A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 5, Bledisloe Hundred, St. Briavels Hundred, the Forest of Dean. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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HEWELSFIELD AND BROCKWEIR
Hewelsfield and Brockweir, called until 1994 Hewelsfield, (fn. 1) is a small parish by the river Wye 8 km. NNE. of Chepstow (Mon.). In 1842 an adjoining tract of extraparochial land, which became known as Hewelsfield common, was added to Hewelsfield for civil parish purposes, (fn. 2) and the parish was further enlarged in 1935 by the addition of an arm of Woolaston parish, comprising 219 a. and extending down the south side of the valley of Brockweir brook to the Wye at the village of Brockweir. (fn. 3) This account covers the parish as constituted between 1842 and 1935 and includes Hewelsfield village, scattered settlement on Hewelsfield common that was created by squatters from c. 1800 and was later inhabited by more prosperous residents, and most of the former trading village of Brockweir; a few buildings in the south part of Brockweir that lay within Woolaston, including Townsend (or Brockweir) Farm and a Moravian church, are covered in the history of Woolaston in another volume. (fn. 4)
There was a settlement, then called Hiwoldestone, at Hewelsfield in late Anglo-Saxon times. William I placed it within the Forest of Dean and it was probably depopulated and its fields returned to the waste, but it evidently had an inhabited settlement and manor again by the mid 12th century, when a church was recorded. (fn. 5) During the 12th century the names Hiwoldestone and Hewelsfield were both used. (fn. 6) The reconstituted manor was probably at first outside the jurisdiction of the Forest of Dean, but was within it during the 13th century, and was excluded again under a perambulation of 1300, which found it to be among the manors afforested since the beginning of Henry II's reign. (fn. 7)
Until 1842 Hewelsfield parish was in three parts and had a total of 1,102 a. The main, and by far the largest, part comprised farmland on high ground, having Hewelsfield village as its centre and Aylesmore brook as most of its north boundary. Below and to the west, a detached part of only a few acres lay on the north side of Brockweir brook, which flows down from the main part of the parish to the Wye, and on the bank of the Wye another detached part of Hewelsfield parish included the part of Brockweir village lying north of Brockweir brook. (fn. 8) The extraparochial land later called Hewelsfield common was bounded on the south by the two small parts of the parish and by Brockweir brook, on the east by the main part of the parish, on the north by fields of St. Briavels parish, and on the west, on the later parish boundary, by another brook flowing down to join the Wye at Brockweir. The south-east part of Hewelsfield common, on steep slopes below the ridge called Hart hill, was manorial land in the 13th century, occupied by a wood of the lords of Hewelsfield called Harthill wood. With the rest of Hewelsfield it was removed from the Forest by the perambulation of 1300: the revised bounds of the Forest were then traced from the Wye up Brockweir brook to a 'mere (or boundary) brook', which was evidently a small brook that joined Brockweir brook east of a ridge called Mill hill, and, leaving Harthill wood on the right hand side and the Forest on the left, to Aylesmore brook. (fn. 9) The north and west parts of Hewelsfield common were in the detached tract of the royal demesne land of the Forest known as Hudnalls, and were surveyed as part of it in 1608. The small tributary of Brockweir brook east of Mill hill then marked the boundary between Hudnalls and Harthill wood; it was called Black brook in 1608, while the name Mere (or Meer) brook was used then and later for the more westerly brook, on the later parish boundary. (fn. 10)
Harthill wood, the south-east part of Hewelsfield common, was usually called Harthill common during the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was common to the men of Hewelsfield; (fn. 11) it is not known whether the lords of the manor continued to claim manorial rights there. (fn. 12) The inhabitants also commoned in the west and north parts of Hewelsfield common, which were called Brockweir common by the late 18th century though included under the general designation of Hudnalls. (fn. 13) The name Mere brook, as recorded in 1608, suggests that the later parish boundary was already used then to define the areas of the extraparochial land of Hudnalls in which the men of Hewelsfield and St. Briavels respectively exercised their rights, and in the late 18th century and the early 19th the brook was regarded, and sometimes perambulated, as an unofficial parish boundary. (fn. 14) In the early 19th century the name Brockweir common came to be applied generally to all the extraparochial land east of Mere brook, including Harthill common, (fn. 15) but Hewelsfield common was the usual name by 1880. (fn. 16) Its addition to the three parts of the ancient parish in 1842 created a single unit of 1,592 a. (fn. 17)
The upper part of the enlarged parish is situated on a spur of land at c. 200 m., the land falling away steeply on most sides, towards the Wye below Hart hill and Cows hill on the west, towards Woolaston and the Severn on the south, and into the valleys of Cone brook and its tributary, Aylesmore brook, below Clay hill on the west and north. The higher land is on carboniferous limestone, while the land sloping to the Wye is on the Old Red Sandstone. (fn. 18) Brockweir brook, so called by 1300, forming the valley running from west of Hewelsfield village down to the Wye at Brockweir, (fn. 19) was usually called Harthill brook in the early modern period, (fn. 20) and in 1726 at Brockweir it was referred to as Grange brook, probably recalling a medieval grange of Tintern abbey (Mon.). (fn. 21) Mere brook, mentioned above, flowing through Hudnalls to Brockweir, was still called by that name in 1826, (fn. 22) but in 1748 it was called Smith's brook. (fn. 23)
