A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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ALDERTON WITH DIXTON
The parish of Alderton, called Alderton with Dixton up to 1831, (fn. 1) lies six miles east of Tewkesbury at the foot of the Cotswold escarpment. It is elongated in shape, stretching three miles from north to south and averaging less than a mile across. The area of the parish was 1,579 a.; (fn. 2) in 1956 415 a. were added from Toddington on the north-east, (fn. 3) but this area is not treated as part of the parish for the purposes of this history. The boundaries of the parish up to 1956 were apparently of long standing: part of the south boundary, which follows the Tirle brook, was recorded in the 8th century, and the short north boundary in the 11th. (fn. 4)
The parish is stretched between two of the prominent outlying hills of the Cotswolds. The northern tip of the parish runs up to the summit of Alderton Hill at 674 ft., and the southern end contains Dixton Hill, which reaches 537 ft., and runs up to 700 ft. on the side of the adjoining Woolstone Hill. Between the steeply scarped slopes at the two ends of the parish the land is flat, lying between 150 and 200 ft., and drained by the feeders of the Washbourne brook. (fn. 5) Nearly all the parish lies on the Lower Lias, with Upper and Middle Lias on the high ground at the two ends, but along the stream across the middle of the parish is a strip of alluvial soil and north of this stream is a small patch of Cheltenham Sand, (fn. 6) the spreading of which over the surrounding clay has increased the fertility of the soil. (fn. 7) The low-lying land was, until inclosure in 1809, (fn. 8) mostly open arable land and meadow. The plentifulness of good meadow is suggested by the fact that Brook meadow, entirely within Alderton parish, belonged in the 16th century to Great Washbourne manor. (fn. 9) Since the 19th century small-holdings and market-gardens have been a feature of the landscape. The arable land at the southern end of the parish was inclosed and converted to pasture in the early 16th century, (fn. 10) and the steep slopes there provided rough grazing. Dixton Wood, some 40 a. on the eastern slopes of Woolstone Hill, existed in the mid-17th century, when part of it is said to have been carried by a landslip over the county boundary into Worcestershire. (fn. 11) There is also some woodland on Alderton Hill, where earthworks survive from quarries exploited for roadmetal in the 19th century. (fn. 12)
The earthworks on Dixton Hill are the remains of an Iron Age hill-fort with a Norman motte and bailey superimposed at the south-east end. (fn. 13) There has presumably been habitation near this site since Norman times, for the family owning the land in the 12th century took its name from Dixton. (fn. 14) The manor-house at Dixton, rebuilt in the 16th century, had an apparently medieval chapel near-by, (fn. 15) and perhaps the small village was grouped around it. The early 16th-century inclosure of Dixton field was said to have been accompanied or followed by the decay of three houses. (fn. 16) Thereafter there were five or six houses in Dixton, (fn. 17) including the manor-house, Manor Farm, and three or four cottages a short way from the manor-house. A warren at Dixton was mentioned in 1599. (fn. 18)
The main settlement in the parish is Alderton village, which is on the patch of sand mentioned above, north of the centre of the parish. The village is compact, but it appears to have evolved from two separate groups of houses, which may correspond with the 'Bretenyend' and 'Polysend' mentioned c. 1500. (fn. 19) One group forms a square, with the road running through the village on the north side, lanes on the east and west, and the church and churchyard closing the south. This group of houses included the rectory and many of the older cottages. The other group lay further west along the road and included the manor-house of Alderton manor and the inn; from it a road ran south, and from the road a lane ran eastward to the church, so that there was an approximate rectangle made by the roads and lanes west of the church. The southern and western sides of this rectangle remained free of houses until the late 19th century; on the western side stood the village pound (fn. 20) near the site of the later war memorial, and on the northern side was a field known as the Green, where in 1962 games continued to be played and fairs held. From the late 19th century many small houses were built, mainly in the south-western part of the village. Council houses were put up at the north-east corner immediately before and after the Second World War, (fn. 21) and an estate of privately built houses went up along the southern side of the village in 1961 and 1962. (fn. 22)
Roads lead out of the village from its north-west, south-west, and north-east corners, the first leading to Great Washbourne and Beckford, the second and third joining the main road from Tewkesbury to Stow-on-the-Wold, which crosses the centre of the parish and was a turnpike from 1726 to 1747 and from 1756 to 1872. (fn. 23) The road from the south-west corner crosses the Washbourne brook by a bridge referred to in 1584 as the old bridge (fn. 24) and called Alderton Bridge in 1824, (fn. 25) but known later (from its stone arching) as Bow Bridge; where this road meets the main road a few houses were built in the mid20th century, and a cycle shop that by 1962 had become a petrol-station and garage. (fn. 26) A little way east a road leads south from the main road towards Gretton and Winchcombe; half a mile along it is a straggling settlement called Alderton Field which apparently began in the later 19th century (fn. 27) and contained five houses and gardens by 1883, (fn. 28) since when a few more houses have been built there. The minor road from Alstone to Prescott crosses the southwest end of the parish, crossing the Tirle brook by a bridge that was stone-built by 1529 (fn. 29) beside the site of Dixton mill; (fn. 30) it was apparently this road that was out of repair in 1596. (fn. 31) Alderton village is midway between Beckford railway station, opened in 1865, and Gretton station, opened in 1906 and closed in 1960. (fn. 32)
The population of the parish appears to have risen slightly between the mid-16th century, when there were 95 adults, (fn. 33) and 1801, when there were 222 inhabitants in all. (fn. 34) There had perhaps been a fall in the 18th century, for there were said to have been 100 adults in 1603 (fn. 35) and 122 in 1676, (fn. 36) and a total population of 200 c. 1700, (fn. 37) 166 in 1735, (fn. 38) and 172 c. 1770. (fn. 39) Dixton had evidently been considerably the smaller of the two villages in the Middle Ages, with less than a third of the total number of taxpayers in the parish in 1327, (fn. 40) and after the changes at Dixton in the early 16th century it became no more than a small hamlet, its population apparently remaining fairly constant. (fn. 41) The fact that as many names were entered for Dixton as for Alderton in 1608 (fn. 42) may be explained by the inclusion under Dixton of some inhabitants of Alderton village who were tenants of Dixton manor, the chief manor of the parish.
