Painswick: Local government

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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'Painswick: Local government', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 79-80. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]


The lord of the manor of Painswick claimed view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, right of gallows, pillory, and tumbril, and suit of four tithingmen c. 1276. (fn. 1) The four tithings presumably corresponded to the later units, which were Edge, which lay in the north-west part of the parish and included most of the town; Spoonbed, which lay north of the town and included part of the High Street; Sheepscombe, north-east of the town; and Stroudend, which comprised the southern peninsula of the parish. (fn. 2) The claims of c. 1276 were again advanced in 1287 with quittance of the shire and hundred courts under a charter of Henry II. (fn. 3) Burgages were established at Painswick by 1324 (fn. 4) but no evidence of a separate borough court exists and from the mid 15th century the burgages were dealt with in the manor court. (fn. 5) In one exceptional case, when alterations were made to the manor customs c. 1442, the town appears to have had special representation within that court. The court was held on several occasions during the year until the mid 15th century; afterwards the general court and view met twice a year (fn. 6) although special courts were held for property transfers. (fn. 7) The court continued to deal with agrarian matters, appointing surveyors of the fields in the 17th century and until the mid 18th, (fn. 8) from which time it usually met solely to deal with copyholds until the early 20th century. (fn. 9) There was a brief temporary revival of the court in 1957 in an attempt to regulate the commons of the parish. (fn. 10)

View of frankpledge was exercised in the 16th and 17th centuries when the lord of the manor also claimed strays and felons' goods, and the court sought to regulate the moral life of the town by appointing wardens of common games and presenting moral misdemeanours. (fn. 11) In the mid 16th century a gallows was erected at Sheepscombe by Sir Anthony Kingston who left a piece of land called Hangman's Acre to the tithingman for its maintenance. The gallows survived into the 18th century. (fn. 12) The court retained some independence from the shire and the hundred into the 17th century when the sheriff or bailiff still required a subpoena to serve a writ within the liberty of the manor. (fn. 13)

The parish was policed by two constables, one for Edge and Spoonbed and the other for Sheepscombe and Stroudend. (fn. 14) The constables were assisted on fair-days by four watchmen. A whipping-post was recorded in 1686 (fn. 15) but the parish lacked a duckingstool, (fn. 16) subsequently provided in 1691. (fn. 17) The lack of a ducking-stool was again presented in 1729. (fn. 18) The town lock-up and the stocks were at the town hall until its demolition in 1840, (fn. 19) after which iron stocks were made and placed by the south-east wall of the churchyard where they remained in 1972. The parish had two churchwardens from the 15th century (fn. 20) and they represented the same tithings as the constables. In 1730 the wardens employed a dogkeeper for the town. (fn. 21)

Each tithing had an overseer of the poor from the mid 18th century. A former church-house, in New Street, was used for the poor in 1681. (fn. 22) The cost of poor-relief in 1700 was £174 but a small-pox epidemic caused the high figure of £415 to be spent in 1714. (fn. 23) By 1732 the expenditure had declined to £258 but a further epidemic in 1741 encouraged the vestry to centralize the administration of relief in the hands of a salaried official and to rate the town separately from the rest of the parish so that the cost of removing victims to a pest-house, at Edge, was borne more equitably. (fn. 24) In 1748 the vestry were committing persons to the workhouse, (fn. 25) recorded from 1729, (fn. 26) and the cost of poor-relief remained fairly steady until 1757 when £572 was spent. In 1758 the experiment of paying a salary to an official was reintroduced and continued in 1782 when the total cost of relief was £704. (fn. 27) In the later 18th century the vestry tried to impose more stringent supervision of relief (fn. 28) but expenditure rose to £991 in 1803, when there were 14 inmates of the workhouse, and to £1,049 in 1813, when the workhouse had 13 inmates. (fn. 29) In 1811 a salaried surgeon and apothecary was appointed by the vestry. The administration of relief was again in the hands of the overseers until 1817 when the vestry voted an annual salary to a guardian of the poor and appointed a governor of the poorhouse. The beginnings of a select vestry are apparent in the decision at that time to limit supervision of poor-relief to ratepayers assessed at over £5 yearly, (fn. 30) and a select vestry of 16 members met from 1823 until at least 1832. (fn. 31) The cost of relief continued to rise steadily to a peak of £2,193 in 1831 but it declined to £1,467 in 1834. (fn. 32) The weaving trade accounted for over 80 per cent of the 242 people known to have been apprenticed by the parish between 1670 and 1835, mostly in the earlier part of the period. (fn. 33) A later expedient of the vestry for reducing the cost of the poor was the sponsorship of emigration to New South Wales (fn. 34) which met with some response in 1838 when 6 persons emigrated. (fn. 35)

Painswick became part of the Stroud poor-law union in 1836. (fn. 36) A committee of health was formed for the parish in 1831 (fn. 37) and an unofficial board of health was established in 1847. The board of health had a fitful career until it was disbanded c. 1860, (fn. 38) so that the parish did not subsequently achieve urban district status and, except for the Uplands area, became part of the Stroud rural district.