A wood of the lord of the manor John of Monmouth mentioned in 1246 was presumably Harthill wood, in the south-east part of the extraparochial land. (fn. 24) In 1270, when Harthill wood was within the Forest, it was temporarily forfeited to the Crown on account of a misdemeanour by the woodward employed by the owner, Tintern abbey. (fn. 25) By the early 17th century, when the name Harthill common was used, (fn. 26) the wood had probably been much depleted by unrestricted grazing. In the early 19th century encroachments on the whole of the extraparochial area (fn. 27) produced a pattern of small closes, contrasting with the more regular pattern of larger fields in the ancient parish. Offa's Dyke descends the hillside near the south-western end of the former extraparochial area and crosses Brockweir brook at the upper detached part of the ancient parish, where the dyke was enlarged in the mid 13th century to form a mill dam. (fn. 28)
Ancient routes running up from the river Severn at Alvington and Woolaston met at Hewelsfield village and continued by way of Aylesmore, on the north boundary of the parish, to St. Briavels village. (fn. 29) The Chepstow to St. Briavels road, passing the village a short way to the west, was, however, the most important route through the parish in the modern period; it was repaired by the parish under indictment in 1812. (fn. 30) Later the road from the village to meet it at the crossroads called Tumpkinhales was improved and widened, and the old St. Briavels road by way of Aylesmore was closed in 1837. The latter was then described as a deep hollow lane, much of it impassable to carriages, (fn. 31) in which form most of it survived in 1994. An ancient road along the bank of the Wye, leading from a ferry opposite Tintern abbey through Brockweir village towards Redbrook and Monmouth bridge, had a pitched surface in parts c. 1800 and was once of considerable local importance, (fn. 32) but it survived only as a path in the 20th century. In the early 17th century the only road across Hewelsfield common was apparently one linking St. Briavels and Brockweir, descending by what was later called Prince's hill. (fn. 33) In the early 19th century encroachment on the common created a network of minor lanes, (fn. 34) which survived in 1994 though many of them only as unmade tracks. Of various lanes crossing the common from east to west, two were used as routes between Hewelsfield village and Brockweir in the mid 19th century. In 1876 the parish decided to maintain one which took a more northerly and higher course (called Hewelsfield Common road in 1994) rather than a lower one, probably that later called Bailey Lane, (fn. 35) and the Lydney highway district agreed to bear the cost of repairing the higher route in 1882. (fn. 36) All the roads leading up the hills from Brockweir village remained difficult to negotiate in the 19th century and goods were usually carried by donkeys. The building of a bridge across the Wye at Brockweir later encouraged improvement of the roads. A bus service between Chepstow and Coleford ran through the village from 1928, and the following year a halt was opened on the Wye Valley railway on the Monmouthshire side of the bridge. (fn. 37)
A ferry over the Wye at Brockweir was in operation by the early 1830s and was possibly then a recent innovation, for bringing workers over to a shipbuilding yard from the Monouthshire bank. In the late 19th century, when a small rowing boat was sculled across, passengers were charged 1d., providing the ferry's owner Edwin Dibden with an income of c. £120 a year. When the bridge was opened he sued its promoters unsuccessfully for loss of business. (fn. 38) The bridge, of flat girders on steel piers and stone abutments, was begun in 1905 and opened the following year. (fn. 39) The scheme was promoted from 1894 by prosperous residents who had settled in the area, and it was built as the private enterprise of three of them, who raised subscriptions and secured grants from Lydney rural district and from Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire county councils; the local authorities eventually supplied three quarters of c. £4,800 needed and subscribers the remainder. (fn. 40)
Hewelsfield village, on high ground at the junction of various lanes leading up from the Severn and Wye, was presumably the site of 'Hiwoldes stone', from which the place was named in the 11th century. The church, built by the mid 12th century, (fn. 41) stands in a circular churchyard, possibly indicating a re-used pagan site. (fn. 42) In modern times, and probably in the 16th century, (fn. 43) the village around it was very small, comprising only the house called Hewelsfield Court, standing on the east side of the old road to St. Briavels, and a few small houses and cottages on the lanes that converge on the churchyard. Surviving documentary evidence does not show whether the village was larger in the Middle Ages, but it is possible that Hewelsfield Court farm which dominated it by the early modern period was created from a number of smaller freeholds, each with its own farmhouse. (fn. 44) One house that has vanished, called Haresley House, stood west of Hewelsfield Court in 1733. (fn. 45) A two-storeyed house on the east side of the churchyard, later the Parrot inn, was apparently built in 1706. (fn. 46) The few buildings were supplemented by a schoolroom and a small nonconformist chapel during the 19th century. (fn. 47)
Of the few outlying farmsteads in the upper part of the ancient parish, Harthill Court, at the top of Hart hill north-west of the village, was established by the late Middle Ages. (fn. 48) In 1633 a small farmhouse called Bayly stood at the head of the Brockweir brook valley near the boundary with Hewelsfield common; (fn. 49) it was demolished before 1840. (fn. 50) By 1629 there was a dwelling or dwellings, part of the Rodmore estate (in St. Briavels), at Royle Reddings above the Cone brook valley at the east side of the parish. (fn. 51) In the south part of the parish only a barn and yard stood at the site of Poolfield Farm in 1818, (fn. 52) and a farmhouse was built before 1840 when it was called Hill Farm. (fn. 53) Cowshill Farm in the southwest part of the main part of the parish was apparently also established as a farmstead at the same period; the lands there were farmed from a house in the village in 1781. (fn. 54)
