A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 4, the City of Gloucester. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1988.
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The small ancient parish of Matson lay SSE. of Gloucester, its church 3.5 km. from the city's central crossroads. (fn. 1) The parish boundaries as defined at a parliamentary inclosure in 1799 were extremely complex. They included much of the land on the east side of Robins Wood Hill, which Matson shared with Upton St. Leonards and, to a much lesser extent, with Tuffley and Whaddon, and touched the Gloucester-Painswick road to the east at three points. Matson also had land on the north-west and south-west sides of the hill and several detached pieces to the east and south within the main part of Upton parish. Most of the detached pieces represented holdings in open fields which Upton shared with neighbouring parishes and hamlets. To the south-east, on the Cotswold escarpment above Prinknash, Pope's wood belonged to Matson. (fn. 2) Following a minor adjustment of its boundary at another parliamentary inclosure in 1866 (fn. 3) Matson covered 466 a. (fn. 4) The compactness of the combined area of Matson and Upton St. Leonards on Robins Wood Hill and the irregularity of their shared boundaries suggest that they may originally have been a single parish and that the parochial division followed the establishment of a church on an estate at Matson. The tenurial pattern at Matson in the Middle Ages was very fragmentary and much of Upton's land there belonged to an estate acquired by Gloucester Abbey in 1470. (fn. 5) Upton's boundaries, which were described in a manorial survey of 1589, (fn. 6) also took in Saintbridge on the Painswick road north-east of Robins Wood Hill, (fn. 7) and in 1608 Upton, Matson, and Saintbridge were described as a single tithing. (fn. 8) Upton's land at Matson and Saintbridge was united with Matson parish between 1656 and 1660. (fn. 9)
The irregularities in the boundaries of Matson, Upton St. Leonards, and neighbouring parishes were removed in 1882 and 1885. Matson, which lost Pope's wood and many other pieces to Upton, (fn. 10) was given a compact area of 655 a. comprising the east side of Robins Wood Hill and land to the north, including Starveall Farm and bounded by the G.W.R. line from Swindon (Wilts.) to Gloucester and by the later Cotteswold Road. (fn. 11) The Painswick road was included in a north-western peninsula of Upton parish, extending beyond Saintbridge to the same railway line and bounded on the east mostly by the river Twyver and at Saintbridge by the Sud brook. (fn. 12) In 1900 Gloucester took 154 a. at Starveall from Matson and part of Saintbridge from Upton. In 1935 the city absorbed the rest of Matson, save for 15 a. in the south added to Brookthorpe and Upton, and also the rest of Saintbridge and much of the Painswick road east of Matson. Upton also lost to Gloucester 22 a. between Matson and Sneedham's Green to the south in 1957 and a large area at the Wheatridge east of the Painswick road in 1967. (fn. 13) The following history of Matson relates to those parts both of the ancient parish and of Upton St. Leonards, on Robins Wood Hill and by the Painswick road, which were absorbed by Gloucester, apart from Saintbridge which is dealt with above. (fn. 14) The other parts of Matson are reserved for treatment in a later volume. The following account does not deal with suburban development of the city from the late 19th century, particularly the growth from the 1950s of large housing estates which destroyed the predominantly rural character of the Matson area. (fn. 15)
Matson lies on ground rising steeply to the summit of Robins Wood Hill at 198 m. By 1553 the summit was the site of a beacon (fn. 16) and in 1588 a small house was built nearby for watchmen waiting to signal the approach of the Spanish Armada. (fn. 17) The hill, formerly called Matson Hill or Knoll, presumably took the name of the Robins family, which held land there from the early 16th century, (fn. 18) though the form Robin Hood's Hill was recorded from 1542. (fn. 19) East of the hill the land rises from 30 m. at Saintbridge to over 46 m. at the Wheatridge in the south and lies on the Lower Lias clay, on which there are sand and gravel patches. The hill, an outlier of the Cotswolds, is formed by successive strata of Marlstone, the Upper Lias, sand, and the Inferior Oolite. (fn. 20) The Red quarry, of which Gloucester Abbey granted a lease to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1522, was possibly on the hill. (fn. 21) The hill included open fields, parts of which survived until 1866. In 1753 Horace Walpole described it as 'a mountain of turf to the very top' with 'wood scattered all over it', (fn. 22) and in the later 18th century George Selwyn, the owner of much of it, improved the plantations. (fn. 23) The lower land to the east, which was drained by the Sud brook, was mostly open arable land until inclosure in 1897.