A bailiff and crier was recorded in the 18th century and the spirit of antiquarianism common in the town in the late 19th century resulted in a temporary revival of the office. (fn. 39)


  • 1. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 180.
  • 2. Glos. R.O., P 244A/MI 1/1-5.
  • 3. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 251.
  • 4. Inq. p.m. Glos. 1302-58, 185-6.
  • 5. e.g. ct. rolls penes Mr. Blow, ct. 14 June 12 Hen. VI; the town was said to have a mayor, a purely honorific office, in the early 18th cent.: Bodl. MS. Rawl. B. 323, f. 203v.
  • 6. Baddeley, Cotteswold Man. 103-4, quoting Rudder, Glos. 593-4 n.; ct. rolls penes Mr. Blow; Staffs. R.O., D 641/3, Painswick ct. rolls.
  • 7. Ct. rolls exist for the years 1427-1439 and for much of the 16th and early 17th centuries, and an unbroken run of books survives for the period 1720 to 1920. Most of the 16th-century rolls are in Staffs. R.O., D 641/3, and there are a few mid-16th-century rolls in S.C. 2/176/1-2. The remaining rolls and books were in 1972 penes Mr. J. O. T. Blow, Hilles House, Harescombe, the lord of the manor.
  • 8. Ct. rolls and bks. penes Mr. Blow, ct. 18 Apr. 19 Jas. I, 27 Apr. 1727.
  • 9. Ct. bks. penes Mr. Blow, cts. from 1746. Occasionally encroachments on commons were presented: e.g. ct. 1 May 1817.
  • 10. Glos. R.O., PA 244/2; ex inf. Mr. Blow.
  • 11. Staffs. R.O., D 641/3, ct. rolls 6-14 Hen. VIII; ct. rolls penes Mr. Blow, ct. 18 Apr. 19 Jas. I.
  • 12. Atkyns, Glos. 599; G.D.R., T 1/139.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., PA 244/1.
  • 14. Ct. rolls penes Mr. Blow, ct. 18 Apr. 19 Jas. I; Glos. R.O., Q/SO 1, f. 210v.; constables' acct. bk. 1684-1714, penes the vicar.
  • 15. Constables' acct. bk. 1684-1714.
  • 16. Glos. Colln. RF 229.13 (1).
  • 17. Constables' acct. bk. 1684-1714.
  • 18. Ct. bks. penes Mr. Blow, ct. 24 Apr. 1729.
  • 19. M.H. 12/4165; Baddeley, Cotteswold Man., plate facing p. 101.
  • 20. Hockaday Abs. xxii, 1498 visit, f. 28.
  • 21. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1681-1753. The extensive collection of parish government records are listed in B. & G. Par. Recs. 215-8. Those cited below were in 1972 penes the vicar.
  • 22. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1681-1753.
  • 23. Overseers' acct. bk. 1700-22.
  • 24. Overseers' acct. bk. 1722-50; vestry min. bks. 1740-3, 1752-6.
  • 25. Vestry min. bk. 1746-52.
  • 26. Churchwardens' acct. bk. 1681-1753; workho. acct. bk. 1729.
  • 27. Overseers' acct. bks. 1750-60, 1771-83.
  • 28. Vestry min. bks. 1769-74, 1769-84, entries for 1773, 1780.
  • 29. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 170-1; 1818, 144-5.
  • 30. Vestry min. bk. 1808-17.
  • 31. Select vestry min. bk. 1823-32.
  • 32. Poor Law Returns (1830-1), p. 66; (1835), p. 64.
  • 33. Apprenticeship indentures.
  • 34. Vestry min. bk. 1825-38.
  • 35. Rep. Com. Handloom Weavers, p. 411.
  • 36. Poor Law Com. 2nd Rep. p. 523.
  • 37. Select vestry min. bk. 1823-32.
  • 38. Glos. R.O., P 244A/VE 2/1; bd. of health min. bk.
  • 39. Ct. bks. penes Mr. Blow, ct. 10 May 1781; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1889), 862.