Brockweir, on the bank of the Wye where the Brockweir and Mere brooks fall into the river, had some houses by the late 13th century, (fn. 55) and provided a substantial part of the parish's population by the mid 16th century. (fn. 56) River trade was its main support until the late 19th century. (fn. 57) The houses are of stone with rendering and are clustered tightly on narrow lanes. The oldest building, the Malthouse, on the south side of the road leading to the waterside, presumably formed part of the buildings of a grange that Tintern abbey owned at Brockweir in the early 16th century. (fn. 58) The south part is a 15th-century range, the ground floor entered through its west wall and the first floor having near central doorways on the north and south. The north staircase also served a 16th-century north-west range and may have been within a porch, entered by the four-centred doorway that has been reset further north. The north-east angle, between the two ranges, was infilled in the 19th century, when the roofs of the older ranges were reconstructed. Part of the building was used as a malthouse in the earlier 19th century, when it belonged to a prominent local family called Jane, (fn. 59) and from 1968 a pottery was carried on there. (fn. 60) On the opposite side of the road a twostoreyed building, housing a shop in 1994, retains two 15th-century cusped windows and a stone newel stair in its rear wall. A house by Brockweir bridge, known as the Manor House, is a substantial building of c. 1600, the front to the river retaining a large gable and several original windows. It appears to have had a three-roomed plan, each room having a chimney stack. Service and staircase projections to the rear were later incorporated in a 19th-century extension, and the north end of the house was much altered in the 20th century. Glenwye, by the riverside to the south, is a 17th-century house, originally on a three-roomed plan, the central room heated by a fireplace in the side wall. The other houses of Brockweir were mostly built or rebuilt during the 18th century. In the smaller detached part of the ancient parish, in the valley above, a decayed house formerly belonging to James Cutt was recorded in 1759; (fn. 61) it had gone by 1840 when the land was called Cutt's orchard. (fn. 62)
In the extraparochial land, later called Hewelsfield common, encroachment by squatters had begun by 1794 (fn. 63) and several cottages had been built by 1812. (fn. 64) By 1830 cottages were scattered widely on a network of narrow lanes, (fn. 65) and by 1841, shortly before it was added to Hewelsfield parish, the area contained 53 dwellings. (fn. 66) In the late 19th century, encouraged partly by the opening of the Wye Valley railway on the Monmouthshire side of the river in 1876, (fn. 67) private residents and retired people settled in the area and enlarged the cottages or built new houses. By 1880 house names such as Wye View, Belmont, Bellevue House, and Woodbine Cottage reflected the changing character of the common. In 1907 it was found that on the Gloucestershire bank of the river within a 2¼ mile radius of Brockweir (which included also St. Briavels common and adjoining areas in St. Briavels) 48 houses had been enlarged or new built in the previous 12 years; some of the houses were let to holidaymakers during the summer months. (fn. 68) One substantial house, Harthill Grange, set in landscaped grounds and with a stable block, was built on the north part of Hewelsfield common shortly before 1877. (fn. 69) It was demolished in the mid 20th century. (fn. 70) New building, mainly bungalows but including four council houses in 1931 on a lane called Belmont Road, continued in the area during the 1920s and 1930s, (fn. 71) and began again in the early 1960s. (fn. 72) Hewelsfield common remained a popular residential area in 1994 with detached houses scattered over the hillsides. Most were then modern in character, and the very few early 19th-century cottages that had survived were incorporated in larger dwellings.
In 1551 there were reported to be c. 80 communicants in the parish (fn. 73) and in 1563 20 households. (fn. 74) At that period the small population was roughly divided between the two villages: in 1539 14 men were mustered under Hewelsfield and 10 under Brockweir (fn. 75) and the corresponding figures in 1546 were 11 and 9. (fn. 76) Later the balance swung fairly heavily towards Brockweir. The population was estimated at 40 families in 1650, (fn. 77) c. 200 people in 40 houses c. 1710, (fn. 78) and 253 people in 54 houses c. 1775. (fn. 79) In 1801 298 people in 62 houses were enumerated, (fn. 80) and by 1821, in the ancient parish and in the growing number of dwellings on Hewelsfield common, there were 434 people. (fn. 81) In 1841 the parish had a population of 319 and the common 212. In the next 60 years there were comparatively sharp alterations in the level of population in the enlarged parish, probably due mainly to the changing nature of the households on Hewelsfield common: between 1851 and 1861 the numbers fell from 497 to 417 and between 1891 and 1901 from 409 to 353, with a rise again to 442 by 1921. There was a gradual fall in the mid 20th century, but between 1981 and 1991 there was a recovery from 383 to 414. (fn. 82)
A church house, evidently in Hewelsfield village, had been demolished by 1683 but a house at Brockweir then had that designation (fn. 83) and remained in possession of the parish until c. 1896. (fn. 84) The Parrot inn, at a house by Hewelsfield churchyard, where a friendly society met in 1805, (fn. 85) remained open until the first decade of the 20th century. (fn. 86) At Tumpkinhales on the Chepstow road, west of the village, there was an inn called the Carpenter's Arms by 1834, and in 1840 there was also a beerhouse there; (fn. 87) the inn closed after 1959. (fn. 88) At Brockweir an inn called the George, on the south side of the road to the river bank, was recorded from 1793 and had changed its name to the New Inn by 1840. (fn. 89) In 1840 the village had three other public houses, called, in connexion with its trade, the Ship, the Severn Trow, and the Bristol. There was then also a beerhouse called the Spout north of the village in a row of cottages that was later formed into a single dwelling called Spout House. (fn. 90) The Bristol was called the Sloop in 1844 when a friendly society met there. (fn. 91) By 1891 the New Inn and another called the Royal Arms were the only public houses in the village; (fn. 92) the latter closed after 1959, (fn. 93) leaving only the New Inn, which by 1994 had changed its name to the Brockweir inn.
