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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In 1086 there was a total of 30 servi and 13 ploughs on the various demesne estates in Rodmarton; the largest was Hazleton which had 4 ploughs and 17 servi. (fn. 1) In 1220 4 plough-lands were recorded in Rodmarton and 8 in Culkerton. (fn. 2) The Hazleton grange estate of Kingswood Abbey was cultivated directly in the mid 13th century; the farm servants and hired labourers included ploughmen, drivers, harvestmen, a cowherd, and a swineherd, (fn. 3) for whom in 1240 the abbey cellarer provided drink at Christmas. (fn. 4) There is no evidence then of sheep-farming which was later of great importance in the estate's economy. (fn. 5) The grange, which in 1291 comprised 9 plough-lands, (fn. 6) was leased in 1318 together with Culkerton manor, (fn. 7) and the grange was being leased at the Dissolution. (fn. 8)
The tenants of Rodmarton manor listed in 1086 were 1 villanus, 2 bordars, and a priest with 1 plough. (fn. 9) The Hazleton estate included 7 villani, whose holdings comprised half tenements, with 3 ploughs. (fn. 10) In 1291 the rent of assize of the Hazleton grange tenants was assessed at £12 13s. 2d. (fn. 11) In 1086 the Culkerton manor estate of Durand had 6 villani with 3 ploughs. (fn. 12) In 1671 there were 5 copyhold tenants on Tarlton manor, three of whom each held 2 yardlands and the other two 3 yardlands and 1 yardland respectively; they owed heriots in cash and had common rights in Tarlton Down. (fn. 13) The copyhold of the James family in Rodmarton in 1718, said to be equivalent to ¾ yardland, comprised a messuage with 3 gardens, a small close of ½ acre, 36 a. of open-field land, and common rights for 40 sheep. (fn. 14) Culkerton manor c. 1785 had 7 leashold tenants and 5 copyhold tenants, the largest copyhold being c. 209 a. (fn. 15) The most prominent copyholders in the 18th century and later were members of the George (fn. 16) and Kilmister families, (fn. 17) both of which purchased large freehold estates in Rodmarton and Cherington in the early 19th century. (fn. 18) In 1845 copyholds in Rodmarton were said to be non-renewable save at the will of the lord and at an arbitrary fine. (fn. 19) Commuted heriots were paid as late as 1864 (fn. 20) and House farm on Rodmarton manor remained a copyhold until 1872, apparently the last land to be held by that tenure in the parish. (fn. 21)
Each of the three tithings had a separate two-field system. (fn. 22) In Rodmarton the north field and the south field, recorded c. 1200 when a yardland contained 24 a. in each, (fn. 23) lay on either side of the village. They were divided by Westley hedge, mentioned in 1661, (fn. 24) and the Cherington road, and the western boundary of the north field followed the old Cheltenham road. (fn. 25) East and west fields were recorded in Culkerton in 1243; (fn. 26) the latter was presumably that called the south field in 1793, lying on both sides of the Ashley road. (fn. 27) The extensive open fields of Tarlton were shared with Coates parish; (fn. 28) the one called the north field lay east of Tarlton, largely in Coates, but the south field, south of the hamlet, included a greater area of Rodmarton parish. (fn. 29)
Common of pasture was provided in the open fields and common downs. The stint in the Rodmarton fields was reduced from 50 to 40 sheep to the yardland before 1680. (fn. 30) The occupants of the Hazleton estate also enjoyed common rights in Cherington parish, (fn. 31) and in the mid 15th century the owner of Langleys estate had common on the manor of Hullasey and Tarlton in Coates. (fn. 32) The main area of common land in Rodmarton parish was Culkerton Down or Culkerdown, recorded in 1661, (fn. 33) east of Culkerton. (fn. 34) About 1785 it comprised 145 a. and was stinted for the 6 principal proprietors in Culkerton. (fn. 35) Haresdown, north of Culkerton, mentioned in 1287, (fn. 36) was used as a sheep-walk in 1671. In the late 17th century the copyholders on Tarlton manor had common rights in Tarlton Down for 21 beasts between 3 May and 29 August. (fn. 37) In 1086 15 a. of meadow were recorded on the Hazleton estate, (fn. 38) but there was always a shortage of meadow in the parish, which is not well watered.
