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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LONGNEY, lying on the left bank of the Severn 5 miles south-west of Gloucester, is a secluded and predominantly agricultural parish. Since the 12th century there has been neither resident lord of the manor nor resident rector; there is no large house, and no railway-line or main road enters the parish. It extended over 1,558 a. excluding foreshore and tidal water, to which the 1½ a. of Lapperditch and Crib at the southern end, formerly a detached part of Standish, was added in 1884, (fn. 1) and the enlarged area is the subject of the account here printed.
The parish is long and narrow, the western boundary following the Severn for nearly 4 miles. The soil is mostly clay, with a gravel terrace (fn. 2) running down the spine of the parish where the ground rises at three points to 50 ft. To the east the land falls, (fn. 3) and the eastern strip is mainly alluvial meadow land. The lie of the land and the nature of the soil suggest that the course of the Severn was formerly down the east side of the parish; (fn. 4) the former bed of the river apparently remained at least marshy in the Saxon period when Longney received its name, signifying a long island. (fn. 5) A network of ditches drains the alluvial meadow land, the water being carried to the Severn by two larger channels or droves (fn. 6) through gaps in the ridge of higher land.
The need to look after the watercourses gave rise to the parochial or manorial office of pool-reeve, and the two pool-reeves were also responsible (fn. 7) for the cribs used to reinforce the river bank at places where the flowing tide tends to undercut the bank. A new wall was named between 1287 and 1300 to locate land in South field, (fn. 8) and the sea-walls of Longney that were said to be out of repair in 1540 (fn. 9) were either the river bank with its cribs or the 3-ft. bank of earth and stones that runs at a variable distance from the river to prevent flooding by the highest tides. The earth bank was recorded c. 1553 when some land was described as being outside the walls. (fn. 10) The land outside the walls was later protected by a similar earth bank built immediately beside the river, presumably before 1768 when the river was said to have broken down the inner bank and overflowed much land. (fn. 11) In 1569 the river wall or bank, 20 ft. deep at low water, contained eight cribs each made from eight great timber trees and 120 young trees of 30 years' growth. The tenants of the manor then agreed to repair and maintain the walls in return for certain privileges, (fn. 12) but the agreement was later held to have been annulled by a grant of the manor in 1591. (fn. 13) In 1798 the lords of the manor were responsible for the repair of the two cribs that were not then in a state of decay and also of the 'sconce' or sluice at the mouth of one of the main water-courses. (fn. 14)
The river provided a livelihood for Longney inhabitants as sailors in the earlier 17th century. (fn. 15) A fishery belonged to the manor in the 11th century, (fn. 16) and a kiddle or fishing-weir on the same estate was destroyed by the king's order shortly before 1535. (fn. 17) A small house called the weir house was recorded c. 1553. (fn. 18) Pershore Abbey, to which fisheries in Longney were granted in the 12th century, allowed its tenants there to use them in the early 13th century, (fn. 19) but retained the nominal lordship of fisheries in 1539. (fn. 20) The fishing in the Severn at Longney that had formerly belonged to Great Malvern Priory as lord of the manor and to Pershore Abbey was granted by the Crown to Cecily Pickerell in 1563. (fn. 21) A small estate in Longney in 1384 included a fishery in the Severn, (fn. 22) and four free fisheries in Longney formed part of two freehold estates in 1556 and 1557. (fn. 23) In 1798 the lords of the manor were said to have lost their fishery in the Severn many years before, (fn. 24) but in 1968 they let the fishing to one of their tenants. (fn. 25)
The clayey land on the west side of the parish, beside the river, formerly lay in open fields that were finally inclosed by a parliamentary award in 1815. Between the fields and the meadow land on the east side of the parish, (fn. 26) the central ridge of land was mostly given over to orchards (fn. 27) until the mid 20th century. Fine plantations of fruit-trees were mentioned in the early 18th century, (fn. 28) and later writers commented on the great quantity and good quality of cider produced in Longney. The parish gave its name to the Longney Russet, an esteemed variety of cider-apple originating and grown best there. (fn. 29) Apart from the orchards, which were being reduced in extent, there was no woodland in the 20th century. Nicholas atte Grove in 1327 (fn. 30) may have taken his name from one of the woods just across the parish boundary, but in 1465 an estate of 66 a. in Longney included 6 a. of wood. (fn. 31)
The central ridge of land is also where nearly all the houses of the parish are built, for the presence of gravel and the slightly higher position provide comparatively dry sites in a watery landscape. The houses do not form a compact village, but are strung out over nearly 3 miles along a winding country road, with a few minor conglomerations. The nodal point of the settlement is towards the southern end, where Manor Farm, (fn. 32) the church - scene of a miracle attributed to St. Wulfstan - and the former vicarage, (fn. 33) the school, (fn. 34) the parish pound, (fn. 35) and Bellamy's Farm (fn. 36) are included in a loose group of houses near the junction between the spinal road and another road leading to Hardwicke. East of the junction the road to Hardwicke formed a wide track called High Green, narrowed at inclosure in 1815, where there were a few cottages until the late 19th century. (fn. 37) Along the road south of the junction the houses include Box Tree Cottage, a 17th-century timber-framed building with a thatched roof, and a timber-framed, L-shaped house north of Bellamy's Farm, but most are brick houses of the late 18th century and later.
North of the church and lining the east side of the road is the most concentrated group of houses, comprising Churchend. (fn. 38) Most of them were built of brick in the 19th century, among them the Congregational chapel built in 1839, (fn. 39) but the houses there were more numerous in the 18th century than in 1968. (fn. 40) Ellis's Farm, at the north end of Churchend, incorporates a timber-framed range but was largely rebuilt and enlarged in the late 18th or early 19th century. Churchend Farm and Tolsey Cottage are two-storied and timber-framed, both rough-cast and built on a plan which recurs in the parish of a long rectangle with a central chimney.
