A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 5, Bledisloe Hundred, St. Briavels Hundred, the Forest of Dean. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The Rural parish of English Bicknor lies 8 km. ENE. of Monmouth on the boundary with Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. (fn. 1) It is bounded on the north by the river Wye and like Welsh Bicknor, the parish on the opposite side of the river, (fn. 2) took its name from a bank. (fn. 3) Two short sections of Offa's Dyke, once the boundary between the lands of the English and the Welsh, were built in the north-east of English Bicknor near the river. (fn. 4)
Part of English Bicknor, probably adjoining the later village, was settled by 1066 (fn. 5) and the cultivated area was later increased by assarting from the Forest of Dean woodland and waste. (fn. 6) The parish, which was within the Forest's jurisdiction by the early 13th century and so remained as long as that jurisdiction had significance, (fn. 7) covered c. 2,377 a. in the early 19th century and included several detached parts divided fm the main block by the large tract of extraparochial land called Mailscot. (fn. 8) Mailscot, which was alienated from the royal demesne of the Forest in 1625 (fn. 9) and came to be regarded as outside the Forest, (fn. 10) is included in this account.
The main part of English Bicknor was compact and regular in shape with its north boundary following the course of the Wye from Lydbrook in the north-east downstream to Coldwell, where the river turns north describing a large loop to pass the promontory called Symonds Yat rock. Elsewhere the parish adjoined the extraparochial royal demesne of the Forest save in the north-east at Lower Lydbrook, where it touched Ruardean and a detached part of Newland, and on a section of the south boundary, where it touched the detached part of Newland called Hoarthorns farm. (fn. 11) English Bicknor's boundaries included a tributary stream of the Wye at Lower Lydbrook and several sections of the Coleford-Goodrich (Herefs.) road on the west at Hillersland and Redinhorne. A landmark on the south boundary at Short Standing was the Gospel Oak, which was replaced by another oak before 1725. (fn. 12) An area of the Forest demesne at Hangerberry, to the east, was claimed for the parish in a long suit begun in 1743 by Viscount Gage, lord of English Bicknor manor. (fn. 13)
To the west the wedge of extraparochial land called Mailscot or Mailscot wood extended northwards from Coalpit hill to Symonds Yat rock and was bounded on the west by the river Wye and on the south-east by a track known in 1625 as the green way or the hunter's path. In 1625 it was reckoned to cover c. 430 a., (fn. 14) but its true area was c. 832 a. (fn. 15) On the south-west side of Mailscot an area of 141 a., which included Braceland, formed a detached part of English Bicknor (fn. 16) bounded on the south and west by the ancient course of Whippington brook, known in 1282 as 'Wybaltunes' brook. (fn. 17) The brook disappeared underground below Coalpit hill before the 18th century, and in 1993 the dry ditch on its course was visible in places down to Oldstone (formerly Obson's) well, on the west side of Mailscot, where the brook surfaced a short distance above the Wye. (fn. 18) The other parts of English Bicknor adjoining Mailscot were a narrow strip of meadow land on the river bank opposite Whitchurch (Herefs.) and a small piece of land at Broomhill Tump in the south-east corner. (fn. 19)
The west part of Mailscot, adjoining Whippington brook, had apparently included an estate called 'Wiboldingtune' which had, however, reverted to the Forest waste by 1066. The bishops of Hereford, to whom ownership of the estate and its fishery was ascribed in 1086, (fn. 20) had a weir in the river Wye there in the late 13th century, and a clearing of 90 a. between the Bicknor- Staunton highway and the river was known as Bishop's slade in 1282. (fn. 21) An assart of 40 a. near Whippington brook in 1317 was presumably the parochial land at Braceland, which belonged to Staunton manor in 1579. The parochial land further west, perhaps the grove of Henry the carter in 1317, was in 1579 a copse of c. 80 a. belonging to Richard Baynham of Clearwell. (fn. 22) The piece of English Bicknor at Broomhill Tump was probably one of the two assarts held with English Bicknor manor in 1301. (fn. 23)
In 1842 Mailscot was added to English Bicknor to give the parish an area of 3,209 a. The transfer included land by the Wye, south-west of Symonds Yat rock, (fn. 24) but it excluded a long strip of land containing closes on the east side of the road at Hillersland and Redinhorne. That land, sandwiched between Bicknor and Mailscot and extending to Symonds Yat rock, had remained part of the royal demesne in 1625 (fn. 25) and was included in West Dean township in 1842. (fn. 26) In 1935 it was transferred to English Bicknor and at the same time the north-east corner of the parish was transferred to the new civil parish of Lydbrook. (fn. 27) In 1965 16 a. on the side of the Wye valley south-west of Symonds Yat rock were transferred to Goodrich, leaving English Bicknor with 2,958 a. (1,197 ha.). (fn. 28) The account printed here deals with the parish as constituted between 1842 and 1935 save for the area in the north-east forming part of Lydbrook village, which is treated below with the Forest of Dean.
Much of English Bicknor is above the 120-m. contour and the land is generally hilly, rising to 224 m. in the east above Hangerberry and the Lydbrook valley. Most of the parish lies on the sandstone beds of the Forest of Dean coalfield, but in the north and west the land is formed by carboniferous limestone and in the north-east the underlying Old Red Sandstone is revealed. (fn. 29) To the north and west the ground falls steeply to the Wye and in places the limestone forms cliffs above the river. The highest are on the north side where Coldwell rocks and Symonds Yat rock rise almost perpendicularly for c. 90 m. Symonds Yat rock was the site of an ancient fort controlling several crossings of the Wye and defended on three sides by the steep drop to the river and on the south by a series of five banks and ditches running across the promontory. (fn. 30) The name Symonds Yat, first recorded in 1256, (fn. 31) was used for the gorge west of the rock. The cliffs have long provided nesting-places for birds of prey and in 1648, in a lease of land at Redinhorne, George Wyrall, the landowner, reserved hawks' eyries. (fn. 32) Coldwell is also known as Crowsmarsh (fn. 33) and one of the prominent limestone outcrops to the east was known as Raven cliff by 1685. (fn. 34) The number of kites, hawks, and ravens in the area declined in the early 19th century (fn. 35) but peregrine falcons nested in Coldwell rocks in 1993. Limestone has been quarried extensively in the parish and coal has been mined on the west side and in Mailscot. Several streams disappear underground through swallow holes recorded in the later 18th century (fn. 36) and in places the flow of water was reduced by schemes to prevent flooding in the coalfield in the early 20th century. (fn. 37) In 1993 the principal stream flowed northwards in a valley between English Bicknor village and Eastbach, to the south-east, and joined the Wye at Stowfield, in the north-east of the parish. A stream flowing into the Wye at Coldwell was called Hollow brook in 1256. (fn. 38)
Some land in the south was not cleared for cultivation until after 1282 (fn. 39) and the Crown regarded closes in the Eastbach, Joyford, Short Standing, and Hillersland areas as ancient assarts in the early 17th century. (fn. 40) In the 17th century common arable fields survived in several places but most land was farmed in closes. There was some rich meadow land on the banks of the river Wye. (fn. 41) Most of the surviving woodland, which in 1840 covered 362 a. of the ancient parish, (fn. 42) clothed the slope of the Wye valley. The belt of woodland on the north side of the parish included three small commons or wastes, Chepstow grove, Common grove, and an area at Coldwell rocks, where the rights of English Bicknor manor tenants to pasture animals and take brushwood were recorded in 1639. (fn. 43) In the mid 19th century Chepstow grove or wood, where parishioners continued to take firewood, was regarded as parish property (fn. 44) and from 1938 it was managed under the name of the Poor's Land charity. (fn. 45) Court wood, known in 1282 as Martin's Cockshoot, (fn. 46) and other land near the Wye were landscaped in the later 18th century to create scenic walks overlooking the river between Bicknor Court and Symonds Yat rock. (fn. 47) On the east side of the parish Hangerberry wood, planted after 1608, (fn. 48) covered 25 a. in 1792 (fn. 49) and was enlarged in the mid 19th century. (fn. 50) At Braceland, where an inclosure of oak and beech was created in the early 1620s, (fn. 51) 70 a. of farmland were planted as part of the Highmeadow woods after being acquired by the Crown in 1817. (fn. 52) That land had been cleared by the mid 1960s when it was used as a holiday camping site. (fn. 53) The decision of the owners of Mailscot wood in the later 1620s to fell timber for charcoaling and mining operations and to inclose the land provoked riots in 1631 (fn. 54) and left only 100 trees standing there. (fn. 55) The wood, later replanted, became part of the Highmeadow estate in 1676 (fn. 56) and the woodland west of Braceland was added to it. In 1792 the wood covered 728 a. and waste land was confined to 19 a. on the side of the Wye gorge at New Weir and 15 a. on Coalpit hill. (fn. 57) Mailscot accounted for most of the 1,033 a. of woodland in the enlarged parish in 1905. (fn. 58)
The road pattern in English Bicknor has altered much since the Middle Ages when several routes ran south-west across the parish and through Mailscot wood. (fn. 59) The Bicknor-Staunton highway crossing Coalpit hill in 1282 was the main road between Lydbrook and Monmouth. From Lydbrook it followed Probert's Lane and it entered English Bicknor village from the east along Godwin's Lane. West of the village it followed a route below Bicknor Court to reach Mailscot midway between Hillersland and Redinhorne, but by the 17th century traffic for Monmouth followed the Coleford road from the village before turning west along Red House Lane to join the road to Mailscot. (fn. 60) The Coleford road, known in 1402 as New Street, (fn. 61) ran south from the village and turned south-west at Dryslade Farm to follow an ancient route past a medieval chapel and over Wormall (formerly Horemore) hill. (fn. 62) It had become the main road to Monmouth and the route through Mailscot had been abandoned by the later 18th century. (fn. 63) The Joyford road, branching south from the Coleford road at Dryslade Farm, is called Bicknor Street.
