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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Agriculture. The details of the estate held by Edward, sheriff of Wiltshire, in 1086 are not recorded. No teams were employed on the demesne of Brictric's estate at that time. (fn. 1) In 1297 50 a. of arable and small acreages of pasture and meadow were recorded on the manorial demesne, (fn. 2) which was leased to farmers during the 16th century. (fn. 3) The tenants on Brictric's estate in 1086 included 16 villani and 12 bordars working 16 ploughs, and a burgage at Gloucester belonged to the estate. (fn. 4) In 1297 the tenants on Woodchester manor held 4½ yardlands, each yardland owing 2 works weekly between Michaelmas and 1 August and 10 works weekly, provided by two men, at harvest time. (fn. 5) Customary tenements were held by copy for three lives but tenancies at will were also recorded in the 16th century. In 1565 the tenants' customary right to take wood called housestall, haystall, and 'Christmas brondes' was recorded. (fn. 6)
There were fifteen areas of open-field land recorded in 1588, most of which included haystall suggesting that they were not completely free of woodland; (fn. 7) in 1675 Inchcombe field was said to have been wooded in living memory. (fn. 8) Shortcombe field lay in the north part of the parish west of the church, Southfield and Longmoore west of South Woodchester, Atcombe field in the small valley occupied by the estate of that name, and Witcombe field in the area round Bown hill where there was also a very small open field called Huffield; in the extreme south end of the parish were Inchcombe field and Minfield. Small fields called Netherway, the Lye, the Slade, Newcoke, Hackley, and Road field have not been located. The pattern of holdings in the open fields in 1588 suggests that there had been some exchange of strips, held in ridges of one-eighth of an acre. (fn. 9)
Common of pasture in the open fields was regulated by the manor court which was strict on transgressions by draught animals. (fn. 10) The most likely use of common of pasture was for sheep; a shepherd was recorded at Woodchester in 1327 (fn. 11) and in 1500 a tenant was presented for overburdening the common with sheep. (fn. 12) The banks of the Nailsworth stream presumably provided some meadow land and in 1588 there was a common meadow in the south part of the parish. (fn. 13)
In the early 17th century the open-field and common land was inclosed by Sir George Huntley despite the 'rivall reluctation' of the inhabitants. (fn. 14) From that date much of the land in the parish was park-land, and the exploitation of the woodland was of considerable economic importance. (fn. 15) The farms in the parish were mostly small pasture farms, often attached to a mill estate, and in 1838 there were only two farms of over 60 a.: Bird's Hill farm on the Atcombe estate comprised 100 a., two-thirds of which were arable, and Bown Hill farm comprised 290 a. divided equally between pasture and arable. At that date Lord Ducie retained in hand 391 a., of which c. 200 a. were pasture and the residue woodland. (fn. 16) In the early 20th century there were 310 a. of arable, 593½ a. of grass, and 108 a. of woodland and plantation in the parish. (fn. 17)
Mills and the Cloth Industry.
A mill was recorded at Woodchester in 1086. (fn. 18) The cloth industry appears to have been introduced by 1221 when Walter le Walkere was mentioned, (fn. 19) and in 1274 a fuller was recorded. (fn. 20) The cloth industry was subsequently the most important feature of the economic life of the parish until the late 19th century. A gig-mill was recorded in 1517 (fn. 21) and in 1608 the inhabitants of the parish included 7 clothiers, 16 weavers, 5 tuckers, 3 dyers, and 2 millers, by far the greater part of the working population. (fn. 22) By the later 18th century Woodchester was famous for its broadcloth and the larger mills had become showplaces, the earliest napping-mill in the locality having been introduced to Southfields Mill. (fn. 23) After the decline of the cloth industry the mill buildings were converted in the later 19th century for use as saw-mills, engineering works, and for other industrial purposes.