From 222 in 1801 the population rose rapidly, reaching a maximum of 487 in 1861. After fluctuating it fell steadily from 1891, dropping to 372 in 1931, but had risen again, following the building of new houses, to 399 in 1951. (fn. 43) In the fifties and early sixties the population continued to grow. (fn. 44) Main water was brought to the village in 1931; (fn. 45) beforehand, water had been supplied from unfailing wells in the sand on which the village is sited. (fn. 46) A sewage disposal plant was built in 1937, and main electricity and gas were available by 1940. (fn. 47)
Alderton has been to a great extent free of the influence of resident gentry and large landowners. The position of squire was most nearly filled by members of the Higford family, (fn. 48) two of whom were rectors in the 18th century, (fn. 49) but their house at Dixton was remote from Alderton village. The social life of the village has been characterized by independence and the leadership of small farmers and village tradesmen. A club day was held until the 1930's, and in 1962 the village supported a brass band and a football club. (fn. 50) A village hall was built at the north-east corner of the village on a site acquired in 1927. (fn. 51)
The buildings of the parish mix the styles and materials of the Cotswolds and of the vale. Several timber-framed buildings stand on stone plinths or bases, and among the thatched roofs of the older houses are some of Cotswolds stone slates. Several cottages, built originally of timber and plaster round a massive stone chimney, have been patched and partly rebuilt with stone and brick. The buildings at Dixton include the stone manor-house, a pair of restored, partly timber-framed 17th-century cottages, and a brick farm-house, mainly of the 18th century, with adjacent timber-framed cottages.
The older tradition in the cottages of the village seems to be timber framing and a thatched roof, and in some buildings Cotswold stone has the characteristics of a material adopted for reasons of prestige. In the 18th century brick became the most usual building material, sometimes with segmental-headed openings for doors and windows. Welsh slate came into use on the roofs, but thatch was still used on some new or rebuilt cottages. Brick (often rendered or colour-washed) and tile or Welsh slate predominated in new buildings until the Second World War, after which they yielded to synthetic stone.
Manor Farm, the manor-house of Alderton manor, is the house recorded in 1672 as having 15 hearths. (fn. 52) It comprises three distinct parts. The oldest is a much altered medieval hall of two bays and a cross-passage; two massive arch-braced collar-beam trusses survive. West of the screens passage is a two-storied crosswing, probably of the 16th century, having a gable-end of close-studded timbering with later brick infilling and a ground floor which has been faced with stone. The hall was largely rebuilt in stone and divided into two stories in the early 17th century; it was given mullioned windows, dripmoulds, and a three-centred arched doorway to the screens passage. A chimney was inserted in the west bay of the hall, backing on the screens passage, and in the upper part of the east bay a gable was constructed to give height to a first-floor room which is fitted with early 17th-century panelling. The third part of the house is a stone wing on the north side, added c. 1800. This has a symmetrical north elevation with sash windows and a parapet. The timber-framed barn between the house and the road was built in the 17th century. This house is evidently not the chief messuage called the great hall mentioned c. 1623, (fn. 53) which may have been the house illustrated in 1800 (fn. 54) which has not been identified among the surviving houses of Alderton.
The 'Gardeners' Arms', opposite the manorhouse, also combines stone and timber-framed walls. It has a tall timbered gable facing the street, oversailing at the first floor, with a Cotswold stone roof; the rest of the roof is thatch. A large timbered barn on a stone base adjoins the inn. The rectory, an 18thcentury building of rubble with a Cotswold stone roof, (fn. 55) was replaced c. 1840 by a two-story building (called the Old Rectory in 1962) of brick with stuccoed south and west elevations and a parapeted roof of Welsh slates; in contrast to the other buildings of the village it is severe and classical in style.
