Frampton on Severn: Economic history

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.

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'Frampton on Severn: Economic history', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, (London, 1972) pp. 148-152. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]

In this section


AGRICULTURE. Unlike most places in the area, Frampton was said in 1086 to be worth as much as it had been in 1066. In 1086 six of the nine plough-teams there were shared among 10 villani and 8 bordars, while the other three belonged to the demesne, which was worked by 9 servi. (fn. 1) The demesne may be assumed to have had a high proportion of the 8 plough-teams in Frampton recorded in 1220, (fn. 2) for in 1315 it amounted to 420 a. of arable, 50 a. of meadow, and 30 a. of several pasture. (fn. 3) By 1433 the demesne had been reduced to a total of 283 a., of which over half, 160 a., was pasture, with 80 a. of arable and 43 a. of meadow. (fn. 4) The tenants of the manor, by 1302, were predominantly free tenants who were able to make terms with the lord of the manor about commoning rights, (fn. 5) and in 1315 there were 16 free tenants of the manor owing rents which totalled £8, compared with 10 servile tenants owing £6 in rent for a total of 6 yardlands. (fn. 6) In 1322 a yardland leased for three lives was specified as containing 32 acres, 19 butts, 1 headland, and 4 selions. (fn. 7)

Land lying scattered in the open fields of Frampton was mentioned in a grant of c. 1230, but except for South field the ten field-names recorded were apparently of furlongs rather than whole open fields. (fn. 8) In 1302 South field was mentioned by implication and there were other fields called Netherhills, Lillands, and Egrove; it is possible that they were the smaller of the open fields, taken into cultivation comparatively late. (fn. 9) The principal open fields in the 17th century and later were Oat field, recorded in 1322, (fn. 10) Park field, which from its position was evidently the same as South field, Egrove, Nast field, and Upper and Lower Town fields. (fn. 11) The agreement of 1302 about commoning shows that the normal rotation was two crops and a fallow. By the agreement the free tenants gave up their rights of common in certain pastures so that the lord of the manor could inclose them (presumably the 30 a. of several pasture recorded in 1315), in return for which they secured a statement of their commoning rights over certain arable, meadow, and pasture land; the lands specified were to be fenced when they were not commonable, and it was agreed that any cattle breaking in were not to be impounded and were not to be charged with damage. (fn. 12) The meadow land was evidently extensive; 10 a. were recorded in 1086, (fn. 13) and the demesne had 50 a. in 1315. (fn. 14)

The agreement of 1302 indicates the importance of common of pasture in the husbandry of the parish. Frampton inhabitants also claimed common in Slimbridge Warth, the marshland that separated the southern part of Frampton parish from the Severn. In 1596 a decree in Chancery restricted the common in 200 a. of waste called the Warth to the inhabitants of Slimbridge and Frampton, (fn. 15) but the rights of the Frampton inhabitants remained open to question. The rights were made more difficult to determine by the division of Slimbridge Warth into the old warth, the new warth, and the new gained grounds, the boundaries of which were disputed. Before 1610 the Frampton inhabitants exercised their rights in the old warth, (fn. 16) but after suits lasting 10 years the Slimbridge inhabitants, with the help of their lord, Lord Berkeley, (fn. 17) kept them out of the new warth. (fn. 18) In 1653 the Berkeleys gave up their right to take tack-money for Frampton beasts commoned on the old warth, and the Frampton inhabitants gave up their claim to common on the new warth and new gained grounds. (fn. 19) In 1770 the parishioners of Frampton and Slimbridge combined to oppose encroachments on Slimbridge Warth and to resist abuses of the common. (fn. 20) At the inclosure of Slimbridge Warth in 1803 125 a. were awarded to Frampton. (fn. 21)