East of the village a road branching from the Lydbrook road in the valley below Upper Tump Farm and running south to the Forest was perhaps that known in 1282 as Eastbach way. At Eastbach it was crossed by a road which ran west to a junction with the Coleford road near the entrance to Red House Lane. (fn. 64) The section of that road south of the village was closed in 1851 when Edward Machen, owner of the Eastbach estate, improved the road between Eastbach and the village. Soon afterwards several roads in the north-east were abandoned in favour of new roads built by the rector, John Burdon, to provide work for unemployed farm labourers. The road from Stowfield to Lower Lydbrook on a course near the river Wye was completed in 1853, and the road from the village to Stowfield by way of Millway grove was finished in 1855 at the same time as a road linking Eastbach with Stowfield and Lower Lydbrook. (fn. 65) The Goodrich road at Hillersland and Redinhorne was maintained to the county boundary below Symonds Yat rock by the Dean Forest turnpike trustees from 1827 until 1888. (fn. 66) It formed part of an old route between Coleford and Ross-on-Wye (Herefs.) but in the 19th century traffic for Ross used the road through Hangerberry and Lydbrook (fn. 67) or, by 1880, the road through Bicknor village and Lower Lydbrook. (fn. 68) In Mailscot, where the burden of highway maintenance fell on St. Briavels hundred in the 18th century, (fn. 69) a path running north-west to the river at the Slaughter was described in 1792 as a coach road. (fn. 70) In 1867 a new bridge carried a road from Braceland to Staunton over Whippington brook below Coalpit hill. (fn. 71) In the 17th century wayside crosses apparently marked several road junctions in the parish. (fn. 72) Campion's cross was east of the village on Godwin's Lane (fn. 73) and the high cross, recorded in 1595, presumably stood west of the village where the road to Coleford turned south. (fn. 74)
The Ross-Monmouth railway opened in 1873 crossed the Wye into Bicknor at Stowfield and followed the river before entering a tunnel under Symonds Yat rock to resume a course along the river bank below Mailscot wood. (fn. 75) The Severn & Wye railway, completed the following year, ran through Lower Lydbrook to join the Ross- Monmouth line at Stowfield. (fn. 76) Stations were built at the junction (Lydbrook Junction) and at Symonds Yat south-west of the tunnel. (fn. 77) The Severn & Wye line, on which passenger services ceased in 1929, closed in 1956 and the line between Lydbrook Junction and Monmouth in 1959. The line to Ross was used by goods traffic for a few more years (fn. 78) and the bridge over the Wye at Stowfield survived as a footbridge in 1993. Upstream near Lower Lydbrook the church of Welsh Bicknor, which some Lydbrook people attended in 1851, (fn. 79) was reached by a ferry across the river in the later 19th century and the early 20th. (fn. 80)
Settlement in English Bicknor was scattered throughout the parish and included sites abandoned after the Middle Ages. (fn. 81) The older surviving houses are of stone. The village grew up around a Norman castle on a spur in the centre of the parish. (fn. 82) The medieval parish church stands in the castle's outer bailey. To the north-east in the barbican is the former rectory house and to the south-west school buildings dating from the 1830s also encroach on the castle site. In the mid 19th century, when two bridges provided access to the churchyard, part of a ditch was filled in to enlarge the rector's garden and in 1880 part of the castle motte was excavated during work to make a garden for the schoolmaster. (fn. 83) South-east of the church a small cluster of buildings in the late 18th century (fn. 84) included an inn (fn. 85) and the parish or church house, recorded from 1548. (fn. 86) Nearby was the pound, recorded in 1725. (fn. 87) To the south-west Bicknor House, formerly known as the Great House, dates from the late 18th century when it became the residence of William Ambery (d. 1791). (fn. 88) Enlarged in the early 19th century, it was occupied until the mid 1880s by members of the Machen and Davies families. (fn. 89) To the west, where the Coleford road turns south, was a farmhouse built probably after 1608 (fn. 90) and known as Cross House in 1792. (fn. 91) A house to the south was rebuilt in 1756. (fn. 92) Later buildings in the village included an almshouse, erected in 1858 in place of the inn by the churchyard. (fn. 93) In the late 20th century a few houses and bungalows were built at the entrance to the Eastbach road and on the Coleford road.
Further south on the Coleford road building had begun by 1402, (fn. 94) and in 1608 there were scattered farmhouses and cottages there and on the Joyford road. On the Coleford road the main range of Whitehouse Farm, John Jordan's residence in 1608, (fn. 95) was probably built in the 16th century when its south end was an open hall of three bays. North of the hall was a bay which was defined by stone cross walls and beyond that a room which has been much altered. In the 17th century a lateral stack and an upper floor were put into the hall, the side walls being raised to give the new floor more height. In 1667 a parlour wing was added behind the hall (fn. 96) and about that time, if not before, the bay north of the hall was made into a pantry. One of the trusses in the hall was moved northwards when a new stair was put in but the stair, dating from the late 17th century and of high quality, does not appear to be in the position for which it was made. The house, which was part of a freehold estate owned by Henry Davies of Chepstow in 1766, was a farmhouse on the Eastbach estate from 1864 (fn. 97) until 1962 and it was extensively restored after it became a private house in 1987. A barn, in different ownership from 1987, (fn. 98) has been converted as a house and two holiday cottages. Dryslade Farm, further south on the site of a house recorded in 1565, (fn. 99) was part of an estate inherited in 1754 by William Lane (d. 1789) (fn. 100) and was rebuilt in the 19th century. Nearer the village Cowmeadow Farm was built c. 1820 next to older farm buildings. (fn. 101) Bicknor Cottage, to the south, was built in the later 18th century on the site of an inn (fn. 102) and became the Machen family's principal residence in 1895. (fn. 103) To the south-west an estate of 16 council houses was created south of the entrance to Red House Lane between 1949 and 1952, and in 1993 later houses and bungalows in that area filled the west side of the Coleford road as far as a village hall built in 1934. Eight council houses further south on the road also date from 1934. (fn. 104)
A medieval chapel and house by the Coleford road on the hillside south-east of Dryslade Farm had been demolished by the late 18th century. (fn. 105) South of Dryslade Farm early dwellings on Bicknor Street included a small farmhouse at the place called Shallis hill. (fn. 106) Several more cottages were built on roadside encroachments in the 18th century. (fn. 107) Some fell into ruin in the mid 20th century and at least two, including one dated 1745, were pulled down. (fn. 108) At Joyford, on the boundary between the former extraparochial land of the Forest and land belonging to English Bicknor and Newland, there were a few cottages and a water mill within Bicknor in 1608. (fn. 109) On the Coleford road near the Forest boundary at Short Standing there was a farmhouse called Sterts c. 1356. (fn. 110) To the south a house also within Bicknor was occupied in the mid 1830s by the minister of the Berry Hill church (fn. 111) and became the Sterts farmhouse in the 20th century. (fn. 112)
In the east settlement began at Eastbach before 1221 (fn. 113) and included several farmhouse and cottages in the Middle Ages. (fn. 114) The dwellings, of which at least three were abandoned before 1639, (fn. 115) were strung out on the eastern side of the valley. East of Bicknor village, perhaps in the area known in the later 16th century as Nether (or Lower) Eastbach, (fn. 116) there were two farmhouses east of the old road from the village to Lydbrook in the late 18th century. (fn. 117) Lower Tump Farm, the older of the two, (fn. 118) had belonged to William Bennett (d. 1761) (fn. 119) and, to the south, Upper Tump Farm, formerly known as Lewis House, to the Revd. John Benson (d. 1713). (fn. 120) In 1910 both farms were in the same ownership (fn. 121) and in the late 20th century Upper Tump Farm and its outbuildings, having become dilapidated, (fn. 122) were restored. To the south-east, perhaps in the area called Over Eastbach in the later 16th century, (fn. 123) the principal building in 1993 was Eastbach Court. (fn. 124) At Carterspiece, to the south, a small farmhouse near the Forest boundary in 1608 (fn. 125) was rebuilt in the late 18th century or the early 19th. By 1758 there were also a few cottages higher up to the northeast on the boundary (fn. 126) and in 1993 the hamlet included a new house.
