Frocester: 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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'Frocester: Economic history', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, (London, 1972) pp. 174-175. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]


In 1086 the demesne of Gloucester Abbey's manor of Frocester had four plough-teams and three servi, (fn. 1) and the demesne arable was apparently the same size in 1267 when the lord's four ploughs were mentioned. (fn. 2) The demesne was cultivated in 1267 mainly by the labourservices of the tenants. A yardlander, owing the full scale of works, worked 5 days a week for the lord between October and July, including ploughing, harrowing, mowing, threshing, and on one day each week carrying to Gloucester or elsewhere; in August and September the yardlander owed 5 days' work in the harvest with two men each week. In addition a number of odd days' ploughing, harrowing, carrying, and bedrips, some with food supplied, were utilized when required. Only about one-sixth of the tenants had any works commuted. (fn. 3) In 1291 the carrying-services of a number of tenants were used for bringing fish from Bristol. (fn. 4) There was a vineyard on the demesne in 1267. (fn. 5) In 1547 the demesne comprised 607 a., of which 136 a. lay in the open fields. (fn. 6)

The tenants in 1086 were 8 villani and 7 bordars with 7 ploughs. (fn. 7) In 1267 9 tenants each held a yardland of 48 a., 15 held a half-yardland, 5 held a fardel or 12 a., 16 held a mondayland of 1 a., and one or two held only a house. The customs claimed by the lords included toll on ale sold, payments for children leaving the manor and for animals sold, pannage of pigs, a commutation for the service of carrying salt from Droitwich, rents of hens and eggs, and heriots of the two best beasts, one as lord of the manor and one as rector. (fn. 8) In 1607 there were on the manor 34 copyholders holding for up to three lives and 13 leaseholders; most of the tenants owed eggs in addition to cash rents. About half of the holdings were under 10 a., about a quarter 10-30 a., and another quarter 40-60 a. (fn. 9) There were 33 copyholders and 18 leaseholders on the manor in 1675. (fn. 10)

The open field found earliest recorded at Frocester was South field which lay along its south-western boundary with Coaley and was shared by the two parishes in 1313; by an agreement made in that year the Abbot of Gloucester and his tenants renounced their right to common pasture in an area at the south of the field lying below Coaley Peak, and Thomas of Berkeley, lord of Coaley, and his tenants renounced their right to common in a portion lying north of Peter Street, while shared rights of common in the central part of the field were confirmed. (fn. 11) In 1547 the arable of the Frocester customary tenants lay in three large fields, South field, West field (in the north-west of the parish) and Up field, and five smaller ones, Nockall and Chargus fields (in the north of the parish between Downton and Gloucester Road), Breadcroft (to the north-east of the village), Lyde field, and Longfurlong; (fn. 12) Up field may have been the one later called Nut field, lying to the south-east of the village. (fn. 13) In 1611 rights of common in the fallow fields were fixed at three sheep or two beasts for each acre owned there. (fn. 14) In 1547 half of the land held by the customary tenants was pasture, (fn. 15) and the proportion of pasture in the parish seems later to have increased steadily: in 1596 George Huntley converted 300 a. of the Frocester Court estate from tillage to pasture, (fn. 16) and the parish was said to consist mainly of pasture c. 1710. (fn. 17)

Inclosure of the open fields had perhaps begun by the second decade of the 17th century when several tenants had licence to exchange strips, (fn. 18) and it apparently continued steadily over the next two hundred years. By 1737 all the land of the Frocester Court estate was inclosed; most of it lay in a compact block on the slopes south-east of the village, but the estate also included several closes, presumably representing inclosed open-field land, in the western part of the parish, (fn. 19) most of which were exchanged with the manorial estate for lands in the south-east in 1801. (fn. 20) About 1775 there were still c. 207 a. of uninclosed land divided among the six surviving open fields, (fn. 21) and c. 1790 at least 146 a. of the manorial estate, most of it in South field and West field, remained uninclosed. (fn. 22) As the result of private inclosure during the next 50 years there was no open land left in the parish by 1839. (fn. 23)

Dairy products played an important part in the economy of the parish in the 18th and 19th centuries. A cheese-factor of Frocester, John Wilkins, was mentioned in 1755, (fn. 24) and his grandson Richard Bigland was following the same trade when he was declared bankrupt in 1800; (fn. 25) a dairyman of Frocester was mentioned in 1794. (fn. 26) Only 212 a. of arable, growing wheat and beans with some barley, oats, peas, and potatoes, were recorded in 1801. (fn. 27) In 1839 there were only 193 a. of arable out of a total acreage of 1,712, (fn. 28) and the vicar estimated that two-thirds of the value of his tithes came from 215 milch cows and their produce; (fn. 29) the Frocester Court estate, which being tithe free was not included in that estimate, was then a large pasture farm of 480 a. (fn. 30) with a herd of 100 dairy cows and over 300 sheep. (fn. 31) There were eight other farms in 1839, the largest of which were the Downton farms held together (315 a.), Frog Lane farm (295 a.), and Capehall farm (143 a.), (fn. 32) and the number of farms has remained fairly constant since. (fn. 33) In 1968 the land of the parish was used in about equal proportions for pasture and tillage.

