Sapperton: Introduction

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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'Sapperton: Introduction', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 87-90. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]


The Rural parish of Sapperton, including the villages of Sapperton and Frampton Mansell, lies 4½ miles west of Cirencester. Except where it crosses the river to take in Dorvel wood the northern boundary of the parish follows the ancient course of the river Frome. (fn. 1) Most of the eastern boundary is marked by the edge of Oakley wood and ancient paths through Hailey wood, and the southern boundary follows the Tarlton-Cherington road. The ancient parish, which included a detached portion of 68 a. in Coates parish east of Coates village (fn. 2) and a number of strips in the open fields of Coates belonging to Sander's farm in that parish, comprised 4,028 a. The open-field land in Coates was exchanged for a triangular area of land, comprising 54 a. and attached to the eastern boundary of Sapperton, at the inclosure of Coates in 1793. (fn. 3) In 1882 the detached portion of the parish was transferred to Coates parish to which the triangular piece of land was returned in 1935. In 1935 a detached portion of Edgeworth, comprising 15 a. by Dorvel wood, was transferred to Sapperton. As a result of the boundary changes the area of the parish in 1971 was 3,921 a. (fn. 4) The following account includes the triangular portion gained in 1793 but not the detached portion in Coates which is reserved for treatment with Coates parish in a later volume.

The parish stretches southwards from the slopes of the Golden Valley and, with the exception of the valley, lies mainly on a plateau above the 500 ft. contour. There are exposures of fuller's earth and the Inferior Oolite in the Golden Valley but most of the parish lies on the Great Oolite and Forest Marble. (fn. 5) In 1086 the woodland in the parish measured ½ league by ¼ league (fn. 6) and was presumably located at Hailey wood in the south-east part. Hailey wood was presumably the site of the park mentioned in 1308, (fn. 7) for it was called Hailey park in the late 16th century. (fn. 8) Formal rides were created in the wood, presumably after it came into the possession of Lord Bathurst in 1730. (fn. 9) Sapperton park, north of Hailey wood, was laid out by Lord Bathurst on former open-field land in 1743 as a continuation of Cirencester Park. (fn. 10) In 1971, when some arable farming was conducted within the park, its western entrance was marked by a large 18th-century, wrought-iron gate. Most of the agricultural land in the parish lay in open fields until the 18th century and two ancient commons in the Golden Valley remained in 1971. (fn. 11)

A number of important ancient routes passed through the parish. Archaeological evidence suggests that a route through Sapperton and Daneway across the river Frome existed in the late Neolithic period (fn. 12) and was probably that said to have been used by the Romans before the building of Ermin Street. (fn. 13) By 1573 a bridge had been built at Daneway (fn. 14) and that part of the road which led up the hill from Daneway to Sapperton village was strengthened in the 1780s to enable coal to be carried from Daneway to Cirencester. (fn. 15) In 1829 that route was altered to pass by the western end of Sapperton village, replacing the former route through the village. (fn. 16) Emmerson Lane, passing south-east of the village, was part of the Great Cotswold ridgeway and an ancient salt-way, (fn. 17) and was presumably the road called the Bristol way in the mid 13th century. (fn. 18) The road from Stroud to Cirencester by way of Minchinhampton, turnpiked in 1752, (fn. 19) passed through the parish. Its western part was replaced in 1814 by a new turnpike road up Cowcombe hill which joined the old route near the settlement called the Downs; (fn. 20) the western part of the old route continued as the road to Minchinhampton (fn. 21) until severed by the building of Aston Down airfield during the First World War. (fn. 22)