The commonable lands were used extensively as sheep-pastures before inclosure. (fn. 39) In 1327 a shepherd was assessed for tax in Rodmarton tithing (fn. 40) and at that period the wool produced on the Kingswood Abbey estates attracted the attention of Italian merchants. (fn. 41) The lease in 1318 of Culkerton manor and the Hazleton grange to the Florentine Bernard Aringi for life, in which the first 10 years' rent was remitted, (fn. 42) was presumably connected with the wool trade. By 1327 the grange was farmed by the Peruzzi company, (fn. 43) and in 1338 the Peruzzi were allowed to export 105 sacks of wool bought at Tetbury and Culkerton. (fn. 44) Sheep-farming figured prominently in the economy of the Hazleton estate in the early 17th century. (fn. 45)
In the mid 13th century small closes were taken in periodically from the open fields of Culkerton (fn. 46) where in 1297 Kingswood Abbey granted a tenant permission to inclose land. (fn. 47) Nevertheless c. 1785 only 60 a. in the tithing were inclosed while 1,311 a. were open; the figures for Tarlton were 80 a. and 1,361 a. respectively and for Rodmarton 205 a. and 745 a. A close called New Tyning had evidently been taken from the Rodmarton south field. (fn. 48) The Hazleton estate was inclosed early. In the early 17th century it included 270 a. in closes and 564 a. in the Rodmarton and Culkerton open fields, besides land in the Cherington open fields. (fn. 49) The land belonging to the estate in the Rodmarton fields had been reduced to 107 a. by the mid 18th century (fn. 50) and had apparently all been inclosed by 1793. (fn. 51)
Some early encroachments were made on the downs. In the early 13th century the leading freeholders of Culkerton allowed Kingswood Abbey to cultivate in severalty a close called Little Down, west of Culkerdown, but they reserved their commoning rights. (fn. 52) In the early 17th century the field, which was commonable between Michaelmas and Lady Day, belonged to the Hazleton estate (fn. 53) and in the 18th century it was known as Lord's Down. (fn. 54) On the eve of inclosure Lord Ducie disputed the claim that it was open to the same rights as Culkerdown and it was set aside for his several use, but his rights in Culkerdown were restricted to 220 sheep in November. (fn. 55) The common at Haresdown on Tarlton manor had also been encroached upon by 1793. (fn. 56)
The remaining open-field and common land was inclosed in 1793 under Act of Parliament. The area concerned, including land in Coates, was 4,063 a. In Rodmarton the principal beneficiaries were Charles Coxe and his son Charles, who were jointly allotted 124 a. in Rodmarton, 1,155 a. in Tarlton, and 67 a. in Culkerdown; the younger Charles was also awarded 622 a. in Culkerton. The other beneficiaries were Lord Ducie, who was allotted 247 a. in Culkerton, Richard Kilmister, who received 78 a. in Stonehill and Culkerton, Elizabeth George, and three small freeholders. The rector was allotted c. 547 a. for his tithes and glebe. (fn. 57) The inclosure was said to have raised the value of arable from 8s. an acre to 11s.-12s. (fn. 58)
In 1797 there were 8 large farms in the parish which were occupied by 6 tenants. The male population was almost exclusively employed in agriculture. Their twelve-hour working day, their wages of between 6s. and 9s. outside harvest time, and their diet of tea for breakfast and bread, cheese, vegetables, and dumplings for dinner were recorded then as evidence of the spartan life of village labourers. (fn. 59) In 1831 there were 6 agricultural occupiers who employed 68 labourers. (fn. 60) Some labourers were housed on the farms. The Hazleton estate had two labourers' cottages in 1865 (fn. 61) and the rectory estate included four cottages in 1872. (fn. 62) The farms were generally large. In the early 19th century Old farm on Tarlton manor comprised 615 a. (fn. 63) Hazleton farm covered 470 a. in the late 18th century (fn. 64) and 484 a. in 1865. (fn. 65) Rodmarton manor in 1872 included Old Manor farm (310 a.) and House farm (194 a.), (fn. 66) and the rectory farm comprised c. 385 a. in the mid 19th century. (fn. 67) The Kemble estate of Michael Biddulph c. 1890 included Rodmarton Manor farm (550 a.), Culkerton farm (806 a.), and Tarlton Manor farm (1,092 a.); Tarlton farm (778 a.) and Hullasey farm (427 a.) had farm buildings in Tarlton but lay principally in Coates. (fn. 68)
