Horsley: Introduction

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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'Horsley: Introduction', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 175-177. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol11/pp175-177 [accessed 11 April 2024]


The ancient parish of Horsley, five miles south of Stroud, comprised 4,145 a. and included a number of weaving settlements at its northern end, a settlement at Barton End east of Horsley village, and Chavenage at the southern end of the parish. The northern boundary of the ancient parish followed approximately the Nailsworth-Nympsfield road (fn. 1) but the most northerly settlements, at Rockness, Shortwood, and Newmarket, were included in Nailsworth parish at its formation in 1892. A further 2 a. were transferred from Horsley to Nailsworth in 1935 when 563 a. at the southern end of the parish, including the manor-house at Chavenage, were transferred to Beverstone. (fn. 2) As a result of the changes the parish of Horsley comprised 3,063 a. in 1972. (fn. 3) Unless otherwise stated, the account which follows deals with the ancient parish excluding those areas transferred to Nailsworth, which are treated below.

Outside the valleys formed by the Horsley stream, Miry brook, and brooks at Boscombe in the west and Ledgemore in the east, most of the parish lies above the 500-ft. contour. The valley formed by the Horsley stream lies on the Inferior Oolite but most of Horsley village and the other settlements in the parish are situated on beds of fuller's earth. The north-west part of the parish lies on the Great Oolite and most of the southern area on Forest Marble with a few areas of the Great Oolite. (fn. 4)

Agriculture was formerly conducted in open fields (fn. 5) and in 1972 arable farming was carried on in the southern part of the parish but the hilly northern area was given over primarily to pasture. The valley sides supported extensive beech woods, for which the manor employed a woodward in 1293. (fn. 6) The lord's wood at Lutheredge, on the north-west boundary of the parish, was mentioned in 1530, (fn. 7) but most of the woodland was apparently open to the commoning rights of the inhabitants until 1655 when the lord of the manor was permitted by the parishioners, in return for an annual rent, to inclose over 230 a. of woodland at Longridge, Winnowshedge, and Sealy wood. (fn. 8) Another wood, called Shortwood, lying south of the hamlet later transferred to Nailsworth, (fn. 9) was a custom wood, in which the inhabitants had both common and the right to take timber; it was put under the control of trustees for the inhabitants in 1655. (fn. 10) It covered 105 a. in 1733, (fn. 11) but was felled c. 1829. (fn. 12)

The road running across the south end of the parish, once the Cirencester-Wotton under Edge road, (fn. 13) was known as London way in the 17th century. (fn. 14) It is on part of the Great Cotswold ridgeway and was possibly used by the Romans; a Roman route branched south-westwards from it at Chavenage Green. (fn. 15) The green was the meetingplace of the hundred court (fn. 16) and evidently the place called Longtree where Earl Godwin assembled an army against Edward the Confessor in 1051. (fn. 17) London way was crossed there by the old road from Horsley to Tetbury by way of Hartley bridge and Tiltups End, (fn. 18) and by the old Nailsworth-Tetbury road through Windsorash and Ledgemore Bottom. (fn. 19) The main Bath-Gloucester road, bisecting the parish from south to north, was built in 1780, (fn. 20) although the stretch up to Tiltups End had existed as a turnpike from 1758. (fn. 21) The Nailsworth-Dursley road through Horsley village was turnpiked between Nailsworth and Latterwood in Owlpen in 1800. (fn. 22)

A church, presumably occupying the site of the parish church, was recorded at Horsley in 1105 (fn. 23) and a priory was built to the south of the site. The priory, whose buildings were in a ruinous state in 1375, (fn. 24) had closed by 1380; (fn. 25) an old chapel and a gateway were still standing in the early 18th century. (fn. 26) In addition to a settlement near the church and priory there was a settlement at Ledgemore Bottom in the east part of the parish, presumably served by the church recorded at Chavenage in the mid 13th century. (fn. 27) Eleven inhabitants were assessed for tax at Ledgemore in 1327, (fn. 28) but the village was deserted in 1381, (fn. 29) probably as a result of the Black Death which is known to have caused many deaths in the parish. (fn. 30) The medieval manor-house was built at Chavenage, (fn. 31) and a farm-house recorded in the mid 16th century, when it contained a hall and a parlour with lofts above, a kitchen, and a white house, (fn. 32) was probably that known as Manor Farm north of the manorhouse. The farm-house dates from the 16th century and had a north wing added in the 17th. Lodge Farm, east of the manor-house, was built during the 18th century.