At Stowfield in the north-east settlement began before 1282 (fn. 127) and there were two or three cottages in 1639. (fn. 128) Stowfield Farm, the only house there in the late 18th century, was one of the main farms on the Highmeadow estate (fn. 129) and, having been sold by the Crown in 1825, (fn. 130) became a freehold estate owned in the late 19th century and the early 20th by the Aldrich-Blake family. (fn. 131) A pair of estate cottages was built to the east on the Lydbrook road at Tumps hill in 1872. (fn. 132) In the early 20th century H. W. Smith began industrial development at the railway junction near the river bank to the north-west. (fn. 133) Stowfield House, which he built on Tumps hill before 1920 in grounds including a lodge on the Lydbrook road, (fn. 134) became a boys' home at the end of the Second World War and was a geriatric hospital from 1956 (fn. 135) to 1993. Enlargement of the house has incorporated an outbuilding in it. (fn. 136) In the mid 20th century a small housing estate was created on the hillside north of Stowfield House and a few houses were built further east on the Lydbrook road. Southeast of Stowfield House H. W. Smith built a pair of cottages, (fn. 137) and in 1993 a charitable trust opened a residential home for disabled people in new buildings just above the house. (fn. 138)
West of English Bicknor village the principal house in the mid 16th century was Bicknor Court. (fn. 139) In the early 17th century there was a ruined farmhouse nearby. (fn. 140) A later farmhouse standing south-west of the Court was rebuilt in 1862. (fn. 141) In the late 18th century there was an old house lower down to the north-east. (fn. 142) To the north at Common grove, where encroachments on common land began before 1774, (fn. 143) there was a single cottage in 1792. (fn. 144) By the 1840s six or seven dwellings had been built there, (fn. 145) some of them on Rosemary Topping, the hill to the west. (fn. 146) Several fell into ruin and were demolished in the early 20th century (fn. 147) and three or four remained in 1993.
In the north-west a number of scattered cottages to the east of Redinhorne, including a timber-framed dwelling of c. 1610 and several older buildings, have disappeared. (fn. 148) In 1993 a barn was a camping centre for young people. Cottages were built on extraparochial land adjoining the Coleford-Goodrich road both at Redinhorne and, to the south, at Hillersland. (fn. 149) Hillersland Farm, within English Bicknor, was built in the 17th century. To the south-east at Blackthorns Farm, which belonged to the Wyrall family in 1608 (fn. 150) and became part of the Eastbach estate in 1735, (fn. 151) a bungalow was built southwest of the farmhouse in the later 20th century. (fn. 152) Within Mailscot cabiners resident in 1628 were expelled. (fn. 153) A woodman's lodge was built northwest of Hillersland before 1748. (fn. 154)
At Symonds Yat, in the gorge west of the rock, most early houses were on the west side of the river, in Whitchurch parish, where ironworks were built in the 17th century. (fn. 155) The settlement, which included houses on the east side of the river on former extraparochial land and on land belonging to Goodrich, (fn. 156) was also called New Weir (fn. 157) after a weir constructed there in the 1660s. On the extraparochial land, where two cottages were pulled down, probably in the 1630s, on the orders of Crown officials, (fn. 158) a lock keeper's house was built near the weir when work to improve the Wye navigation began in the mid 1690s. (fn. 159) In the late 18th century a ferry crossed the river below the weir to the ironworks. (fn. 160) By 1792 five cottages had been built on encroachments on the eastern side of the gorge (fn. 161) and in 1851 there were 12 cottages there belong ing to English Bicknor. (fn. 162) Among buildings erected near the river in the later 19th century, when Symonds Yat had become a popular tourist resort, (fn. 163) was the main range of the Rocklea (later Royal) hotel. Another house was adapted as a temperance hotel by 1900 (fn. 164) and was the Forest View hotel in 1993. Near the rock's summit, a popular viewpoint over the Wye, a refreshment kiosk and picnic site were built in 1956 and additional car parks were provided later. (fn. 165) North of the rock, there were three cottages on the Goodrich road in 1792, (fn. 166) and a school, a nonconformist chapel, and several more cottages were built in the 19th century. (fn. 167)
South-east of Symonds Yat rock there was a cottage on waste land by the river below Coldwell rocks in the early 17th century. (fn. 168) Several more cottages were built there in the 18th century (fn. 169) and there were perhaps as many as a dozen dwellings, including some in Goodrich, along the river bank in the early 19th century. Several fell into ruin before 1866 (fn. 170) and some were apparently demolished a few years later to make way for the Ross-Monmouth railway. (fn. 171) The last cottage there in Bicknor was abandoned in the early 20th century. (fn. 172)
At Braceland a small farmhouse recorded in 1721 (fn. 173) was a woodman's cottage on the Highmeadow estate in 1792. (fn. 174) In 1814 it was rebuilt (fn. 175) as a hunting lodge but by the mid 1820s, under the Crown Commissioners of Woods, it housed an assistant to the deputy surveyor of the Forest of Dean. (fn. 176) The house, which became a private residence in the 1860s, (fn. 177) was a lodging house in the mid 1930s (fn. 178) and was converted as an adventure centre for young people by the county education committee in the mid 1960s. (fn. 179) To the south in 1851 the hamlet of Coalpit Hill, then regarded as an extraparochial place, contained five dwellings. (fn. 180) In 1993 there were two cottages there and a pair of brick cottages, built by the Crown in 1905, (fn. 181) to the north-east.
Six tenants were recorded in English Bicknor in 1086 (fn. 182) and 20 people were assessed there in 1327 for the subsidy. (fn. 183) The muster roll of 1539 gives 33 names for the parish, (fn. 184) and the number of communicants was estimated at 177 in 1551 (fn. 185) and 206 in 1603. (fn. 186) The figure of 25 households given for the parish in 1563 was clearly an underestimate. (fn. 187) There were said to be 100 families in Bicknor in 1650 (fn. 188) and the population was estimated c. 1710 at 300 in 60 houses (fn. 189) and c. 1775 at 500. (fn. 190) The number of inhabitants, 465 in 1801, rose to 598 in 1831 and then fell slightly. The decline was offset partly by the parish's enlargement in 1842, and the population in 1851 was 584. In the later 19th century and the early 20th the population fluctuated, rising to 665 in 1881, dropping to 544 in 1901, and rising again to 671 in 1921. A decline after 1921 was caused mainly by the transfer of more than a third of the inhabitants to the new civil parish of Lydbrook in 1935, and a recovery in population to 523 in 1951 was not sustained. In 1991 Bicknor parish had 416 inhabitants. (fn. 191)
Among the alehouses in the parish in the 1660s was one outside the village in the north part of the Coleford road. Known in 1698 as the White Hart, it closed before 1791. (fn. 192) In the village the Bear inn, perhaps the victualler's house recorded in 1774, (fn. 193) stood next to the churchyard and was the venue for a friendly society in 1787. (fn. 194) The principal meeting place in the parish in the early 19th century, (fn. 195) it closed c. 1857. (fn. 196) A village hall built some way along the Coleford road in 1934 (fn. 197) was the premises of an association football club in 1993. At Symonds Yat there was an unlicensed alehouse by the river in the 1630s. (fn. 198) The Rocklea hotel, the only licensed house there within English Bicknor in the later 19th century, (fn. 199) was renamed the Royal hotel in 1901 or 1902. (fn. 200)
Before the First World War the history of English Bicknor was dominated by the Bicknor Court, Eastbach, and Highmeadow estates. Charles Machen, the principal landowner from 1893, (fn. 201) provided a water supply from a reservoir near Blackthorns Farm to a standpipe in the village. (fn. 202)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
An estate of ½ hide in English Bicknor was held by Morganwy in 1066 and by William son of Norman in 1086. (fn. 203) Henry I granted land there that had belonged to Wulfric of Dean to Miles of Gloucester c. 1131. (fn. 204) Ralph Avenel, who held land in English Bicknor from the Crown in 1190, (fn. 205) also had custody of a bailiwick in the demesne woodland of the Forest of Dean. (fn. 206) He was succeeded c. 1217 (fn. 207) by his son William Avenel, who obtained seisin of the land, castle, and bailiwick of English Bicknor in 1223. (fn. 208) William died c. 1236 holding 2 ploughlands there. (fn. 209) In 1282 his successor held the bailiwick (fn. 210) and in 1301 the manor of BICKNOR, later ENGLISH BICKNOR, was held by custody of the bailiwick and by a cash rent paid at Newnham to the bailiffs of St. Briavels. (fn. 211) The manor continued to be held for the rent, paid to the holders of St. Briavels castle, and by the office of woodward of Bicknor bailiwick until the 19th century. (fn. 212)