Dixton Manor, sited on an open terrace under the south slope of Dixton Hill, is a three-story house of Cotswold stone and brick with a Cotswold stone roof. In 1555 John Higford built a porch on the north front (fn. 56) and presumably rebuilt the hall behind it. In the late 16th century a three-story south-west wing with four gables was added, giving the house an L-shaped plan, the hall was given a third story, and the porch was raised to the height of the rest of the house with a four-gabled roof. At the beginning of the 18th century the windows of the first and second stories were altered to allow for sash windows, and a two-story projecting bay was added to the west front. A picture shows the house soon after these changes: the house was all of stone except for a medieval timber and plaster range at the eastern end, later demolished. Facing its west end were a pigeon-house, with four gables surmounted by a cupola, and a coach-house, both of stone, and beyond them a brick and timber building. (fn. 57)
At the beginning of the 19th century, when the estate had changed hands, the old hall of Dixton Manor was pulled down and replaced by a short, low building, so that the three-story porch was left almost detached from the rest of the house, and a new wing was built out from the east side of the surviving south-west wing; this new building was in red brick, which was later roughcast on the south elevation. The buildings grouped around the manorhouse, including the chapel, the pigeon-house, and the coach-house, may have been pulled down in the early 19th century also, when a new stable block was built north-east of the house; at one time it had a cupola, (fn. 58) which may have been the one that had been on the pigeon-house. Since the early 19th century the house has undergone no major structural changes; the interior dates mainly from then, and includes a staircase with an Elizabethan balustrade.
Manors and Other Estates.
The estate of 12 hides in Alderton and Dixton held before the Conquest by Dunning and an unnamed thegn, and after the Conquest held of the king by Humphrey, (fn. 59) later became the manor of DIXTON. It was apparently granted by the Crown as part of the honor of Gloucester to Robert FitzHamon, (fn. 60) who gave half a hide in Alderton to his new foundation, Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 61) In 1220 the Earl of Gloucester's bailiff had to answer for 7½ ploughs in Dixton and Alderton, (fn. 62) and from the 13th to the 15th century 2 or 2½ knights' fees in Dixton and Alderton were recorded as held of the earls of Gloucester. (fn. 63) From the early 15th century Dixton manor was said to be held as of the earl's manor of Tewkesbury; (fn. 64) in 1505 the estate was described as the two manors of Dixton and Alderton, of which Dixton was held in chief and Alderton was held as of the manor of Barton by Tewkesbury, (fn. 65) but in 1519 it was judicially decided that both were held as of Tewkesbury manor, (fn. 66) and this tenure was restated up to the mid-17th century. (fn. 67)
In 1202 Richard of Dixton held 2½ knights' fees of the honor of Gloucester; (fn. 68) his predecessors may have included Roger of Dixton, who in 1166 headed the list of tenants of Winchcombe Abbey. (fn. 69) Richard held the 2½ fees in 1211; (fn. 70) in 1221 they were conceded to William of Dixton and his heirs by Robert son of Hugh (fn. 71) of Dixton. (fn. 72) William of Dixton held the manor in 1261 (fn. 73) and 1263, (fn. 74) exercised the advowson of Alderton in 1283, (fn. 75) and was dead by 1296. (fn. 76) He was succeeded by another William of Dixton, who held in 1303 (fn. 77) and 1307 (fn. 78) and was dead by 1316, when John of Dixton was lord of Dixton. (fn. 79) John died between 1327 (fn. 80) and 1337, and was succeeded by another William of Dixton, (fn. 81) who held the manor in 1346 (fn. 82) but was dead by 1347 when another John of Dixton was lord. (fn. 83) John, who was patron of Alderton rectory in 1379, (fn. 84) was dead by 1387. (fn. 85) Serlio of Dixton, who presented to the rectory in 1389, (fn. 86) is likely to have been lord of the manor, though he is not otherwise recorded, and the manor was afterwards held by John Dixton at his death in 1410. (fn. 87)
John Dixton's wife Margaret, who held jointly with him, died in 1412, and their son and heir Thomas, a minor, in 1413. Thomas's heirs were his sisters, Elizabeth the wife of John Harwell, Maud, and Margery. (fn. 88) Between 1419 and 1422 Maud and Margery married Richard Harwell and William Harwell, (fn. 89) but in 1438 the advowson was exercised by John Higford in the right of his wife Maud (fn. 90) (presumably the same Maud), and Dixton manor afterwards belonged to Higfords until 1795.
John Higford is said to have had a son John, (fn. 91) who may have been the John Higford that presented to Alderton rectory seven times in the fifties and sixties (fn. 92) and died in 1482 or 1483, leaving a son Thomas. Thomas died in 1490 or 1491, (fn. 93) and another Thomas Higford died holding the manor in 1505. (fn. 94) Three sons of this second Thomas inherited in turn, John (d. 1509), Anthony (d. 1513), and William. William, the only one to survive his nonage, (fn. 95) was succeeded in 1545 by his son John. (fn. 96) This John, who rebuilt Dixton manor-house, was knighted by Elizabeth I, and was sheriff of the county, (fn. 97) died in 1607, and his son and heir, also John, (fn. 98) died in 1612, to be succeeded by his son William Higford, (fn. 99) the puritan and author of the Institutions, or advice to his grandson. William was succeeded at his death in 1657 (fn. 100) by that grandson, John Higford, son of John (d. 1635). (fn. 101)
John Higford died in 1703, (fn. 102) and Dixton manor passed, apparently, to three of his sons in turn, James, (fn. 103) Henry (who presented to the rectory in 1717), (fn. 104) and William, who died in 1733. William was succeeded by his son William, and this second William, in 1770, by his half-brother Henry, Rector of Alderton, who dying in 1795 without children was the last Higford in the male line to hold Dixton manor. (fn. 105) The manor passed to the descendants of James Higford (d. 1742), brother of the last-named William Higford: they were John Parsons of Dixton, son of James's daughter Agnes, and members of the Davis family of Chepstow, grandchildren of James's daughter Anne.