A statement of 1800 mentioned Slimbridge Warth as only one of many places where the inhabitants of Frampton had common, (fn. 22) but it is clear that the open fields and other commons had been greatly reduced by a long process of piecemeal inclosure, of which the first known stage is recorded in the agreement of 1302. (fn. 23) Unjust inclosures in the Marsh, Nast field, and Park field, totalling 45 a., were presented in the manor court in 1572, (fn. 24) and parts of Oat field were inclosed during the last 15 years of the 16th century. (fn. 25) Most of the inclosures recorded before the inclosure award of 1815 were in the 17th century and early 18th. Land newly inclosed from Park field was mentioned in 1624. (fn. 26) In 1631 six adherents of 'Skimmington', the leader of a band of close-breakers in the Forest of Dean, arrived in Frampton to throw down new inclosures, and expected to be welcomed by the inhabitants. (fn. 27) In 1650 a troop of horse was sent to Slimbridge and Frampton to prevent a mob from doing further damage by destroying fences. (fn. 28) An inclosure out of Town field was recorded in 1684. (fn. 29) Exchanges of ridges in the fields were made in 1656, (fn. 30) and in Park field and Town field in 1716 (fn. 31) and 1721. (fn. 32) The ridges of land recorded in that period averaged c. ⅓ a. in size. (fn. 33) In 1708 an attorney of Eastington, Walter Marshall, was alleged to have ploughed up and broken great quantities of the common in Frampton. (fn. 34)

In 1815, immediately before parliamentary inclosure, 639 a. remained open or commonable, of which 367 a. lay in the six open fields: Egrove had 106 a. of uninclosed land, Oat field only 13 a. (fn. 35) The earlier inclosures may have been made partly to facilitate sheep-rearing, and the mention of several sheep-houses in 1632 (fn. 36) and of turnips in 1667 (fn. 37) make it more likely. In 1795, however, a fair proportion of the inclosed land was ploughed, for the total acreage of arable was 567. (fn. 38) In 1801, when 496 a. were sown, wheat was the chief crop, followed by barley, turnips, and beans. (fn. 39) At that time the normal rotation was said to be three crops and a fallow; (fn. 40) that was apparently true of Egrove, (fn. 41) but not of the other remaining open-field land, where two crops and a fallow remained the rule until parliamentary inclosure. (fn. 42) In 1667 teasels as well as turnips were among the crops grown; (fn. 43) in the late 18th century some flax was grown at Frampton. (fn. 44)

The 21 yeomen and husbandmen recorded in 1608 (fn. 45) represented less than the total number of agricultural tenants. In 1618 the manor had 28 tenants, the Cliffords' estate had 27, and there were 8 freehold occupiers; some people belonged to more than one group, and the total number of occupiers was 64, apparently including cottagers. Of the tenants, some held by lease and some by copy. (fn. 46) Copyholds could not be conveyed without the lord's special licence, and heriots were paid in kind. (fn. 47) In 1632 the manor included 7 copyholders, with holdings of from 5 a. to 35 a.; (fn. 48) the larger farms were presumably held on leases. In 1791 the manor estate was divided between four farms of from 104 a. to 177 a., of which the two largest were held by a single tenant. (fn. 49) In 1800 the parish had 12 landowners or tenants occupying more than c. 30 a. (fn. 50)

The inclosure award of 1815 allotted or re-allotted 848 a., just over one-third of the parish, of which 590 a. went to Nathaniel Clifford, 120 a. to Samuel Peach Peach, and the rest was divided among 34 owners, of whom 23 received less than 1 a. Most of the owners of middle-sized estates received no allotment under the award, because they owned no commonable land or rights of common. (fn. 51) The period of inclosure was also one in which the number of farms increased. In 1831 there were 19 agricultural occupiers, of whom 17 employed labour. (fn. 52) At about the same time the Cliffords' estate, amounting to three-quarters of the parish, contained 13 farms, of which 5 were over 150 a. and 5 were under 50 a. (fn. 53) The concentration of so much of the land in one ownership made for agricultural improvement, notably in the use of machinery and land drainage. (fn. 54) The nature of the soil in a parish where meadow and pasture-land had always been more extensive than arable may have helped to shield Frampton against the worst effects of the contraction of arable farming in the late 19th century: in 1901 there were still 552 a. of arable, more than the amount returned in 1801, (fn. 55) though the number of farms had fallen from 13 in 1870 to 10. (fn. 56) By 1933 the extent of arable had shrunk to little over 100 a. (fn. 57) In 1968 there were 8 farms, mostly over 200 a., and the land was used predominantly for dairying.