Three mills, of which only Park Mill was in Woodchester parish, stood on the Inch brook. (fn. 24) Park Mill, standing on the lowest lake in Woodchester Park, (fn. 25) was originally attached to an estate owned by John King which was purchased by Lord Ducie (fn. 26) before 1780 when the mill was being worked by James Thomas. (fn. 27) In 1793 it was being worked by Nathaniel Cook, (fn. 28) and it was a corn-mill in 1818 when Thomas Hart was the tenant. (fn. 29) It was apparently the mill described as a bone-mill in 1838 (fn. 30) and it is said to have been used later as a silk-mill and to have been demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 31)
Five of the mills on the Nailsworth stream were in Woodchester parish (fn. 32) and three other small mills stood west of the stream on tributary brooks. The highest on the Nailsworth stream, Inchbrook Mill, (fn. 33) was owned with the Pudhill estate by Ann Cambridge in 1714. The mill, a fulling-mill, had possibly been worked by Ann's husband Nathaniel and his father Richard, and it subsequently descended with the Pudhill estate. In 1758 William Hill was the tenant at the mill, which contained napping-mills, (fn. 34) and he remained there in 1769 when he advertised for a sub-tenant. (fn. 35) In 1780 it was worked by John Rogers. (fn. 36) James Golding, senior, and his partner, also James Golding, both described as clothiers of Pudhill, went bankrupt in 1802, (fn. 37) and in 1807 the mill was occupied by Messrs. Cockle and Wicks. (fn. 38) It was separated temporarily from the Pudhill estate in 1817 when Peter Playne purchased it from the heirs of John Wade. (fn. 39) In 1818 it was being worked as a corn-mill by William Clissold (fn. 40) but by 1838 it was again worked as a cloth-mill, known as Playne's Little Mill, by Peter Playne and Co. (fn. 41) By 1870 the mill was being worked, together with Dyehouse Mill near by, by G. F. Tabram, a shoddy manufacturer. (fn. 42) It had gone out of use by 1900, (fn. 43) and the 17thcentury buildings were used as a residence in 1972.
Below Dyehouse Mill and Merret's Mill, is Frogmarsh Mill, (fn. 44) sometimes known as Bowbridge Mill. (fn. 45) In 1658 the mill, described as containing two stocks, a gig-mill, and a dye-house, was owned and worked by Clutterbuck Dean (d. 1701) but by 1696 it was owned by Mary, widow of Clutterbuck's son Richard. Mary sold the mill in 1702 to Thomas Shurmur (d. 1728), probably her brother-in-law, who devised it, subject to the life-interest of his wife Sarah, to his son Thomas (d. 1792). Thomas left it to a kinsman, also called Thomas Shurmur, whose son and heir Thomas was bankrupt in 1800 when he lost his title to a relation, Sarah Shurmur, who claimed under the will of Thomas (d. 1728). Sarah devised the mill to her niece Elizabeth, wife of William Lovesey of Charlton Kings, who sold it, then being worked as a cloth-mill by Thomas Cooper, to John Knowles in 1806. Knowles (d. 1809) devised it to his wife Sarah (d. 1838) for life with reversion to his nephew John Chalk (d. 1827), (fn. 46) but Chalk had presumably bought out Sarah's interest by 1818 when he owned and worked the mill. (fn. 47) In 1838, when the owner was Chalk's son John Knowles Chalk (d. 1877), (fn. 48) it was leased to the firm of Samuel Francis and A. M. Flint (fn. 49) which continued to work it in 1853. (fn. 50) By 1863 it was occupied by a firm of pin manufacturers, Perkins, Critchley, & Marmont, later known as Perkins & Marmont, which continued at the site until 1934. (fn. 51) By 1939 the Carr Tanning Co. occupied Frogmarsh Mill (fn. 52) and the firm continued at the site in 1972 when c. 100 people were employed. (fn. 53) The mill buildings in part date from the 17th century. A gabled cottage west of the site, presumably used by the tenants of the mill, retains 18th-century features in its fenestration. Opposite the mill stands a round wool-drying tower. A classical garden-house, built c. 1720, formerly stood in the grounds but in 1938 was removed to Lord Aberconway's gardens at Bodnant (Denb.). (fn. 54)
A small mill to the west of Frogmarsh, on a stream rising in the Atcombe estate, was recorded in 1818 when it was being worked as a cloth-mill by William Marling. (fn. 55) The mill was possibly that at Frogmarsh worked by J. W. Darke, woollen manufacturer, in 1820. (fn. 56) It descended with the Atcombe estate and in 1838 was being run as a wool-shop in conjunction with Frogmarsh Mill. (fn. 57) By 1863 the mill was occupied by George Latham, a millwright, (fn. 58) who subsequently converted it for use as a beerhouse called the Ten Bells. He continued his engineering activities and was in possession in 1900 when the beer-house had a saw-mill among the out-buildings. (fn. 59) The buildings date from the 19th century and were used in 1972 as out-buildings for the cottages, formerly Frogmarsh House.