Brockweir, approached as much by water as by road, was an isolated community with an independent character. The minister appointed to its new Moravian church in 1832 (fn. 94) described the life of its watermen as being centred on beerhouses, skittle alleys, and cockfighting and said that it had the reputation of a 'city of refuge' for lawless elements. (fn. 95) Nonconformist chapels, a school, the decline of its trade, and an influx of outsiders to the area had all helped to temper its character by 1906 when the opening of the bridge over the Wye ended its comparative isolation. In the late 19th century the Moravians built a hall, which was used by the villagers in general, near their church in the part of the village within Woolaston, and by 1900 a small reading room had been opened. (fn. 96) In 1935 a new village hall and reading room, called the Mackenzie Hall after Professor John Mackenzie who gave it, was opened by the roadside some way above the village to serve Brockweir and the Hewelsfield common area. (fn. 97)
MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
In Eward the Confessor's reign an estate of 3 hides at Hewelsfield was held by Wulfheah (Ulfeg). (fn. 98) After the Conquest it was perhaps held briefly by William FitzOsbern, earl of Hereford, whose foundation Lire abbey (Eure), in Normandy, later owned Hewelsfield church as a chapelry of Lydney. (fn. 99) The Hewelsfield estate later passed to the lord of Monmouth, William son of Baderon, but before 1086 by William I's command it was placed in the Forest of Dean and probably depopulated. (fn. 100) Later a new manor called HEWELSFIELD was formed and returned to the ownership of the lords of Monmouth. In 1246 it was held by John of Monmouth, great-grandson of William son of Baderon, who was succeeded at his death in 1248 by his son John (d. c. 1256). (fn. 101) The younger John granted it, with his honor of Monmouth, to Prince Edward, (fn. 102) who in 1266 granted it in free alms to Tintern abbey (Mon.). (fn. 103) In 1279 or 1280 Edward as king took the manor into his hands, but in the latter year he restored it to the abbey at a fee farm of 61s. 5d., from which the monks were discharged in 1330. (fn. 104) A rent of 51s. and other services owed from Hewelsfield were acquired by Amice de Lacy before 1269 (fn. 105) and sold by her son Fulk to the monks before 1280. (fn. 106) Hewelsfield manor was retained by Tintern until the Dissolution, when the abbey also had a grange at Brockweir, which probably comprised buildings in that village and land adjoining in Woolaston parish. Manor and grange were granted with the other abbey estates in 1537 to Henry Somerset, earl of Worcester. (fn. 107) The manorial rights of Hewelsfield passed to his descendants, earls of Worcester and dukes of Beaufort. (fn. 108)
A large estate based on the house called HEWELSFIELD COURT was sometimes called a manor but presumably originated as a free tenancy or tenancies held under the manor. It was owned, probably by 1542, (fn. 109) by William Warren (d. 1573), who was also an important landowner in St. Briavels. It passed to George Gough, who married William's daughter Mary, (fn. 110) and Mary apparently held it as a widow in 1608. (fn. 111) Their son William Gough apparently succeeded to their Hewelsfield estate, and it later passed to William's son Richard. Richard Gough left it to his daughters Alice, wife of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, and Eleanor, wife of Sir William Catchmay of Bigsweir, in St. Briavels. (fn. 112)
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton died in 1664 and Alice in 1669, (fn. 113) and their share of the estate, probably including Hewelsfield Court, was sold by their heirs before 1689 to Robert Symonds. (fn. 114) Robert's son Thomas succeeded him before 1719 and died in 1760, having settled it on his wife Penelope, and their son Thomas Symonds Powell succeeded. Thomas died in 1793 and in that year his heir completed his agreed sale of the estate to William Turner of Upton Bishop (Herefs.). (fn. 115)
Eleanor Catchmay, the other daughter of Richard Gough, died in 1662. (fn. 116) A part of her share was presumably the estate owned by William Catchmay (d. 1691) (fn. 117) of Hewelsfield. William settled his estate on his wife Barbara (fn. 118) (d. 1712), and it passed to their son William (fn. 119) (d. 1714), (fn. 120) who settled it on his wife Elizabeth. Elizabeth later married a Mr. Perkins and died before 1733 when, under an agreement between her heirs, her Hewelsfield land was assigned to her daughter Elizabeth, the wife of John Jane. The estate, which included Haresley House, standing opposite Hewelsfield Court, passed to John's son Edmund Jane (d. by 1776) of Chepstow, whose son Thomas succeeded and was probably the same Thomas who sold it to William Turner, owner of the other share of the estate, in 1797. (fn. 121) Poolfield farm at Hewelsfield, which the Rooke family of Bigsweir owned c. 1780 (fn. 122) and until 1818 (fn. 123) or later, may have been another part of Eleanor Catchmay's share of the estate, descending in the main line of her heirs. (fn. 124)
William Turner died in 1805 and was succeeded by his son Samuel (d. 1833), whose devisees completed a sale of the estate he had agreed with W. H. Peel of Aylesmore, in St. Briavels; it then comprised Hewelsfield Court and c. 420 a. (fn. 125) With other lands in Hewelsfield bought by Peel, (fn. 126) it descended with Aylesmore until 1892. Hewelsfield Court and 366 a. of land were then sold to W. B. Marling (fn. 127) and formed part of the Clanna estate, based in Alvington, until the mid 20th century. (fn. 128) Other lands in the parish, including Cowshill and Poolfield farms, were bought in the same period by Marling's brother Sir William Marling, Bt., and Sir William's son Col. Perceval Marling (fn. 129) and formed part of their Sedbury Park estate, based in Tidenham, until c. 1921. (fn. 130) Hewelsfield Court farm was bought in the 1950s by its tenants, the Simmons family, which owned and farmed it in 1994. (fn. 131)
The Goughs lived at Hewelsfield, (fn. 132) evidently at Hewelsfield Court, and one of the Throckmorton family was assessed on 7 hearths at Hewelsfield in 1672. (fn. 133) In the early 18th century Robert Symonds lived at Hewelsfield Court, (fn. 134) which later was usually tenanted. About 1830 it was rebuilt as a tall, square, stone farmhouse, but a substantial part of the older house, adjoining the new block on the west, was retained and used as a farm building. The old range dates from the 16th century and includes a garderobe turret and a large first-floor room, heated from a lateral stack. In 1994 it and some of the other farm buildings were being remodelled to form dwellings.
An estate called HARTHILL was styled a manor from the mid 16th century and in 1612 was held by fealty from the lord of Hewelsfield, the earl of Worcester. (fn. 135) It may have been held by William Wyther who was a landowner in Hewelsfield in 1300, (fn. 136) and John Wyther of Harthill was mentioned in 1346. (fn. 137) John Greyndour held Harthill, comprising a house and ploughland, at his death in 1415 or 1416, and was succeeded by his son Robert. (fn. 138) It descended with the Clearwell estate, in Newland, (fn. 139) until 1640 when Sir Baynham Throckmorton sold it to John Gonning of Bristol and his son John. (fn. 140) It then descended with the Great House estate, in St. Briavels, returning to the same ownership as Clearwell in the early 18th century. (fn. 141) The Harthill estate, comprising Harthill Court and 136 a. in 1840, (fn. 142) passed with Clearwell until 1870 (fn. 143) or later, but by 1881 it belonged to Francis Lamb, (fn. 144) who lived at a large new house called Harthill Grange built on the north part of Hewelsfield common. (fn. 145) Edward Lamb owned the estate in 1910 and 1939. (fn. 146) By 1994 Harthill Court and the farmland were in separate ownerships. The south end of a long service wing at Harthill Court probably survives from a rebuilding of the farmhouse in the late 18th century, while its north end was added in the early 19th century. About 1860 a taller block, containing the principal rooms, was added at the south end of the house. An outbuilding, much altered, incorporates a 17th-century window head.