The complex pattern of landholding on Robins Wood Hill was presumably connected with an early division of ownership of the many copious springs there. Waterworks serving Gloucester Abbey were constructed in the early 13th century and may have been visited in the mid 14th by the prince of Wales, whose intervention led the abbey and the Franciscan friars of Gloucester to settle a dispute over a spring in 1357. (fn. 24) The principal works, on the north side of the hill, included two small medieval wellhouses; (fn. 25) that called the Well House in 1589 (fn. 26) remained in place in 1986. Two open reservoirs built there in the mid 18th century were used until 1946, though the springs ceased to feed Gloucester's water supply in 1924. (fn. 27) On the east side of the hill the Red well, fed by a chalybeate spring south of Matson village, (fn. 28) was much frequented by Gloucester citizens for medicinal purposes in the early 18th century. (fn. 29) Gloucester people made use of the hill for their recreation, (fn. 30) and an inn was opened at the reservoirs before 1820, (fn. 31) and perhaps by 1755 when a victualler was licensed in Matson parish. (fn. 32) The inn, where a bowling green was apparently laid in 1859, (fn. 33) was closed by the magistrates in 1876 (fn. 34) and became a private residence. (fn. 35) It was later demolished and the emptied reservoirs, one of which was filled in, became part of a country park opened on the hill in 1975. (fn. 36)
South of Saintbridge the Painswick road for a distance follows the course of an ancient route between Gloucester and Cranham (fn. 37) known as the Port way. (fn. 38) In the mid 13th century Upton, Saintbridge, Matson, Sneedham, and Cranham were responsible for, and travellers contributed to, the repair of a bridge which carried that route over the Sud brook in Awe field. (fn. 39) East of the crossing the Port way ran along a straight causeway below the Wheatridge towards Upton village. (fn. 40) That section had ceased to be of major importance by the later 18th century (fn. 41) and part was a footpath in 1840. (fn. 42) The Painswick road, which left the Port way on Awefield Pitch just west of the Sud brook crossing, (fn. 43) also linked Gloucester with Stroud and was administered as a turnpike from 1726 until 1876. (fn. 44) In 1854 the tollgate was moved from the city boundary to north of the junction of the lane to Matson (later Matson Lane). (fn. 45) The route of Reservoir Road running along the north side of Robins Wood Hill was specified at the inclosure of 1799. (fn. 46)
Two moated sites have been identified by the Painswick road north-east of Robins Wood Hill, one on the east side. The other, on the west side and to the north of Matson Lane, (fn. 47) included a medieval building, perhaps a manor house, (fn. 48) and gave the name Moat Leaze to the field in which it lay. Between it and the main road a small close called Chapel Hay presumably marked the site of a chapel on the Port way. (fn. 49)
There was little early building in the area and Matson parish had only 9 houses c. 1710 and 8 in 1801. (fn. 50) The diminutive village stood on the side of Robins Wood Hill where Matson Lane turned southwards towards Sneedham's Green. (fn. 51) In the 17th century it probably comprised the church, a rectory house, two manor houses, and several farmsteads. (fn. 52) In 1556 there had been a church house. (fn. 53) One manor house, Matson House, is a substantial building dating from the late 16th century. In the later 18th century its grounds took in the site of the other manor house to the north-east; the latter had possibly replaced the building in Moat Leaze on the opposite side of Matson Lane. (fn. 54) Apart from Matson House the only house surviving near the church in 1799 belonged to the farmstead a short distance to the north-east, called in 1788 Robin Hood's Farm and later Robins Farm. (fn. 55) Scattered building elsewhere on the east side of the hill included a row of timber-framed cottages called Hammershall north-west of the village. (fn. 56) There was a dwelling on the site of Larkham Farm, at a fork in the road to Sneedham's Green, by the mid 13th century and it was part of a small estate purchased in 1525 by Philip Redvern, a Gloucester mercer, and in 1552 by John Robins. (fn. 57) Larkham Farm probably dates from the 17th century and has a timber-framed range of two storeys with a short rear wing and, in the angle, a brick addition dated 1866. In the 1970s the farmstead was converted as a country club for which there was much new building to the north-east. (fn. 58) Further south on the road a pair of farm cottages was built in the early 1890s. (fn. 59) Winnycroft Farm south-east of the hill had apparently been established by 1681 for a holding with six closes called the Vine crofts. (fn. 60) The farmhouse was later rebuilt in brick. On the north side of the hill two houses were built in Reservoir Road east of the reservoirs in the early 19th century. (fn. 61)
In the 19th century most building in the Matson area took place on the west side of the Painswick road north-east of Robins Wood Hill. Among cottages built there in the early 19th century was a row, south of the junction of Matson Lane, called Trafalgar Place. (fn. 62) By the later 19th century the settlement had become the most populous in the district and in 1892 it was transferred with Saintbridge for ecclesiastical purposes from Upton St. Leonards to Matson. (fn. 63) In the late 1870s a rectory house was built on Matson Lane midway between Matson church and the main road, where new buildings included a school in 1881 and a church room or hall in 1905. (fn. 64) Further south building was barred by the open field called Awe field, through which the main road ran, but by 1840 encroachments on the field had resulted in two small groups of cottages east of the road. A cottage on the Wheatridge in 1773 had been removed. (fn. 65) Some scattered building had taken place on the main road by 1897 when the inclosure of Upton's open fields released land there and on the Wheatridge for house building. (fn. 66)
Three people in Matson were assessed for the subsidy in 1327. (fn. 67) There were said to be c. 28 communicants in the parish in 1551, (fn. 68) 7 households in 1563, (fn. 69) and 37 communicants in 1603. (fn. 70) Later estimates of the population included 50 c. 1710 and 45 c. 1775. (fn. 71) In 1801 the population of Matson parish was 51 and in the following eighty years the lowest number recorded was 32 in 1861 and the highest 73 in 1881. (fn. 72)
For several centuries Matson had imported resident landholders in the Robins family, established there in the early 16th century, and the Selwyn family, owners of Matson House from 1600. The last Selwyn, sole landholder from 1766, died in 1791 (fn. 73) and for over a century no lord of the manor lived at Matson House, (fn. 74) but the Misses Rice, who occupied it in the later 19th century, were a dominant influence on Matson's life. (fn. 75)
MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
None of the three manors of Matson has been found recorded before the 14th century, and the earlier descent of estates at Matson is obscured by a complex pattern of landholding. In the mid 13th century much land was held under either King's Barton or Abbot's Barton manor. (fn. 76) King's Barton, which included all of Matson parish, (fn. 77) had overlordship of the Matson manor acquired by the Lygon family (fn. 78) and in the mid 1630s of the Selwyn family's estate. (fn. 79) Some land in Matson was held in 1239 from Herbert FitzPeter and later from Reynold FitzPeter. (fn. 80) The manor of Upton St. Leonards or Barton Upton, which had been formed from Abbot's Barton by 1536, included land at Matson. (fn. 81) Its descent is reserved for a later volume.
