship's chaplain before his death in 1702. (fn. 80) Under his successor, John Jackson, the living was served by curates. (fn. 81) In 1710 Jackson's replacement of Timothy Millechamp by Thomas Stratford, who lived at Dursley, was actively opposed by the parishioners; (fn. 82) Jackson decided to serve occasionally in person but later that year he was presented to Hullavington (Wilts.). (fn. 83) John Harris, rector from 1739, (fn. 84) held the adjoining living of Easton Grey (Wilts.) in 1750. (fn. 85) John Savage, instituted in 1769, (fn. 86) lived at Tetbury and the living was served by curates. (fn. 87) In 1868 David Kitcat, rector of Lasborough, became rector of the united benefice of Westonbirt with Lasborough. (fn. 88) In 1974 the rector also acted as chaplain to Westonbirt School.
Lasborough had a priest, and therefore presumably a church, in 1086. (fn. 89) The living was not taxed in 1291 but in 1284 and 1318 it was a rectory in the gift of the lord of the manor. (fn. 90) The depopulation of the parish undermined its status and in the 15th century the living was described as a free chapel (fn. 91) but later it was again called a rectory. (fn. 92) The advowson descended with Lasborough manor. (fn. 93) John Lypiatt presented in 1466 (fn. 94) although his lease of the manor had expressly excluded the right of presentation. (fn. 95) The church had the same patron as Westonbirt in 1868 when the benefices were united. (fn. 96)
The living of Lasborough was valued at £7 12s. 5d. in 1535. (fn. 97) The fact that the lord of the manor owned all the land led by the mid 16th century to an arrangement by which he paid a pension instead of the tithes to the rector, who also received some meals in the manor-house. A pension of £20 alone had become established by the 1580s (fn. 98) and it remained the rector's sole stipend until 1815 (fn. 99) although the profits of the living were valued at £60 in 1750. (fn. 100) Queen Anne's Bounty allotted the living £200 in 1772 (fn. 101) and in 1809 it was recorded that the living was worth only £24, comprising the fixed pension and the augmentation. Apparently the long continuance of the pension had led to the living being treated merely as a donative, (fn. 102) although it was always referred to as a rectory. By 1815 the parish was sometimes regarded as being tithe-free, but in 1819 the rector took legal action to recover the tithes. In 1823 he was awarded the arrears of the tithes from part of the parish since 1815, and Lord Ducie, who was negotiating to buy the manor, acknowledged his right to all the tithes. (fn. 103) By 1855 the rector had been awarded a rent-charge of £150 for the tithes, (fn. 104) and in 1892 the income was made up of £6 10s. from Queen Anne's Bounty and the tithe rent-charge. (fn. 105)
No glebe land was attached to the living. (fn. 106) The parsonage, in which the rector lived in the mid 16th century, (fn. 107) was on land belonging to the lord of the manor which was inclosed in Lasborough park. (fn. 108) By the mid 18th century it had apparently fallen into disuse (fn. 109) and by 1807 was no longer standing. (fn. 110)
In 1338 and 1339 the rector, John of Wycombe, was granted leave of absence. (fn. 111) John Search, rector from 1548, (fn. 112) was described in 1551 as vir prae caeteris ignarus (fn. 113) but he nevertheless ran a school. (fn. 114) Despite a presentation in 1561 the living remained vacant until the institution in 1564 of Philip Griffin, (fn. 115) who was also rector of Ozleworth in 1572. (fn. 116) John Jones was said in 1584 to be neither graduate nor preacher (fn. 117) but Robert Cheke in 1593 was both graduate and preacher. (fn. 118) Edward Williams, instituted in 1605, (fn. 119) refused to subscribe to the Articles, (fn. 120) but held the living until he resigned in 1609. His successor Thomas Iles (fn. 121) (d. 1649) (fn. 122) was described as a preaching minister in 1650 when a union with Newington Bagpath was recommended so that Lasborough might be served regularly. (fn. 123) The failure to supplement the meagre income led to a succession of rectors who were absentee pluralists or had other means of livelihood and to the neglect of the cure. Edmund Fido, rector 1664-6, was master of Tetbury grammar school, (fn. 124) and in the earlier 18th century the living was held by two rectors in plurality with Long Newnton (Wilts.). (fn. 125) In 1750 the church was served only once a month. (fn. 126) Between 1778 and 1859 the duties were performed by curates who lived in neighbouring parishes. (fn. 127) William Baker, rector 1805-59, held the living from 1821 with Heyford Warden (Oxon.) (fn. 128) and rarely visited Lasborough, (fn. 129) where in 1825 it was said that communion was never celebrated; services were then being held in the dilapidated church only on Sunday afternoons. (fn. 130) In 1851 the church was served alternately in the morning and afternoon. (fn. 131) David Kitcat, rector from 1859 to 1906, lived at Tetbury. (fn. 132)
The church of ST. CATHERINE (fn. 133) at Westonbirt has a chancel with north chapel and south vestry, nave with north aisle and porch, and south tower and porch. Enlargement in the 19th and 20th centuries has removed some of the evidence of the medieval building.
