A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 12. Originally published by Boydell & Brewer for Victoria County History, Woodbridge, 2010.
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SOCIAL LIFE AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE
In the early Middle Ages Cormeilles abbey (fn. 1) dominated Newent as founder of its market town, chief lord of much of the parish, owner of a large demesne farm, and rector of the parish church. Its local administrators, the priors of Newent, were all or mostly Frenchmen from Normandy, including Simon of Moyaux (fl. 1241, 1253), (fn. 2) John of Moyaux (fl. 1260), (fn. 3) Simon of Goupillières (fl. 1277, 1298), (fn. 4) and William of Hacqueville (fl. 1303, 1311). (fn. 5) Possibly that contributed to tensions between the lords and their tenants in the late 13th century when the inhabitants of the town attempted to assert their separate status within the manor. (fn. 6) The priors remained in control of the manor as farmers after the outbreak of the wars with France, but in the early 15th century Newent passed to a new lord, Fotheringhay college, under whom more freedom and control was apparently given to manor and town officials.
Most of the post-medieval lords were not resident, though for the Winters of Lydney and their successors the Foleys of Stoke Edith, influential families in nearby parts of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, Newent with its woodland and other assets formed an important part of their estates. In the Civil War the ownership of Sir John Winter, leader of the royalists in west Gloucestershire, put Newent in the royalist camp, and during 1643 and 1644 a force based in the town under Colonel Nicholas Min was among garrisons attempting to contain the parliamentarians at Gloucester. (fn. 7) Many Newent people had family and other connexions with the city and when Min's troops first arrived they met opposition, requiring conciliation by Winter's steward to defuse the situation. (fn. 8) Under the Foleys the day-to-day running of the manor estate was left to agents such as John Spicer, manager of the Ellbridge ironworks in the 1660s and 1670s, (fn. 9) and William Deykes, who served three successive owners for 50 years until his death in 1827. (fn. 10) The incumbents of Newent were often active figures in the community, among them John Foley (d. 1803) and Richard Onslow (d. 1849) who married into the Foley family. (fn. 11) The latter's son, Richard Foley Onslow, who succeeded to the manor estate in 1861, became Newent's first truly resident squire for many years. He enlarged one of its farmhouses, Stardens, as his own dwelling, was prominent as a local magistrate, and was master of a pack of harriers, which he kennelled in a building in Watery Lane. (fn. 12) Later in the 19th century Andrew Knowles, who became owner of Newent Court, the largest house in the parish, shared the role of squire with the Onslows. The sale and dispersal of both the Knowles and Onslow estates in the years 1910 to 1913 marked the end of the era of large landowners in Newent.
Throughout the centuries the lords of Newent manor were only the leading landowners among many; there were several families of minor gentry, with manorial estates, and a large body of freehold farmers. In 1522 of 151 people assessed in the parish for a military survey 40 had an assessment on land as well as goods. The wealthiest inhabitant was then Roger Porter, (fn. 13) who occupied a large house in the town's market place and probably had by then built up an estate with houses in the town and farms outside it that his family held for the next 100 years or so. As a lawyer and a man of influence beyond the parish, it was to Porter that the Newent parishioners turned for help c.1515 when contesting what they regarded as an unjust levy of tax. (fn. 14) The muster roll for 1608 reflects the diverse character of the large parish, with (of those whose status or occupation was given) 11 persons styled as gentlemen, 25 as yeomen, 18 as husbandmen, 60 as labourers, 20 as servants, and 90 as tradesmen of various kinds (64 in the town and adjoining parts of Newent tithing and the remainder in the rural tithings). (fn. 15) Among the gentry in the early modern period the families of Dobyns, Rogers, Woodward, Nourse, and Morse were prominent, and among the yeoman farmers, a class that was strengthened by the enfranchisement of copyholds and the general amalgamation of holdings, the Hartlands, Astmans, and Hankinses were represented for many generations.