Among the principal landholders at Matson in the early 12th century were presumably Ralph and his son Ernulf, who granted the church or chapel there to Gloucester Abbey. (fn. 82) Ernulf, whose estate included land on the Cotswold escarpment, was described both as of Matson and Prinknash. The estate evidently passed to Philip of Matson (fl. 1159), the son of either Ralph or Ernulf, (fn. 83) and possibly to Simon of Matson, whose son and heir John of Matson in 1239 sold half of it, with land for building a barn or oxhouse, to Llanthony Priory. John, whose mother held some land in dower, (fn. 84) had fallen into debt. He paid his relief to the Crown in 1242, and by 1246 he had given the rest of his estate to his son Philip of Matson. (fn. 85) Philip, who granted Llanthony Priory 15 a. (fn. 86) and held a yardland under King's Barton by the servide of 5s., (fn. 87) was evidently the father of Philip of Matson, (fn. 88) who in the 1260s, when a minor, held a ploughland, in which his mother had dower, under Abbot's Barton by the service of a squire equipped with a horse and harness and of a heriot and relief. (fn. 89) The younger Philip was probably the knight (fl. 1284), (fn. 90) who later enlarged his estate in Matson and Upton St. Leonards. (fn. 91)
In 1329 Philip's son William of Matson (fn. 92) and others granted the manor of MATSON to Ellis Daubeney and his wife Agnes. (fn. 93) Gilbert Giffard (d. 1373) later held the manor, comprising a messuage and a ploughland, by knight service in right of his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 94) daughter of Ellis Daubeney. (fn. 95) In 1415 John Giffard of Leckhampton granted a lease of the manor to Roger Ball, a Gloucester burgess, (fn. 96) and in 1460 Nicholas Giffard and his wife Margery settled it for life on Margaret, wife of Richard Cheke. (fn. 97) By the marriage of Nicholas's daughter Anne the manor passed to the Lygons of Madresfield (Worcs.). Anne's husband Thomas Lygon (d. 1507) was succeeded by his son Richard (fn. 98) (d. 1512). Richard's son and heir, also Richard, who was knighted in 1533, died seised of the manor in 1557, but in 1552 his son and heir William, (fn. 99) then described as of Arle, had granted a lease of part, including the site of the manor, for 50 years to John Robins; (fn. 100) John's father Thomas (d. 1550) had held land under Sir Richard Lygon. (fn. 101) William Lygon (d. 1567) was succeeded by his son Richard (d. 1584), who left the manor for life to his second son Henry (fn. 102) (fl. 1609). In 1597 Henry's older brother William sold his reversionary right to Jasper Selwyn, a lawyer (fn. 103) who built up a large estate in Matson and Upton, (fn. 104) as mentioned below. The house, which Philip of Matson had next to Matson church in the mid 12th century (fn. 105) and John of Matson retained in 1239, (fn. 106) was presumably occupied by tenants in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 107) It evidently stood north or west of the church, where a farmhouse on the Selwyn family's estate in 1671 was demolished before 1799. (fn. 108)
Llanthony Priory, which in the mid 1260s held a yardland under King's Barton, (fn. 109) had a ploughland at Matson in 1291. (fn. 110) That land, called the manor of MATSON by 1378, (fn. 111) was administered with the priory's Hempsted estate at the Dissolution. (fn. 112) In 1542 the Crown granted the site of the manor, including a house, to the mayor and burgesses of Gloucester, who granted it in 1543 to Thomas Lane, (fn. 113) the city's recorder. Lane (d. 1544) left the house to his wife Maud for life with reversion to his son Thomas. (fn. 114) By 1547 Maud had married Richard Pate, a lawyer who became recorder of and M.P. for Gloucester. (fn. 115) Pate, who in 1561 acquired a 200-year lease of the reversion, (fn. 116) built Matson House and died in 1588. Later, at Maud's death, the house and grounds passed to their granddaughter Susan Brook. Susan married Ambrose Willoughby, who fell into debt and from whom she was legally separated in 1598. (fn. 117) They sold the house in 1600 to Jasper Selwyn. (fn. 118)
Selwyn also acquired land in Matson by his marriage in 1591 or 1592 to Margaret Robins; (fn. 119) land bought in 1552 by her grandfather John Robins (d. 1563) (fn. 120) was left to her by her father Thomas (d. 1577) subject to the life interest of his widow Joan (d. 1605), who married John Walkley. (fn. 121) At Jasper Selwyn's death in 1635 his Matson estate passed to his son William, who inherited his mother's land in 1636. (fn. 122) William, who by marriage had acquired the nearby Sheephouse estate, (fn. 123) died in 1643 and was succeeded by his son William (d. 1679). That William's son and heir William became a major-general and in 1701 was appointed governor of Jamaica, where he died in 1702, leaving part of the Matson estate in jointure to his