The builders of the Thames and Severn canal and the Great Western railway undertook major engineering works to negotiate a route through the parish beneath Sapperton hill. The canal, which was completed as far as Daneway wharf in 1786, entered Sapperton hill ½ mile to the east of the wharf. Work on the tunnel, 3,817 yards in length, began in 1784 and was completed in 1789. The western portal of the tunnel was in the Gothic style with pinnacles and castellations and was in a ruinous state in 1971; the eastern portal (usually called the Coates end) is more grandiose, in classical style. (fn. 23) The last boat passed through the tunnel in 1911 and the section of the canal east of Whitehall bridge in the Golden Valley was abandoned in 1927, the section to the west of the bridge being abandoned in 1933. (fn. 24) The railway tunnel, part of the link between Swindon (Wilts.) and Standish, was begun by the Cheltenham and Great Western Union railway in 1839 and taken over by the G.W.R. in 1843. The tunnel, running from north of Hailey Farm to the Golden Valley and broken by a cutting 100 yards long, was completed in 1845 (fn. 25) and further west the railway was carried by a high brick viaduct of ten arches. A number of buildings originally connected with the canal and railway remained in the parish in 1971. At Daneway the site of the wharf was marked by a depression in the ground and the warehouse attached had been converted for use as a cottage during the 20th century. Across the bridge in Bisley parish stood the Daneway inn, a house built originally to lodge the navvies working on the tunnel and converted for use as a public-house by 1807 when it was called the Bricklayers' Arms, a name it retained until the mid 20th century. (fn. 26) Two lock-keepers' cottages remained standing but in a state of decay in 1971; that near Puck Mill to the north of Frampton Mansell village had been used as a public-house, called the Oak, in the late 19th century. (fn. 27) Near the eastern portal of the canal tunnel another house was built to lodge the navvies; called the New Inn, it was run as a publichouse from the 1790s and later changed its name to the Tunnel House inn. The three-storeyed, bayfronted building was gutted by fire in 1952 and restored. (fn. 28) The navvies working on the railway tunnel were housed at the Barracks, (fn. 29) a terrace of cottages ¼ mile west of Sapperton village on the road to Frampton, which was being converted for use as a private residence in 1971.

The village of Sapperton stands at the upper end of the Golden Valley in the east part of the parish. The ancient part of the village lies to the south and west of the church and site of the manor-house (fn. 30) along the old road to Cirencester, the main road to Frampton Mansell, and Church Lane, which branches north from the latter. The cottages on those roads form a homogeneous group of 17th-, 18th-, and early-19th-century, two-storey, rubble buildings, most of which have wooden casement windows and wooden lintels and one or two of which are gabled. Hill View, north of the rectory on the old road to Cirencester, is a 17th-century Cotswold-style house with a large central gable, which is also a feature of Bachelor's Court, an early18th-century house, formerly Glebe Farm. (fn. 31) The latter situated near the west end of the village facing the green, formerly called Grandmother's Green, (fn. 32) contains some plasterwork by Ernest Gimson. Other 18th-century buildings include the Bell inn on the old Cirencester road, recorded as a public-house from 1781, (fn. 33) and a small cottage, north of the inn, which has a lancet window, probably taken from the church at its rebuilding, over the entrance. Court Farm, formerly Manor Farm or Sapperton Farm, (fn. 34) was a small 18th-century farmhouse to which a large, gabled, Cotswold-style south wing was added in the 19th century. On a path going north from the church to Dorvel wood is an 18th-century, two-storey house faced in rough-cast, formerly called Dorvel House, (fn. 35) where a branch of the Hancox family resided in the 19th and early 20th centuries. (fn. 36)