In the early 19th century the estate was split up and sold, (fn. 106) and Samuel Gist, who was lord of the manor in 1807, (fn. 107) acquired over 500 a. in Dixton and the manor-house there which passed to Samuel Gist Gist, (fn. 108) of Wormington Grange, perhaps his nephew. Samuel Gist Gist died in 1845 and was succeeded by his son Samuel Gist, (fn. 109) who was of unsound mind in 1883 and 1898. (fn. 110) H. W. Gist, Samuel Gist's nephew, (fn. 111) was described as lord of the manor in the early 20th century, (fn. 112) but in 1911 Dixton Manor with the land by the house was sold to the lessee, Col. C. H. Leveson, most of the farm-land being severed from it. In 1939 Mrs. Wallace bought the manor-house, and in 1945 sold it to Sir Charles Hambro, K.B.E., (fn. 113) the owner in 1962. (fn. 114)
The manor of ALDERTON was in 1485 the subject of an apparently fictitious suit by Kenelm Dygas and Thomas Lygon against John Alderbury, (fn. 115) whose names have not otherwise been found in connexion with this manor. In 1490 and 1491 William Tracy held land in Alderton, (fn. 116) and the manor was afterwards held of the Higfords, as of Dixton manor, by members of the Tracy family of Toddington: Henry died seised of it in 1501, (fn. 117) his grandson William of part of it in 1528, (fn. 118) and William's grandson Sir John Tracy (d. 1591) held it in 1560. (fn. 119) Sir John's son, also Sir John (created Viscount Tracy of Rathcoole in 1642) conveyed the manor to John Playdell in 1593, but reacquired it from Playdell in 1608. (fn. 120) From John, 3rd Viscount Tracy (d. 1687), the manor passed in 1684 to Samuel Keck, (fn. 121) and through Anthony Keck, who held it at the end of the 17th century, (fn. 122) it came to the Stanway branch of the Tracys, being the property in 1807 of the Viscountess Hereford, (fn. 123) elder daughter and coheir of Anthony Tracy (otherwise Keck), (fn. 124) and in 1821 of her nephew Francis Charteris, Earl of Wemyss and March (fn. 125) (d. 1853). The manor descended with the earldom until the early 20th century, when it became part of the Dumbleton Hall estate, (fn. 126) and in 1962 it was owned by the Hon. H. G. B. Eyres Monsell. (fn. 127)
In 1086 Winchcombe Abbey held two and a half hides in Alderton, and a knight held this land of the abbot. (fn. 128) This knight's holding was probably that which Roger of Dixton held of the abbey in 1166, (fn. 129) and c. 1300 there were two hides at Alderton charged with contributing towards the cost of one knight for the abbot. (fn. 130) The later history of this estate has not been traced: it is not identified in the Valor, where it may, however, be included with Naunton in Winchcombe parish; (fn. 131) alternatively it may have become merged in Dixton manor. Other monastic land in Alderton included half a hide granted at its foundation to Tewkesbury Abbey, (fn. 132) of which land was held in 1307 (fn. 133) and which was receiving rents from Alderton in 1535; (fn. 134) an estate granted to Gloucester Abbey apparently in the early 13th century, which was later subinfeudated to Patrick of Alderton; (fn. 135) and a small estate which belonged to the Templars of Guiting and passed with other property of theirs (fn. 136) to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, which received 1s. 4d. rent from Alderton in 1535. (fn. 137)
There were in addition a number of freehold lay estates in the Middle Ages. (fn. 138) These included one of two hides held by Robert of Weston in the early 13th century, (fn. 139) and one which belonged to a family surnamed of Alderton: disputes about estates in Alderton between 1205 and 1214 may have been settled by an agreement in 1214 between Nicholas of Alderton, son of Philip of Alderton and Juliane, and Teofridus of Alderton. (fn. 140)
There is evidence of agricultural decline in Alderton and Dixton immediately before the Domesday survey. The 14½ hides were supporting only 11 ploughs; the larger, lay estate, of which half was demesne, had fallen in value from £11 to £6, while the monastic estate, which had retained its former value, was said to be capable of supporting another three ploughs in addition to the two demesne ploughs and one tenant's plough. (fn. 141) The larger estate had nearly the same number of ploughs in 1220 as in 1086. In 1220 there were 7½ ploughs, (fn. 142) where in 1086 there had been 4 demesne ploughs, 3 belonging to 13 villani and bordars, and one belonging to a radknight. (fn. 143)
The larger estate included part of Alderton as well as the whole of Dixton. It is not clear whether Dixton was a distinct agricultural unit with its own arable fields; alternatively, what was called Dixton field in the 16th century (fn. 144) may have been part of the arable fields of Alderton. In 1507–8, however, Dixton underwent a major change: the lord of the manor inclosed 190 a. in Dixton, converting the land from tillage to pasture, and after the change there were said to be three fewer houses than formerly, 15 fewer people, and 3 fewer ploughs. (fn. 145) In 1545 an extent of the manor specified no arable land in Dixton, (fn. 146) which thereafter was a compact demesne farm forming the south-west end of the parish. In 1839 it comprised 530 a., of which 430 a. was pasture (a large part of it on rough hilly ground), 70 a. arable, and 30 a. woodland. (fn. 147)