wife Albinia (d. 1737). (fn. 124) His son and heir John became a colonel in the army and later a royal courtier. The estate passed at his death in 1751 to his son George Augustus Selwyn, (fn. 125) a bachelor and a noted wit in London society. (fn. 126) George, who like his father and paternal grandfather represented Gloucester in parliament, (fn. 127) acquired the only other sizeable estate at Matson, the Robins family's manor held under the dean and chapter of Gloucester cathedral, in 1766. (fn. 128) At his death in 1791 his enlarged estate passed to his nephew Thomas Townshend, (fn. 129) Viscount Sydney, who upon an exchange in 1799 acquired the dean and chapter's freehold interest over part. (fn. 130) After his death in 1800 the estate passed with the viscounty in the direct line to John Thomas Townshend (d. 1831) and John Robert Townshend, who was created Earl Sydney in 1874. On the latter's death in 1890 the peerage became extinct and the estate passed in turn to his widow Emily (d. 1893) (fn. 131) and nephew Robert Marsham, afterwards Marsham-Townshend. (fn. 132) In 1912 Robert broke up the estate (fn. 133) and sold Matson House to the occupant, George Dunstan Timmis, with much of the surrounding land. (fn. 134) Timmis died in 1954 leaving his estate in trust for his wife Sybil (d. 1961) and daughters. (fn. 135) From 1950 Gloucester corporation bought a large part of the former Matson estate piecemeal for housing and a country park (fn. 136) and in the mid 1970s Larkham farm was used for a country club and sporting activities. (fn. 137)
Richard Pate's house, east of the church, is of stone and has a U-shaped plan open to the south-west. Much 16th- and early 17th-century panelling survives, although some of it has been reset. There was a newel stair adjacent to the north corner of the central hall and a gallery in the attic. Charles I lodged in the house while his troops laid siege to Gloucester in 1643, (fn. 138) and in 1672 William Selwyn's eldest surviving son Edward was assessed on 13 hearths for it. (fn. 139) A succession of alterations in the early and mid 18th century included the arcading of the south-west and north-east sides of the hall, the relocation of several internal doorways, some new panelling, and the fitting of a staircase in the east corner of the hall. By the mid 18th century all but a few windows had been sashed and later in the century the frames were remade with gothick glazing bars, an embellishment probably influenced by the work at Strawberry Hill in Twickenham (Surr.) of Horace Walpole, who visited George Selwyn at Matson several times. (fn. 140) Selwyn, who apparently adapted one room as a Roman Catholic oratory for his adopted daughter Maria Fagnani, (fn. 141) illustrated the house's history, particularly its role during the siege of Gloucester, with works of art, including a bust of Charles I by Louis Roubiliac. (fn. 142) He entertained George III and Queen Charlotte at Matson during their visit to Cheltenham in 1788. (fn. 143) For over a century after Selwyn's death in 1791 tenants lived in the house, (fn. 144) and in the early 19th century the two drawing rooms on the south-east side were refitted, (fn. 145) being connected through wide doors, and the gallery was divided into three rooms. A short 18th-century brick service wing on the north-west side (fn. 146) was rebuilt to a greater length in the earlier 19th century. (fn. 147) In 1869 Viscount Sydney's six cousins, the Misses Rice, took up residence in the house; Maria, the youngest sister, survived until 1905. (fn. 148) From 1958 Matson House was occupied by Selwyn school, an independent girls' school, the trustees of which bought the house in 1972. (fn. 149)
In 1651, in an exchange of land, William Selwyn gave part of the garden, including a pond, to John Robins, whose manor house stood north-east of Matson House. (fn. 150) The garden of Matson House retains walls, terraces, and a canal of the earlier 18th century. (fn. 151) A bowling green laid out at the same period was apparently incorporated before 1799 in a shrubbery with a serpentine walk, (fn. 152) but was restored to its former use before 1825. (fn. 153) George Selwyn, who acquired the Robins family's house in 1766, demolished it and in its grounds, which also included a canal, planted a grove with an avenue leading from Matson House to Matson Lane. (fn. 154) The demolished house provided stone for Tudor-style stables and servants' cottages in the courtyard north of Matson House. (fn. 155) Older outbuildings, perhaps including Llanthony Priory's house, were demolished in the late 18th century. (fn. 156) In the 1970s and early 1980s Selwyn school put up many new buildings in the grounds north-east of the house. (fn. 157) An early 19th-century entrance lodge in Matson Lane (fn. 158) was rebuilt in the late 19th century or the early 20th.