Much of the building in the eastern part of the village is modern but in the traditional Cotswold style. To the north-east of the church lie Upper Dorvel House and Beechanger, built for themselves by the brothers Ernest and Sidney Barnsley (both d. 1926), and the Leasowes, built by their colleague Ernest Gimson (d. 1919). The houses were built at the beginning of the 20th century (fn. 37) in the traditional style, Upper Dorvel House incorporating an 18thcentury cottage. It has a four-storey, gabled north wing and the hall of the house, part of the original cottage, contains large beams and cornices with decorative plasterwork by Ernest Gimson. (fn. 38) Beechanger contains a tooled stone chimney-piece, and the Leasowes was formerly thatched until gutted by fire (fn. 39) and restored, with a stone tile roof, in the mid 20th century. Ernest Barnsley also designed the village hall, built in 1912 on the site of a blacksmith's shop as the gift of Lilias, Countess Bathurst, (fn. 40) and a pair of cottages at the west end of the village backing on to the green. (fn. 41) Contemporary with those buildings was Glebe House at the south-east corner of the village. The house is built in the traditional style and said to have been designed by the Countess Bathurst. (fn. 42) Other modern buildings in the village include a pair of stone cottages built in 1946 (fn. 43) north-east of the church and the police station built in the 1960s to replace an earlier one opposite the church. (fn. 44) In the 1960s a council estate comprising c. 20 houses, including some bungalows for the aged, was built on land west of the rectory and behind Court Farm. (fn. 45)

A settlement was recorded at Frampton in 1086; (fn. 46) it was called Moises Frampton in 1463 (fn. 47) but later was usually called Frampton Mansell from early owners of the manor. (fn. 48) The oldest part of the village lies in the Golden Valley north of a road running from Sapperton to meet the Cirencester turnpike near the Downs, but in the 19th century, although the church and the school were built to the north of the road, the village developed in a southerly direction towards the Cirencester road. Some of the new building was on Tarlton Lane which leads south-eastwards from the church to the turnpike road and formerly linked the settlement with the village of Tarlton.

The north part of the village contains a number of houses dating from the 17th century, including near the railway viaduct Lower Manor Farm and Little Hattons, which was the home of the owners of Puck Mill, and in the main village opposite the church the Manor. (fn. 49) Frampton House on Tarlton Lane dates from the 17th century but was greatly enlarged and altered during the 19th century to make a Gothic-style residence. There are some 18thcentury farm buildings near by but most of the buildings in that area date from the 19th century and later. A terrace of council houses was built at the west end of the village in the early 20th century and a larger group of semi-detached houses was built on the west side of Tarlton Lane in the 1940s. A Baptist chapel and a wooden parish hall were also built in the 20th century. The village was said to contain 28 houses in the early 18th century (fn. 50) and in 1821 the tithing contained 36 houses occupied by 37 families. (fn. 51)

There was evidently a dwelling at Hailey by 1327 when a William of Hailey was recorded. (fn. 52) There were said to be five houses there in the early 18th century (fn. 53) but only Hailey Farm (fn. 54) and a pair of labourers' cottages survived in 1971.

A number of houses have been built on the old and new Stroud-Cirencester roads in the west of the parish. At the Downs, on the old road west of its junction with the new road, a settlement probably existed from the 17th century; the site of a building is identifiable close to an 18th-century rubble barn with a hipped Cotswold-stone roof and gable ends containing oval and two-light stone windows. The group of buildings was enlarged during the 19th century when the Playne family built the Downs, a two-storey Gothic-style house as the chief residence of their large estate (fn. 55) and also added extensively to the out-buildings. At the junction of the turnpike road and Tarlton Lane is Oxstalls Farm, a thatched, rubble cottage, which has a small thatched barn formerly used as a blacksmith's shop. (fn. 56) About ¼ mile east of Oxstalls Farm, near the site of a beacon, (fn. 57) stands Beacon Tump Farm, the residence of Samuel Bidmead in 1778; (fn. 58) it was greatly restored in the 19th century to make a large Cotswold-style farm-house. The 18th-century cottage behind the farm was formerly the White Horse inn (fn. 59) until a new inn of that name was built at the junction of the old and new turnpike roads in the mid 19th century. (fn. 60)