Apart from this land, Dixton manor included land in Alderton, where there was also the sub-manor of Alderton and the freehold estates mentioned above. Small freehold estates were numerous in Alderton in the early 13th century, ranging in size from half a yardland to six, (fn. 148) and they remained characteristic. In 1483 there were four free tenants in Alderton owing suit to the frankpledge court at Tewkesbury; (fn. 149) they were apparently independent of either manor, and in the frankpledge court orders were made for regulating agriculture in Alderton (fn. 150) and an agreement was reached, in 1536, for rating the sheepcommons of the free tenants. (fn. 151)
In that agreement the rate was based not (as might be expected) on the yardland, but on the amount of rent. With one exception (in 1635), (fn. 152) no mention of yardlands in Alderton has been found after 1307, (fn. 153) and it may be that the yardland became obsolete as a measure of land earlier in Alderton than elsewhere. In Alderton the yardland was, moreover, unusually large, a fact perhaps connected with the small number of ploughs there in relation to the number of hides in the early Middle Ages. In the early 13th century half a yardland was 24 a.; (fn. 154) another half yardland, at perhaps a rather later date, was 18 a., (fn. 155) and two holdings each of 38 a. in 1307 were apparently yardlands. (fn. 156)
Evidence for the survival of the small freeholds continues to the mid-17th century. (fn. 157) Among the freeholders in 13th and 14th centuries were Walter le Honorable in 1260 (fn. 158) and his descendant Richard in 1327, and John Besemaunsel in 1307 and 1327. (fn. 159) In the 1360's a John Creese was living at Alderton, (fn. 160) the forerunner of the family most prominent among the non-manorial families of Alderton in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries: another John Creese figures in 1483 (fn. 161) and 1526, (fn. 162) and a third in the early 17th century; (fn. 163) perhaps the family declined as the result of congenital lunacy, for John Creese, a substantial landowner, had been mad for four years in 1646, (fn. 164) and another John Creese, heir to family property, was said in 1671 to have been an idiot from birth. (fn. 165) Contemporary with the Creeses were the Rutters: before the death of John Rutter in or soon after 1545 (fn. 166) the family had given its name to Rutter Lane, (fn. 167) but the family's estates seem later to have dwindled; in 1636 the land called Rutter's withies was part of the Dixton manor estate, (fn. 168) and in 1678 Edward Rutter held only a small amount of land in the parish. (fn. 169)
Some of the free tenants in Alderton are likely to have been the successors of Domesday villani, but a larger number of the Domesday villagers' holdings, which were evidently small, are likely to have survived as customary tenures. Copyholds are not recorded in Alderton until the 16th century; (fn. 170) copyholds of Dixton manor were mentioned c. 1623, (fn. 171) and of Alderton manor in 1635 when two admissions were recorded, one to the moiety of two houses, a cottage, and a yardland, the other to the reversion of a cottage and 6 a. Both these holdings owed rents partly in cash and partly in kind, both owed heriots in cash, and widow's freebench was apparently customary. (fn. 172) The copyholds of Dixton manor were enfranchised c. 1803 at the sale of the manor; (fn. 173) some at least of the copyholds of Alderton manor survived, after inclosure, until c. 1870. (fn. 174)
The number of holdings in the open fields totalled c. 14 in 1612, (fn. 175) and rose to c. 22 in 1678. (fn. 176) The intervening years may have seen some change in the arrangement of the fields. In the 13th century there were two fields. (fn. 177) At the same period the payment of a rent-charge in equal parts of wheat and oats (fn. 178) may indicate that a fallow followed each crop, and in 1526 leys in the open fields were commonable each alternate year. (fn. 179) In the Middle Ages the fields were divided into furlongs, and the ridges were roughly half an acre in size. (fn. 180) The fields were separated by hedges from those of the neighbouring parishes. (fn. 181)
By 1689 there were four open fields: Harp field in the south-west, Hill (or Hillborough) field in the east, Gloucester Bush (or Covered or Gloucester road) field in the south, and Slade field (or the field adjoining Washbourne, or Hillway field) in the north. One estate included exactly 24 ridges and exactly 10 a. in each field, and the precision suggests an arrangement that had not had time to become obscured. The ridges, averaging under half an acre, may have survived from before the new arrangement. (fn. 182) The division into four fields was presumably designed to make possible a four-course rotation, and in 1801 three crops and a fallow was the usual practice. In that year roughly equal areas were sown to wheat, barley, and beans, and the absence of any oats or turnips is noticeable. (fn. 183) By 1801 there had been little consolidation of arable strips, and the ridges still averaged under half an acre. (fn. 184)