MILLS. In 1086 there was a mill at Frampton worth 10s., (fn. 58) a higher sum than most mills. Walter de Clifford's gift of the mill c. 1180 to Godstow Abbey was confirmed by his sons Walter and Richard. (fn. 59) In 1228 the Abbess of Godstow defeated a claim by the Vicar of Frampton that she should pay tithes for the mill. (fn. 60) The abbess and convent granted the mill in 1304 to William the carpenter of Frampton at a rent of 30s., (fn. 61) which the abbey was still receiving in 1535, (fn. 62) and in 1312 William granted the mill to the lord of the manor, Robert FitzPain. (fn. 63)

The mill was called Fromebridge Mill by 1328, when Robert's son Robert leased it to Henry de Clifford. (fn. 64) The lessee in 1350 was Roger le Walker, (fn. 65) whose surname suggests that the mill was to be used or was already in use as a fulling-mill. In 1450 the lord of the manor leased two mills under one roof called Frome Mills and a third mill called Blade Mill (i.e. corn-mill); the lessee, Richard Hill, was to rebuild Blade Mill as a fulling-mill and to build a miller's house on the site of Frome Mills. (fn. 66) By 1498, when they were leased to Hugh Weaver, Fromebridge Mills comprised corn-and malt-mills and a fulling-mill with two stocks; (fn. 67) in 1535 Godstow Abbey's rent was said to be paid from two mills. (fn. 68) In 1543 Thomas Haynes devised his lease of Fromebridge Mills to his son John, (fn. 69) presumably the John Haynes of Fromebridge recorded as digging fuller's earth at Alkerton in 1556; (fn. 70) Alice Haynes, the lord of the manor's tenant of the mill in 1618, had been succeeded by Thomas Bowser by 1625. (fn. 71) In 1609 the lord of the manor's estate included two water-mills and two fulling-mills in Frampton, (fn. 72) but when John Arundell sold the mills to Urian Wise in 1632, the same year as he sold the manor, there were only three corn-mills. (fn. 73) John Bowser owned the three corn-mills in 1671, (fn. 74) and after the death of his widow Alice they passed to his daughter Alice, wife of Thomas Featherstone, who sold them in 1689 to Thomas Halling. In 1713 Halling sold them, by then four corn-mills, to Stephen Jenner, who conveyed them in 1735 to his brother Thomas, (fn. 75) President of Magdalen College, Oxford. The mills were still corn-mills in 1760 when Thomas Jenner sold them to Joseph Faithorne, a brazier, who with his partners William and John Purnell (fn. 76) formed the Fromebridge Co. (fn. 77)

In 1766 the Crown granted a patent to John Purnell, one of the proprietors of the wire-mills at Fromebridge, for his improvement in making iron and steel wire. (fn. 78) In 1787 William Purnell took out a patent for a new mechanical process for welding and shingling iron which John Purnell had invented before his death. (fn. 79) By c. 1775 the company had built at Fromebridge one of the largest wire-works in the country, to produce wire for use in carding and fish-hooks; there was also a brass-works there. (fn. 80) Joseph Faithorne released his interest in the Fromebridge Co. to William Purnell in 1791, and in 1800 Purnell entered into partnership with William Veel. (fn. 81) The works continued to produce iron and brass wire, (fn. 82) but after Purnell's death in 1805 Veel became unable to pay his debts. Manufacture appears to have ceased c. 1809, (fn. 83) and no reference has been found to wire-making at Fromebridge Mills at a later period. By 1856 the mill had reverted to a corn-mill, and it so remained in 1968. It was then driven by water-power through a turbine, and worked by members of the White family, who had had the mill since the 1880s. (fn. 84) Charles White bought the mill from the Bengough estate in 1927. (fn. 85) The mill was rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries, mainly of brick but incorporating some blocks of slag from iron-smelting, which are to be seen in some other buildings in the parish.