In 1086 39 tenants were recorded in the parish (fn. 61) and at least 55 people were taxed in 1381. (fn. 62) In 1563 35 households were recorded (fn. 63) and there had been an increase to 60 families by 1650. (fn. 64) The population was said to be 320 in the early 18th century (fn. 65) and was still close to that figure c. 1775. (fn. 66) By 1801 the population had increased to 351 and there was a considerable growth between 1811 and 1821 when 476 people were recorded. The population continued to rise until 1851 when there were 646 inhabitants but declined steadily from that date until 1901 when 419 people were recorded. The population had risen again to 490 people by 1921 from which time there was a steady decline in numbers until 1961 when 377 people lived in the parish. (fn. 67)

The public houses in the parish have mostly been mentioned above; two were recorded in 1755, and in 1781 there were the Bell inn and the Pound of Candles. (fn. 68) The White Horse and the houses catering for the canal trade meant that there were six public houses in the parish in the mid and later 19th century. (fn. 69) The Sapperton Union Society, meeting at the Bell inn in 1830, was presumably replaced by the friendly society recorded there in 1862, and a septennial club met at the Tunnel House inn from 1852. (fn. 70)

The achievements of the various landowners are described below. Other celebrities connected with the parish include Charles Mason, one of the geographers who charted the Mason-Dixon line in America, who was probably born at Sapperton where his wife, Rebekah, is buried. (fn. 71) The arrival of the architect-craftsmen, the Barnsley brothers and Ernest Gimson, in 1903 made Sapperton a centre for the craft movement inspired by William Morris. They built a number of houses in the locality and established workshops, often manned by local craftsmen, producing wrought-iron work, furniture, and decorative plasterwork. Plans for a craft village were abandoned and the workshops moved elsewhere after the deaths of the three leaders but Norman Jewson, an architect and pupil of the three, still lived at Bachelor's Court in 1971 and has recalled some of the early-20th-century character of the village in a personal memoir, By Chance I did Rove. The presence of the craft movement attracted the interest of folk-life scholars such as Cecil Sharp, (fn. 72) and the text of a village mummers' play was recorded in the early 20th century. (fn. 73)

There have been two royal visits to Sapperton: Charles I stayed at Sapperton House on the night of 13 July 1644 (fn. 74) and a more public visit was made in 1788 by George III and the royal family to view the construction of the canal tunnel. (fn. 75)