Cottagers who established themselves around commons and greens on the fringes of the parish were a growing element. That was a process that the landowners generally sanctioned as long as their rights were acknowledged by the acceptance of leases at small reserved rents. The plots of land and orchard taken in around the cottages, together with the opportunities of working part-time in the local woodlands and doing harvest work and fruit picking on the farms, gave the settlers a life-style that was independent and often characterized as feckless. (fn. 16) Gorsley common, which attracted the largest body of settlers, was known sometimes as 'Heathen's Heath' before benefiting during the 19th century from the influence of a Baptist chapel and later an Anglican church. (fn. 17)
Newent town remained integrated institutionally with the large manor and parish and, having few wealthy inhabitants of its own, its administration tended to be dominated by the resident landowners and farmers of the rural tithings. At the rebuilding of the parish church in the 1670s the lead was taken by the landowners, whose status was underlined by their appropriating the most prestigious seating in the new church. (fn. 18) Poor relief, though centralized in a workhouse in the town from the 1760s, was also directed mainly by the landowners and leading farmers. In the 19th century and the early 20th the financing of public services for the town sometimes created tension between the townspeople and the rural ratepayers. (fn. 19) In the absence of many wealthy tradesmen or shopkeepers, professional men, doctors among them, often took the lead in the town's affairs. (fn. 20) The solicitor Edmund Edmonds gained a prominent position in the town's public life in the mid 19th century, with the result that his trial (and acquittal) in 1872 for the manslaughter of his wife attracted much sensational interest and revealed some of the jealousies and tensions of life in the small town. (fn. 21) Newent preserved its small-town character until the mid 20th century, when the addition of new housing estates began to have an impact. Gloucester city, which at less than eight miles away had long been a factor in the town's history as a provider of services, a competitor for agricultural market trade, (fn. 22) and a magnet for young men seeking apprenticeships, (fn. 23) loomed even larger as the employer of the bulk of the inhabitants. In the 1960s there was local concern that Newent was becoming merely a dormitory suburb (fn. 24) and the end of its administrative role as centre of a rural district in 1974 appeared as a further loss of identity. By the beginning of the 21st century the establishment of some light industry, the enlargement of its secondary school, and the provision of new community facilities had to some extent redressed the balance.
Among Newent inhabitants who have achieved a more than local reputation was Timothy Nourse (d. 1699) of Southends Farm, theologian and writer. (fn. 25) His nephew and fellow-landowner Walter Nourse (d. 1743) compiled c.1725 a discursive but informative account of recent Newent events. (fn. 26) Revd John Lightfoot (1735–88), the son of a yeoman farmer of the parish, became a distinguished naturalist and the author of Flora Scotica. The composer Rutland Boughton (1878–1960), who enjoyed success with The Immortal Hour and other works in the 1920s, lived in his later years on a smallholding at Kilcot. Robert ('Joe') Meek (1929–67), who was born in Newent town, became known in the field of popular music for introducing experimental techniques to record production. (fn. 27)
Inns and Public Houses
In the late Middle Ages the town had numerous small alehouses, usually kept by women or as a sideline by minor tradesmen. (fn. 28) In 1596 eight men were indicted for keeping unlicensed alehouses, (fn. 29) and two years later a butcher and labourer were among those keeping ale- and cider-houses and allowing illegal games at them. (fn. 30) The King's Head adjoining the churchyard was at one time the principal inn of the town but by 1711 it had apparently closed. (fn. 31) In the late 18th century the George, on the opposite south side of Church Street, was regarded as the town's chief inn. (fn. 32) Following the improvement of the Ross road in the early 19th century, it became a posting-house and a stopping-place for Gloucester and Hereford coaches, as well as having an assembly room for balls and concerts, putting up commercial travellers, and providing the venue for the Newent court leet. (fn. 33) The only comparable establishment was the Red Lion, at the north-west corner of the market place. Recorded from 1776, (fn. 34) it was the only other public house accorded the status of an inn and posting-house in 1822. (fn. 35) In 1856 a main part of its trade was catering for commercial travellers and for farmers on market days, (fn. 36) and by 1870 it too had an assembly room for concerts and meetings. (fn. 37)
Among other public houses in the town, the Bull on the corner of Church Street and the market place had opened by 1702 (fn. 38) and survived until c.1916. (fn. 39) Adjoining it on the south side, facing the market place, was the Royal Oak, open by 1719 (fn. 40) and until the early 20th century. (fn. 41) North-east of the Bull, in Church Street, a public house called the Bell closed c.1779. (fn. 42) A house at the other end of Church Street became an inn, under the sign of the Black Dog, in the mid 19th century. (fn. 43) On the north-east side of Lewall Street (as that name was originally used) an inn called the Horseshoe opened in the late 17th century, (fn. 44) but before 1732 its sign moved to a house on the other side of the street that was replaced by the Congregational chapel in 1845. (fn. 45) At the corner of Lewall Street and Culver Street, an inn called the Black Swan changed its name to the Duke of Marlborough's Head in the early 18th century (presumably in the first decade); it closed before 1832, but by 1892 and until c.1917 part of the building on the same site was the Nag's Head inn. (fn. 46) On the west side of Culver Street an inn called the Pied Horse in 1726 later took the sign of the King's Head but closed before 1800. (fn. 47) In New Street the Crown, at the north end on the corner with the Ross road, was open by 1660 (fn. 48) and until the mid 19th century. (fn. 49) In 1700 New Street also had an inn called the Lamb, whose site has not been identified. (fn. 50) The New inn on the west side of the street (at the house later called Noent House) had opened by 1891 (fn. 51) but closed c.1915. (fn. 52) The King's Arms, on the north side of the Ross road, had opened by 1822, (fn. 53) and by 1861 and until the early 20th century there was a small public house called the Anchor on the west side of Bridge Street by the old canal. (fn. 54) Of the nine public houses that were open in the town in 1891, (fn. 55) the George, Red Lion, Black Dog, and King's Arms survived in 2007.