Churches' Mill, downstream of Frogmarsh, (fn. 60) was worked by Thomas Mill in the early 17th century. By 1637, when it included a fulling- and a grist-mill, it belonged to John Churches the elder and was occupied by his son John; in that year the younger John's son, also John, was enfeoffed of the mill by his grandfather. In 1716 John Churches, son of John Churches deceased, was working it. (fn. 61) In 1793 the mill was being worked by Thomas Cooper (fn. 62) and it was owned by William Peach Cooper in 1818 when John Drake was the tenant. (fn. 63) In 1838 it was being worked by Richard Woodwark and Oliver Bird in conjunction with Southfields Mill and New Mill. (fn. 64) The firm, which made superfine cloth, doeskins, scarlet hunters, and billiard cloth, was owned by Oliver Bird in 1863 and was known as Bird & Bubb in 1870. (fn. 65) One of the partners died in 1875 and the mills were sold. In 1879 they were occupied by E. T. Fox & Co., woollen manufacturers, (fn. 66) who remained there until c. 1900 when the mills were put up for sale. (fn. 67) Churches' Mill was later worked for a short period by a firm of mattress and bedding manufacturers. (fn. 68) By 1919 the Gloucester Incubator Co. had developed the site, adding extensive buildings on land south of the mill, (fn. 69) and the firm employed c. 200 people in the late 1930s. (fn. 70) A late17th-century gabled clothier's house stands west of the mill, which retains some 17th-century features. In 1972 the buildings were occupied by two engineering firms, and the site to the south, formerly used by the Incubator Co., had become an industrial estate, used by a firm of machine-tool engineers and as a distribution centre by other firms. (fn. 71)
Southfields Mill, downstream of Churches' Mill, (fn. 72) was known as Shuttle Mill in 1824. (fn. 73) The mill was owned by Elizabeth, widow of Nicholas Paul, c. 1718 when she retained it for her own use. Elizabeth's son Onesiphorous, later Sir Onesiphorous Paul, Bt., (fn. 74) was working the mill in 1731, (fn. 75) and he received Frederick, Prince of Wales, there in 1750. (fn. 76) Sir Onesiphorous died in 1774 and was succeeded by his son Sir Onesiphorous, who assumed the additional forename George in 1780 at which time he was apparently still working the mill. (fn. 77) Sir George, active in county politics and prison reform, (fn. 78) had ceased to work the mill by 1804 when it was occupied by William and Richard Cooper. (fn. 79) By 1818 it was owned by William Peach Cooper and worked by Thomas Sykes. (fn. 80) From 1838 and for the remainder of the 19th century, it was worked in conjunction with Churches' Mill and New Mill and contained two dye-houses, a teazle-house, a tentering house, and a gig-shop when it was put up for sale in 1900. (fn. 81) It was occupied by Southfields Stick Mills Ltd. in the 1920s. (fn. 82) The main buildings had been demolished by 1972 but some small 19thcentury buildings were then occupied by Arthurs Press Ltd. which employed 130 people on the site. (fn. 83) Southfields Mill house, west of the site, was a small, gabled house of the early 17th century, to which a larger south-west wing, containing principal rooms, was added c. 1690. In the mid 18th century, possibly for the royal visit in 1750, the house was extended westwards to incorporate a room and staircase and reoriented, the garden was altered, and gate-posts were added. Further service rooms were added c. 1830.
On the Southfield spring west of Southfields Mill stood New Mills, recorded in 1838 (fn. 84) and worked in conjunction with Southfields and Churches' mills until 1900 when the building contained a waterwheel but was used as a wool warehouse. (fn. 85) The 19th-century mill buildings had been converted to make a house by 1972.
