Horsley: Economic history

Pages 179-181

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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Four ploughs were recorded on the demesne in 1086 (fn. 1) and by the 13th century the lord's estate was said to comprise 6 plough-lands. (fn. 2) The demesne farm included a barton in the east part of the parish in 1332 when 4 ploughmen, 4 drivers of plough-teams, and 2 carters were employed. (fn. 3) The demesne arable remained in hand in 1415 but it was being leased by 1426. (fn. 4) In addition to his arable land the lord owned extensive pasture land at Chavenage Down and smaller areas scattered through the parish. (fn. 5) In the 13th century it was said that the manor, if stocked, could support 500 sheep. (fn. 6) A sheepfold was recorded at Chavenage in 1332 (fn. 7) and a sheep-house had been built by 1541. (fn. 8) In 1332, when the lord's flocks comprised 307 wethers, 285 sheep, 168 rams, and 200 lambs, 3 shepherds were employed with 2 boys to assist at lambing. (fn. 9) From the 14th century sales of sheepskins, coarse wool, and fine wool were an important source of income, and sales of wool in 1453 amounted to £12 9s. (fn. 10)

The tenants at Horsley in 1086 included 6 villani and 5 bordars, working 6 ploughs, and a radknight. A house in Gloucester was attached to the estate at that time. (fn. 11) In the 13th century the tenants were said to hold 30 yardlands, (fn. 12) and in 1293 owners of yardlands, half yardlands, fardels, and mondaylands were recorded. Tenants owed pannage of pigs (fn. 13) and heriots were due from some holdings. (fn. 14) Copyhold tenure was usually for three lives but a four-life copy was recorded in the mid 16th century, when haymaking services were still owed by some tenants. At that time some properties owed rents of hens and eggs for their customary right in the woodland. (fn. 15) In the later 16th century much copyhold property was converted to leasehold (fn. 16) but copyhold tenure was recorded in 1671. (fn. 17)

Common of pasture was a valuable asset to the tenants on the manor and in the mid 16th century was apparently stinted at 100 sheep to a yardland. (fn. 18) In 1630 the stint was reduced by one-fifth and the use of the smaller open fields was restricted. By-laws were drawn up then to regulate the pasture and 6 sheep-tellers were appointed to survey the pastures four times a year. Tenants could lease their common rights to each other but, unless they could claim ancient usage, they had to keep their flocks in those fields in which their lands lay. Fourteen of the tenants, with commoning rights for 1,055 sheep, agreed to finance any action that needed to be brought against transgressors of the by-laws. (fn. 19)

Arable farming was conducted in open fields which survived into the 18th century. (fn. 20) In the northern part of the parish were Sealywood (or Nupend) field, which was in two parts in the mid 16th century, and Wimblybarrow field at Tickmorend. (fn. 21) Common field, recorded in 1332 and apparently an open field in 1777, Chavenage field, Coniger field, and Hazlecote field lay in the southern part of the parish. (fn. 22) In the eastern part were Barton (or Old) field and Binbury field and there were also some smaller open fields recorded in the mid 16th century. (fn. 23) Some piecemeal inclosure had presumably taken place by 1630 when the manor court sought to regulate such activity (fn. 24) and further inclosure had occurred by the 1730s. (fn. 25) In 1807 it was said that the commoning rights of the parish had been reduced to nothing because of surreptitious inclosure. (fn. 26)

In 1801 there were 1,112½ a. under the plough in Horsley, including that part later transferred to Nailsworth, (fn. 27) and 15 yeomen and most of the 103 labourers recorded in the parish in 1811 would have been employed on the land. (fn. 28) In 1840 three-fifths of the farm land in the parish was arable and there were two farms of c. 600 a., one of 433 a., one of 277 a., and four of 100-150 a., including property in the Nailsworth area. (fn. 29) In 1856 11 farmers were recorded at Horsley and their number had increased to 16 by 1889. (fn. 30) During the later 19th century the proportion of arable farming in the parish dropped and c. 1901 there were 1,313 a. of arable land and 1,805 a. of grassland in the parish. (fn. 31) The number of farms remained at c. 14 until the First World War but consolidation of properties resulted in a decline in numbers by 1939. (fn. 32)

A mill was recorded at Horsley in 1086 (fn. 33) and three mills were recorded on the manor in the 13th century, (fn. 34) some of which may have been in that part later transferred to Nailsworth. The mills situated in Horsley were small concerns on the Horsley stream. Three were recorded there in 1824: (fn. 35) Hartley Bridge Mill, downstream of the bridge, later belonged to a farm at Barton End and was worked as a corn-mill until the end of the 19th century; (fn. 36) a mill below, at Washpool, had apparently been built in 1796 by John Remington; (fn. 37) and the third mill, at the east end of Downend hamlet, may have been used in the cloth industry in 1840 when a house at the site belonged to Peter Playne. (fn. 38) Horsley Mill, (fn. 39) below the Downend mill, was probably the one built at Horsley by the Playnes of Longfords Mill in the early 19th century. (fn. 40) It was being worked by the firm of Playne and Smith in 1839. (fn. 41) In 1879 it was occupied by John Roberts, a flock-merchant, (fn. 42) but by 1885 walking-sticks were being made there by H. W. Jones (fn. 43) and the same business was carried on in the 1890s by E. Beard & Co. (fn. 44) In the first decade of the 20th century the Surrey Trout Farm purchased the property with the mill at Downend and the next mill-pond downstream at Millbottom in Nailsworth parish. The firm, which later used the name Midland Fisheries, continued to use the premises for trout-farming in 1972. (fn. 45) Part of Horsley Mill had been demolished by 1972 but a small two-storey wing with a 19th-century house remained. In addition to the water-mills in the parish a windmill was recorded west of Tiltups End in 1824. Called the Black Horse Mill, it was probably used as a corn-mill in conjunction with the inn of that name. (fn. 46)