Monmouth priory owned a small estate in Hewelsfield, presumably given to it by one of the lords of Monmouth before the mid 13th century. In the 1440s the estate comprised a few small free tenements and some parcels of land that had apparently escheated to the priory. (fn. 147) That estate was retained by the priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 148)
Little evidence for the early agricultural history of Hewelsfield has been found, but the original pattern of tenure, as in other manors created on the Forest fringes, was probably one of small freeholds. The medieval manor apparently had little agricultural land in demesne, though it did include some woodland. (fn. 149) An extent of 1276 mentioned only a pasture capable of supporting 20 cattle and 100 sheep. The value of the manor was then mainly in the form of rents of frettenants, who also owed four barbed arrows each, while bedrips and some other customary services were valued at under 10s. The whole value was only £6 3s. 5½d. (fn. 150) The survey of Tintern abbey's lands at the Dissolution mentioned only free rents at Hewelsfield and a grange at Brockweir, (fn. 151) the land of which was probably in the adjoining part of Woolaston parish, represented later by Townsend (or Brockweir) farm. (fn. 152) The principal freehold estate at Hewelsfield in the post-medieval period, based on Hewelsfield Court, was perhaps an amalgam of smaller freeholds. (fn. 153)
A field called Wigdons, beside the Woolaston road near the south boundary of the parish, where small parcels of arable were mentioned in 1733, was apparently then an open field. (fn. 154) Two small areas of steep hillside, one below Clay hill near the east side of the parish and one below Cows hill at the west boundary, were recorded as common land from c. 1700; (fn. 155) in 1840 both were called Hewelsfield cliff. (fn. 156) A larger common enjoyed by the inhabitants in the 17th and 18th centuries was Harthill common in the extraparochial lands of the parish, and, probably from the Middle Ages, the inhabitants commoned in adjoining parts of the Forest demesne land called Hudnalls. (fn. 157) Both Hewelsfield and Brockweir were among the villages and hamlets that claimed common and estovers in the Forest demesne in the early 17th century. (fn. 158)
In 1818 the Hewelsfield Court estate formed a single tenancy of 421 a., (fn. 159) and it remained much the largest farm in the parish during the 19th and 20th centuries. The farmer employed between 20 and 30 labourers in 1851, (fn. 160) and by 1877, when the farm comprised 463 a., extensive ranges of farm buildings adjoined the house. (fn. 161) The other main farms in 1818 were Harthill Court with 127 a., Poolfield farm with 80 a., and Cowshill, Royle Reddings, and another farm which each had c. 60 a.; there were then four other farms with over 20 a. (fn. 162) From the beginning of the 19th century smallholdings were established by the encroachment of Hewelsfield common, (fn. 163) and nine farmers were listed in that area in 1879 (fn. 164) and seven in 1894. (fn. 165) In 1896 a total of 38 agricultural occupiers was returned in the enlarged parish of Hewelsfield. (fn. 166) In 1920 the principal farms were Hewelsfield Court (364 a.), then part of the Clanna estate, and Poolfield (232 a., including land in Woolaston) and Cowshill (108 a.), both part of the Sedbury Park estate; the Clanna estate also included Royle Reddings farmhouse and 105 a., then farmed as part of Barnage farm in Alvington. (fn. 167) In 1988, when all were owner-occupied, the farms were Hewelsfield Court, two others with over 50 ha. (124 a.), three of 20-40 ha., and ten smallholdings worked part-time. A total of 28 people then worked the farms. (fn. 168)