In the rural parts of the parish there were only a few public houses, though some of the hamlets no doubt had unnamed and unrecorded ale- or ciderhouses. In Kilcot an inn called the Welsh Harp had opened on the Ross road 2 km west of the town by 1736. (fn. 56) It still bore that sign, possibly connected with Welsh cattle drovers using the route, in the early 19th century (fn. 57) but was more usually known as the Kilcot inn. A house standing by Gorsley ford, where the Ross road in its original course crossed the Ell brook, was known as Dun Cow and may have been an inn; it was burnt down before 1719. (fn. 58) On the Gloucester road south-east of the town, near the road junction at Almshouse Green, the Traveller's Rest public house had opened by 1841 (fn. 59) and remained open in 2007. A public house called the Plough, to the north of Clifford's Mesne on the Newent road, was open for a short period in the late 19th century. (fn. 60) In 2007 Clifford's Mesne was served by the Yew Tree inn at the south side of hamlet, part of Aston Ingham (Herefs.) until the boundary change of 1965.
Clubs, Societies, and Public Meeting Places
Until the late 19th century the public houses provided the main meeting places in the town, among other things for its friendly societies: one met at the Bull in 1819 and another at the Red Lion in 1844. (fn. 61) From the 1860s until the early 20th century a branch of the Odd Fellows met at the Red Lion (fn. 62) and a branch of the Ancient Order of Foresters at the George. (fn. 63) Outside the town a friendly society met at the Kilcot inn from 1854 until 1878, (fn. 64) and at Clifford's Mesne in the early 1850s there were two societies, for men and women respectively. (fn. 65) The upper room in Newent's market house was used for a variety of official purposes both before and after 1914 when the building became the property of the town and parish. (fn. 66) The adjoining market place was the site of ox-roasts and public dinners to mark special events, such as the repeal of the cider tax in 1766 (fn. 67) and the start of new reigns in 1820, 1830, and 1837; at the latter occasions there was particularly lavish ceremonial, perhaps promoted by the vicar Richard Onslow. (fn. 68) A bull-baiting ring adjoining the market house was in use until 1795 or later. (fn. 69) The Crown inn had a cockpit in 1725. (fn. 70)
Concerts of secular music at the chief inns appear to have been fairly frequent events in the late 18th century and early 19th. In 1818 a musical festival included concerts at the George and at the parish church. (fn. 71) Among the church congregation a concern for church music had long been evident. An organ was acquired as early as 1737, (fn. 72) and the interior layout of the late 17th-century nave lent itself to musical performances, including those held annually in the 1770s and 1780s in support of the town's charity school. (fn. 73) In 1813 doubts about the competency of the organist then employed provided an item for discussion in the parish vestry, (fn. 74) and in 1837 the choice of a new organist was decided by vote after members had heard the candidates perform. The post, which included instructing the choir boys in the singing gallery, carried a salary of £40 in 1850. (fn. 75) The choir had existed from at least the 1750s: when Richard Warjohn, a Newent tailor, died in 1834, his fellow-choristers provided a headstone, displaying the words and score of a hymn or psalm, to celebrate his 77 years as a member. (fn. 76) An annual music festival was held at Newent in the late 19th century, and the town's musical tradition was continued in the mid 20th by a choral society. (fn. 77)
From 1885 an institution known as the Newent (or Albion) club occupied Albion House adjoining the market place where there were reading rooms and a billiard room; the premises, and presumably with it the club, closed in 1935. (fn. 78) Before 1902 a Newent shopkeeper Cornelius Thurston opened a hall in Culver Street for lectures, concerts, and other functions. In 1922 the hall was being used as a cinema and on some evenings for amateur dramatics; the cinema, called the Plaza, (fn. 79) closed in the early 1970s, but within a few years another was started at the Community Centre on the Ross road. (fn. 80) After the First World War a Comrades' Club for veterans was opened in the town, (fn. 81) and in 1954 a new public meeting room opened alongside Bury Bar Street on part of the site of the old cattle market; the room was paid for by subscription as a memorial to the dead of the Second World War and was promoted chiefly by a local doctor, W.M.L. Johnstone. (fn. 82) The grammar school building