Horsley village developed from the cross-roads east of the church where a group of buildings, including the former Boot inn, recorded between 1779 (fn. 33) and 1939, (fn. 34) retain features dating from the late 17th or early 18th century. Tradition maintains that the cross-roads was the site of the market. (fn. 35) North of the cross-roads stands Horsley Court, a house predominantly of the early 19th century but incorporating a staircase and part of the structure of an early-18th-century house. The large room occupying the north half of the main front was formerly of double height with an encircling gallery at first-floor level. A three-storey porch and a north-west service wing were added in the 19th century. (fn. 36) During the later 19th century it was the chief house of an estate of c. 100 a. owned by Edward Wood Mason (d. 1883). (fn. 37) Cottages were built east of the village on Hay Lane and the lane leading to Washpool from the 18th century. The site of the priory was used for a house of correction, opened in 1791 (fn. 38) and built according to the principles of Sir George Onesiphorous Paul. (fn. 39) The prison was closed and sold in 1878 when the site contained a petty sessional court and committee rooms, cell blocks, chapel, infirmary, two dwellinghouses, and a lodge. (fn. 40) Most of the buildings were demolished but a three-storeyed block was converted for use as a residence, (fn. 41) and in 1972, called the Priory, was used as a local office by the highways department of Gloucestershire county council. A small council estate was built near by in the mid 20th century. In the late 18th and 19th centuries the village grew westwards along the main street to Nupend where a church house was recorded in 1671. (fn. 42) Two farm-houses, one of which was used as cottages in 1972, and a cottage at the west end of Nupend date from the 17th century but most of the buildings are of the 18th or 19th century.

A habitation was recorded in 1327 at Barton End, (fn. 43) named from a barton on the manor estate. (fn. 44) Tenants were recorded there in the mid 16th century (fn. 45) and two houses dating from the 17th century survive, Barton End House (fn. 46) and the Grange, a gabled house which was reoriented with a new north-west front during the 19th century. Some small houses at Upper Barton End date from the late 17th or early 18th century as does a gabled house, used as a small hotel in 1972, situated at Tiltups End ½ mile south of Barton End. An inn, called Tiltups inn or the Black Horse, was recorded there from 1769 (fn. 47) and was housed in a mid-19th-century building in 1972.

Downend, a small settlement north of Horsley village, includes a pair of 17th-century gabled houses. The earlier, western house was formerly the White Hart inn, recorded from 1798. (fn. 48) The situation of the houses, with a small 19th-century residence to the north, suggests that there may have once been a mill there on a tributary of the Horsley stream. The hamlet grew eastwards during the late 18th and the 19th centuries and some private housing and a small council estate were built in the mid 20th century. North of Downend are Sugley Farm, a 17th-century farm-house greatly enlarged in the 19th century, and Tickmorend, where a house was recorded in 1660. (fn. 49) Further north are small groups of 19th-century cottages at Wallow Green and near Fooks Farm, a small 19th-century farm-house recalling the name of a copyhold property mentioned in the 16th century. (fn. 50)

In 1755 four licensed premises were recorded in Horsley parish, including that part later transferred to Nailsworth. (fn. 51) The same area had ten ale-houses in 1785 but the magistrates reduced their number to three the following year. (fn. 52) In 1838, however, Horsley had ten public houses and 31 beer-houses, most of which were presumably in the area later transferred to Nailsworth. (fn. 53) Apart from the public houses already mentioned the Yew Tree was recorded at Nupend from 1870 until 1935, (fn. 54) and the Bell and Castle was recorded from 1870 (fn. 55) and remained in premises east of the parish church in 1972. A friendly society was recorded at the Boot inn in the 1820s (fn. 56) and another met at the school between 1857 and 1859. (fn. 57)

The population figures for Horsley before 1891 include that part of the parish later transferred to Nailsworth. (fn. 58) In 1327 49 inhabitants were assessed for tax. (fn. 59) The parish was apparently severely depopulated at the time of the Black Death (fn. 60) but in 1381 62 persons were assessed for tax. (fn. 61) In 1551 there were 217 communicants in the parish (fn. 62) and 56 households were recorded in 1563. (fn. 63) The number of communicants had increased to 400 by 1603 (fn. 64) and there were said to be 200 families in 1650. (fn. 65) In the early 18th century there were said to be c. 1,200 people living in 300 houses in the parish. (fn. 66) The population increased from 2,971 in 1801 to a peak of 3,690 in 1831 but the decline of the cloth industry resulted in emigration, some of it officially sponsored, and in 1861 2,558 people were enumerated. The population remained steady until 1881. In 1891 1,136 people were recorded in the residual parish and the figure remained steady until 1931 when the population was 1,038. A further change in the boundary contributed to the drop in numbers to 918 in 1951 and in 1961 the population of Horsley was 857. (fn. 67)

A parliamentary garrison was stationed at Horsley in 1643. (fn. 68) Henry Sheppard, a prominent lawyer on the parliamentary side, was born in the parish. (fn. 69) In the first decade of the 19th century a troop of volunteer infantry was raised at Horsley (fn. 70) and presumably included men from the surrounding parishes.