A mill called Cherynges Mill, recorded as part of Frocester manor from the late 13th century (fn. 34) and as a fulling-mill from 1489, (fn. 35) was situated in King's Stanley parish, (fn. 36) apparently at Dudbridge; it was sold by the Earl of Warwick in 1761. (fn. 37) In 1533 the Frocester tenants owed suit of multure to Gloucester Abbey's corn-mill at Upper Mill in Stonehouse. (fn. 38) A water-mill on the Frocester Court estate was recorded in 1628 and 1634 (fn. 39) but no later reference to it has been found; it was apparently on the stream to the east of the house where stonework has been found. In the late 19th century a corn-mill was installed at Frog Lane Farm, but the machinery was later removed to Fromebridge Mills and subsequently, c. 1920, to a farm at Longney. (fn. 40)

A smith, who held by the service of making the ironwork of the lord's ploughs, and a weaver were among the tenants of the manor in 1267. (fn. 41) In 1608 the men recorded in the parish included 25 employed in agriculture and 18 in trade, namely a tailor, a carpenter, and a cooper, and 15 weavers. (fn. 42) A clothier lived at Frocester in 1635, (fn. 43) and a tucker in 1642. (fn. 44) The parish still had a group of weavers in the early 19th century as well as one or two workers at the local cloth-mills. (fn. 45) William Whitmore, who cast bells for Frocester church in 1639, probably had a foundry in the parish; between 1647 and 1657 he cast bells in the Home Counties, (fn. 46) but James Whitmore had a bell foundry at Frocester in 1652. (fn. 47) A brush-maker lived in the parish in 1758. (fn. 48) In the early 19th century the village had two or three blacksmiths; (fn. 49) one smithy adjoining a small stone cottage on Gloucester Road has been in use since 1839, although in 1968 the smith was employed solely on farriery and travelled round to most of his work. (fn. 50) The village had a carpenters' shop in 1803 and 1839, (fn. 51) and a wheelwright, a cooper, and a maker of spadehandles were recorded in the early 19th century. At that period the parish also had two or three masons and a number of shoemakers. (fn. 52) In 1831 44 families were supported by agriculture and 24 by manufacture or trade. (fn. 53) In 1969 there were eight resident farming families employing six other workers; the remainder of the working population were chiefly employed by industry in Stonehouse and the locality. (fn. 54)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 165v.
  • 2. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. (Rolls Ser.), iii. 95.
  • 3. Ibid. 88-97.
  • 4. Glos. R.O., D 936A/M 1.
  • 5. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. (Rolls Ser.), iii. 93.
  • 6. H. L. Gray, Eng. Field Systems, 89 n.
  • 7. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 165v.
  • 8. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. iii. 88-97.
  • 9. Glos. R. O., photocopy 472, ff. 31-47.
  • 10. Warwick Cast. Mun. 7718.
  • 11. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. i. 147-9.
  • 12. Gray, Eng. Field Systems, 518; cf. Glos. Colln. RV 140.3; G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., photocopy 472; cf. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., photocopy 826.
  • 15. Gray, Eng. Field Systems, 89.
  • 16. B.M. Harl. MS. 4131, f. 489v.
  • 17. Atkyns, Glos. 446.
  • 18. Glos. R.O., photocopy 826.
  • 19. Ibid. D 340A/P 1.
  • 20. Ibid. D 1011/P 1.
  • 21. Rudder, Glos. 457.
  • 22. Glos. R.O., D 1889, Graham-Clarke fam. 1800-96.
  • 23. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 24. Glos. Colln. deeds 140.5.
  • 25. Glos. R.O., D 1889, Graham-Clarke fam. 1800-96; see above, p. 171.
  • 26. Trans. B.G.A.S. xlvi. 242-4.
  • 27. Acreage Returns, 1801.
  • 28. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 29. Glos. Colln. RF 140.2.
  • 30. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 31. Glos. Colln. RQ 42.1.
  • 32. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 33. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 34. Glos. R.O., D 936A/M 1.
  • 35. Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb. Braunche, p. 58.
  • 36. Glos. R.O., photocopy 472, f. 43v.
  • 37. Ibid. D 873/T 74. The full history of the mill is reserved, with Rodborough, for a later volume.
  • 38. Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb. Malvern, ii, f. 74v.
  • 39. Glos. R.O., D 340A/F 19; Inq. p.m. Glos. 1625-42, i. 212.
  • 40. Ex inf. Mr. Price.
  • 41. Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. (Rolls Ser.), iii. 89, 95.
  • 42. Smith, Men and Armour, 307.
  • 43. Glos. R.O., D 1406 (Dipper), Tirley deeds 1615-67.
  • 44. Hockaday Abs. cci.
  • 45. G.D.R. Frocester bps. transcr. 1813-55.
  • 46. C. Deedes and H. B. Walters, The Church Bells of Essex (1909), 112-13.
  • 47. See p. 138.
  • 48. Glos. R.O., D 1889, Graham-Clarke fam. 1800-96.
  • 49. Glos. Colln. RV 140.3; G.D.R. Frocester bps. transcr. 1814-38.
  • 50. G.D.R. Frocester tithe award; O.S. Map 1/2,500 Glos. XLIX. 5 (1883 edn.); local information.
  • 51. Glos. Colln. RV 140.3; G.D.R. Frocester tithe award.
  • 52. G.D.R. Frocester bps. transcr. 1813-55.
  • 53. Census.
  • 54. Ex inf. Mr. Price.