  • 1. Glos. R.O., TS 182/5. The history of Sapperton given here was written in 1971.
  • 2. O.S. Area Bk. Coates (1876); Sapperton (1885).
  • 3. Glos. R.O., Q/RI 119.
  • 4. Census, 1891, 1931 (pt. ii).
  • 5. Geol. Surv. Map 1", solid, sheet 34 (1857 edn.).
  • 6. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168.
  • 7. Cat. Anct. D. ii, B 3192.
  • 8. Glos. Colln. RV 260.2, rot. 1d.
  • 9. Glos. R.O., D 2525, Sapperton deeds 1710-30; Hailey wood deeds 1705-35; proving wrong the statement in Trans B.G.A.S. 1. 246, 262.
  • 10. Glos. R.O., D 2525, deeds of Sapperton and Frampton 1727-1848.
  • 11. See p. 94.
  • 12. Proc. Prehist. Soc. xvii. 120.
  • 13. Finberg, Glos. Studies, 53.
  • 14. Glos. R.O., D 745/M 1, f. 87.
  • 15. Household, Thames and Severn Canal, 47.
  • 16. Glos. R.O., Q/SRh 1829 A/5.
  • 17. Arch. Jnl. xci. 81-2; cf. Glos. R.O., D 2525, terrier of Sapperton open fields 1730.
  • 18. Cirencester Cart. ii, p. 352; Trans. B.G.A.S. lxi. 87.
  • 19. Glos. R.O., Q/RUm 51; Stroud and Cirencester Roads Act, 25 Geo. II, c. 13.
  • 20. Glos. R.O., Q/RUm 51; Stroud and Chalford Roads Act, 54 Geo. III, c. 80 (Local and Personal).
  • 21. O.S. Map 6", Glos. L. SW. (1884 edn.).
  • 22. TS. notes on Frampton Mansell in Glos. R.O. Libr.
  • 23. Household, Thames and Severn Canal, 42-74, 78.
  • 24. Ibid. 194-5.
  • 25. Glos. Colln. JQ 14.21, offprint of article in Railway Magazine, undated.
  • 26. Household, Thames and Severn Canal, 35, 47-8.
  • 27. O.S. Map 6", Glos. L. NW. (1883 edn.).
  • 28. Household, Thames and Severn Canal, 59-60.
  • 29. N. Jewson, By Chance I did Rove (Cirencester, c. 1950), 64.
  • 30. See p. 91.
  • 31. Jewson, By Chance I did Rove, 104.
  • 32. Ibid. 60.
  • 33. Glos. R.O., Q/AV 3.
  • 34. Glos. R.O., D 2525, survey of Sapperton man. 1857; O.S. Map, 1/25,000 SO 19 (1959 edn.).
  • 35. O.S. Map 6", Glos. L. NE. (1888 edn.).
  • 36. Kelly's Dir Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 37. Verey, Glos. i. 387-8.
  • 38. The house is described and illustrated in Country Life, 10 Apr. 1909, 522-7.
  • 39. Jewson, By Chance I did Rove, 33; the Leasowes is illustrated in W. R. Lethaby, A. H. Powell, F. L. Griggs, Ernest Gimson (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1924), 16, 19, and plate 5.
  • 40. Jewson, By Chance I did Rove, 58, 63.
  • 41. Ex inf. Miss E. Barnsley, of Sapperton.
  • 42. Ex inf. Mr. J. C. P. Lloyd, of Glebe House, agent to the Cirencester Park est.
  • 43. Date on bldg.
  • 44. Ex inf. Mr. Lloyd.
  • 45. Docs. penes the Revd. G. E. Tiley, rector of Sapperton.
  • 46. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168.
  • 47. S.C. 11/242.
  • 48. e.g. Cat. Anct. D. i, B 1061; see below, p. 92.
  • 49. See p. 93.
  • 50. Atkyns, Glos. 639.
  • 51. Census.
  • 52. Glos. Subsidy Roll, 1327, 29.
  • 53. Atkyns, Glos. 639.
  • 54. See p. 93.
  • 55. See p. 92.
  • 56. Ex inf. Mrs. L. R. Workman, of Oxstalls Farm.
  • 57. G.D.R., V 5/260T 1.
  • 58. Glos. R.O., D 1388, TS. copy of Frampton Mansell and Hailey incl. award 1778; cf. Rudd, Bisley with Lypiatt, 98.
  • 59. Ex inf. Mrs. Workman; cf. Bryant, Map of Glos. (1824).
  • 60. Cf. O.S. Map 6", Glos. L. SW. (1884 edn.).
  • 61. Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 168.
  • 62. E 179/113/35A rot. 5; part of the list is mutilated.
  • 63. Bodl. MS. Rawl. C. 790, f. 9v.
  • 64. Trans. B.G.A.S. lxxxiii. 93.
  • 65. Atkyns, Glos. 639.
  • 66. Rudder, Glos. 644.
  • 67. Census, 1801-1961.
  • 68. Glos. R.O., Q/AV 2, rot. 4; Q/AV 3.
  • 69. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns.).
  • 70. P.R.O., Ind. 25526 nos. 422, 473; Ind. 25548 no. 775.
  • 71. Glos. Countryside, July-Sept. 1948, 167; cf. Bigland, Glos. iii, no. 226.
  • 72. Jewson, By Chance I did Rove, 24-33.
  • 73. R. J. E. Tiddy, The Mummers' Play (Oxford, 1923), 170-3.
  • 74. Trans. B.G.A.S. xi. 207.
  • 75. Household, Thames and Severn Canal, 61.