In 1801 321 a. of arable were returned in the parish, mainly growing wheat and barley. (fn. 169) In 1818 the larger farms were predominantly arable, Hewelsfield Court having 245 a. out of 421 a., Harthill 75 a. of 127 a., and Poolfield 60 a. of 80 a. They grew barley, wheat, and oats, with turnips, clover, cinquefoil, leys, and fallow as the other elements in the rotation. (fn. 170) In 1866 756 a. of arable were returned compared to 422 a. of permanent grass; (fn. 171) the livestock comprised c. 100 cattle and c. 390 sheep. (fn. 172) By 1896 the amount of cropped land returned had fallen to 302 a., and there had been a considerable increase in the livestock, which included 75 dairy cows. (fn. 173) By 1926 there had been a further increase in livestock farming, with 349 cattle, including 131 cows in milk, and 813 sheep returned; 186 a. were then used as rough grazing. (fn. 174) In 1988 the principal farms were engaged in dairying and stock raising, 568 cattle and 1,559 sheep being returned; 48 ha. (119 a.) of crops were returned, almost all barley. (fn. 175)
A water mill built by the abbot of Tintern at Hewelsfield shortly before 1270 straddled the boundary between Tidenham chase and the Forest and was presented at two eyres as a resort of poachers and as an impediment to the passage of deer from the chase to the Forest. (fn. 176) The mill was evidently at a site on Brockweir brook, partly in the small detached part of Hewelsfield and partly in Woolaston parish; the spur of land above called Mill hill was presumably named from it. Still surviving there in 1994 was the dry millpond and a large, stone-capped mill dam, which incorporated a stretch of Offa's Dyke. No record has been found of the mill in use in the post-medieval period. Further down the brook at Brockweir village there was a corn mill by 1758, owned by a branch of the Jane family. (fn. 177) It remained in use until the early 20th century, (fn. 178) and the stone mill building survived in 1994.
Among many inhabitants of Brockweir village employed in the trade of the river Wye was John Gethin, who left two boats to his sons in 1571. (fn. 179) One of his sons was probably the John Gethin who was killed on his boat in the Kingsroad, in the Bristol Channel, during an affray with Bristol merchants in 1587. (fn. 180) In 1608 13 sailors, five of them surnamed Gethin, were mustered from Hewelsfield parish. (fn. 181) During the 18th and the early 19th centuries Brockweir was a transhipment port, where goods brought down in barges from Herefordshire were put in larger craft, usually trows of 60-80 tons, for carriage to Bristol. (fn. 182) It also sent wood and iron from the Forest area to Bristol, (fn. 183) and presumably, as in the late 19th century, the returning boats carried groceries and household necessities. (fn. 184) Surviving title deeds of the 18th and early 19th centuries suggest that almost all the inhabitants of the village were then employed on the river. (fn. 185) In 1851 2 mariners and 16 watermen lived in Hewelsfield parish, and 2 mariners, 3 sailors, and 8 watermen in the adjoining parts of St. Briavels. (fn. 186) The Bristol trade continued throughout the 19th century, with the Bowens and Dibdens the families principally involved. (fn. 187) Trade declined with the opening of the Wye Valley railway in 1876, and continued on a limited scale into the early 20th century. (fn. 188)
A ship carpenter lived at Brockweir in 1748 (fn. 189) and small river craft were perhaps then built at the village. About 1826 the building of seagoing vessels, including brigs and schooners, was begun there by John Easton of Hereford. His yard closed in or soon after 1836 but another yard, in a close on the upstream side of the village, (fn. 190) had been started by Hezekiah Swift of Monmouth (d. 1835). Swift's business was continued by his son Thomas, who built brigs, schooners, and barques, some of the last over 300 tons, besides sloops and trows, until c. 1848. (fn. 191) The building of small craft continued at Brockweir until the end of the century. (fn. 192)
In 1608 a joiner, a butcher, and a weaver were living in Hewelsfield parish. (fn. 193) Thirteen trades men and craftsmen, excluding those employed in the river trade, were enumerated in the parish in 1851, mainly living at Brockweir or on Hewelsfield common. (fn. 194) In 1879 Brockweir had 3 shopkeepers, a butcher, and a carpenter, while 2 masons lived on the common and a butcher at Tumpkinhales. (fn. 195) There was a smithy in Hewelsfield village during the later 19th century. (fn. 196) Brockweir had a number of shopkeepers until the mid 20th century. (fn. 197) In 1994 there was a pottery at the house called the Malthouse and one other small shop.