William Avenel's daughter and heir Douce became the ward of Robert de Mucegros in 1236 and evidently took the name Cecily and married Robert's son John (fn. 213) (d. 1275). Bicknor manor, part of Cecily's inheritance, (fn. 214) may have been held in the later 1270s by her son Robert de Mucegros (d. 1280) (fn. 215) and at her death c. 1301 it passed to Robert's daughter. Hawise, wife of John de Ferrers (fn. 216) (d. c. 1312) of Chartley (Staffs.). Hawise and her third husband John de Bures, (fn. 217) who was lord of Bicknor in 1316, (fn. 218) settled part of the manor in 1330 on their daughter and son-in-law Catherine and Giles Beauchamp (d. 1361) (fn. 219) but John held the whole manor after Hawise's death and at his own in 1350, and Hawise's grandson and heir John de Ferrers (fn. 220) held it from 1351. (fn. 221) John de Ferrers died in 1367 and his wife Elizabeth, who married Reynold of Cobham, held the manor until her death in 1375. It passed to her son Robert de Ferrers, (fn. 222) who was granted livery of his inheritance in 1381. (fn. 223) Robert was succeeded in 1413 by his son Edmund, (fn. 224) who assigned the manor in dower to his mother Margaret in 1413, (fn. 225) and Edmund in 1435 by his son William, (fn. 226) upon whose marriage the manor was settled in 1442. (fn. 227) William died in 1450 and his wife Elizabeth in 1471, (fn. 228) and the manor descended through Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers (d. 1485) and husband of William's daughter Anne (d. 1469), to Walter's son John Devereux, Lord Ferrers, who was granted livery in 1486. (fn. 229) From John (d. 1501) the manor passed with the barony of Ferrers to his son Walter. The latter, created Viscount Hereford in 1550, died in 1558 and his grandson and heir Walter Devereux, who became Lord Bourchier in 1571 and earl of Essex in 1572, died in 1576 leaving his son Robert as his heir. (fn. 230) English Bicknor manor evidently shared the same descent as the Devereux family titles and after Robert Devereux's execution in 1601 for treason it has held by his wife Frances. She married Richard de Burgh, earl of Clanricarde and, from 1628, of St. Albans, (fn. 231) who in 1608 was described as lord of English Bicknor in her right. (fn. 232) At Frances's death in 1632 the manor passed to her son Robert Devereux, earl of Essex. (fn. 233)
In 1633 the earl of Essex sold the manor to Benedict Hall of Highmeadow, (fn. 234) who had already acquired land in the parish. (fn. 235) From Benedict the manor, which included land at Whitecliff and elsewhere in Newland parish, (fn. 236) descended as part of the Highmeadow estate. (fn. 237) In 1726 Viscount Gage, the owner of Highmeadow, sold several farms in Bicknor to John Hopkins. (fn. 238) Following its purchase of the Highmeadow estate in 1817 the Crown (fn. 239) sold much of its farmland in Bicknor, (fn. 240) and in 1840 it retained c. 220 a., mostly woodland, in the ancient parish. (fn. 241) The Crown also retained the manorial rights which, together with the woodland, were managed for it in 1993 by the Forestry Commission. (fn. 242)
The castle, part of Ralph Avenel's estate in the early 13th century, (fn. 243) was a Norman fortification in the centre of the parish. It comprised a motte on the south side of a ditched enclosure with an outer bailey to the north and east and a later barbican to the north, both defended by ditches. (fn. 244) The capital messuage recorded in the early 14th century (fn. 245) was presumably on part of the site, and in 1627 a building known as the castle hall stood near the church, (fn. 246) which is in the outer bailey. The hall had been demolished by the late 18th century and a small house south-east of the church, perhaps the remains of the ancient manor house, (fn. 247) was pulled down soon afterwards. (fn. 248) In 1880 excavation of the castle motte destroyed a small stone chamber. (fn. 249)
The church of Hereford had an estate of 3 hides called Whippington, probably on the west side of Mailscot. It formed part of the Herefordshire hundred of Bromsash, but was waste by 1066 and remained so in 1086 when it was said to belong rightly to the bishop of Hereford. (fn. 250)
An estate based on BICKNOR COURT, known in 1639 as Brooces, (fn. 251) may have included land acquired in the 1330s and 1340s by William Breuse. William's son John also acquired land in English Bicknor and his estate there passed to Simon Basset. In 1358 Simon, an M.P., conveyed that estate to John of Pulesdon, (fn. 252) presumably a descendant of Nicholas of Pulesdon whose land in the parish was forfeit to the Crown in 1322. (fn. 253) In 1392 John's son and heir Alexander sold the estate to John Greyndour of Newland and his wife Isabel (fn. 254) and in 1402 they granted it to John Lascelles of Chepstow (d. by 1405) and his wife Margaret. In 1411 Margaret quitclaimed her rights in the estate to Richard Staunton and his wife Florence, (fn. 255) and in 1443 Richard Staunton, lord of Staunton, conveyed it to trustees for William Walwyn of Bickerton (Herefs.). In 1454 William conveyed it to John Ashurst, who acquired more land in Bicknor, some of it from William. (fn. 256) John Ashurst, who had been appointed constable of St. Briavels in 1449, (fn. 257) died c. 1487, (fn. 258) and the Bicknor Court estate, which he was later said to have held in the right of his wife Joan, passed to his son Thomas. Thomas (fl. 1508) was succeeded by his brother Philip, who in 1530 sold the estate to John Copinger, but in 1532 a life interest in it was awarded to William Wyrall, who claimed to have bought it from Thomas, his brother-inlaw. (fn. 259) Copinger took possession following Wyrall's death in 1534 but was expelled by Wyrall's grandson, William Wyrall, (fn. 260) to whom Copinger quitclaimed the estate later in 1534. The younger William Wyrall retained the estate in 1549 and his son William settled it in 1574 on the marriage of his son George (d. 1610) to Bridget Winter (d. 1635). (fn. 261) Their grandson George Wyrall, who bought land in the parish in 1627, (fn. 262) inherited the estate in 1635 and after his death in 1648 it evidently descended in the direct male line to William (d. c. 1661), Jephthah (d. 1702), and George (d. 1726). (fn. 263) George left the estate to his mother Martha. (fn. 264) She sold some land (fn. 265) and after her death in 1739 Bicknor Court apparently passed to her daughters Martha (d. 1750) widow of John Machen, Sarah (d. 1766) wife of Robert Ryder, and Barbara (d. 1745) wife of Richard Davies as joint owners and then to Barbara's son George Davies. (fn. 266) George, who changed his surname to Wyrall, (fn. 267) owned over 336 a. in the parish in 1792. (fn. 268) In 1808 he was succeeded by his daughter Mary Wyrall (d. 1826), under whose will the estate passed to Edward Machen (formerly Davies) and a life interest in Bicknor Court to her companion Mary Ann Davies. (fn. 269) In 1832 Edward Machen inherited the Eastbach estate, with which Bicknor Court descended until 1903 when Charles Machen sold the house and c. 266 a. to John Gunter of Huntsham, in Goodrich (Herefs.). (fn. 270) Gunter died in 1904 (fn. 271) and his trustees retained Bicknor Court and its lands. From the 1920s the estate had a succession of owners (fn. 272) before Edward Gwilliam bought it in 1968. In 1977 Bicknor Court was sold with 33 a. to V. A. Fisher and in 1986 it was bought by Mr. A. J. Johnston. (fn. 273)
The late-medieval Bicknor Court, from which John Copinger's agent was evicted by William Wyrall in 1534 (fn. 274) and which a tenant occupied in 1541, (fn. 275) probably included the two lower floors at the west end of the present north front of the stone house. In 1574, when Wyrall's son William retained the hall of the house for his own use, there were rooms to the south, possibly in a wing, and a detached gatehouse, (fn. 276) and in 1608 the house apparently had a U-shaped plan open to the east and there was a garden to the south and a walled rabbit warren to the north. (fn. 277) The hall was presumably the present kitchen, on the north side next to the medieval part of the house. Its large stone fireplace, decorated with lozenges, dates from the mid 17th century and in the north-east room contemporary panelling, decorated similarly on its frieze, may be in situ or may have come from the hall. The stair hall and the room to the south are of the later 17th century. The house, for which Jephthah Wyrall's uncle George Wyrall was assessed on three hearths in 1672, (fn. 278) was occupied by tenants in the late 17th century. (fn. 279) In the late 18th century an east front of five bays and three storeys was built and a new staircase was installed as part of a general refitting for George Wyrall, who later used the house as an occasional residence. (fn. 280) After Mary Ann Davies's death in 1858 the house was occupied by tenants, including from 1876 Sir John Maclean, a retired civil servant and antiquary, (fn. 281) and between 1883 and 1895 it was the residence of its owners, the Machens. (fn. 282)
Land at EASTBACH was held under English Bicknor manor by Alexander Baynham (d. 1524) (fn. 283) and descended with an estate in Mitcheldean to Joseph Baynham. (fn. 284) Joseph, the owner in 1608, (fn. 285) died in 1613 and his son and heir Alexander (fn. 286) had sold all or part of the Eastbach land to Edward Machen of Gloucester by 1616. In 1633 Edward settled his Eastbach estate on his son Richard (d. 1673) and in 1675 it was settled on Richard's widow Mary. (fn. 287) From Mary (d. 1678) (fn. 288) it passed to her son Edward Machen of Abenhall (d. 1708), who left it to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Tomkins (d. 1711). (fn. 289) Elizabeth (d. 1712) was succeeded by her brother Richard Machen (d. 1735), from whom the estate, including lands he had purchased from John Hopkins and others, passed to his brother Edward. (fn. 290) Edward, who had bought Blackthorns farm in English Bicknor in 1730, (fn. 291) was succeeded at his death in 1740 by his nephew Edward Tomkins. (fn. 292) The nephew took the additional surname of Machen and died in 1778 leaving the estate in turn to his wife Hannah (d. 1789) and James Davies. (fn. 293) James, who took the surname Machen under the terms of Edward's will but sometimes used that of Davies, (fn. 294) owned over 453 a. in the parish in 1792. (fn. 295) He became deputy surveyor of the Forest of Dean in 1806. (fn. 296) At his death in 1832 the Eastbach estate passed to his son Edward Machen (fn. 297) (formerly Davies), who was deputy surveyor from 1808 until 1854. (fn. 298) Edward, who had purchased 350 a. in the parish from the Crown and had inherited the Bicknor Court estate in the 1820s, (fn. 299) died in 1862 (fn. 300) and was succeeded by his son Edward, rector of Staunton. Edward (d. 1893) left the estate in turn to his wife Sophia (d. 1893) and son Charles (fn. 301) (d. 1917), who sold Bicknor Court and its land (fn. 302) and was succeded in turn by his wife Lucy (d. 1932) and son Henry. The estate, which was further reduced by sales after 1917, (fn. 303) passed from Henry (d. 1958) (fn. 304) to his son and daughter, James Machen and Joan Agutter, and they sold the remaining part. (fn. 305) Eastbach Court and most of the land were purchased by the tenant Ernest Knight and in 1964 were bought by the Symonds family, which having built a new house higher up to the south-east, sold Eastbach Court and c. 12 ha. (c. 30 a.) to David Rowe-Beddoe in 1989 and retained c. 101 ha. (c. 250 a.) in 1993. (fn. 306)