The Robinses' manor of MATSON lay in Upton St. Leonards. (fn. 159) It possibly originated in the estate of William Geraud of Matson (fl. 1238 and 1266), (fn. 160) who held virgate from Abbot's Barton by the service of 12d. and a heriot and relief. (fn. 161) William de Gardinis, who in 1299 was described as lord of Matson, (fn. 162) held knight's fee there in 1303. (fn. 163) William Geraud, who is said to have settled Matson manor on his marriage in 1314 or 1315, (fn. 164) may have been the same man as the William de Gardinis to whom the knight's fee had passed by 1346. In 1402 Thomas Bridges held it. (fn. 165) By 1399 John of Matson, a London dyer, had conveyed land in Matson claimed by his creditor Edmund Francis, a London grocer, to Hugh of Bisley. (fn. 166) In 1414 Hugh gave land at Matson and Saintbridge to John Geraud. (fn. 167) John may have been the same man as John Crofton, who in 1458 quitclaimed the manors of Matson and Sneedham to William Nottingham and others. (fn. 168) In 1470 William gave both manors to Gloucester Abbey in return for the establishment of a chantry in the abbey church. (fn. 169) The abbey retained Matson manor until the Dissolution, (fn. 170) and it passed to the dean and chapter of Gloucester cathedral in 1541. (fn. 171) From 1526 Thomas Robins held a lease of the demesne for 70 years. (fn. 172) Thomas, whose family also used the surname of Butcher in the mid 16th century, (fn. 173) died in 1550 and the lease passed in turn to his son Richard (d. 1586) (fn. 174) and to Richard's son John. The dean and chapter later granted leases of the whole manor to John (d. 1646) and from 1626 to his son Henry. The leases, for terms of 21 years, were renewed every few years. Henry was succeeded at his death in 1646 by his son John (fn. 175) and the manor comprised 180 a. in 1649. (fn. 176) John (d. 1691) was succeeded by his daughter Mary (d. 1735), wife of Gilbert Ironside (d. 1701), bishop of Hereford. Mary's nephew William Robins, who was the lessee in 1725, (fn. 177) became high sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1737 and a landowner in Cromhall. (fn. 178) In 1760, after his death, Jane Clarke of Walford (Herefs.) was granted a lease, and from 1766 the manor formed part of George Selwyn's estate. (fn. 179) The dean and chapter relinquished their interest upon an exchange in 1799. (fn. 180)
William Geraud's house in the mid 13th century (fn. 181) may have been on the moated site in Moat Leaze (fn. 182) or on the site of the Robinses' manor house to the south-west. (fn. 183) The Robinses' house, including a hall and parlour, comprised five bays in 1649 (fn. 184) and was occupied by tenants in the 1670s. (fn. 185) George Selwyn pulled it down before 1777. (fn. 186)
The rectory of Matson may have been appropriated by Gloucester Abbey, to which the church had been granted by the earlier 12th century. In later periods, however, the tithes and a rectory house with 3 a. were usually, if not always, occupied by the parish priest, who was normally styled rector and by the 18th century was regarded as having the freehold of the tithes and 3 a. (fn. 187) If the glebe had earlier been larger, the balance may have been added to the abbey's manor of Matson.
Llanthony Priory granted its Matson manor with 2 a. of meadow land in Hempsted at farm in 1378 for 48 years or lives and in 1517 for 60 years or lives. (fn. 188) On Gloucester Abbey's manor, the demesne of which was farmed by 1526, the rents of the free and customary tenants were valued in 1535 at 4 19s. 7d. One tenant, who also held part of the Barnwood demesne, had to supply the abbot's house at Prinknash with firewood from nearby Buckholt wood. (fn. 189)
Other evidence for tenant holdings at Matson is almost entirely lacking until the later 18th century, by which time most of the land belonged to a single estate. Land ownership had been very fragmented until the 16th century when the Robins and Selwyn families began consolidating estates. (fn. 190) In the late 17th century and the early 18th there were at least seven small tenant farms on the Selwyns' estate, on which some land was held for terms of one or two lives; (fn. 191) copyhold tenure in Matson was mentioned in 1552. (fn. 192) In the later 18th century there were 11 or 12 tenants on the leasehold part of George Selwyn's estate, (fn. 193) and in the 1790s the same part included 47 a. of plantations and arable in hand, tenant holdings of 102 a., 34 a., and 18 a., and another five holdings of 6 a. or less. (fn. 194) Some of those holdings were possibly part of four farms which in the early 1770s had between 173 a. and 75 a. each in Matson parish. (fn. 195) In 1788 Robins and Winnycroft farms comprised 253 a. and 133 a. respectively. (fn. 196)
The slopes of Robins Wood Hill once included several open fields which Matson and Upton shared with neighbouring parishes and hamlets. Inclosure of those fields and the creation of pasture closes evidently began before 1589, when one close on the hill was called Deep Furrows. (fn. 197) The upper slopes possibly retained open-field land in 1651 when strips in Hill field were included in an exchange of land between John Robins and William Selwyn. (fn. 198) The laying down as pasture of arable on the hill continued in the later 17th century, (fn. 199) and by the 18th century open-field land was confined to the lowest slopes, in Tredworth and Markham fields on the north and south sides respectively. Matson and Upton shared Markham field with Tuffley and Whaddon and shared Tredworth field, which also took in much land between the hill and Gloucester, with many parishes and hamlets; that part covering the foot of the hill became known as Upper Tredworth field. (fn. 200) Below the hill to the east two large open fields belonging principally to Upton, but shared by Matson and other parishes and hamlets, were recorded from 1221. (fn. 201) Awe field lay on either side of the Sud brook and Wheatridge field to the east had the river Twyver for its eastern boundary. To the south within Upton parish Matson also had a share in Brimps field. (fn. 202)
