Woodchester: Manor and other estates

Pages 296-297

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 the early 8th century a grant of 3 cassati of wooded land at Woodchester was made to the bishop of Worcester by King Ethelbald of Mercia. (fn. 1) The episcopal estate had been encroached upon by Ethelwald before 896 when the bishop granted a life-interest in the estate to Ethelwald and his son Ahlmund. (fn. 2) The bishop no longer owned an estate in 1066 when there were two estates at Woodchester, one of which, owned by the Saxon thegn Brictric, was in Blacklow hundred. Brictric continued to hold that estate as a tenant of the king in 1086. The other and larger estate at Woodchester was held by Gytha, the wife of Earl Godwin, in 1066 and had passed to the king by 1086 when Edward, sheriff of Wiltshire, was the tenant. (fn. 3) That estate presumably later became the manor of WOODCHESTER, which in 1285 was said to be held of Elizabeth de Rivers, countess of Devon, (fn. 4) and in 1297 of her former fief, the honor of Wight. (fn. 5) In the 14th and 15th centuries it was said to be held of the earls of Salisbury as of the manor of Cassington (Oxon.). (fn. 6)

John Mautravers, who held land at Woodchester in 1199, (fn. 7) was presumably the same man whose lands at Woodchester were confiscated by the Crown in 1216 (fn. 8) and restored in 1217. John died before 1220 when his heir, his son John, was a minor; the younger John died c. 1262 and the manor passed to his son, also John, (fn. 9) who held a knight's fee at Woodchester in 1285. (fn. 10) John died in 1297 and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 11) The estates of the last-named John were forfeited temporarily in 1322 as a result of his son John's rebellion. (fn. 12) In 1338 the elder John settled the manor in reversion on his son John (fn. 13) who was then in exile. (fn. 14) The elder John died in 1341 (fn. 15) and the manor appears to have been held by a younger son called Edmund, who was seised of a knight's fee at Woodchester in 1346, (fn. 16) until Edmund's brother John was restored fully to his estates in 1352. (fn. 17) John died in 1364 having settled Woodchester on his wife Agnes (fn. 18) (d. 1375) (fn. 19) for life with reversion to John FitzAlan of Arundel, who had married Eleanor Mautravers, a grand-daughter of John and Agnes. FitzAlan (d. 1379) was succeeded by his son John (fn. 20) (d. 1390), (fn. 21) whose wife Elizabeth held the manor at her death in 1408 (fn. 22) when her heir was her son John FitzAlan, later earl of Arundel, who was granted livery of his estates in 1410. John (d. 1421) (fn. 23) was survived by his wife Eleanor who retained a third of the manor as dower until her death in 1455. (fn. 24) The remaining two-thirds passed to John's son John (d. 1435) and then to the younger John's son Humphrey, who died a minor in 1438. (fn. 25) Humphrey was succeeded by his uncle William (d. 1487) and the manor continued to descend with the earldom of Arundel to Thomas (d. 1524), William (d. 1544), and Henry. (fn. 26) Henry's son-in-law John, Lord Lumley, held the manor in 1558 or 1559, (fn. 27) and in 1561 it was conveyed by Henry and John to the Crown. (fn. 28)

In 1564 the Crown granted the manor to George Huntley of Frocester (fn. 29) (d. 1580), whose grandson George succeeded. (fn. 30) George, subsequently knighted, died in 1622 when the manor passed to his son William (fn. 31) who conveyed it in 1631 to Sir Robert Ducie, Bt. (fn. 32) (d. 1634). Robert was succeeded by his son Sir Richard (fn. 33) (d. 1657), from whom the estate passed to his brother Sir William, created Viscount Downe (d. 1679). At Sir William's death the estate passed to his niece Elizabeth, wife of Edward Moreton (d. 1687). Elizabeth died in 1703 and was succeeded by her son Matthew Ducie Moreton, (fn. 34) created Lord Ducie of Moreton in 1720; he died in 1735 when the estate passed to his eldest son, also Matthew Ducie Moreton, (fn. 35) who was created Lord Ducie of Tortworth in 1763 and died in 1770. Lord Ducie was succeeded by his nephew Thomas Reynolds, Lord Ducie, who later assumed the name Moreton. Thomas died in 1785 when the estate passed to his brother Francis (d. 1808), who also changed his name to Moreton. Francis was succeeded by his son Thomas Reynolds Moreton, created Earl Ducie in 1837, who was succeeded in 1840 by his son, Henry George Francis. (fn. 36)