The house called Eastbach Court in 1639 (fn. 307) was presumably on the site of the messuage owned by Alexander Baynham in 1524 (fn. 308) and of the present stable block, in the south end of which are moulded beams of the later 16th century. The house, occupied by Sir Robert Woodruff in 1608 (fn. 309) and by Edward Machen's brother-in-law George Wyrall in 1633, (fn. 310) was assessed on six hearths in 1672. (fn. 311) The date 1723 on the stable weathervane may refer to work undertaken a few years before the building of the present house. (fn. 312) The house, built of ashlar, has main fronts of five bays, that to the west having a rusticated ground floor with prominent keystones and a pedimented doorcase, and the interior retains its original staircase and panelled rooms. (fn. 313) A service wing to the north was added in the early 19th century, and following James Machen's death in 1832 his wife Lucy kept the house with c. 100 a. until her death in 1855. (fn. 314) The Machen family lived at Eastbach Court until 1883. (fn. 315) There are 18th- and 19th-century barns to the south.
Mailscot wood, adjoining the parish on the west, was part of the royal demesne of the Forest until 1625 when it was granted to Sir Edward Villiers for £20 a year. He died in 1626 and Mailscot was held for a time by his wife Barbara. His son and heir William became Viscount Grandison while a minor in 1630 and died in 1643 leaving an only child Barbara. She married Roger Palmer, created earl of Castlemaine in 1661, and, having become mistress to Charles II, was created duchess of Cleveland in 1670. In 1676 she sold Mailscot to Henry Benedict Hall, (fn. 316) with whose Highmeadow etate it descended. The wood covered 728 a. in 1792 (fn. 317) and it remained part of the Crown's Highmeadow woods, managed by the Forestry Commission, in 1993.
In 1086 William son of Norman's Bicknor estate had half a ploughteam with six bordars in demesne and since 1066 its value had doubled to 10s. (fn. 318) In 1220, by which time much more land was probably being cultivated, there were nine ploughteams in Bicknor. (fn. 319) At least one ploughland lay barren in 1383. (fn. 320) The manorial demesne, which comprised two ploughlands in 1236, included 120 a. of arable and 8 a. of meadow in 1301 (fn. 321) and 60 a. of arable and 3 a. of meadow in 1351. (fn. 322) The meadow land was on the southern bank of the river Wye and its fertility was enhanced by occasional flooding. (fn. 323)
In the Middle Ages there were several open fields near the village, notably to the south-west where Horemore field adjoined Mailscot wood in the 13th century. (fn. 324) Ockwall field, north of Horemore field, (fn. 325) and Crows field were recorded in the early 15th century (fn. 326) and Windmill field, north of the village, in 1608. (fn. 327) Pye meadow, south of the village, was under arable crops in 1568 (fn. 328) and was described as a common field in 1608. (fn. 329) In the 1560s there was an open field at Eastbach called Turn field. (fn. 330) Inclosure of the fields was evidently piecemeal (fn. 331) and parts of Horemore, Ockwall, and Windmill fields survived in the early 17th century together with a small open field by the Joyford road in the south. (fn. 332) In the 1630s the parishioners had pasture rights in three small commons within English Bicknor (fn. 333) and ran cattle on the extraparochial land of the Forest. (fn. 334) Earlier, sheep had also been pastured on the Forest waste. (fn. 335) In 1725 tenants in the parish claimed common rights for cattle and pigs in the Forest for a yearly payment of 2s. (fn. 336) Later the parish paid 1s. herbage money for common rights there, (fn. 337) and three landholders exercised them in 1860. (fn. 338) In 1631 new enclosures in Mailscot were destroyed by mobs of local people anxious to preserve their common rights (fn. 339) but the Dean reafforestation Act of 1668 confirmed that Mailscot, granted away by the Crown in 1625, had ceased to be subject to such rights. (fn. 340) Apples, turnips, beans, and peas were grown in the parish in the early 17th century. (fn. 341) In 1636 two farmers on the Bicknor Court estate in the Hillersland area were required to plant specific numbers of fruit trees, mostly crabs. (fn. 342) Plums were also cultivated before 1685, (fn. 343) and in the early 19th century English Bicknor was said to have excellent orchards of cider apples and other fruit. (fn. 344) Under a share-cropping agreement of 1655 a tenant of the Bicknor Court estate undertook to plant hops in a field near Redinhorne. (fn. 345) Hop cultivation continued in 1685, (fn. 346) and in 1792 a field adjoining orchards next to Millway grove, north-east of the village, was known as the Hop Yard. (fn. 347)
The manor included £23 7s. 7¼ d. in rents from 124 free tenants in 1301 (fn. 348) and 20s. in rents from 16 free tenants in 1351. (fn. 349) In the early 17th century the majority of parishioners followed non-agricultural trades and of 80 listed in 1608 only 9 were described as yeomen and 10 as husbandmen. (fn. 350) In 1639 the manor received rents from 31 freeholders in the parish and, by custom, a single heriot on the death of each freeholder with one or more dwellings. (fn. 351) In the mid 17th century tenants on the Bicknor Court estate had leases for life or lives and paid rents of hens or capons besides cash rents. (fn. 352) Many chief rents owed to the lord of the manor were redeemed in the late 1860s. (fn. 353)
In 1792 there were three farms of more than 240 a. in the parish, three farms of c. 140-200 a., nine farms of c. 50-100 a., and one farm of 23 a. Of the farms on the Highmeadow estate Stowfield (261 a.) and Cross House (199 a.) were held by leases renewed in 1793 for 16 years and Carterspiece (58 a.) was held at will. The farmland at Braceland was attached to Broomhill farm, to the south-east in Coleford tithing of Newland. The largest farm in English Bicknor was the home farm of the Eastbach estate covering 285 a. (fn. 354) Most of the 41 agricultural occupiers recorded in the parish in 1896 were tenant farmers, (fn. 355) and in the early 20th century the Eastbach estate included a farm of 345 a., three farms with 123-157 a., three farms with 55-99 a., three farms with 10-39 a., and several smaller holdings. (fn. 356) Also in the parish at that time were three farms with over 200 a. and one with 140 a. (fn. 357) Of 20 agricultural holdings recorded in 1926 a majority were worked by tenants and one had over 300 a., three over 150 a., four over 100 a., and nine under 50 a. Together the farms provided regular employment for 36 labourers. (fn. 358) Most of the farmers owned their land in 1988, when of 16 agricultural holdings returned for the parish seven had 20 ha. (c. 50 a.) or less, five had 50 ha. (c. 123 a.) or more, and another two had 100 ha. (c. 247 a.) or more. Most of the smaller farms were worked on a part-time basis. (fn. 359)
If it was true that the parish had a very small area under arable crops c. 1775, (fn. 360) much land came under the plough in the late 18th century. (fn. 361) In 1784 the farm at Bicknor Court was devoted equally to tillage and pasture and a farm at Short Standing was predominantly arable. (fn. 362) In 1792 the parish contained over 1,200 a. of arable, 325 a. of meadow, and 330 a. of pasture. (fn. 363) Wheat and barley were the main arable crops in 1801 when 631 a. were said to be growing corn, legumes, or roots. (fn. 364) In the late 1830s the acreages of arable, meadow, and pasture were much the same as they had been in 1792, (fn. 365) but by 1866, when 733 a. were permanently under grass and large flocks of sheep were kept, the area under crop rotation, growing mainly wheat, barley, turnips, and grass seeds, had contracted to 1,158 a. In addition to the sheep, which numbered 1,441, small herds of beef and dairy cattle and pigs were kept. (fn. 366) More land was turned to permanent grass in the later 19th century and the early 20th century, 1,286 a. being returned as permanent grassland and 473 a. as crops in rotation in 1926. During that period the dairy herds were enlarged, 103 dairy cattle being returned in 1926 (fn. 367) compared with 40 in 1866, (fn. 368) and in the early 20th century the flocks, which had decreased in size by 1896, were enlarged considerably, 2,157 sheep being returned in 1926. Orchards covered at least 75 a. in 1896 and 43 a. in 1926. Commercial poultry farming, which had been introduced by 1926, (fn. 369) continued in the late 1980s, when most land in the parish remained under grass and the principal farms were devoted to sheep, dairy, and beef farming. (fn. 370)
In 1200 Ralph Avenel had a grant of a Monday market at English Bicknor (fn. 371) but no later record of it has been found.