Sheep were kept on Robins Wood Hill in the mid 16th century (fn. 203) and in the mid 17th when dairy farming was important there. (fn. 204) In 1681 a farmhouse was called the Dayhouse. (fn. 205) By the mid 18th century the hill was predominantly grassland, (fn. 206) and in 1788 Robins farm had 220 a. of pasture and meadow and 33 a. of arable, and Winnycroft farm had respectively 111 a. and 22 a. (fn. 207) All the farms depended on dairying and they kept some beef cattle, a few sheep, and poultry. (fn. 208) In 1830 their chief produce was cheese, butter, meat, and wool. (fn. 209)
Though it included little open-field land by 1796 Matson parish was covered by the Act under which large tracts of land near Gloucester were finally inclosed in 1799. The award, which re-allotted several existing inclosures, dealt with Upper Tredworth field, and benefited Viscount Sydney, the principal landholder, and the rector of Matson, who received land for his Matson glebe and tithes. Eight other landowners also received allotments in Upper Tredworth for land belonging to Upton, including the owners of Tuffley Court, Saintbridge House, Starveall Farm, and Grove Court. Under the Act Viscount Sydney consolidated his Matson estate by exchanges of land, in which the dean and chapter of Gloucester relinquished their freehold interest in part of it and the rector acquired 53 a. in South Hamlet. (fn. 210) The inclosure of Markham field was completed in 1866. (fn. 211) Despite encroachments, the fields east of the hill were largely untouched and were cultivated in strips and used for common pasture after the harvest until their inclosure under the award for Upton in 1897. (fn. 212) Following that the Matson estate was further consolidated by exchanges with the Grove Court estate. (fn. 213)
In the later 19th century and the early 20th the Matson estate included in Matson three large farms, Larkham, Robins, and Winnycroft, (fn. 214) and in 1896 five agricultural occupiers were returned for Matson parish. (fn. 215) The three principal farms each had over 150 a. in the 1930s. (fn. 216) Matson remained predominantly grassland and in 1866 the parish returned 124 cattle, both dairy and beef, and 135 sheep. (fn. 217) A dairyman, principally a milk seller, lived at the reservoirs in the late 19th century. (fn. 218) The area of permanent pasture apparently increased in the later 19th century, and in 1905 Matson parish had 492 a. of permanent grass to 57 a. of arable. In the later 19th century leys of clover and grass were part of the crop rotation which included wheat, barley, beans, peas, and turnips, (fn. 219) arable farming being more important in the Painswick road area with its open fields than on Robins Wood Hill. (fn. 220) In 1896 orchards covered at least 32 a. of Matson parish. (fn. 221) From the 1950s much farmland, including the lowest slopes of the hill, disappeared under housing estates. (fn. 222) The higher land was taken for recreational use in the 1970s (fn. 223) but grazing continued over part in the mid 1980s when Robins Farm remained the centre of a working farm.
A corn mill on the river Twyver at Elm Court, east of the Wheatridge in Upton St. Leonards, (fn. 224) may have been on the site of that held in 1221 by Reynold Leviet (fn. 225) and in the 1260s under Abbot's Barton manor by William Leviet. (fn. 226) In the 1820s it was called Lodge Mill (fn. 227) and belonged to a small farm held under John Owen (d. by 1825) and acquired by Ralph Fletcher. The mill apparently ceased working in the 1840s. The former mill house has a brick south front and stable block dating from c. 1820. (fn. 228)
Early references to tradesmen in the Matson area are lacking, and in 1831 only one family in Matson parish was supported by trade and five by agriculture. (fn. 229)
The farmer of Llanthony Priory's Matson manor in 1378 owed suit to the court of King's Barton manor, (fn. 230) which exercised view of frankpledge over Matson parish. (fn. 231) No records of manorial government are known to survive for the parish. King's Barton and Upton St. Leonards manors each had leet jurisdiction in the parts of Matson belonging to Upton parish, (fn. 232) and the former also dealt with tenurial matters there. (fn. 233) The Upton manor court regulated the use of open-field and waste land by the Painswick road until the inclosure of 1897. Inhabitants of Matson contributed towards the expenses of the Upton pound in the mid 19th century. (fn. 234)
Matson parish had two churchwardens in the 16th century (fn. 235) but later there was sometimes only one. (fn. 236) The parish had a constable in 1715. (fn. 237) The annual cost of poor relief in the late 18th century and the early 19th rarely rose above 43, there being usually only two or three people on permanent relief. (fn. 238) The parish was included with Upton St. Leonards in the Gloucester poor-law union in 1835. (fn. 239) Later the Matson area was in Gloucester rural district until Gloucester city absorbed Matson and the Painswick road area in 1935 and the Wheatridge in 1967. (fn. 240)
There was a church or chapel at Matson by 1100 when the bishop granted Gloucester Abbey a pension of 10s. from it. (fn. 241) In the second quarter of the 12th century Ernulf, apparently in confirming a grant by his father Ralph, gave the church with its tithes and graveyard to the abbey, and Philip of Matson (fl. 1159) later confirmed the grant. (fn. 242) Priests appointed by the abbey to serve the church or chapel paid the pension (fn. 243) and also a portion of 5s. settled by 1291 on the rector of St. Mary de Lode, Gloucester. (fn. 244) The living, although occasionally described as a vicarage, (fn. 245) was by 1349 more usually called a rectory, (fn. 246) presumably because the priest took the profits of the church. Uncertainty over the living's status continued, but by the 18th century it was generally regarded as a rectory. (fn. 247)