Dixton had been inclosed in 1507–8, and there was a small amount of inclosure elsewhere in the parish at about the same time. (fn. 185) General inclosure in Alderton waited another 300 years, and it was possibly the break-up of Dixton manor that inspired it. Under an Act of 1807, (fn. 186) which specifically excluded Dixton and its tithes, the fields of Alderton were inclosed. The inclosure award, made in 1809, covered 1,020 a., of which at least 80 a. was old inclosure, but this old inclosure included only two large pieces of land. Twenty-one freeholders and lease-holders received allotments, of which the 252 a. allotted to the lady of the manor and the 245 a. allotted to the rector, for his glebe, tithes, and personal freehold, were much the largest. There were six allotments of between 25 a. and 80 a., eight between 5 a. and 20 a., and five of 3 a. or less. In addition the award specified the owners of nine small estates, mainly cottages and gardens, who did not receive allotments. (fn. 187) Twenty years after inclosure there were five farms in the parish, on only one of which was labour not employed. (fn. 188) In the later 19th century the number of farms remained about the same; in the 20th century it began to increase, and was ten in 1939, but several of these were small specialized farms, devoted to fruit, or poultry, or market gardening. In addition to the farms listed in 1939 there were two small-holders and a market gardener. There were then only three farms over 150 a., one of them being Dixton Manor farm (fn. 189) which had earlier accounted for over a quarter of the area of the parish. (fn. 190) By the mid-thirties most of the parish was grassland, and a good proportion of what arable there was was accounted for by market gardens. (fn. 191) In 1962 there were six substantial farms, mostly devoted to beef or dairy cattle, and a comparatively high proportion of the land was taken up with market gardens and orchards. (fn. 192)
Although the records are few, the size of Alderton compared with most of the neighbouring villages, and clues in what records there are, may suggest that a variety of trades was followed in Alderton up to the 19th century. Innkeepers are mentioned in 1522 and 1533, (fn. 193) a tailor in 1554, (fn. 194) a weaver in 1608, (fn. 195) a cordwainer in 1709, a mason in 1710, (fn. 196) and a confectioner in 1834. (fn. 197) In 1608 there were two smiths in Alderton village and two in Dixton, (fn. 198) and smiths recur in 1672 (fn. 199) and 1804. (fn. 200) In 1811 and 1831 one-sixth of the working families in the parish were supported mainly by trade, manufacture, or industry. (fn. 201) In the later 19th century occupations of inhabitants included butcher, grocer, builder, bricklayer, carpenter, haulier, and veterinary surgeon; also, surviving into the mid-20th century but disappearing before 1962, those of baker, shoemaker, wheelwright, and blacksmith. The number of general shopkeepers, four in 1863, had fallen to two in 1939 and to one in 1962. New trades in the 20th century were those of cycle agent, motor engineer, and insurance agent. (fn. 202) After the Second World War, when retired and professional people made up a large part of Alderton's increased population, many of the inhabitants were employed in industrial works on the outskirts of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury. (fn. 203)
There appears to have been a mill at Dixton in the 14th century: William mulleward was among the inhabitants in 1327. (fn. 204) In the early 17th century Dixton manor included a mill, (fn. 205) and in the early 19th the land between the manor-house and the bridge over the Tirle brook was known as Mill leys. (fn. 206)
In the 13th century the earls of Gloucester claimed to hold the view of frankpledge for Alderton at Tewkesbury; (fn. 207) the claim was corroborated by the practice in the late 15th and early 16th century, and it was at the Tewkesbury hundred court that the constable and tithingman for Alderton and Gretton, and the separate tithingman for Dixton, were elected. (fn. 208) While Gretton, in Kiftsgate hundred, (fn. 209) shared officers with Alderton, both townships were represented in 1547 at the view of frankpledge for the hundreds of Kiftsgate and of Holford and Greston, though they paid no leet money there; (fn. 210) the survival of this arrangement (Alderton was partly in Greston hundred in the 11th century) may reflect Winchcombe Abbey's ownership of land in Alderton, and perhaps lasted little longer. (fn. 211) Alderton and Dixton are not recorded as parochially separate after the 16th century.