In 1254 the Crown granted to Hugh de Clifford the right to hold a weekly market on Saturday and a three-day fair beginning on 23 June. (fn. 86) Robert FitzPain, whose plans for making Frampton into a borough were unfulfilled, (fn. 87) in 1311 received a new grant, evidently replacing that to Hugh de Clifford, of a market on Thursday and a five-day fair beginning on 14 August. (fn. 88) Neither the market nor the fair appear to have been very important. The market was mentioned c. 1703 as being no longer held, and the August fair was not mentioned at all. (fn. 89) A relic of the fair may have survived as a village feast, which was held on the Monday following the first Sunday after 15 August (fn. 90) and was associated with a pleasure fair on the green. (fn. 91) A February fair, held on the 7th in 1678 (fn. 92) and on the 3rd c. 1703 when it had become known as Fryingpan Fair, (fn. 93) was described c. 1708 as considerable. (fn. 94) The day, 3 February, was the feast of St. Blase, of whom there was an image, much venerated, in Frampton church in 1547. (fn. 95) Frying-pan Fair continued into the mid 19th century (fn. 96) and was said in 1927 to have been held until recently, (fn. 97) but in 1968 no personal recollection of the fair was encountered.


There are miscellaneous references before the 17th century to smiths, (fn. 98) carpenters, (fn. 99) and tailors in Frampton, (fn. 100) and in 1445 there was a horner living there. (fn. 101) There are indications, however, that the main village industry apart from agriculture was connected with the manufacture of woollen cloth: fulling-mills have already been mentioned, as has the figure in Frampton church of St. Blase, patron saint of woolcombers; thefts of cloth in Frampton in 1562 and the surnames Walker and Webb are suggestive; (fn. 102) kersey was being woven in the village in 1542; (fn. 103) and a weaver was recorded in 1572. (fn. 104) In 1608, when 44 non-agricultural trades in Frampton were listed, there were 7 tailors, 2 mercers, 2 fullers, and 18 weavers. There were also 4 shoemakers, (fn. 105) following a calling that survived in the village until 1935. (fn. 106)

Six mercers were recorded in the period 1667– 1767. (fn. 107) Two of them were also tallow-chandlers. (fn. 108) Between 1646 and 1724 there were at least 4 clothiers in Frampton, (fn. 109) and there were 6 people described as cloth-workers between 1657 and 1768. (fn. 110) Frampton seems to have lost its place in the local woollen industry by the end of the 18th century: a list of 1798 gives the names of 32 men following 22 different non-agricultural trades, of whom 2 tailors were the only ones connected with the cloth industry. (fn. 111)

In the early 19th century a greater part of the population was supported by trade and manufacture (excluding those employed on the River Severn) than by agriculture. In 1831 trade, handicrafts, and manufacture employed 110 of the adult male inhabitants: (fn. 112) most of them seem to have been engaged in retail trade, building, or traditional village crafts, but there were also, a few years later, cabinet-makers, milliners, strawhat-makers, and a tanner. (fn. 113) A tan-yard, recorded in 1791, (fn. 114) gave Tanhouse Farm its name, (fn. 115) and a tannery remained there until the late 19th century when the horse-mill used to grind bark was removed to the tannery at Leonard Stanley. (fn. 116) Although the village crafts mostly disappeared in the early 20th century, Frampton had a blacksmith until c. 1955 and a long-established family of carpenters in 1968. (fn. 117) There were then also several retail shops.