The advowson of the church or rectory passed together with the 10s. pension as former possessions of the abbey to the dean and chapter of Gloucester cathedral in 1541. (fn. 248) In 1556 Thomas Hale was patron for one turn under a grant from the abbey, (fn. 249) and at consecutive vacancies in 1571 and 1626 the patronage was exercised respectively by Richard Robins and his son John as lessees of the dean and chapter. (fn. 250) The dean and chapter made later presentations, though the bishop collated through lapse in 1695 and the Crown acting through the Lord Chancellor was patron for a turn in 1747. (fn. 251) In 1986 the patronage remained with the dean and chapter. (fn. 252)
In 1291 the living's annual income was too small to be assessed for tax; (fn. 253) the ninth of grain, wool, and lambs in 1340 was valued at 16s. (fn. 254) The priest, who presumably received the tithes and other profits, (fn. 255) occupied a house and 3 a. by the late 16th century. (fn. 256) His living, including tithes, was worth 3 16s. 5d. clear in 1535 (fn. 257) and 3 6s. 1d. in 1603. (fn. 258) In 1651 the trustees for the maintenance of ministers assigned the Matson priest the rent of 26 paid by the lessee of the tithes and glebe, which had come to them as former possessions of the dean and chapter. (fn. 259) Later the incumbent was regarded as having the freehold of the tithes and 3 a., which by 1718 and until 1745 he let at farm for 19 a year. (fn. 260) The complex parish boundary made tithe collection difficult and in the early 1770s landholders claimed that for many years they had paid a modus of 20. (fn. 261) The rectory house, which stood south or east of the churchyard, comprised three bays and was in serious disrepair in 1649. After a rebuilding in the early 1650s it was of three storeys with a thatched roof. (fn. 262) It was later abandoned and demolished, apparently in the early 18th century. (fn. 263) To meet a benefaction from the Revd. Thomas Savage, Queen Anne's Bounty in 1745 awarded the living 200 (fn. 264) which was used to buy 30 a. in Westbury-on-Severn for the incumbent's glebe. (fn. 265) At the inclosure of 1799 the rector acquired 53 a. in South Hamlet in composition for his Matson glebe and tithes, save those of Pope's wood for which he was assigned a corn rent charge of 18s. (fn. 266) The living remained poor and was worth 185 in 1856. (fn. 267) The glebe, to which 11 a. at Sneedham's Green were added in 1889, was sold between 1918 and 1921. (fn. 268) In 1878 and 1879 a rectory house was built on Matson Lane north-east of the church to a design of F. S. Waller & Son largely at the expense of the Misses Rice. (fn. 269) Selwyn school bought the house in 1962 and a new house was built for the rector in the grounds; the older rectory was converted, and in the early 1980s enlarged, as a boarding house for the school. (fn. 270)
The living was filled in 1325 and 1382 on exchanges of benefices, (fn. 271) and in 1395 the rector had leave to absent himself for a year and to let the church at farm. (fn. 272) A Dominican friar became rector in 1443. (fn. 273) Richard Brook, rector by 1532, was decrepit in 1551. (fn. 274) Lewis Evans, whose incumbency lasted from 1571 to his death in 1626, (fn. 275) was neither a graduate nor a preacher but was deemed a sufficient scholar in 1593. (fn. 276) In 1648 the church was served by Thomas Jennings, a signatory of the Gloucestershire Ministers' Testimony. (fn. 277) In 1649 and in 1661 there was no incumbent. (fn. 278) In the later 17th century several rectors also held the living of Barnwood, (fn. 279) and in the early 18th, when the rector was non-resident, Albinia Selwyn employed Samson Harris, a friend of George Whitefield and vicar of Stonehouse from 1727, as her private chaplain at Matson. (fn. 280) Edward Nicholls, rector of St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, was licensed to the curacy of Matson in 1735 and was rector from 1747 to his death in 1763. (fn. 281) He held services every Sunday morning except the last in the month. (fn. 282) The poverty of the living and the lack of accommodation made Matson an unattractive benefice and between 1763 and 1788 eight men were instituted as rector; five of them resigned to become vicar of St. Mary de Lode, Gloucester. (fn. 283) In the later 18th century and the early 19th the rector usually lived in or near Gloucester, where a house in Wellington Parade was designated the glebe house in 1839. Under Robert Clifton, rector 181731, who was dispensed in 1819 to hold a living in Worcester, a curate conducted a Sunday service and four communion services a year. Matson was also served occasionally by stipendiary curates in the mid 19th century. (fn. 284) William Bazeley, rector 18751924, took up residence in the parish and assisted the Misses Rice in improvements to the church and school; his antiquarian interests resulted in several publications. (fn. 285) A mission church on the Matson housing estate from the mid 1950s is mentioned above. (fn. 286)
In 1427 Philip of Matson gave 3 a. for the repair of Matson church. (fn. 287) The land formed the endowment of the Matson visitation lands charity, the trustees of which were allotted land at the Wheatridge at the inclosure of 1799. (fn. 288) A small piece of land which had supported a lamp in the church was sold in 1549. (fn. 289)