Many inhabitants have lived by working the natural resources of the parish and the adjoining Forest. Ironmaking began in or near English Bicknor long before 1217 (fn. 372) when Ralph Avenel had two itinerant forges in English Bicknor or the adjoining Crown woodland. (fn. 373) As many as four such forges worked simultaneously in that area later in the 13th century. (fn. 374) The early ironworks left behind substantial heaps of cinders in the parish, (fn. 375) one tip being at a field known in 1565 as Cinderhill close. (fn. 376) Removal of cinders for resmelting evidently began before 1621 when Benedict Hall reserved those on his land at Braceland for his own use, (fn. 377) and by agreement in 1692 cinders were to be dug on the Bicknor Court estate and sent to Parkend and ironworks at Bishopswood and Blakeney. (fn. 378) Deposits of cinders had still not been exhausted by 1800. (fn. 379) Charcoal burning was recorded in 1184 (fn. 380) and took place over many centuries in Mailscot wood, where there were at least nine charcoal pits in 1279 (fn. 381) and where much timber was felled for charcoaling and mining operations in the late 1620s. (fn. 382) A charcoal burner was active in the woods on Rosemary Topping just before the First World War. (fn. 383) Trades supported by local woodland were represented in the early 17th century by carpenters, turners, a cooper, and makers of cardboard, platters, saddletrees, and trenchers. (fn. 384) In 1656 a timberman lived at Carterspiece (fn. 385) and in 1744 two men living near Hangerberry were woodcutters. (fn. 386)
Lime was made in Bicknor for local use in building and farming by the early 17th century (fn. 387) and field names of the late 18th century indicate that limekilns had operated in many places. (fn. 388) The limestone crags above the Wye have been extensively quarried: at Symonds Yat a miner had a kiln in the late 17th century (fn. 389) and quarries operated in the late 18th century. (fn. 390) A kiln below Coldwell rocks continued in use in the mid 19th century (fn. 391) as did kilns at Stowfield and Common grove. (fn. 392) Kilns were also built north-east of the village on the east side of Millway grove. (fn. 393) Lime was burnt at Common grove in the late 1930s. (fn. 394) Among quarries worked after the First World War was one at Eastbach. (fn. 395) Sand and gravel were dug at Redinhorne before 1577 (fn. 396) and in the early 20th century, (fn. 397) and land near Joyford was called the Clay Pits in 1608. (fn. 398) Stoneworking in Mailscot included a millstone quarry in the west, near the river Wye. (fn. 399)
One miner was recorded in English Bicknor in 1608 (fn. 400) and coal was dug near Blackthorns Farm a few years later for use in making lime. (fn. 401) The inclosure of Mailscot by the Villiers family was made partly in order to mine coal there, and in the riots of 1631 colliers were attacked and pits filled in. (fn. 402) Those pits may have been on Coalpit hill, which was known by that name in 1792. (fn. 403) In the 18th and 19th centuries coal was mined in the western part of the parish, including on Wormall hill where Farmer's Folly colliery worked intermittently. (fn. 404) In the mid 1830s mining resumed on Coalpit hill, (fn. 405) and in 1851 12 of the 15 miners resident in English Bicknor lived at Joyford. (fn. 406) In Mailscot wood Highmeadow colliery, west of Hillersland, had a tramway and rope-worked incline down to the river Wye and the Ross-Monmouth railway in 1878; it closed before 1900. (fn. 407) Small-scale mining continued intermittently at Short Standing and Hillersland until after the Second World War and Farmer's Folly colliery was in production in 1955. The re-opened Highmeadow colliery was among several mines worked in the early 1940s. (fn. 408)
The earliest mills known to have belonged to English Bicknor, a corn mill and a fulling mill on the manor in 1301, (fn. 409) were presumably at Lydbrook, which became an industrial centre with mills and, from the late 16th century, ironworks. (fn. 410) In 1608 William Parlour operated a corn mill in the south at Joyford. (fn. 411) Its water supply was improved in 1675 (fn. 412) and the mill was sold to John Morgan in 1677 and to Richard Hawkins of Coleford in 1685. (fn. 413) In the mid 19th century it was worked by William Copner (fn. 414) (d. 1876). (fn. 415) It ceased operating in the mid 1890s (fn. 416) and the building and adjoining mill house survived in 1993. Field names recorded in 1608 may indicate the sites of a water mill north-east of the village towards Stowfield and a windmill north of the village. (fn. 417) In the early 18th century the Bicknor Court estate included a corn mill (fn. 418) and in 1792 there was a cider mill by the Wye at Coldwell rocks. (fn. 419)
In the later 16th century the usual rural trades and crafts were found in Bicknor (fn. 420) and in 1608 parishioners included three tailors, two shoemakers, a butcher, a hatter, a saddler, and a smith. Some trades recorded in 1608, notably those of an ironworker, a tanner, a dyer, and three weavers, (fn. 421) were presumably associated with industries at Lydbrook. (fn. 422) Among parishioners were a glover in 1629, (fn. 423) a feltmaker in 1648, (fn. 424) and a nailer in 1706. (fn. 425) In 1664 a Ruardean basket maker obtained a lease to cultivate osier beds in the river at Stowfield (fn. 426) and in 1841 one person living below Coldwell rocks and two people living at Coalpit Hill practised the same craft. (fn. 427) Gloucestershire inhabitants at Symonds Yat (or New Weir) earning a living from trade on the Wye included two watermen and a barge master in 1851 (fn. 428) and a boatman in 1905, (fn. 429) and a few barges and trows were built there, perhaps on the west side of the river, between 1808 and 1856. (fn. 430) Tourists visited Symonds Yat by river from the late 18th century (fn. 431) and following the opening of a railway station there in the mid 1870s hotels and refreshment rooms were built on both sides of the river (fn. 432) to cater for the influx of visitors. (fn. 433) In 1993 a summer tourist industry and adventure activities, including canoeing, continued to thrive there.