The weir that gave Brockweir its name was mentioned c. 1150 when Monmouth priory held it by gift of Baderon, lord of Monmouth. (fn. 198) Members of the de Clare family had a fishery at Brockweir, attached to property on the Monmouthshire bank, in the early 14th century, (fn. 199) and Tintern abbey held the weir in 1331. (fn. 200) Tintern's rights presumably passed to the earl of Worcester at the Dissolution, and in 1866 the extensive Wye fisheries of the duke of Beaufort included a crib opposite Brockweir on the Monmouthshire bank and the right to use a stop net there. (fn. 201) The remains of the ancient weir were visible in 1994 as rocky shallows under Brockweir bridge.
No court rolls for Hewelsfield manor are known to survive, but rolls of 1444 and 1449 survive for a court held for Monmouth priory's small estate. (fn. 202) Leet jurisdiction over Hewelsfield was exercised by the St. Briavels hundred court. (fn. 203)
The surviving records of parish government include churchwardens' accounts from 1795 and vestry minutes from 1832. (fn. 204) The parish had two churchwardens in the early modern period, (fn. 205) but there was only one in the late 18th century (fn. 206) and until c. 1857, from which time two were elected. (fn. 207) In 1803 £59 was expended on poor relief and eight people received regular relief. (fn. 208) The annual cost reached £149 in 1814, with 12 people on permanent relief, (fn. 209) but in the 1820s and 1830s it was usually kept below £100. (fn. 210) In 1833 the poor were farmed for £80. A salaried assistant overseer had by then been appointed and the church house at Brockweir was used as a poorhouse. (fn. 211) Hewelsfield parish was included in the Chepstow union in 1836. (fn. 212) It was included in the Lydney highway district in 1867, (fn. 213) and in 1894 it became part of Lydney rural district. (fn. 214) It was transferred with the rest of the rural district in 1974 to the Forest of Dean district, in which the parish, under its new style of Hewelsfield and Brockweir, remained in 1994.
The church at Hewelsfield had been founded by the mid 12th century. (fn. 215) Its ownership, with that of St. Briavels church, was then disputed between Monmouth priory, a foundation of the lords of Monmouth, who may have recovered the manor by then, and Lire abbey (Eure), which claimed the church as a chapel to its church of Lydney. About 1166 the dispute was decided in favour of Lire, (fn. 216) and the church remained a chapel to Lydney. (fn. 217) In or shortly before 1855 a separate living, variously described as a perpetual curacy or rectory, was created, to which the dean and chapter of Hereford, patrons of Lydney, presented. (fn. 218) In 1963 the living was united with that of St. Briavels, which was in the same patronage. (fn. 219)
All the tithes of Hewelsfield belonged to the vicar of Lydney, who was awarded a corn rent charge of £131 1s. for them in 1840. (fn. 220) The whole rent charge was presumably applied to the new benefice, which was said to be worth £130 a year in 1856. (fn. 221) In 1894 the net income of the incumbent was £78. (fn. 222) In 1635 there was a small glebe house south-west of the churchyard for the use of the curate serving the chapelry, (fn. 223) and in 1706 it was a two-roomed cottage with a thatched roof. (fn. 224) The vicar of Lydney repaired it in the 1820s. (fn. 225) It was sold after the union of the benefices in 1963, the incumbent living at St. Briavels. (fn. 226)
The vicar of Lydney appointed curates to serve Hewelsfield from the early 16th century, (fn. 227) and from the mid 17th century the same man usually also served St. Briavels. (fn. 228) In 1650, when there was said to be a rector for the parish with an income of £30, temporary provision had perhaps been made by the Commonwealth government. (fn. 229) At the beginning of the 18th century one service was being held each Sunday, (fn. 230) and in 1750 and 1825 it was either in the morning or afternoon, alternately with St. Briavels. (fn. 231)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE, so called by 1508, (fn. 232) is built of coursed rubble and ashlar and comprises chancel, central tower with north transept, and nave with north aisle, south porch, and a small vestry or cell adjoining the west side of the porch.