Earl Ducie sold the estate in 1846 to William Leigh, who made Woodchester a centre of Roman Catholicism. Leigh died in 1873 and was succeeded by his son William, who returned from the family estates in Australia. William died in 1906 and his son Francis William died the following year when the estate passed to another son Henry Vincent Leigh who sold it in 1922 to J. H. Tooley. (fn. 37) Part of the estate had been sold by Tooley before 1933 when Mrs. M. Brodie owned Bown Hill farm comprising c. 300 a. of land in the parish. (fn. 38) The remaining 300 a. were put up for sale in 1936, (fn. 39) bought by the trustees of the Barnwood House Hospital in 1940, and sold by them c. 1955. (fn. 40) The property passed to a firm of timber-merchants which carried out some deforestation before selling the park to a consortium which employed Fountain Forestry Ltd. as a managing company in 1972. (fn. 41) The manorial rights remained in the Leigh family, members of which continued to reside in the neighbourhood, and descended to Miss Mary Blanche Leigh (d. 1946). (fn. 42)

The house called the Priory occupies the site of the original manor-house near the old church. The house was sold by the lord of the manor in 1602 to Robert Tayloe of Stroud, clothier, and his son Robert. (fn. 43) It was apparently acquired in the 18th century by Samuel Paul (d. 1768). His cousins and joint devisees, John Paul of Tetbury and Obadiah Paul, owned it with an estate of 159 a. in 1781, (fn. 44) and Obadiah's nephew Sir Samuel Wathen lived there in the early 19th century. (fn. 45) The house appears to date from the early 17th century and is a large building with a central hall range and two crosswings. There appear to have been substantial internal alterations in the 18th century but they were mostly overlaid early in the 19th century when internal fittings were replaced and bays added to the principal rooms of the lower storeys. Further alterations were made c. 1870 by the then owner Mrs. Cholmeley (fn. 46) who replaced many windows, replanned the central hall range, removing the hall ceiling and creating a gallery, and built a tower block against the north-west wing, possibly designed by William Clissold of Stroud, the architect of a near-by bailiff's house in 1871. (fn. 47)

In the 18th century the lords of the manor lived at Woodchester Park, also called Spring Park, in the park at the west corner of the parish. In 1797 the house appeared to be classical in design with a three-storeyed centre block and lower, balanced wings. (fn. 48) Substantial alterations were made, including the addition of a library and dining and breakfast rooms designed by John Adey Repton, before 1825 when the main elevation was of uniform height with bows at each end. (fn. 49) The house was deserted for a short period before the alterations were made (fn. 50) and was again deserted when William Leigh purchased the manor. On the advice of Pugin Leigh retained the stable block but demolished the house and began building a new house, called the Mansion, on the site of the old building and terrace. The Mansion is a substantial house in the Tudor, Cotswold style with a chapel built in the 14th-century style. The house was designed by Benjamin Bucknall, possibly with advice from Viollet-le-Duc, and building continued on a day-work system into the 1860s when work stopped with the house still unfinished. The masonry is said to have been carried out by French masons and every possible use was made of stone rather than other materials. (fn. 51) Plans were drawn up c. 1950 to convert the building for office purposes but were abandoned and the house and part of the park were used as a biological field-study centre in 1972. (fn. 52)

An estate at Woodchester, later based on a house called ATCOMBE COURT, formerly called the Salt Box (fn. 53) and Mount Pleasant, (fn. 54) originated in two estates owned by different branches of the King family. (fn. 55) One part of the estate was based on a house called Frogmarsh, near Frogmarsh Mill, which was owned by Nathaniel King and apparently passed to his son John, whose son, also John, settled the estate in 1786 on his eldest son, another John. The lastnamed John King, by will dated 1800, left it to trustees for settlement of his debts with remainder to his wife Mary for life. In 1821 the trustees, with the permission of Mary and her children, sold the estate to Thomas Reddall Haycock (d. 1837), who was succeeded by his cousin William Haycock (d. 1851). William devised the estate to trustees to sell for the benefit of his children, and in 1853 the estate, comprising 117 a., was purchased by the Revd. H. D. Clarke. (fn. 56) In 1873 Clarke sold it to William Ford who conveyed it in 1898 to the trustees of Sidney Biddell and his wife Clara Helen. (fn. 57) The estate later passed to Lt.-Col. G. D. Lutyens-Humphries who sold it c. 1970 to a property company which fragmented the estate, selling the chief house and some land to Maj. M. H. S. Ayshford-Sanford, the owner in 1972. (fn. 58) A small 17th-century house called the Salt Box was owned by Thomas Reddall Haycock (fn. 59) when he purchased the estate in 1821 and he built a new two-storey east range containing principal rooms in a neo-classical style. Smaller additions were made to the north of the east front c. 1860.

