Avening: Economic history

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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A P Baggs, A R J Jurica, W J Sheils, 'Avening: Economic history', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, ed. N M Herbert, R B Pugh( London, 1976), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp160-162 [accessed 18 July 2024].

A P Baggs, A R J Jurica, W J Sheils, 'Avening: Economic history', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Edited by N M Herbert, R B Pugh( London, 1976), British History Online, accessed July 18, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp160-162.

A P Baggs, A R J Jurica, W J Sheils. "Avening: Economic history". A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Ed. N M Herbert, R B Pugh(London, 1976), , British History Online. Web. 18 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp160-162.


In 1086 30 servi working 8 ploughs were employed on the demesne at Avening, (fn. 1) and the same number of ploughs, each with 8 oxen, was in use in the early 12th century. (fn. 2) During that century, however, arable farming was reduced in favour of sheep-farming; only 4 ploughs were used by the 1170s, (fn. 3) and c. 1200 it was said that there ought to be 8 demesne ploughmen on the manor but only 3 were retained. In the early 12th century there was already a demesne flock of 1,012 sheep, including the lambs, and at the end of the century two shepherds, one at Avening and one at Lowesmore, held tenements by the service of keeping 500 sheep each. (fn. 4) In 1331 455 sheep came to the shearing from Avening and 252 from Lowesmore, (fn. 5) but by 1381 the flock had been reduced to 419. In the latter year, when Avening was closely administered with Minchinhampton, arable farming still continued, with 97 a. being sown in the open fields; two ploughmen, two drivers, a shepherd, and a keeper of the lambs were employed, as well as a dairyman, although there was then only one cow in stock. (fn. 6) By 1412 demesne farming had ceased at Avening, and Lowesmore manor also was leased in its entirety. (fn. 7)

The tenants recorded at Avening in 1086 were 24 villani and 5 bordars working 16 ploughs. (fn. 8) By the late 12th century 27 estates on Avening manor had been enfranchised and were held at farm rent with one or two days' labour-service still owed; they included three of 2 yardlands each and five of 1 yardland each. One was held by a smith, partly by the service of repairing the demesne ploughs and agricultural implements, and another carried the service of doing repairs at the manor-house. The customary tenements were then 2 yardlands, 9 half yardlands, and 15 cottar's tenements; the yardlanders worked each day except Sunday on the normal agricultural tasks or on brewing, the half-yardlanders worked every other week, and the cottars did two days' work a week, which might include carrying service to Bristol or Gloucester, driving livestock to Caen Abbey's manors at Felstead and Horstead, and assisting the demesne shepherd at lambing time. (fn. 9) At Aston and Lowesmore there were 15 tenements in the late 12th century, including one of 1½ yardland and 8 of a yardland; about half still owed the full customary burdens while most of the others had the option of paying rent instead of working. (fn. 10) In 1491 at Avening there were 21 customary tenants holding 27½ yardlands and 14 freeholders holding 7½ yardlands. (fn. 11) Widows had right of freebench, and copyhold tenure, usually for three lives, survived into the 17th century when many holdings were being transferred to leasehold. (fn. 12)

A pasture called Avening Down was mentioned in 1412, (fn. 13) and in the early 17th century cows were pastured on Aston Down, (fn. 14) which presumably also provided sheep pasture. Two shepherds were recorded at Avening in 1608 (fn. 15) and in the mid 17th century the flocks provided fleeces for local clothiers. (fn. 16) A small common at Common hill in the south part of the parish was inclosed c. 1715. (fn. 17) In 1838 the meadowland and pasture in the parish covered 960 a. (fn. 18)

Much of the land on the plateau was occupied by the open fields of the parish. Longtree field, recorded c. 1200, (fn. 19) presumably covered the area of Great South field and Little South field on the plateau south of the village, while Up field, which was sown with Longtree in 1381, was probably that later called North field, at the northern boundary of the parish. (fn. 20) Piecemeal inclosure occurred in the early 17th century when Ruggers Green was taken out of the fields and converted to pasture, (fn. 21) and in 1692 the remaining open-field areas of the south fields were known as West field, Longtree field, Linton field, and Ridgeway field. (fn. 22) A fairly extensive inclosure appears to have taken place c. 1715 (fn. 23) but areas of open-field land remained in 1807. (fn. 24) In the eastern portion of the parish Aston field was recorded in 1491 (fn. 25) and in 1660, (fn. 26) by which date it may have been partially inclosed, and Deep field was recorded in 1737. (fn. 27) By 1838 all the former open-field land had been inclosed.