The only manorial court roll known to survive for Alderton or Dixton is one of 1635 for Alderton manor, dealing only with tenures. (fn. 212)
The surviving records of the vestry begin only in 1842. The parish's expenditure on the poor in the late 18th century and early 19th was slow to rise, showing no significant change between 1786 and 1803, when the rate was relatively low. (fn. 213) Some change in the method of relief is suggested by the fact that expenditure more than doubled over the next ten years, while the number relieved remained much the same. (fn. 214) The parish joined the Winchcombe Union under the Act of 1834, (fn. 215) and became part of the Winchcombe highway district in 1864, (fn. 216) the Winchcombe rural sanitary district in 1872, and the newly formed Cheltenham Rural District in 1935. (fn. 217)
The remains of a font excavated near the north door of the church suggest that the church had a pre-Conquest origin. In 1175 it was described as a chapel of Winchcombe parish church, (fn. 218) and in the early 13th century there was a chaplain living in the village. (fn. 219) The first known Rector of Alderton was so described in 1283, (fn. 220) suggesting that by that date Alderton chapel had achieved the status of a parish church. Inhabitants of Alderton, however, continued to be buried at Winchcombe until 1379, when the abbot and convent of Winchcombe, who received the mortuary fees, (fn. 221) agreed with the rector, patron, and inhabitants of Alderton that because of the distance between Alderton and Winchcombe and the chances of flooding there should be a graveyard at Alderton. The inhabitants of Dixton were to continue to bury at Winchcombe, and in recompense for the lost mortuary fees of Alderton the sacrist of Winchcombe was to have a pension of 2s. from the rector, to whom each landholder in Alderton was to pay 1d. a year to ease the burden of the pension. (fn. 222)
The patron of the rectory in 1283 was William of Dixton, (fn. 223) lord of Dixton manor, and with that manor the advowson descended (fn. 224) until 1801 when it was sold to Robert Lawrence, (fn. 225) the incumbent. Lawrence, having taken the additional name of Townsend, (fn. 226) died in or before 1830, when Theyer Lawrence Townsend presented. (fn. 227) In 1840 another Robert Lawrence Townsend sold the advowson to Charles Covey, (fn. 228) who had been curate of Alderton since 1827 (fn. 229) and became rector in 1842. (fn. 230) The advowson thereafter remained in the hands of rectors and their representatives, (fn. 231) and the patron in 1962, Miss Hollander, derived her title from A. D. Pennington, rector 1915–29. (fn. 232)
Tithes in Alderton belonged to the abbeys of Winchcombe (fn. 233) and Tewkesbury, (fn. 234) and in 1291 the church of Alderton was a poor one worth only £5 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 235) Perhaps as a result of the church's greater independence, the value of the rectory had risen comparatively by 1535, when at £22 clear it was among the highest in Campden deanery. The titheportions of Winchcombe and Tewkesbury were then represented by pensions; a much larger pension was payable to the patron of the living, (fn. 236) for what reason is unknown. In 1603 it was said that the tithes of Dixton were worth £30 but that the owner of the land paid only £4; (fn. 237) in 1650, however, when the rector's estate in Alderton was worth £120 a year the tithes of Dixton produced an additional £25. (fn. 238) In the 19th century the value of the rectory rose to over £500, (fn. 239) and it then included c. 200 a. allotted at inclosure in 1809, 26 a. for glebe and c. 190 a. for tithe. (fn. 240) Tithes in Dixton, which was not affected by the inclosure, (fn. 241) were commuted in 1839 for a rentcharge of £150. (fn. 242) The glebe farm remained vested in the rector until 1948. (fn. 243) The parsonage house, a large one in the late 16th century (fn. 244) and rebuilt c. 1840, became a private house in 1959, (fn. 245) when a new house for the rector was built.
The 15th-century rectors, who included at least three graduates, mostly held the living for very short periods: between 1420 and 1466 the names of 12 are known, eight of them holding the living in the 15 years 1452–66. (fn. 246) John Carter, instituted in 1510, (fn. 247) remained rector until his death in 1538, (fn. 248) and lived at Alderton; (fn. 249) his successor, James Ash, who had been in trouble for criticizing the Crown, (fn. 250) appears to have been a Protestant (fn. 251) and was deprived in 1554. (fn. 252) A former monk held the living 1554–8, (fn. 253) and William Banks, rector 1558–77, was a poor theologian, incontinent, (fn. 254) and a pluralist and an absentee. (fn. 255)
From 1578 to 1695 the parish had only three rectors. A member of the Higford family of Dixton, Henry Higford, was rector 1695–1715, (fn. 256) and another Henry Higford, who from 1770 was lord of Dixton manor, (fn. 257) from 1738 until his death in 1795. Other long incumbencies characterized the 19th century: Robert Lawrence (later Townsend), 1795–1830, (fn. 258) Charles Covey (curate from 1827), 1842–75, (fn. 259) and Charles Rogers Covey, 1875–1915. (fn. 260) From 1842 to 1875 and from 1884 onwards the rectors were also incumbents of Great Washbourne. (fn. 261)
In 1536 William Higford gave land in Alderton for the repair and maintenance of the ornaments and utensils of the parish church. At inclosure in 1814 a rent-charge of £6 representing this endowment was replaced by an allotment of 10 a. that produced £8 a year in 1828 (fn. 262) and £14 a year in 1952. (fn. 263)
The chapel of ALL SAINTS at Dixton was, like Alderton church, a chapel to Winchcombe in 1175. (fn. 264) By 1555 the chapel appears to have been severed from Winchcombe and attached to Alderton, the rector of which was described as Rector of Alderton and of Dixton chapel, (fn. 265) but later the chapel was thought to be the property of the owners of Dixton manor. (fn. 266) It was disused in the early 18th century (fn. 267) and c. 1775, (fn. 268) but services were being held there for the Higford family in 1790. (fn. 269) The chapel, a stone building comprising nave and chancel, was demolished apparently in the early 19th century when alterations were made to the manor-house, near the north side of which it stood. (fn. 270)
The church of ST. MARGARET OF ANTIOCH (fn. 271) is a building of rubble and freestone with a red tiled roof, comprising chancel, nave with south aisle and north and south porches, and an embattled west tower with a pyramidal roof. The earliest material associated with the church is a piece (in the south porch) of the font, thought to be Saxon, excavated near the north doorway in the late 19th century; the font in use in 1962 appears to be a remodelled 12th-century font, (fn. 272) and part of a scalloped capital and some ornamented masonry are reset in the south wall of the chancel, but no other work is clearly earlier than the 13th century. The chancel arch, of two chamfered orders, is pointed and has no capitals, and the nave arcade of three arches, also of two chamfered orders, rests on octagonal columns and capitals, suggesting that the plan of the church (perhaps without the tower) existed in its essentials by the early 14th century.