A small estate in Woodchester was based on a house called PUDHILL, whose owners were substantial landowners elsewhere in the county. The property was said to belong to John Small c. 1708 (fn. 60) but in 1714 was owned by Ann Cambridge, the widow of Nathaniel Cambridge who had resided at Pudhill. Anne was succeeded by her son Richard (d. 1756), whose widow Mary (d. 1761) sold the property in reversion to her nephew John Wade in order to clear her husband's debts. Wade died in 1793 and was succeeded by Anna, wife of William Gordon (d. 1802). Anna later married John Berkeley Burland (d. by 1811) (fn. 61) and in 1817 she and her son Robert Gordon sold the property, comprising c. 20 a., to the Revd. William Moore who sold it to Peter Playne of Box, Minchinhampton, in 1828. (fn. 62) There was a substantial 17th-century house on the site, part of which was retained for service rooms to the compact Gothic house built soon after 1838. (fn. 63)


  • 1. Cod. Dipl. ed. Kemble, i, pp. 107-8.
  • 2. Ibid. v, pp. 140-1.
  • 3. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 164, 170v.; Taylor, Dom. Glos. 161.
  • 4. Feud. Aids. ii. 244.
  • 5. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 186; Complete Peerage, iv. 322-3.
  • 6. Feud. Aids, ii. 248; Inq. p.m. Glos. 1359-1413, 38, 248; the first references pre-date the grant of the Isle of Wight for life to the earl of Salisbury in 1385: Cal. Pat. 1385-9, 16.
  • 7. C.P. 25(1)/73/1 no. 15.
  • 8. Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 286.
  • 9. Complete Peerage, viii. 578-9.
  • 10. Feud. Aids, ii. 244.
  • 11. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1236-1300, 186-7.
  • 12. Cal. Fine R., 1300-26, 391; Cal. Close, 1318-23, 474.
  • 13. C.P. 25(1)/287/40 no. 261.
  • 14. Complete Peerage, viii. 580-6.
  • 15. Ibid. 580.
  • 16. Feud. Aids, ii. 281.
  • 17. Complete Peerage, viii. 584.
  • 18. Cal. Inq. p.m. xi, p. 454.
  • 19. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1359-1413, 94.
  • 20. Complete Peerage, i. 259-60; Cal. Inq. p.m. xi, p. 454.
  • 21. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1359-1413, 162.
  • 22. Ibid. 247-8.
  • 23. Complete Peerage, i. 247, 260; C 138/59 no. 51.
  • 24. C 139/162 no. 29; S.C. 6/1119/11 m. 2.
  • 25. C 139/71 no. 37; C 139/88 no. 50.
  • 26. Complete Peerage, i. 248-252; Glos. R.O., D 340A/ M 23.
  • 27. Complete Peerage, viii. 278; S.C. 12/33/10.
  • 28. C.P. 25(2)/259/3 Eliz. Hil. no. 8.
  • 29. Cal. Pat. 1563-6, p. 153.
  • 30. C 142/194 no. 16; the wardship of the younger George was granted to his grandmother: Glos. R.O., D 340A/L 2; cf. Visit. Glos. 1623, 93-4.
  • 31. C 142/394 no. 57.
  • 32. C.P. 25(2)/421/7 Chas. I Mich. no. 39.
  • 33. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1625-42, i. 212-15.
  • 34. Glos. R.O., D 340A/T 175-6; for the Ducies see Burke, Peerage (1959), 710-11.
  • 35. Glos. R.O., D 340A/T 182.
  • 36. Ibid. D 587, Charlton man. deeds.
  • 37. Ibid. D 1011/E 1.
  • 38. G.D.R., T 1/201.
  • 39. Glos. R.O., D 2299/6628.
  • 40. Ex inf. the sec., Barnwood House Hospital, Gloucester.
  • 41. Ex inf. Mr. A. Kelly, of Woodchester Park Cottage.
  • 42. Langston, 'Cath. Missions,' i, p. 78.
  • 43. Glos. R.O., D 340A/T 166.
  • 44. Prob. 11/939; Glos. R.O., D 589, Paul fam., terrier 1781.
  • 45. Prob. 11/216; Glos. R.O., D 1388/SL 3, no. 105.
  • 46. Arms on woodwork; cf. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870), 678.
  • 47. Verey, Glos. i. 489.
  • 48. Lysons, Woodchester, plate II.
  • 49. Delineations of Glos. 40, and plate facing p. 38; Colvin, Biog. Dict. of Eng. Architects, 492.
  • 50. Fosbroke, Glos. i. 367.
  • 51. Country Life, 6 Feb. 1969, pp. 284-8, where the house is illustrated.
  • 52. Ex inf. Mr. Kelly.
  • 53. Taylor, Map. of Glos. (1777).
  • 54. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 55. For a smaller estate of the King fam. see Glos. R.O., D 182/III/191.
  • 56. Ibid. D 677/T 6-7. Part of the estate had been mortgaged and passed in 1819 to Thos. Haycock, father of Thos. Reddall, to whom he assigned it in 1821.
  • 57. Ibid. T 8.
  • 58. Ex inf. Mrs. Ayshford-Sanford.
  • 59. Glos. R.O., D 677/T 5.
  • 60. Atkyns, Glos. 848.
  • 61. Glos. R.O., D 1347, Playne fam., Pudhill deeds 1714- 1826; and for the deaths of Ric. and Mary Cambridge, Bigland, Glos. iii, no. 309.
  • 62. Deeds penes Mr. L. E. Polkinghorne, of Pudhill.
  • 63. G.D.R., T 1/201, where the ground plan of the earlier house is shown.