Farms recorded in 1838 included one of 667 a., three of c. 550 a. (one of which contained large areas of woodland), one of 345 a., one of 248 a., three of 100-150 a., four of 50-75 a., and four of 20-30 a. (fn. 28) There were 12 farmers in 1856 but their number fluctuated until the early 20th century when there were usually about 11 farms in the parish. Most of the farms were engaged primarily in arable farming, which continued to be the chief farming activity in 1972. (fn. 29)

Four mills, some of which were possibly at Nailsworth, were recorded in Avening in 1086. (fn. 30) In 1608 17 weavers were recorded at Avening, (fn. 31) and clothiers were recorded from the early 18th century. (fn. 32) In the later 18th century the cloth industry was said to give employment to the lower classes. (fn. 33)

Of the three mills recorded in Avening village on the Avening stream, the highest, Avening Mill, (fn. 34) was a cloth-mill. In 1655 William Gyde, a Stroud clothier, bought lands from the manor, and another William, probably his son, built a fulling-mill before 1704. The younger William died in 1708 and left his mill to trustees for the benefit of his seven children. The property, described as two fulling-mills and a gig-mill, was sold by the trustees to William Skinner, a salter of London, in 1717. In 1720 the mill was sold by Skinner to Edward Lamlee of Chalford, clothier, (fn. 35) whose mortgagee James Randolph later took possession and sold it to Richard Remington of Woodchester, millwright, in 1737. Richard's son Samuel sold the mill in 1766 to Edmund Clutterbuck of Hyde, Minchinhampton, who conveyed it the following year to Giles Earle as agent for Peter Le Chevalier, an alien. Le Chevalier, who was granted letters of denization in 1770, carried on a baking and malting business at the mill, apparently converting it to a corn-mill. He sold it in 1800 to John Blackwell of Nailsworth, clothier, who re-converted it for fulling and conveyed it to William Overbury of Tetbury, wool-stapler, in 1807. Overbury (d. c. 1828) devised his estate to his widow for life and she sold the mill, which by then included a steam-engine, to the elder William Playne of Longfords in 1833. (fn. 36) In 1838 it was used in the cloth industry by the partnership of William Playne, John Wise, and Peter Playne Smith. (fn. 37) It was probably used by W. J. Jeans, silkthrowster, in 1863, (fn. 38) but it later became a corn-mill (fn. 39) and was in use until 1959 when it was still driven by a water-wheel. (fn. 40) In 1972 the four-storey, early-19thcentury buildings were unoccupied.

The mill below, (fn. 41) which descended with the Sandford estate from 1731, (fn. 42) was possibly that which John Saunders held in 1655, (fn. 43) for it was worked by Richard Saunders in the early 18th century. (fn. 44) No tradition exists connecting the mill with the cloth industry and it remained as a corn-mill in the later 19th century. (fn. 45) The lowest mill of the three, recorded from 1824, (fn. 46) was owned by the George family of Avening House. (fn. 47) It is said to have been a cloth-mill at some time (fn. 48) but no evidence has been found to confirm the suggestion. By 1858 the buildings were in ruins. (fn. 49)

Tradesmen recorded at Avening in the Middle Ages included a cobbler and a smith in the early 13th century, (fn. 50) and a smith in 1327. (fn. 51) Apart from those employed in the cloth industry or on the land, the inhabitants of Avening in 1608 included two masons, a tiler, a cooper, a carpenter, a trencher-maker, a tailor, a glover, and a butcher. (fn. 52) A cordwainer was recorded in 1719. (fn. 53) Four stonemasons were working in the parish in 1856 and 6 in 1863, (fn. 54) and quarryowners or stone-merchants were recorded regularly until 1910. Other related trades included hauliers recorded between 1856 and 1939, a tiler and plasterer recorded from 1856, and builders recorded regularly from 1879. Among the tradesmen recorded regularly from 1856 were blacksmiths and tailors until 1939, wheelwrights until 1923, and shoemakers until 1919. (fn. 55)