The nave and aisle are of the 12th century, though externally much restored. The chancel, tower, porch, and cell are of the 13th century. The north transept is 14th-century in origin, but it is thought to have been extended in the 16th century, possibly to house a burial chapel of the Gough family, which was mentioned in the late 18th century. (fn. 233) The church's west window was inserted in the late 13th century, and there are 14th-century windows on both sides of the chancel. The church was restored under the direction of William Butterfield in the mid 1860s, when new windows were put into the south side of the nave, the roofs were renewed, and the church refitted. (fn. 234) In the 1970s the roofs were repaired and the whole church retiled, and in the early 1980s the interior was restored and redecorated. (fn. 235)
The font, with an octagonal bowl on a circular pedestal, dates from the early 13th century. (fn. 236) There is a ring of six bells: (i) by John Taylor of Loughborough 1866, added to the ring in 1979; (ii) by William Evans 1733; (iii) by John Pennington 1634; (iv) recast by Mears of London 1864; (v) by William Evans 1746; (vi) a late 15th-century bell from a Gloucester foundry. (fn. 237) The plate includes a chalice and paten cover of 1695, and a paten given by the curate Edgar Lloyd in 1849. (fn. 238) The registers survive from 1664. (fn. 239)
The history of the Moravian church opened in 1832 in the south part of Brockweir village is given under Woolaston in another volume. (fn. 240) Houses at Brockweir and in the adjoining area that were registered for worship from 1812 were probably used by Wesleyan Methodists, (fn. 241) who c. 1818 opened a chapel in the south part of the extraparochial land that was later added to St. Briavels parish. (fn. 242) Before 1846 the Wesleyans opened a chapel called Salem in the north part of Brockweir village. (fn. 243) It closed before 1914 and was later demolished. During the early 20th century several groups, including Quakers, Pentecostalists, and Christian Scientists, held meetings in private houses in Brockweir and the surrounding area. (fn. 244)
From c. 1816 Daniel Edwards, a lay preacher, led an Independent meeting in Hewelsfield, (fn. 245) and in 1822 the group built a small chapel called Zion on the west side of Hewelsfield village. In 1851 it had an average congregation at its evening service of 45. (fn. 246) In 1908 it was an out-station of the Congregational chapel in St. Briavels village. (fn. 247) It had closed by 1994.
In 1851 a small National school was built west of the parish church. It was taught by a mistress and supported by voluntary contributions, pence, and the rent of one of the church houses; (fn. 248) from 1864 part of the income of the Church and Poor charity was applied to it. (fn. 249) The school had an average attendance of only 25 in 1875, (fn. 250) and it was closed before 1885 when the children from the upper part of the parish attended the National school in St. Briavels village. (fn. 251) The building at Hewelsfield remained in use as a Sunday school (fn. 252) until sold by the parish in the early 1970s. (fn. 253)
At Brockweir an infant school run by the Moravians in the part of the village within Woolaston parish was apparently reconstituted as a British school in 1873. (fn. 254) In 1875, however, it was replaced by a school held in the same building by a school board (fn. 255) formed the previous year for Hewelsfield and St. Briavels. In 1885 the board school had accommodation for 60 children and an average attendance of 34 children from Brockweir and the south part of St. Briavels parish. (fn. 256) In 1896 the board built a new school on the south part of Hewelsfield common by the road leading up from Brockweir. (fn. 257) In 1904, called Brockweir Council school, it had an average attendance of 97 and was organized as mixed and infants' departments. (fn. 258) The average attendance was 85 in 1938. (fn. 259) The number on the roll had fallen to 18 by 1992 (fn. 260) and the school was closed the following year. (fn. 261)
CHARITIES FOR THE POOR.
Lands belonging to the parish in 1683, including the church house at Brockweir and the site of the old church house at Hewelsfield village, were thought to have been given by a number of donors for the repair of the church; they were valued at £6 16s. 6d. a year in 1683, (fn. 262) and in 1864 they comprised 11 a. (fn. 263) Elizabeth Williams by will dated 1724 gave rent charges of 20s. a year for eight poor widows, 10s. for the repair of the church, and 5s. for a sermon on Good Friday; by the 1820s the land charged was divided among several owners, causing problems in ob taining the payments. (fn. 264) A bequest of John Matthews (d. 1639) for the poor and for a sermon was lost after 1683. (fn. 265)
A Scheme of 1864 amalgamated the parish lands charity and the Williams charity to create the Hewelsfield Church and Poor charity; the annual income, then £17 a year, was to be divided, apart from the 5s. for the sermon, between the church fabric, the parish school, and the poor; (fn. 266) all but a small part of the land was sold in the mid 1890s and the proceeds invested in stock. In 1882 the poor's part was distributed in doles of 5s. to women and 2s. 6d. to men, and in the early 1940s it was distributed in 9s. doles. (fn. 267) The part assigned to the church fabric and the payment for the sermon were made a separate ecclesiastical charity, though under the same trustees, in 1899. The part for the school was formed into a separate educational endowment a few years later, (fn. 268) and during the early 20th century was applied to the upkeep of the old school building, which was then in use as a Sunday school. (fn. 269)