At the end of the 18th century arable farming predominated, but about 1,500 breeding ewes were also kept and their wool was sold directly to manufacturers from the Stroud Valley; (fn. 69) several parishioners were employed as shepherds in the early 19th century. (fn. 70) Stock-rearing and dairy farming were of little importance at the close of the 18th century and only 30 dairy cows were kept but some cheese was made at Tarlton. (fn. 71) In 1801 wheat, oats, and barley were the main crops grown and there were large acreages of turnips and peas and small acreages of vetches and beans. (fn. 72) The size of the stockyards of the farms at Tarlton suggests that cattle-rearing became important in the late 19th century, and the livestock on the Culkerton manor farm in 1888 included a herd of 50 shorthorns as well as a flock of 520 sheep. (fn. 73) Nevertheless arable farming remained predominant; in 1865 Hazleton farm included 411 a. of arable which was cultivated mostly on a five-course rotation. (fn. 74) In 1901 3,820 a. of the parish were arable and 975 a. pasture. (fn. 75) There was a market garden in the parish in 1870 (fn. 76) and a poultry farm in the early 20th century. (fn. 77) In 1974 the Biddulph estate, which comprised c. 1,800 a. and was farmed as a single unit, employed most of the Rodmarton villagers. It was mainly given over to cereal production but a large dairy herd of 200 head was kept and sheepfarming retained its importance. (fn. 78)
The mill in which a half share belonged to the Hazleton estate in 1086 (fn. 79) presumably lay elsewhere as the parish has no stream. The Hazleton mill where William son of Robert Millward was crushed while greasing the shaft c. 1274 (fn. 80) was presumably the windmill recorded there in 1291. (fn. 81) No record of the mill has been found after 1559 when it was held as part of Culkerton manor; (fn. 82) it gave its name to Windmill hill north of Culkerton.
In 1608 32 of the 42 men listed in the parish were engaged in agriculture; the five tradesmen, including one tailor, were engaged in ordinary village crafts. (fn. 83) In 1831 58 families were supported by agriculture and 16 by trade. (fn. 84) Cloth-workers were mentioned in 1641, (fn. 85) and at the end of the 18th century carding and spinning were done by women and children, presumably for Stroud Valley and Tetbury masters. (fn. 86) Rodmarton had a smith in 1608 (fn. 87) and in the late 18th century. (fn. 88) In the 19th and 20th centuries the occupation was followed by several generations of the Baldwin family, (fn. 89) which still worked the smithy by the green for the Biddulph estate in 1974. (fn. 90) In Culkerton, which had a smith in 1608, (fn. 91) a smithy was recorded c. 1785. (fn. 92) In 1793 a smith lived at Tarlton (fn. 93) where there was usually at least one until 1939. (fn. 94) Rodmarton had a cooper in 1608 (fn. 95) and a wheelwright in the mid 18th century. (fn. 96) There was a carpenter at Tarlton in 1608 (fn. 97) and in the early 18th century. (fn. 98) From the early 19th century all three tithings had at least one carpenter, Culkerton until 1870 and Rodmarton aon aarlton until 1919. (fn. 99) In the early 19th century several masons lived in Culkerton (fn. 100) and one in Tarlton. (fn. 101) Rodmarton had a shoemaker in 1773 (fn. 102) and 1863. (fn. 103)
A maltman lived in Culkerton in the early 19th century. (fn. 104) A baker was mentioned there in 1814 (fn. 105) and one at Tarlton in 1818. (fn. 106) In 1840 the parish contained a malt-house and two bakehouses, (fn. 107) and a Cirencester baker moved to Rodmarton in 1896. (fn. 108) A butcher lived there in 1828. (fn. 109) Two shopkeepers were recorded in Culkerton in 1856 (fn. 110) and two in Tarlton in 1910 (fn. 111) but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Rodmarton, Culkerton, and Tarlton usually had one each. (fn. 112) At the beginning of the 20th century a coal-merchant operated from Culkerton railway station (fn. 113) and Culkerton had a horse dealer. (fn. 114) Several carters or carriers worked in Rodmarton and Tarlton in the 19th century, (fn. 115) and in the early 20th carriers operated between Tarlton and Cirencester. (fn. 116) John Barnard of Culkerton (d. 1678) was a surgeon. (fn. 117)