  • 1. O.S. Area Bk. (1884). The history of Horsley given here was written in 1972.
  • 2. Census, 1901, 1931 (pt. ii).
  • 3. Census, 1961.
  • 4. Geol. Surv. Map 1", solid, sheets 34 (1857 edn.); 35 (1866 edn.).
  • 5. See p. 180.
  • 6. S.C. 6/855/2.
  • 7. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 12.
  • 8. Ibid. E 2; cf. ibid. E 16.
  • 9. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 10. Glos. R.O., D 547A/E 2; cf. ibid. E 14, M 29.
  • 11. Ibid. E 16.
  • 12. A. B. Pavey-Smith, Nailsworth from 1500 to 1900 (Stroud, 1960), 14.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., D 566/M16, f. 25.
  • 14. Ibid. D 547A/M35; cf. ibid. D 131/T 3.
  • 15. Arch. Jnl. xci. 81; Margary, Rom. Roads, i, pp. 131-3.
  • 16. Cirencester Cart. ii, p. 623; Cal. Inq. Misc. vii, p. 17.
  • 17. A.-S. Chron. ed. Dorothy Whitelock (1961), 117.
  • 18. Tetbury Roads Act, 31 Geo. II, c. 65.
  • 19. Cf. O.S. Map 1/2, 500, Glos. LVII. 3 (1885 edn.).
  • 20. Tiltups Inn to Dudbridge Roads Act, 20 Geo. III, c. 84.
  • 21. Tetbury Roads Act, 31 Geo. II, c. 65.
  • 22. Tetbury Roads Act, 39 & 40 Geo. III, c. 75 (Local and Personal).
  • 23. See p. 182.
  • 24. Reg. Sede Vacante, 347.
  • 25. V.C.H. Glos. ii. 92.
  • 26. Atkyns, Glos. 483.
  • 27. J.I. 1/274 rot. 2d.
  • 28. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 16.
  • 29. E 179/113/35A rot. 8a.
  • 30. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, p. 73.
  • 31. See p. 178.
  • 32. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, f. 5v.
  • 33. Glouc. Jnl. 2 Aug. 1779.
  • 34. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1939), 235.
  • 35. M. Rudkin, Hist. of Horsley (Dursley, 1884), 62.
  • 36. The porch has a reset stone with the date 1608.
  • 37. Glos. R.O., D 2299/52, 600B; cf. Painswick Annual Reg. 1890-9 (Glouc.), 26.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., Q/AG 7, pp. 125, 127.
  • 39. Finberg, Glos. Studies, 211-12.
  • 40. Glos. R.O., Q/AG 10.
  • 41. Rudkin, Horsley, 18; cf. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1906), 219.
  • 42. Glos. Colln. RX 167.1.
  • 43. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 16.
  • 44. S.C. 6/855/3.
  • 45. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, f. 1.
  • 46. See p. 179.
  • 47. Glouc. Jnl. 15 May 1769.
  • 48. O.S. Map 6", Glos. LVII. NE. (1889 edn.); Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 14.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., D 547A/E 13.
  • 50. Ibid. M 33.
  • 51. Ibid. Q/AV 2, rot. 4.
  • 52. Glouc. Jnl. 2 Oct. 1786.
  • 53. Rep. Com. Handloom Weavers, p. 471.
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870 and later edns.).
  • 55. Ibid. (1870), 583.
  • 56. Glos. R.O., Q/RSf 2; P.R.O., Ind. 25526 no. 124.
  • 57. P.R.O., Ind. 25536 no. 672.
  • 58. Census, 1891, treats Horsley as if it had already been dismembered to form Nailsworth.
  • 59. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 16.
  • 60. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, p. 73.
  • 61. E 179/113/35A rot. 8a.
  • 62. E.H.R. xix. 115.
  • 63. Bodl. MS. Rawl. C. 790, f. 10v.
  • 64. B.L. Harl. MS. 594, f. 236v.
  • 65. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 92.
  • 66. Atkyns, Glos. 483.
  • 67. Census, 1801-1961; M.H. 12/4166.
  • 68. Bibliotheca Glos. ii. 308.
  • 69. D.N.B.
  • 70. Glos. Colln. RV 167.1.