The concentration of mills at the northern end of the parish in what became Nailsworth made Horsley dependent upon the cloth industry. (fn. 47) The importance of the cloth industry in the parish is illustrated by the trades recorded in 1608 and 1811 when the Nailsworth part of the parish was included in the totals. In 1608 a clothier, a dyer, 13 tuckers, and 40 weavers were living at Horsley, (fn. 48) and in 1811 19 clothiers, 172 weavers, 19 shearmen, 14 spinners, 4 cloth-workers, 3 blue-dyers, 2 wool-pickers, 2 jenny-spinners, 2 millwrights, a shuttle-maker, and a yarn-maker were enumerated. (fn. 49)

Tradesmen recorded at Horsley in the Middle Ages include a charcoal-burner in 1262, (fn. 50) a bowyer, a glasswright, a carter, and a tailor in 1327, (fn. 51) and a carpenter, a tiler, and a brewer in 1381. (fn. 52) In the early 19th century the exploitation of the woodland provided employment, and 14 carpenters, 12 saddletree makers, 11 sawyers, 2 timber-dealers, 2 chairmakers, 2 wheelwrights, and a woodcutter were recorded in 1811. (fn. 53) Quarrying was never an important factor in the parochial economy but 3 stone-layers were working in the parish in 1608 (fn. 54) and 11 masons in 1811. (fn. 55) The urban growth at the Nailsworth end of the parish is possibly reflected by the presence in Horsley of a mercer and a chandler in 1608 (fn. 56) and a peruke-maker in 1757, (fn. 57) and by the wide distribution of retail and service trades recorded in 1811. (fn. 58) Of the usual service industries connected with small communities Horsley had a plasterer and a carpenter until at least 1935 (fn. 59) and a blacksmith and a baker until at least 1939. (fn. 60)

A market, possibly of medieval origin, was being held at Horsley on Saturdays c. 1775. It was then said to be almost disused (fn. 61) and it had been discontinued by 1804. (fn. 62)


  • 1. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 166v.
  • 2. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 51.
  • 3. S.C. 6/855/3.
  • 4. S.C. 6/855/10-12.
  • 5. S.C. 6/855/12.
  • 6. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 51.
  • 7. S.C. 6/855/3.
  • 8. Hockaday Abs. ccxlvi.
  • 9. S.C. 6/855/3.
  • 10. S.C. 6/855/3, 28.
  • 11. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 166v.
  • 12. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 51.
  • 13. S.C. 6/855/3; S.C. 6/Hen. VIII/1131.
  • 14. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, p. 79; S.C. 6/855/11.
  • 15. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, ff. 1-6.
  • 16. Ibid. M 39.
  • 17. Glos. Colln. RX 167.1.
  • 18. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, ff. 1-6.
  • 19. Ibid. M 29.
  • 20. Ibid. E 16; D 587, Castleman fam., Chancery bill 1795.
  • 21. Ibid. D 547A/M 32, f. 3; T 24; D 2219/3/4.
  • 22. S.C. 6/855/3; Taylor, Map of Glos. (1777); Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, ff. 1-6; E 14.
  • 23. Glos. R.O., D 547A/M 32, ff. 1-6; M 34.
  • 24. Ibid. M 29.
  • 25. Ibid. E 16; D 587, Castleman fam., Chancery bill 1795.
  • 26. Fosbrooke, Glos. i. 404.
  • 27. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxviii. 178.
  • 28. Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 7/1.
  • 29. Ibid. D 2219/3/4.
  • 30. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856), 312; (1889), 520-1.
  • 31. Acreage Returns, 1901.
  • 32. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1902 and later edns.).
  • 33. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 166v.
  • 34. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 51.
  • 35. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 36. Glos. R.O., D 1388/SL 3, no. 78; SL 4, no. 8; O.S Map 1/2,500, Glos. LVII. 3 (1885, 1902 edns.); the mill was at O.S. Nat. Grid 841979.
  • 37. Glos. R.O., P 181/IN 1/5; Rudkin, Horsley, 72; at O.S. Nat. Grid 842982.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., D 2219/3/4; at O.S. Nat. Grid 843983.
  • 39. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. LVII. 3 (1885 edn.); at O.S. Nat. Grid 844987. Horsley Mill was not marked on Bryant's map of 1824 but it may have existed then, for the pond was shown.
  • 40. Playne, Minch. and Avening, 151.
  • 41. Robson's Dir. Glos. (1839), 92.
  • 42. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1879), 687.
  • 43. Ibid. (1885), 506.
  • 44. Ibid. (1893), 212; (1897), 215.
  • 45. Ex inf. Mr. D. F. Leney, a director.
  • 46. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 47. Atkyns, Glos. 483.
  • 48. Smith, Men and Armour, 278-80.
  • 49. Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 7/1.
  • 50. Trans. B.G.A.S. xxii. 215.
  • 51. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 16.
  • 52. E 179/113/35A rot. 8A.
  • 53. Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 7/1.
  • 54. Smith, Men and Armour, 280.
  • 55. Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 7/1.
  • 56. Smith, Men and Armour, 279.
  • 57. Rudkin, Horsley, 53.
  • 58. Glos. R.O., P 181/OV 7/1.
  • 59. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1935), 229.
  • 60. Ibid. (1939), 235.
  • 61. Rudder, Glos. 502.
  • 62. Brayley and Britain, Beauties of Eng. & Wales, v. 588.