on the Ross road became a youth centre after the school left it in 1965 (fn. 83) and continued to be the venue for youth groups when, c.1980, it became the Community Centre. (fn. 84) In the outlying areas the schools and churches founded at Clifford's Mesne and Gorsley in the later 19th century provided the main focuses of community activities. The school building at Clifford's Mesne was used as a village hall after the school's closure in 1935, and that at Gorsley served as a church hall from 1954 until replaced in the early 1990s by a room added to the church building. (fn. 85) The Land Settlement Association estate founded at the Scarr farm in 1937 organized its own social activities in the mid 20th century, having a recreation hall and a branch of the Women's Institute. (fn. 86)
In 1898 Andrew Knowles of Newent Court gave land on the west side of Watery Lane to the parish council for use as a recreation ground, and in 1912 his trustees gave other land which enlarged the ground to 7 a. (fn. 87) Among other amenities later managed by the council were Newent Lake and the adjoining part of the grounds of Newent Court, landscaped and opened as a public park in 1998, (fn. 88) and an arboretum, planted beside Bradford's Lane to mark the millennium of 2000. (fn. 89)
A cricket team had been formed at Newent by 1872. (fn. 90) In the early 20th century the town had clubs for football, tennis, hockey, and bowling and a small golf course. Some of those clubs were defunct by the 1960s, when there was a lack of sporting facilities. (fn. 91) The situation had improved by the 1980s, partly through the development of the large new Newent school, which made its swimming baths, gymnasium, and sports hall available for public use out of school hours. (fn. 92) In the early 21st century the Newent cricket club had its pitch in Oxenhall parish and the town's football club a ground adjoining the Gloucester road in Malswick.
In the early 20th century the wild daffodils which flower in and around Newent attracted visitors to the area each spring. Special trains were laid on from Gloucester, and the flowers were gathered by local schoolchildren and sent by rail to London hospitals. (fn. 93) A later attraction was the National Birds of Prey Centre started in 1967 at a house and grounds in Boulsdon, where courses in training the birds and demonstrations of flying them were held. (fn. 94) In Newent town the Shambles Museum, a re-creation of a street of Victorian shops, with a large collection of contemporary artefacts, was opened in Church Street in 1988. (fn. 95) Those remained Newent's main tourist attractions in 2007, together with the Three Choirs Vineyard, one of the largest English vineyards, on a hillside at the north boundary of the parish. (fn. 96)
In the late 18th century Thomas Richardson, a Newent doctor, promoted the drinking of water from a spring (fn. 97) rising beside the Ell brook near Cleeve Mill. (fn. 98) In 1789 the spa was advertized by distributing samples of the water to local towns, and, aping established spas, by publishing a list of visitors, though only 12 people, and nobody of great note, were then listed. (fn. 99) By 1815 a small spa house had been built by the spring, and one of the attractions for those taking the waters was the walk to it from the town, passing through the grounds of Newent Court, ornamented by two large ponds and the Hereford and Gloucester canal. (fn. 100) Like most other such projects in the vicinity of Cheltenham, the spa's success was limited, although ambitious claims for it were still made by Newent innkeepers and others in the 1820s. (fn. 101) By 1852 the spa cottage was derelict. (fn. 102)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR
The Newent almshouses, a row of small dwellings on the east side of New Street, originated in the gift by Giles Nanfan of Birtsmorton (Worcs.) c.1580 of a half burgage for an almshouse; the townspeople implemented his bequest before 1614, apparently paying for a new building on the site. The deed of Nanfan's gift had been lost by 1635 when his grandson John Nanfan confirmed it to a group of trustees, including the vicar, churchwardens, and town bailiff. In 1639 Randall Dobyns of Walden Court gave a half burgage adjoining the almshouses for the same purpose, (fn. 103) and later in the century William Rogers (d. 1690) of Okle Clifford gave two newly built almshouses at the north end of the site. In 1750 the almshouses formed eight dwellings. (fn. 104) There was no regular endowment for the support of the occupants or for the upkeep of the buildings, which had become ruinous by 1810; the almshouses were then repaired by the parish at the cost of £336, raised by the sale of stock acquired with an accumulation of funds from other charities and by the sale of timber on charity land. (fn. 105) The repair evidently gave the almshouses the form they had in the mid 20th century, a range of building with a uniform brick frontage concealing older timber framing and divided into ten small apartments of two rooms each. (fn. 106) In the mid 1820s they were occupied by 20 people, chosen by the vicar and churchwardens, making no distinction between those receiving or not receiving parish relief. (fn. 107)