Woodchester Mill, downstream of Southfields Mill, (fn. 86) was sold by Henry Dudbridge to Sir George Huntley in 1605. (fn. 87) The following year Sir George leased the mill to Henry for 99 years and at the same time conveyed the freehold to Stephen Dudbridge, Henry's son. (fn. 88) The mill, comprising two fullingmills and a grain-mill under one roof, passed from Stephen (d. 1639) to his second wife Elizabeth and then to his son Stephen. (fn. 89) From the younger Stephen it passed to his son Henry (fn. 90) (d. 1727), (fn. 91) and Holliday Dudbridge owned the mill c. 1731 when, having erected a new mill by the older building, he was in dispute with Onesiphorous Paul of Southfields Mill over the water supply. (fn. 92) In 1744 the property was leased for 50 years to Samuel Paul of Rodborough (fn. 93) who evidently still occupied it at his death in 1768, when he was said to be the greatest clothier in the county. (fn. 94) Ownership of the mill passed from Holliday Dudbridge (d. 1752) (fn. 95) to William Webb, the husband of his niece Anna, (fn. 96) and William conveyed the premises in 1771 to Obadiah Paul, who held the lease by devise from Samuel. (fn. 97) Obadiah received George III and the royal family at the mill in 1788. (fn. 98) After his death in 1792 it passed to his nephew Samuel Wathen, later Sir Samuel, (fn. 99) and it was being worked by Samuel's son Paul in 1802 when the introduction of shearing machines led to unrest among the employees. (fn. 100) The old mill building was demolished soon after and new buildings erected. (fn. 101) Paul Wathen, who had changed his name to Baghott, continued to work the mill in 1818, (fn. 102) by which time it was mortgaged, (fn. 103) but by 1820 it was being worked by Joseph and Obadiah Paul Wathen, two other sons of Sir Samuel, who became joint owners in 1823. (fn. 104) By 1833 steam-power had been introduced to the mill which was employing between 200 and 300 people in the production of superfine Saxony broadcloth for the firm of Wathen & Cook, in which O. P. Wathen was senior partner. (fn. 105) Wathen was declared bankrupt in 1837 and the mill passed into the possession of P. H. Fisher, the mortgagee. (fn. 106)
Woodchester Mill was unused in 1838 (fn. 107) but by 1845 it was being worked as a cloth-mill by John and Edward Wise, (fn. 108) and Edward Wise bought it from P. H. Fisher in 1868 (fn. 109) and continued there until at least 1879. (fn. 110) In 1885 the mill was occupied by the cloth-making firm of Ellis & Apperly (fn. 111) but clothproduction ceased soon after and in 1901 the buildings were used as a saw-mill. (fn. 112) By 1911 a firm of piano-makers, called Gladman & Co. and later the Stroud Piano Co., occupied the mill, but in 1938 the main building, on the north side of Selsley Road, was burnt down and the firm converted the buildings on the south side of the road. During the Second World War the factory was used by the Gloster Aircraft Co. but production of pianos was resumed after the war. (fn. 113) The firm, known as the Bentley Piano Co., continued at the site in 1972 when some large industrial buildings of the early 19th century remained south of Selsley Road and a small cottage of the same date survived near the older mill-site, on which office accommodation was built in the 1950s. The company also occupied a 20th-century factory east of Southfields Mill from 1938 and in 1972 employed 120 people on both sites. (fn. 114) On the opposite side of the road to Woodchester Mill stands Grigshot House, which was the residence of the owners of the mill in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; (fn. 115) it is a tall, gabled building of the late 18th century.
A mill recorded at the pond just north of the Priory in 1838, when it was owned by Nathaniel Peach but was disused, (fn. 116) was possibly the gig-mill owned by James Harrison and worked by Thomas Sykes in 1818. (fn. 117)
Other Trade and Industry.
Apart from farming and the cloth industry economic activity at Woodchester during the Middle Ages was apparently centred on the exploitation of the woodland and of the stone; a hewer was recorded in 1327, (fn. 118) a slatter in 1306, (fn. 119) and 3 masons in 1381. Three brewers were recorded in 1381. (fn. 120) The growth of the cloth industry encouraged ancillary trades, and 3 carriers recorded in 1608 may have been employed in transporting cloth. (fn. 121) During the later 19th century a millwright and some plumbers were recorded at Woodchester. (fn. 122) After the decline of the cloth industry the mills were put to other industrial uses, and other trades recorded included printing, represented by two firms in 1927, (fn. 123) coal-dealing, recorded from 1879, (fn. 124) and wood-turning and tent-peg making, recorded c. 1940. (fn. 125) A large timber firm founded by Henry Workman (d. 1924) in 1870 later moved to premises adjacent to Woodchester station where it continued until 1957. (fn. 126) In 1972 the premises were occupied by Quaker Chemicals Ltd.
Among the usual service trades of a community were a butcher, a baker, and a carpenter recorded in 1608. (fn. 127) All three trades were recorded regularly during the later 19th century when there were also tailors, bootmakers, a blacksmith, and a wheelwright. (fn. 128) Two seamstresses were recorded in 1879 (fn. 129) and women of the parish were also employed in the convent work-room. (fn. 130) In the 20th century most of the working population were employed in the industries established in the Nailsworth valley or in the towns of Stroud and Nailsworth.