Matson church was largely rebuilt in 1739 and again in 1893. When completed in 1894 it was dedicated to ST. KATHARINE (fn. 290) and comprised a chancel with north vestry and former south organ chamber and a nave with north porch, south organ chamber, and east bellcot. (fn. 291)
Barely any architectural evidence survives of the small medieval church. Fabric dating from the 13th and 15th centuries was discovered during the rebuilding of 1893, (fn. 292) and some fragments were incorporated in the porch. (fn. 293) Royalists used the church as a magazine during the siege of Gloucester in 1643, (fn. 294) and the chancel was in serious disrepair in 1649 (fn. 295) and in 1661 when the dean and chapter of Gloucester ordered repairs to be made. (fn. 296) In 1739 the church, which was in danger of collapse, was rebuilt except for the small chancel with money left by Albinia Selwyn. (fn. 297) The new parts, in brick, comprised a square nave with large round-headed windows and north doorway and a small west tower. They contrasted with the chancel, (fn. 298) which the rector Robert Anwyl Pritchard rebuilt in the early 1850s on a larger scale with a vestry and to a design in a 13th-century style by F. S. Waller. (fn. 299) The arrival of the Misses Rice at Matson House was followed by extensive improvements in the church; many fittings were replaced in 1872, a small organ chamber was added to the chancel, the chancel arch was widened in a 13th-century style in 1877, and the vestry was enlarged in 1888. (fn. 300) With the enlargement of its parish in 1892 (fn. 301) the church became too small, and in 1893 the nave and tower were pulled down to be replaced by a larger stone nave with porch, organ chamber, and bellcot designed by F. S. Waller & Son to match the chancel. The rebuilding was financed principally by Maria Rice in memory of her sister Katharine, whose name suggested the choice of dedication. (fn. 302)
The church retains some fittings from the earlier buildings, notably several monuments to members of the Selwyn family. (fn. 303) The bellcot houses a bell of the 15th century or early 16th, probably from the Bristol foundry, and the church also has a bell cast by Abel Rudhall in 1739. (fn. 304) The plate includes a paten of 1699 and a chalice of 1717 given by Albinia Selwyn in 1717, and a chalice and paten from a church in Havana, Cuba, given by George Selwyn (d. 1791). (fn. 305) The parish registers, which survive from 1553, contain few entries in the periods 164871 and 16871721. (fn. 306) The churchyard, which was enlarged in 1788 and 1894, (fn. 307) has a war memorial built in 1920. (fn. 308)
In 1676 one Matson parishioner was said to be a nonconformist. (fn. 309) In 1853 a house in Trafalgar Place on the Painswick road was registered for use by Wesleyan Methodists. That meeting lapsed before 1876. (fn. 310) In the late 1860s Baptist preachers from Gloucester visited Matson but no other evidence of nonconformist meetings there before the 1950s has been found. (fn. 311)
There was no school in Matson parish in 1818 when the only three children receiving education did so at the expense of a parishioner, possibly the curate's sister, (fn. 312) and in the mid 19th century children went to school in Upton St. Leonards. (fn. 313) A Sunday school in Matson teaching 10 children in 1825 (fn. 314) had lapsed by 1833 when another was started. (fn. 315)
An infants' school opened at Matson before 1875 was supported by pence, subscriptions, and payments from Matson church funds. (fn. 316) It was held in a cottage on the Painswick road until 1881 when it moved with 20 children to a new building provided on an adjacent site by the Misses Rice in memory of their sisters Harriet and Caroline. The Misses Rice built a schoolhouse to the north in 1884, (fn. 317) and in 1885 they endowed the school with 25 a year in stock. (fn. 318) In 1886 the school was reorganized as a National school and the older children of the area ceased to attend Upton National school. (fn. 319) Matson school, which was enlarged in 1897, had an average attendance of 50 in 1889 (fn. 320) and 86 in 1904, (fn. 321) and as Matson C. of E. school taught 39 children in 1938. (fn. 322) With the growth of the Matson housing estate in the 1950s the number of children on the roll increased rapidly and from 1952 the juniors went to a school in Finlay Road. The Matson school, where the number of children fell from 206 to 140 on the opening in 1955 of Robinswood infants' school in Matson Avenue, was replaced in 1960 by Moat infants' school in Juniper Avenue. Of the buildings, which included huts added in 1953 and the adjacent Matson church hall, (fn. 323) only the former schoolhouse was standing in 1986.
CHARITY FOR THE POOR.
The trust deed of 1633 for the charity founded by Giles Cox of Abload's Court, Sandhurst, by will dated 1620, assigned Matson parish 15s. a year to help householders not receiving poor relief. (fn. 324) Payment had apparently lapsed by 1683 (fn. 325) but resumed before 1822 when the amounts received by Matson and other parishes, including Upton St. Leonards, were doubled for several years. In Matson the charity was generally shared among four or five householders. (fn. 326) By 1896 Matson's share of the charity had risen to 3 16s., which under a Scheme of 1892 was distributed by a clothing club, but from 1903 it was 10s. (fn. 327) Residents of those parts of the Matson area (including Saintbridge) belonging to Upton received no payments from Upton's share of the charity for many years before 1890 when 1 13s. 4d. was given to Matson parish for their benefit. That and later payments were distributed by a coal club (fn. 328) and from 1914 Matson received 3 of the Upton share directly from the charity's trustees. (fn. 329) On the division of the charity in 1957 a separate charity was established for Matson. (fn. 330) In the early 1970s it distributed its income of 4 occasionally. (fn. 331)