Of about the same date are the north doorway to the chancel and the north and south doorways to the nave. The chancel and the south aisle have straight buttresses at the outer corners, and the chancel has a plinth externally at the east end. A 14th-century window in the east wall of the aisle has two lights; a 14th- or 15th-century window in the north wall of the nave has three lights and a corbelled label. In the 15th century two-light windows were inserted in the west wall of the aisle and the north wall of the nave, and the tower was built or rebuilt.
In the 18th century, possibly after a fire that damaged the building in 1722, (fn. 273) the windows of the chancel and south side of the aisle were rebuilt with plain square heads, or trefoil-headed in square or semi-circular openings. It may have been at the same time that the aisle was given a roof continuing the slope of the nave roof, with two dormers in it behind an embattled parapet, instead of the separate ridged roof that there appears to have been when the east window of the aisle was built. (fn. 274) The south porch, built of stone in the early 18th century, is very shallow; the former north porch, of timber and plaster, was built in 1747. (fn. 275)
During restorations of 1880 and 1892 (fn. 276) the former Cotswold stone roofs of nave and aisle and chancel were replaced with red tiles and the aisle lost its dormers; a north vestry that existed in 1859 was removed; the chancel was given a Perpendicular east window; and the north porch was rebuilt in stone, timber, and glass.
The west tower was built c. 1400 and is of three stages. The lowest stage, buttressed at the western angles, has a west window of a single broad light with trefoil head, below which a small doorway has been inserted. The second stage has a lancet on the north, west, and south faces, and a clock-face on the north and west faces. The top stage has two narrow lights with tracery in a trefoil-headed opening on each face, and below the battlements are gargoyle spouts. The low pyramidal roof is of Cotswold stone.
In the chancel is a cinquefoiled piscina with a credence shelf, and there are the remains of image niches in the splay of the 14th-century nave window and on each side of the chancel arch. There is a defaced image over the inside of the south door. The royal arms, which were not to be seen in the church in 1962, were of the period 1816–37. (fn. 277) The organ that was new (the gift of the rector) in 1856 (fn. 278) was replaced in 1947. (fn. 279) The church contains an ancient oak chest with decorative ironwork. Of the six bells (there were six c. 1775) (fn. 280) five were cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1695–8 and 1713, and one in 1855. (fn. 281) The plate is all 19th-century or later. The registers begin in 1596 and are complete.
In 1577 'old Mrs. Tracy', presumably Elizabeth Tracy, mother of the lord of the manor, (fn. 282) and living at Alderton manor-house, was returned as a recusant. (fn. 283) William Higford (d. 1657), lord of Dixton, was a noted puritan. (fn. 284)
No further record of nonconformity in the parish has been found until 1785, when a house there was registered for worship. Two similar registrations were made in 1822 and another in 1824. (fn. 285) In none of these instances was the denomination specified, but one or more of them is likely to have been for the Baptists' meeting, the only nonconformist meeting in Alderton in 1826. (fn. 286) No more is known of this meeting, but it may have given place to a Methodist meeting first registered in 1833. (fn. 287) In 1809 a house had been registered for Methodist worship, but it had evidently lost that use by 1827. From the names of the parties involved the registration of two more houses in 1834 seems to have been for Methodist worship, and by 1836 the Methodists had a separate chapel, (fn. 288) opposite the Rectory. (fn. 289) The chapel was replaced by a relatively large brick building on the north side of the village in 1899; (fn. 290) this chapel was well attended in 1962 when it was served from Winchcombe. (fn. 291)
By 1856 there was a day and Sunday school supported by the rector. (fn. 292) In 1877 a Church of England school was opened in a building put up the year before by subscription. It was supported twothirds from voluntary contributions and one-third from school pence, and average attendance was 64. From 1878 there was a certificated teacher, (fn. 293) and attendance rose to 85 in 1885. The school building was enlarged in 1905, and attendance was up to 109 in 1910. (fn. 294) Attendance fell to 56 in 1938, (fn. 295) and following decapitation in 1947 was 42 in 1962; the elder children then went to Bishop's Cleeve or Tewkesbury. The school became a controlled school in 1954. (fn. 296)
John Page in 1612 gave £12, and Henry Tovey at an unknown date after 1683 gave £2, in trust for the poor; these gifts, together with a small piece of land supposedly given for the poor by the Higford family, produced £2 in 1828, (fn. 297) but no return was made of them in 1956. Henry Higford (d. 1795), Rector of Alderton, gave £200 by will for distribution to the poor in furniture or clothes; the capital amounted to £321 stock in 1956, when the income was distributed in gifts of up to £1. Mary Elizabeth Rogers Covey by will proved 1899 gave £20 for the poor, which was allowed to accumulate and amounted to £61 stock in 1956, producing £2 a year that was distributed in cash. (fn. 298)