North of Churchend the houses are more or less scattered along the road. Some small groups are indicated by hamlet names, but a high proportion of the houses in the northern part of the parish have been demolished since the mid 19th century and their sites left empty. There were 119 houses in the parish in 1851, 73 in 1931. (fn. 41) At Castle-end, a name recorded in the mid 16th century (fn. 42) and presumably used because the hillock there had the appearance of an earthwork, the farm-house is brick and tilehung but apparently retains the timber frame of a long rectangular building. North-west of Castle-end is a small group of houses near a bridge over one of the larger watercourses, crossed by a ford in the later 13th century. (fn. 43) The settlement is called Bowlane, the bend in the road having replaced a more direct route that existed in the 18th century. (fn. 44) The houses there include a thatched and timber-framed house of three bays of which the two intermediate trusses are made of large crucks; near-by there was once an ancient cross. (fn. 45) The farm-house at Downings, a short way north of Bowlane, incorporates a 17th-century timber-framed building of one story with a gabled attic; Downings may be the Downend of 1650. (fn. 46) North again, Yewtree Farm has a 17thcentury timber-framed and gabled building to which a brick farm-house was added in the late 18th century, and the gabled cottage opposite is timberframed and thatched.
Hill Farm represents a house that belonged in the 14th century to people called Hathemere, (fn. 47) and, apart from Hill Farm, Hathemeresend recorded in 1379 (fn. 48) may have included Wicksgreen and Downsend, near where the road leaves Longney parish: Wicksgreen may be the green recorded in 1646 beside the house of William Wick, (fn. 49) and Wicksgreen Farm is a timber-framed, rectangular house of one story with an attic, while Downsend, where a house was demolished after 1924, (fn. 50) was presumably named from the house called Downes in 1684. (fn. 51) A lane leads from near Wicksgreen to Bridgemacot, (fn. 52) which stands nevertheless on the ridge of higher ground. The house called Haynehill (fn. 53) or Hannills seems to have been near Bridgemacot. (fn. 54)
A few houses were built near the river, close to the 3-ft. bank built to prevent flooding. Doodings, near the north end of the parish, was the name c. 1553 of a freehold (fn. 55) that was presumably called after William Dooding who in the earlier 15th century settled his house in Longney on his daughter Joan Aspley; (fn. 56) the house stood just outside a corner in the bank, (fn. 57) where in 1968 there were the remains of a farm-yard, a decayed timber-framed building of two stories, used to store hay, and a disused byre. A mile downstream the small settlement at Waterend had provided a surname by 1327 (fn. 58) and may be indicated by the name of Ellis Bythewater, who had ½ yardland in Longney in 1221. (fn. 59) Two tenants of the manor lived at Waterend in 1569, (fn. 60) and in 1780 there were three houses just within the flood-bank. (fn. 61) In 1968 there was a large brick farm-house of the early 19th century, with two cottages near-by. Small cottages by the river in the northern corner of the parish and by the mouth of the watercourse running west from Bowlane (fn. 62) were demolished or derelict by 1968. Near the southern boundary a house, a pair of cottages, and at Longney Crib a row of four cottages which was partly derelict in 1968, were built in the later 19th century.
Longney once had a relatively large population. In 1327 the sum assessed on 24 inhabitants was higher than the sum for any other township in the hundred except Frampton. (fn. 63) The figure of 70 muster-men in 1542 was above average; (fn. 64) there were c. 130 communicants in 1551 (fn. 65) and 48 households in 1563. (fn. 66) A slowly rising population is indicated by the figures of 150 communicants in 1603, (fn. 67) 70 families in 1650, (fn. 68) and 169 conformists in 1676. (fn. 69) In 1672 39 houses were assessed for hearth tax, none of the exempt houses being entered in the return. (fn. 70) The population fell from c. 260 in the early 18th century (fn. 71) to c. 180 in 1735; (fn. 72) the fall was possibly the result of an epidemic disease in 1719. (fn. 73) By c. 1775 a rise had begun (fn. 74) which continued sharply between 1801, when there were 314 inhabitants, and 1851, when there were 504. Numbers then fell equally sharply until 1891, notwithstanding the transfer of 27 people to the parish in 1884; in 1871 the decrease was attributed to the demolition of houses, which is as likely to have been a result as a cause of the decrease. After 1891 the fall was gentler, from 344 to 248 in 1961. (fn. 75)
Two unlicensed alehouses were presented in 1664, (fn. 76) and in 1838 there were three beershops. (fn. 77) One of the beer-retailers recorded from 1856 kept the New Inn, a small 19th-century brick building standing apart at the southern end of the parish, which was called the 'Plate of Elvers' in 1968. The Bowlane Inn, north of the timber-framed cottage there mentioned above, was a beerhouse called Jefferis Cottage in 1880 and was closed c. 1924. (fn. 78)
The social history of Longney is characterized by the unchallenged predominance of yeoman farmers, either small freeholders or tenants of the corporate bodies that have owned most of the land from the 12th century until the 20th, with little interruption. In 1682-3 no one from Longney was summoned by the heralds. (fn. 79) In 1672 the largest house had 5 hearths; it was the home of William Heywood, (fn. 80) whose family had a customary estate in the early 16th century (fn. 81) and a freehold estate in the early 18th. (fn. 82) Among other yeoman families the Bullocks, Stephenses, and Wymans held land in the 16th century (fn. 83) and in the 19th; (fn. 84) the Ellises, Brownings, and Longneys were long-resident families (fn. 85) that were still represented in the parish in 1968. Until the mid 20th century there were few residents who were not part of the working population, but in 1968 many went to work elsewhere. (fn. 86)