The south wall of the nave adjacent to the tower may be of the 12th century. The chancel appears to have been rebuilt or extended in the 13th century and the tower appears to have been added before the 14th century when the south porch was built on to a widened nave. A north transept may also have been in existence by that time. In the 15th century the tower was buttressed and the tower arch rebuilt, and at least one window in the nave was renewed. The church was restored in 1841, 1879, and 1902. (fn. 134) The chancel, which was in disrepair in 1825, (fn. 135) was rebuilt in 1841 and the north transeptal chapel was extended to form the north aisle. The nave and aisle were lengthened by one bay in 1879, when the chancel arch was widened. The chancel roof was raised in 1902. In 1955 the north aisle was extended eastwards and a new vestry was added on the south side of the chancel. (fn. 136)
Royal arms inscribed in 1801 were formerly located over the chancel arch. (fn. 137) Monuments to members of the Holford family include a Gothicstyle tomb to R. S. Holford, and a monument of 1839 by R. Westmacott to Robert and George Holford. (fn. 138) In the early 18th century the chancel windows incorporated the Berkeley arms. (fn. 139) The church had four bells in 1677, three of which needed recasting (fn. 140) and were sent to Bristol in 1685 where two of them were spoiled. (fn. 141) The two surviving were recast by Abel Rudhall in 1743. (fn. 142) The plate comprised in 1807 a silver flagon, cup, and paten. (fn. 143) Those were presumably replaced in 1843 when R. S. Holford gave a chalice, paten, flagon, and alms-dish. (fn. 144) The registers begin in 1598. (fn. 145)
The medieval parish church of ST. MARY (fn. 146) at Lasborough comprised a chancel, nave, and north porch. (fn. 147) By the 1820s it was decayed, open to animals, and used for storage, (fn. 148) and a monument to Sir Thomas Estcourt (d. 1624) and his wife (fn. 149) was removed to Shipton Moyne in 1825. (fn. 150) In 1861 R. S. Holford rebuilt the church, on the old lines but with an extended nave and new south porch, from designs in the early decorated style by Lewis Vulliamy. (fn. 151) The former north porch became the vestry and a west bellcot was erected.
A new font was given by the rector in 1861, and the old font, presumably from the original church, stood in the churchyard until 1903 when it was moved to Great Witcombe. It was reinstated in Lasborough church in 1909. (fn. 152) At the rebuilding the old altar was placed in the vestry and replaced by a carved oak table from one of the Holford farms at Arlingham. (fn. 153) The old church had one bell (fn. 154) and a second was given in 1861. (fn. 155) R. S. Holford gave a set of plate of 1850. (fn. 156) Separate registers for Lasborough survive only from 1827. Most of the earlier entries are included in the Westonbirt registers (fn. 157) but in the early 19th century some were made in other adjoining parishes. (fn. 158)