Hester Severne by will dated 1862 gave £100 to provide a fund for repairing the buildings, (fn. 108) but in 1895 they were described as in a disgraceful condition. Despite the trustees' wish to transfer management to the new parish council (fn. 109) the almshouses remained under the trusteeship of the rector (formerly the vicar), churchwardens, and overseers, the last acting for Newent poor-law union which gave assistance to some of the occupants. (fn. 110) In 1970 the trustees secured a Scheme empowering them to sell the almshouses once all the occupants had died and apply the proceeds, with the income of the Severne charity, to a general relief in need charity; that became in 1972 part of the Newent United charity. (fn. 111) In 1974 the almshouses were demolished and the site sold for a development of small houses. (fn. 112)
In the course of the 17th and early 18th century 20 different parishioners, including members of the Nourse, Rogers, and Pauncefoot landowning families and two of the vicars, Thomas Avenant and John Craister, gave bequests for the poor of Newent parish in the form of cash, small parcels of land, or rent charges. Among gifts which specified a use other than general relief were the educational bequests by Thomas Avenant and Eleanor Green, mentioned below, and three to finance apprenticeships: Walter Nourse (d. 1652) gave 40s. a year to apprentice two children to farming, William Rogers (d. 1690) gave £3 a year to apprentice one boy to a trade, and Timothy Nourse (d. 1699) gave £10 a year to apprentice five boys. Timothy Nourse also gave £2 10s. a year to buy cloth for old people, to which his widow Lucy (later Lucy Stokes) added a bequest to provide gowns for poor widows. By 1750 the principal sums of the charities given in the form of cash amounted to £283, (fn. 113) of which £37 was later laid out on land and the remainder lent to individuals on bonds. During the 18th century the charities were administered in an imprecise manner, and by 1793 £86 of the funds in hand in 1750 had been lost. Apprenticeships were made on a regular, if not annual, basis but what use was made of the funds from the other, less specific bequests is not clear. In 1793 the vicar John Foley drew up a full statement of the situation and attempted to improve the administration of the charities. His efforts led to fuller accounting and the recording of disbursements, including the distribution of garments under the clothing charities. (fn. 114) The commissioners reporting on charities, who collected their evidence for Newent in 1827, (fn. 115) found that the intentions of the donors were for the most part being fulfilled but objected to the application of some of the funds to those in receipt of parish relief. (fn. 116)
Two more parish charities were established in the 19th century: John Harvey Ollney by will proved 1836 left £200 to Newent to be invested in stock to support a Christmas distribution of coal and blankets and William White in 1859 gave £150 similarly to provide blankets. (fn. 117) In 1906 a separate foundation was formed in respect of the Avenant and Green charities. Under a Scheme of 1925 regulating the other charities, apprenticeships were to continue and income was also to be assigned to such things as healthcare, the provision of bedding and clothing, and subscriptions to provident clubs. Their total income was then £42 a year, some of it still derived from land and rent charges. In 1972 those charities were combined with the fund resulting from the planned sale of the Newent almshouses to form a general 'relief in need' charity under the title of the Newent United charity. In 1975 the three apprenticeship charities were removed from it and added to the Avenant and Green educational foundation, to be applied to apprenticeships or other help for young people with vocational training. (fn. 118) In 2007 the annual income of the Newent United charity was £1,752 and that of the apprenticeship and educational charity £131. (fn. 119)
Charity and National Schools