About 50 families were employed on the River Severn in 1831. (fn. 118) The earliest known record of maritime activity at Frampton was in 1377, when a Frampton ship was trading between Bristol and Ireland. (fn. 119) A cargo of wine was landed at Frampton in 1414. (fn. 120) In 1634 Frampton was one of eight towns from Gloucester to Minehead ordered to supply and man a ship. (fn. 121) The opening of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal in 1827 (fn. 122) encouraged the settlement of barge-owners and master-mariners at Frampton. (fn. 123) A shipwright lived in Frampton in 1572, (fn. 124) and there was a boatyard on Frampton Pill until the late 19th century. (fn. 125)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168v.
  • 2. Bk. of Fees, i. 307.
  • 3. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302–58, 155.
  • 4. C 139/65/38 no. 3.
  • 5. Glos. R.O., D 149/M 16.
  • 6. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302–58, 155–6.
  • 7. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 135.
  • 8. Ibid. T 101.
  • 9. Ibid. M 16; for the form Lillands cf. ibid. E 46 (another copy of the same original document); B.M. Add. Ch. 59082.
  • 10. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 135.
  • 11. e.g. Glos. Colln. RF 137.6; Glos. R.O., D 149/E 47; Q/RI 68.
  • 12. Glos. R.O., D 149/M 16.
  • 13. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168v.
  • 14. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302–58, 155.
  • 15. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 328.
  • 16. Berkeley MSS. ii. 354.
  • 17. Glos. Colln. 16527 (81).
  • 18. Berkeley MSS. iii. 330–1.
  • 19. Glos. R.O., D 149/L 2, T 1169.
  • 20. Glos. Colln. RF 274.12 (6).
  • 21. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 129.
  • 22. Ibid. D 149/E 47.
  • 23. Ibid. M 16.
  • 24. Dorset R.O., D 16/M 38; cf. M 39.
  • 25. D.L. 1/200/A. 52.
  • 26. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 1021; cf. T 191, T 323, T 1081.
  • 27. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1631–3, 87–88.
  • 28. Ibid. 1650, 218.
  • 29. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 217; cf. T 1102.
  • 30. Glos. Colln. deeds 137.3.
  • 31. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 336–7.
  • 32. Ibid. T 1103.
  • 33. Ibid. T 202, T 275, T 305, T 319, T 1024.
  • 34. Ibid. D 177/I/1, f. 4; Marshall's professional services were used by the parish before and after 1708: ibid. P 149/OV 2/1.
  • 35. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 68.
  • 36. Glos. Colln. RF 137.6; B.M. Add. Ch. 59080.
  • 37. Glos. R.O., D 149/R 7.
  • 38. Ibid. E 79.
  • 39. Acreage Returns, 1801.
  • 40. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxviii. 171.
  • 41. Glos. R.O., D 149/E 47.
  • 42. Ibid.; Glos. Colln. RF 137.21; cf. Glos. R.O., D 149/L 6.
  • 43. Glos. R.O., D 149/R 7.
  • 44. Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxviii. 218.
  • 45. Smith, Men and Armour, 311–13.
  • 46. Glos. Colln. 16526 (46).
  • 47. Dorset R.O., D 16/M 41–42.
  • 48. Glos. Colln. RF 137.6.
  • 49. Ibid. 4.
  • 50. Glos. R.O., Q/REl 1.
  • 51. Ibid. Q/RI 68.
  • 52. Census, 1831.
  • 53. Glos. R.O., D 149/E 11.
  • 54. Ibid. A 20–21.
  • 55. Acreage Returns, 1801, 1901.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 548–9; (1902), 163–4.
  • 57. Land Util. Surv. Map, sheet 103.
  • 58. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168v.
  • 59. Godstow Reg. p. 135.
  • 60. Ibid. p. 136.