H. W. Smith & Co., formed by 1910 to make electric wire and cable, (fn. 434) moved from works at Trafalgar colliery in the Forest to a factory, begun in 1912, by the railway junction at Stowfield. Known as the Lydbrook cable works, the factory was enlarged considerably during the First World War when it employed 650 people and mainly produced cable for field telephones. (fn. 435) Acquired by the Edison Swan Electric Co. in the mid 1920s, the works later employed up to 1,200 from an area including Cinderford and Ross-on-Wye (Herefs.) to make power cables (fn. 436) and closed in 1965 with the loss of 840 jobs. The factory was taken over the following year by Reed Corrugated Cases Ltd., (fn. 437) a manufacturer of boxes and other packaging materials, known from 1991 as SCA Packaging Ltd., and it em ployed 450 people in 1985 and 270 in 1993. (fn. 438) Temco Ltd., established by H. W. Smith in the early 1920s to make fine stainless steel wire, had a factory near the cable works (fn. 439) and employed 107 people in 1985 when the firm moved to Cinderford. (fn. 440)
The Wye fishery belonging to English Bicknor manor in the late 13th century (fn. 441) presumably extended, as it did in 1639, from Lydbrook down to Coldwell. (fn. 442) It included a weir, (fn. 443) which was decayed in the late 16th century (fn. 444) and was presumably just below Stowfield adjoining the field known in 1608 as Weir field. (fn. 445) Fishing rights between Lydbrook and Stowfield, which apparently did not belong to the manor in 1725, (fn. 446) were acquired, under a grant of 1874, from the Crown by the owner of Stowfield farm. (fn. 447) The bishops of Hereford, who had a fishery in the Wye at Whippington in 1086, (fn. 448) retained a weir, called Bishop's weir, adjoining Mailscot in the late 13th century. (fn. 449) The priory of Llanthony Prima, owner of a fishery downstream, at Hadnock (later Mon.), (fn. 450) kept a boat at Bishop's weir in 1282. Upstream William de Valence had a weir at Symonds Yat in 1282. That weir, described as being under Doward (fn. 451) in Whitchurch (Herefs.), may have been the ancient weir on the remains of which New weir was constructed south-west of Symonds Yat rock in the 1660s. In the mid 1680s New weir was raised to provide power for ironworks on the Herefordshire side and a sluice or lock on the Gloucestershire side was filled in. That work obstructed barges and reduced salmon stocks in the river, (fn. 452) and under an Act of 1696 to improve the Wye navigation the weir's owner, the earl of Kent, opened a new lock on the Gloucestershire side. Further grants of fishing rights in the river by the earl, lord of Goodrich manor, were to be void (fn. 453) but in the early 18th century his successor, the duke of Kent, disputed the fishery adjoining Mailscot with Benedict Hall, (fn. 454) who in 1696 had granted a lease of fishing rights between New weir and Dixton together with a cottage near the weir. (fn. 455) In 1730 the duke and Viscount Gage, Hall's successor, agreed to hold the fishery and the narrow strip of the river bank downstream of the weir below Mailscot jointly and the duke undertook to maintain the weir and the lock. (fn. 456) In the late 18th century, when fishermen continued to use small round boats known as truckles on the river below the weir, (fn. 457) two fish houses stood on the bank below Mailscot. (fn. 458) After the ironworks closed c. 1814 the weir fell into decay and by 1826 it had been removed and the lock had been filled in. (fn. 459) In 1851 a fisherman lived nearby and another lived at Coldwell. (fn. 460)
Gallows in St. Briavels hundred possessed by Robert de Mucegros c. 1276 (fn. 461) were presumably at English Bicknor, where his mother Cecily had gallows and a tumbrel and claimed view of frankpledge and waif in 1287. (fn. 462) Later lords of the manor also claimed the twice-yearly view of frankpledge. (fn. 463) For the manor court, which met twice in 1639 as a court of survey, (fn. 464) court rolls for 1725 and 1804 and court books for the periods 1769-1801 and 1866-77 have survived. The court, convened intermittently by the mid 18th century, dealt with tenurial matters and encroachments on the lord's waste and met in 1725 at the White Hart. (fn. 465) In the early 19th century it met at the Bear once a year (fn. 466) and in the later 19th century it met intermittently at Braceland, later at Blackthorns Farm, and its main business became perambulating the manor boundaries. The court apparently last convened in 1912. (fn. 467)
The parish had two churchwardens in 1543 and later. (fn. 468) Poor relief was administered by overseers, mentioned in 1661, (fn. 469) and in the early 18th century it was financed in whole or in part from parish property comprising a few plots of land, 2 a. of coppice, and a rent charge of 2s., while the church house was used as a poorhouse. (fn. 470) In the 1820s the income from the property was distributed among widows on parish relief. (fn. 471) The cost of relief, £78 in 1776, rose sharply from the late 18th century, as many people living in the new hamlets of the extraparochial Forest of Dean claimed settlement in the parish, and at £342 in 1803, when 70 people were being helped, 30 of them regularly, was one of the highest in parishes bordering the Forest. (fn. 472) In 1813, when £871 was spent, 60 and 28 people received regular and occasional help respectively and another 7 were accommodated in a new parish workhouse, (fn. 473) built next to the church house with loans provided by William Ambery and Mary Wyrall. (fn. 474) From 1821 relief was administered under the direction of a select vestry and from 1822 or 1823 the poor, both in and out of the workhouse, were farmed by a succession of contractors usually for less than £240 a year. A surgeon was employed to attend the poor in 1830. (fn. 475) The total cost of relief fell dramatically after 1813, (fn. 476) and had been reduced to £230 a year by the early 1830s, (fn. 477) when many of those helped lived in the Forest. (fn. 478) The parish was included in the new Monmouth poor-law union in 1836 (fn. 479) and became part of West Dean rural district under the 1894 Local Government Act (fn. 480) and part of Forest of Dean district in 1974.
English Bicknor church, which stands in the outer bailey of a Norman castle, (fn. 481) dates from the 12th century. (fn. 482) It was recorded from 1221 when, during the minority of the lord of Bicknor, the Crown presented to it, (fn. 483) and it remained a rectory. The advowson descended with the manor until the mid 17th century. (fn. 484) In 1972 the benefice was united with Christ Church, Berry Hill, and land at Hillersland and Mailscot, including Symonds Yat rock, was added to the ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 485) The northeastern corner of English Bicknor had been included in 1852 in the district of a new church at Lydbrook. (fn. 486)
In 1288 the bishop made a grant of the rectory in commendam with the consent of the lady of the manor. (fn. 487) In the later Middle Ages the Crown occasionally presented to the living by reason of a minority. (fn. 488) After 1506 the patronage was granted away for each turn but the lord of the manor filled a vacancy in 1538 after his grantees had renounced their right. At the next vacancy in 1558, when the lord was a minor, the right of the patron for the turn superseded the claim of the Crown. (fn. 489) The lords of the manor continued to grant away the patronage until at least 1638 (fn. 490) and had relinquished the advowson by the late 1660s when it belonged to Thomas Godwin, the rector. In 1669 it was acquired from the dying Godwin by William Hughes, vicar of Newland, to ensure his succession to the living. Hughes, whose title was dubious, conveyed the advowson to Francis Harris and Thomas Lister in 1679 and they conveyed it to Samuel Harris, their appointee as Hughes's successor, in 1680. (fn. 491) Harris, whose title to the advowson was secured in 1687 by grant from Thomas Marshall, Godwin's grandson, (fn. 492) sold it to Richard Mantle in 1698. (fn. 493) William Hodges presented at the next three vacancies, his first nominee, in 1710, being Richard Mantle and his last, in 1731, John Beale, who had acquired the advowson from Thomas Mantle. Beale died in 1744 and his trustees, after presenting a successor, sold the advowson to Somerset Jones (d. 1768). Claimants under the latter's will exercised the patronage together in 1777, after which the advowson was sold to John Davies. (fn. 494) He conveyed it in 1780 to the visitors of John Michel's foundation in Queen's College, Oxford. (fn. 495) In the 1870s F. J. Aldrich-Blake (d. 1904), a local landowner and rector of Welsh Bicknor, acquired the advowson (fn. 496) and in 1906 Mary Machen owned it. By 1939 the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith had a share in the patronage (fn. 497) and after the union of benefices in 1972 was entitled to fill the second of every four vacancies. (fn. 498)
The rectory was valued at £16 13s. 4d. in 1292. (fn. 499) In 1414 a pension of £8 from its revenues was awarded to a former rector. (fn. 500) The glebe comprised 8 a. in 1678. (fn. 501) All the tithes belonged to the rector (fn. 502) and in 1642 they were farmed for £90, a sum the farmer had difficulty raising, particularly after he was compelled by imprisonment to help pay for a parliamentary garrison at Newnham. (fn. 503) The tithes were also farmed in the late 17th century. (fn. 504) In 1842 they were commuted for a rent charge of £392 (fn. 505) and by the mid 1870s the Crown had added 16 a. to the glebe in place of its share of the charge. (fn. 506) The rectory was valued at £11 10s. 9½d. in 1535, (fn. 507) £70 in 1650, (fn. 508) £120 in 1750, (fn. 509) and £300 in 1856. (fn. 510)