In 1712 two charity schools at Newent taught a total of 50 children, (fn. 120) but when and by whom they were established and financed has not been discovered. Charles Jones mentioned as a schoolmaster at Newent in 1710 may have taught in one of them. (fn. 121) Anne Knowles, who at her death in 1726 was said to have taught in the town for 46 years, (fn. 122) had perhaps kept a small dame school. At his death in 1728 the vicar Thomas Avenant left £20 for instructing two children in the catechism, (fn. 123) and before 1750 Eleanor Green gave £40, the bulk of the proceeds to be used for teaching poor children. (fn. 124) In 1772 leading parishioners, wishing 'to prevent vice [rather] than punish it', set up a school financed out of the rates at the workhouse; children of poor parents not on parish relief could receive instruction there in reading, knitting, and spinning, and those who made good progress were to be rewarded with the gift of a warm garment. (fn. 125) In 1775, presumably as a development of that project though differently financed, there was a recently established charity school with over 50 children. The children were taught reading and the catechism, and the girls also sewing and knitting; the more promising pupils were taught writing. The school was supported by voluntary contributions, and an annual subscription of 10s. 6d. entitled a subscriber to recommend a pupil for entry. When necessary, the funds were supplemented by a collection at a charity sermon preached by the vicar or curate. (fn. 126)
The charity school was still well supported in 1781, (fn. 127) but had apparently lapsed by 1818 when a Sunday school was the only parish school recorded. (fn. 128) By 1833 a day school was run in association with the Sunday school, but weekday attendance was only 10 compared to 100 on Sundays. The school was supported by subscriptions and church collections, together with £2 10s. a year produced by the Avenant and Green bequests. (fn. 129) By 1847 the school had been much expanded and a master and two mistresses were teaching 112 children on both weekdays and Sundays; school pence were charged to supplement subscriptions. The two rooms used were regarded as inadequate, but the vicar Richard Onslow had by then obtained grants of £354 and £100 from the government and the National Society respectively, (fn. 130) enabling the parish to build a new school the following year with accommodation for 300 children. The site, north of the town at Picklenash, was given by the lady of the manor Elizabeth Foley and her heir R.F. Onslow. (fn. 131) An extra classroom was added in 1873, the cost met by subscription and part of the principal of Hester Severne's charity. (fn. 132) In the mid 1870s attendance at the Picklenash National school, organized as boys', girls', and infants' departments, was usually around 150. (fn. 133)
At Clifford's Mesne a building was put up in 1863 for use as both a National school and a chapel. In 1868 an untrained mistress taught c.30 infants there, the older children of the hamlet attending the Picklenash school. Kilcot also had a small school by 1868, attended by c.25 children. It probably ceased in 1872 when a National school (also doubling as a chapel) was built at Gorsley. (fn. 134) In its first year the Gorsley school, with mixed and infant departments, had an average attendance of 64. (fn. 135) In 1868 there was a night school at Newent, attended mainly by boys after their farm work; it was run by the curate Morris Burland and four other teachers and was said to be the best such school in the district. (fn. 136)
In the mid 1870s the committee managing the three National schools (Picklenash, Clifford's Mesne, and Gorsley) was forced by financial problems to consider the formation of a school board to meet the requirements for the parish under the 1870 Education Act. Many parishioners were opposed to a board and a voluntary rate was introduced in an attempt to make up the shortfall in funds. In 1877, however, the committee had to raise the weekly pence paid at Picklenash and Gorsley to 2d., and in 1879 it considered closing Gorsley and Clifford's Mesne after government grants to those schools had been reduced. In 1882 it handed over all three schools to a newly elected school board. (fn. 137)
Board and Council Schools