  • 61. Ibid. p. 137; cf. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 130.
  • 62. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii. 195.
  • 63. Godstow Reg. pp. 137–8; cf. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302–58, 155.
  • 64. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 171.
  • 65. Ibid. T. 149.
  • 66. Ibid. T 172.
  • 67. Ibid. T. 173–4.
  • 68. Valor Eccl. ii. 195.
  • 69. Hockaday Abs. cc.
  • 70. Staffs. R.O., D 641/1/4K/5.
  • 71. Glos. Colln. 16256 (46).
  • 72. C.P. 25(2)/297/7 Jas. I East./24.
  • 73. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 175; see also ibid. T 229–30.
  • 74. C.P. 25(2)/657/23 Chas. II East./8.
  • 75. Glos. Colln. deeds 137.87.
  • 76. Ibid. 137.105.
  • 77. Glos. R.O., D 2193 (Purnell), business papers.
  • 78. Glouc. Jnl. 8 Sept. 1766; B. Woodcroft, SubjectMatter Index of Patents of Inventions (1854), ii. 961.
  • 79. Glos. Colln. SF 16.2; Woodcroft, Subject Index of Patents, i. 450.
  • 80. Rudder, Glos. 452.
  • 81. Glos. Colln. deeds 137. 119–20.
  • 82. Rudge, Agric. of Glos. 342.
  • 83. Glos. R.O., D 2193 (Purnell), business papers.
  • 84. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.); cf. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XL. 12 (1884, 1923 edns.); ex inf. Mr. A. G. White.
  • 85. Sale partics. of Bengough estate, penes Meade-King & Co., Bristol; for the Bengoughs see below, p. 292.
  • 86. Cal. Pat. 1247–58, 346.
  • 87. See pp. 140, 142.
  • 88. Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, 167.
  • 89. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 73.
  • 90. Glos. R.O., SO 2.
  • 91. See p. 143.
  • 92. Glos. R.O., D 149/A 26.
  • 93. Bodl. MS. Rawl. B.323, f. 73.
  • 94. Bodl. MS. Top. Glouc. C. 3, f. 218.
  • 95. B.G.A.S. Libr., Furney MS. B, p. 102.
  • 96. Slater's Dir. Glos. (1852–3), 125; the change in the calendar had modified the date to 14 Feb.
  • 97. Country Life, 19 Nov. 1927, 736.
  • 98. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. (Rolls Ser.), i. 290; Hockaday Abs. cc, 1504.
  • 99. Godstow Reg. pp. 137–8; Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 51.
  • 100. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 51; Req. 2/120/6 m. 2.
  • 101. Cal. Pat. 1441–6, 308.
  • 102. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxii. 68.
  • 103. Sta. Cha. 2/12/198.
  • 104. Req. 2/120/6 m. 24.
  • 105. Smith, Men and Armour, 311–13.
  • 106. e.g. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 217, T 226, X 17; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 107. Trans. B.G.A.S. xxxii. 15; Glos. R.O., D 149/T 203, T 224, T 288, T 293, T 353.
  • 108. Glos. R.O., D 149/T 220, T 233, T 293; cf. ibid. X 17.
  • 109. Ibid. T 192, T 226, T 242, T 258.
  • 110. Ibid. T 244, T 275, T 287, T 339; Hockaday Abs. cc, 1661; Glos. Colln. deeds 137.4.
  • 111. Glos. R.O., D 149/X 17.
  • 112. Census, 1801–31.
  • 113. Pigot's Dir. (1842), 107.
  • 114. Glos. Colln. RF 137.4.
  • 115. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XL. 11 (1880 edn.).
  • 116. Ex inf. Mr. B. R. Kitchen, of Leonard Stanley.
  • 117. Local information.
  • 118. Census, 1831.
  • 119. Cal. Close, 1374–7, 491.
  • 120. Cal. Pat. 1413–16, 179.
  • 121. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1634–5, 282.
  • 122. See p. 139.
  • 123. Farr, Chepstow Ships, 72, 133, 166; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 124. Req. 2/120/6 m. 24.
  • 125. Cf. Glos. Countryside, viii. 10.