Two butchers and a baker were usually employed at Avening in the later 19th century and a mealman was recorded in 1856 and 1863. There were six shopkeepers at Avening in 1856 but numbers fell to two by 1939 although there were then also two shops belonging to firms of grocery retailers in the parish. (fn. 56) In 1959 the village shops included two food stores, a newsagent, and a general store. (fn. 57) A motor engineer was recorded in 1931 (fn. 58) and there was a garage in the village in 1959. (fn. 59) Among the less usual trades represented in the parish were those of veterinary surgeon recorded in the later 19th century, (fn. 60) horse trainer recorded in 1910, and photographer recorded in 1935. (fn. 61)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 163v.
  • 2. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS. Latin 5650, f. 29v.
  • 3. Glos. R.O., MF 339/5, f. 47v.
  • 4. Worcs. R.O., 705: 128 [BA 1188/11 (iv)]; Bibliothèque Nationale, MS. Latin 5650, f. 29v.
  • 5. S.C. 6/856/20.
  • 6. S.C. 6/856/23.
  • 7. S.C. 6/856/25.
  • 8. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 163v.
  • 9. Glos. R.O., MF 339/5, ff. 47v.-49.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 49v.-50.
  • 11. S.C. 12/7/65.
  • 12. Glos. R.O., photocopy 959, ff. 12-16.
  • 13. S.C. 6/856/25.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., photocopy 959, f. 12.
  • 15. Smith, Men and Armour, 281-2.
  • 16. E 134/1655 Mich./2.
  • 17. Glos. R.O., D 1812, Ricardo fam., deed 1730.
  • 18. Ibid. P 29A/SD 2/1.
  • 19. Worcs. R.O., 705: 128 [BA 1188/11 (iv)].
  • 20. S.C. 6/856/23; G.D.R., V 5/29T 1.
  • 21. E 134/1657 Mich./40.
  • 22. Glos. R.O., D 131/T 21.
  • 23. Ibid. D 1812, Ricardo fam., deed 1730.
  • 24. G.D.R., V 5/29T 4.
  • 25. S.C. 12/7/65.
  • 26. Glos. R.O., D 1571/E 226.
  • 27. Ibid. E 522; P 29A/SD 2/1.
  • 28. Ibid. P 29A/SD 2/1.
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 30. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 163v.
  • 31. Smith, Men and Armour, 281-2.
  • 32. Glos. R.O., D 131/T 1/1; Bigland, Glos. i. 97.
  • 33. Rudder, Glos. 244.
  • 34. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. LVIII.1 (1884 edn.); the mill is at O.S. Nat. Grid 883980.
  • 35. Glos. R.O., D 131/T 1/1.
  • 36. Ibid. 2.
  • 37. Ibid. P 29A/SD 2/1.
  • 38. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1863), 200.
  • 39. Ibid. (1870 and later edns.).
  • 40. W.I. hist. of Avening, 3.
  • 41. O.S. Map 1/2, 500, Glos. LVIII.1 (1884 edn.); at O.S. Nat. Grid 882980.
  • 42. Glos. R.O., D 445/T 13; P 29A/SD 2/1; see above, pp. 159-60.
  • 43. C.P. 25(2)/554/1655 Trin. no. 39.
  • 44. Glos. R.O., D 445/T 13.
  • 45. Ibid. D 1388/SL 7, no. 9.
  • 46. Greenwood, Map of Glos. (1824); at O.S. Nat. Grid 879982.
  • 47. Glos. R.O., D 2030, abs. of title to Avening House 1870; P 29A/SD 2/1.
  • 48. Tann, Glos. Woollen Mills, 239.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., D 1197/2.
  • 50. Glos. R.O., D 471/T 1/3; Eyre Rolls, 1221-2 (Selden Soc. lix), p. 78.
  • 51. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 17.
  • 52. Smith, Men and Armour, 281-2.
  • 53. Glos. R.O., D 131/T 8.
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 223; (1863), 200.
  • 55. Ibid. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 56. Ibid.
  • 57. W.I. hist. of Avening, 4.
  • 58. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1931), 31.
  • 59. W.I. hist. of Avening, 4.
  • 60. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856-79 edns.).
  • 61. Ibid. (1910), 32; (1935), 32.