In 1885 Picklenash school had an average attendance of 220 in mixed and infant departments, (fn. 138) and in 1897 the Gorsley and Clifford's Mesne schools, both comprising single, all-age departments, had average attendances of 60 and 51 respectively. (fn. 139) The three became council schools under the Act of 1902, (fn. 140) and in 1910 Picklenash had an average attendance of 276 in separate boys', girls', and infants' departments, Gorsley had an average attendance of 51 in mixed and infant departments, and Clifford's Mesne, similarly organized, one of 45. (fn. 141) Attendance at Gorsley school had fallen to 30, including 13 from the adjoining part of Herefordshire, by 1926 when it was closed. (fn. 142) At Clifford's Mesne, where average attendance was 43 in 1922, (fn. 143) the older children were removed to Picklenash school in 1928 and only 13 attended by 1935 when the school was closed. (fn. 144)
At Picklenash school average attendance had fallen by 1922 to 208, rising again by 1932 to 269 and by 1938, as the only council school in the parish, to 323. (fn. 145) In 1947 it had 353 pupils on its roll and a staff of 12. (fn. 146) From 1949 it received the older pupils from schools serving 15 neighbouring parishes, swelling its numbers to c.500 aged between 5 and 15, some of them housed in temporary classrooms. In 1952 the children aged over 11 were transferred to the new Newent bi-lateral school, leaving just over 300 at Picklenash. (fn. 147) In the mid 1960s the school was divided into separate junior and infant schools, the latter, known as Glebe Infant school, housed in a new building near by. In 1984 a new building for the junior school was opened and the old school building of 1848 was sold and converted as dwellings. (fn. 148) In 2007 Picklenash Junior school had 246 children on its roll and Glebe Infant school had 132. (fn. 149)
By 1910 many of the older children of the parish were travelling by train to attend schools in Gloucester. (fn. 150) In 1922 the county council acquired the old Newent union workhouse on the Ross road for use as a secondary grammar school for the area, planned to accommodate 160 boys and girls in six classrooms. The older part of the premises was demolished and replaced with a new classroom block, and a house near by was bought as a headmaster's residence. (fn. 151) The school opened in 1925. (fn. 152) In 1952 it was reorganized as a 'bi-lateral school', an early experiment in the comprehensive system: it combined the grammar school with a secondary modern stream formed of the children aged over 11 from Picklenash council school. It opened with a staff of 26 teachers and c.480 children, who were taught in the existing building and in others on the south side of the Ross road; (fn. 153) by the early 1960s there were c.650 pupils. (fn. 154) In 1965 the school moved into new buildings on a large site on the east side of Watery Lane. Extensions to the buildings were made in 1973, and by 1975 the school had c.1,200 pupils drawn from over 20 surrounding parishes. (fn. 155) In 2007 the school, then styled Newent Community school, had 1,334 pupils on its roll. (fn. 156)
The Wesleyan Methodists had a Sunday school at their chapel in Culver Street in 1833, (fn. 157) and in 1868 they also ran a day school, with c.20 pupils taught by an elderly schoolmistress. (fn. 158) In 1846 the Congregationalists opened a British day school with c.100 pupils at their new chapel in Broad Street. (fn. 159) It continued on a smaller scale in 1868 when, supported by voluntary contributions and pence, between 30 and 40 children were taught by an untrained mistress. (fn. 160) Those two nonconformist schools evidently closed before the establishment of the school board for the parish. Goff's school, attached to Gorsley Baptist chapel in Linton (Herefs.) from c.1819, probably attracted some pupils from the Newent part of Gorsley in the mid 19th century. (fn. 161)
In the early 19th century, in the absence of any large-scale provision for education by the parish, small private day schools proliferated in Newent. In 1833 seven were in existence, most of them recently founded, ranging from one with 7 pupils to one with 24. Three day and boarding schools were evidently seminaries or classical academies for children from a wealthier background. (fn. 162) An earlier example of that type of school was kept in the town from c.1786 by Revd William Beale and taken over 1811 by another clergyman, (fn. 163) who described it in 1815 as a seminary for educating boys for commercial pursuits or for the university. (fn. 164) In 1867 Revd Joseph White opened an establishment called Newent Grammar school at the Porch House on the south side of Church Street; it included a department which specialized in teaching divinity students preparing for ordination. (fn. 165) A later occupant of the Porch House, Dr K.M. Tomlinson, a Newent general practitioner, ran a small preparatory school there in the 1960s as a non-profit making venture with the costs shared among the parents. (fn. 166)