The rectory house stood north-east of the church (fn. 511) where the rector had his garden in 1330. (fn. 512) The rector was assessed for five hearths in 1672 (fn. 513) and his outbuildings included a barn of eight bays in 1704. (fn. 514) The house was rebuilt in the 1730s (fn. 515) and enlarged in the late 19th century, when additional stables and kennels were also provided. (fn. 516) It was sold after the union of benefices in 1972. (fn. 517)
The rector in 1324 was a Frenchman. (fn. 518) The rectors in 1357 and 1410 were dispensed to be absent for three years. (fn. 519) Chaplains living in the parish in 1352 and 1369 (fn. 520) may have been among curates serving the church in the later 14th century, (fn. 521) and between 1376 and 1403 the benefice changed hands eight times by exchange. (fn. 522) John May, instituted in 1414, was rector for over 40 years. Between the mid 16th century and the early 19th century the rectors were often pluralists and many employed curates at Bicknor. (fn. 523) Walter May, who became treasurer of Hereford cathedral, was rector 1538-58 (fn. 524) and in 1551 his curate, a former monk, was found to be particularly ignorant. (fn. 525) Henry Taylor, rector 1559-92, had a living in Herefordshire and may have taken up residence after 1563. He was considered neither a scholar nor a preacher. (fn. 526) Morgan Godwin, instituted in 1639, was succeeded in 1641 by his brother Thomas, chancellor of Hereford diocese, and Thomas (d. 1644) (fn. 527) by his son Thomas, who remained rector until his death in 1669. (fn. 528) His successors William Hughes (d. 1679) and Samuel Harris (d. 1710) were also vicars of Newland. (fn. 529) Duncombe Pyrke Davies, rector 1780-1815, lived at Monmouth, where he was vicar from 1798. (fn. 530) Edward Feild, rector from 1833 and, in 1840, the first school inspector appointed by the National Society, left Bicknor in 1844 to become bishop of Newfoundland. (fn. 531) John Burdon, rector from 1844, was also for a time rector of Welsh Bicknor. (fn. 532) George Hustler, his successor at English Bicknor in 1877, bankrupted himself by keeping hounds (fn. 533) and died in 1905 while following the hunt. (fn. 534) For much of his incumbency C. F. Doddrell, rector 1905-34, also held the living of Welsh Bicknor. (fn. 535)
A chapel built probably before 1282 (fn. 536) stood west of the Coleford road near an ancient road junction. (fn. 537) It bore a dedication to St. Laurence in 1402 (fn. 538) and was apparently in use in 1558. (fn. 539) Its ruins were removed in the mid 18th century. (fn. 540)
The parish church, which bore a dedication to ST. MARY THE VIRGIN by 1514, (fn. 541) has a chancel with north and south chapels (the north chapel used as a vestry), an aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch, and a west tower. It is mostly of sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings but the chancel is of squared blocks of pink gritstone. The original plan probably had a central tower located at the west end of the present chancel and flanked by transepts. To the north the arch that became the first bay of the north arcade is richly decorated in the Herefordshire style of the 12th century. The chancel walls and the nave arcades are late 12thcentury and the west tower was built in the 13th century. The tower, presumably a replacement for the central tower, apparently contained one or more bells in the late 14th century (fn. 542) and was given a new upper stage in the 15th century. The nave was given a clerestory and a new roof in the early 16th century. The aisles and porch were apparently rebuilt as part of repairs and other improvements carried out in 1839 (fn. 543) and the chancel's east wall was probably rebuilt during restoration work in 1908 when memorial glass to the Revd. John Burdon was put in its window. (fn. 544) In 1936 the sanctuary was restored at the expense of Burdon's son Rowland. (fn. 545)
The Norman font is plain and tub-shaped. (fn. 546) The church floor incorporates several coffin lids of the 14th century and there are three recumbent effigies in the north aisle. Two of the effigies date from the early 14th century and are said to be of Cecily de Mucegros (d. c. 1301) and of a female relative. The other effigy, of a priest, dates from the mid 14th century (fn. 547) and was in the north chapel in 1868. (fn. 548) The chapel was the mortuary chapel of the Wyrall family in the 17th and 18th centuries. (fn. 549) In the south chapel memorials to members of the Machen and Davies families include a wall monument with a portrait of Edward Tomkins Machen (d. 1778). The chapel also has a screen of c. 1500. In the north aisle panels displaying the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed were the gift in 1794 of the rector, the landowner James Davies, and William Ambery. (fn. 550) The ring of five bells was recast by Abraham Rudhall in 1709. (fn. 551) The church plate includes a chalice and paten given by George Wyrall in 1707 and a paten of 1723 given by the Revd. George Hustler. Lucy Machen and Edward Feild were donors of plate in the mid 19th century. (fn. 552) The churchyard monuments include a collection of tombchests mostly of the 18th century. The parish registers survive from 1561 with some gaps. (fn. 553)
In 1616 a member of the Wyrall family was not attending the parish church (fn. 554) and George Wyrall (d. 1726) and his successors at Bicknor Court (fn. 555) in the 18th century were Roman Catholics. (fn. 556) In the early 19th century several protestant nonconformist meetings were established at Lydbrook (fn. 557) and in 1827 the pastor of the Baptists there registered a house in Bicknor for worship. At Symonds Yat (or New Weir), where a house was registered in 1818, (fn. 558) the Coleford Baptists held services in the early 1850s (fn. 559) and built a small chapel on the Goodrich road, at the county boundary, in 1881. (fn. 560) That meeting had 7 members in 1993. (fn. 561)
An elderly schoolmaster of English Bicknor died in 1809 (fn. 562) and the parish had a church Sunday school funded by subscription in 1819. (fn. 563) In the 1820s many children attended a day school at Berry Hill (fn. 564) and in 1833 a private day school in the parish taught c. 12 children. (fn. 565) In 1834 the rector Edward Feild started a day school (fn. 566) in a new building southwest of the church. It was supported by members of the Machen and Davies families, and in 1836 a separate schoolroom was built to the south for the girls' department and an infant department was started. (fn. 567) The school became a National school financed by subscription, including an annual grant provided by the Commissioners of Woods acting for the Crown, and pence. In 1847 it taught 91 children in boys' and girls' departments. (fn. 568) It was enlarged in 1873 (fn. 569) and the average attendance was 59 in junior mixed and infant departments in 1904. (fn. 570) Attendance rarely exceeded that figure after the First World War, (fn. 571) and in 1992 as English Bicknor C. of E. school it had 43 children on its roll. (fn. 572) The schoolroom built in 1836, which became the teacher's house, (fn. 573) had been demolished by 1992 and classrooms erected in its place.
At Symonds Yat an infant school, dated 1838, on the Coleford-Goodrich road (fn. 574) may have been the day school in Bicknor supported by subscriptions and pence and teaching 52 infants in 1847. (fn. 575) It was open in 1866 (fn. 576) and had closed by 1896, having been under the same management as the parish's National school. The building was a house in 1905. (fn. 577)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
Richard Terrett by will proved 1748 left a rent charge of 5s. to buy bread for 10 parishioners on Christmas Day. (fn. 578) Distribution of the charity lapsed in the mid 19th century. (fn. 579) In the early 1820s William Ambery and Mary Wyrall used £10 10s. annual interest from loans for building the parish workhouse in gifts to the poor, £10 being distributed in wheat at noisy gatherings. William (d. 1823) bequeathed the interest on his loan to provide £5 for the poor on Christmas Eve and Mary (d. 1826) bequeathed her loan as a gift. (fn. 580) By a Scheme of 1865 Ambery's charity was endowed with the former workhouse and church house, and, under the name of the charity of George Wyrall, land and a 2s. rent charge long used by the parish for the benefit of the poor were placed in the same trust. The endowments combined provided an annual income of £9 2s. From 1938 the two charities were administered with the Poor's Land charity. (fn. 581) The buildings had been sold by the early 1990s when the three charities had a combined annual income of c. £1,770 for cash payments to the poor and needy. (fn. 582)
In 1858 an almshouse was built on the site of the former Bear inn beside the churchyard, given for a parish almshouse by Edward Feild, the former rector. The almshouse, for the maintenance of which Edward Machen gave £100 stock in memory of his mother Lucy, was run by the incumbents of English Bicknor and Staunton and members of the Machen family. (fn. 583) At first it housed six elderly widows (fn. 584) and later residents received the surplus income from a £100 bequest of William Allaway, by will proved 1894, for repairing his family vault at English Bicknor. Allaway's charity was administered by the almshouse trustees from 1935 and was assigned to the almspeople shortly before 1971, (fn. 585) when its income was £2 and that of the almshouse was £90. (fn. 586) The almshouse, where alterations had reduced accommodation to five places, had only one occupant in 1973. (fn. 587) It was sold under a Scheme of 1982 and the proceeds of the sale were used to create a fund, known as Lucy Machen's charity, which in 1993 provided help, mainly in cash payments, to poorer inhabitants of English Bicknor, Hillersland, and Staunton. (fn. 588) The former almshouse was converted as flats.