A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
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The parish of Lower Swell stretched west from Stowon-the-Wold, covering 2,347 a., and measuring four miles from east to west and about a mile from north to south. The Foss Way formed its eastern boundary (fn. 1) until 1935, when 107 a. were added to Stow and the remainder of Lower Swell was united with most of Upper Swell, its northern neighbour, to form the civil parish of Swell. (fn. 2) The southern limit of the parish is marked by small boundary stones, placed there before 1731. (fn. 3)
The parish is drained by the River Dikler, running through its eastern half; east of the river the land rises steeply from 475 ft. to over 700 ft. on the Foss Way; westwards the rise is less steep, reaching 750 ft. before dropping down to cross the upper end of the Ey brook which drains the western half of the parish. (fn. 4) The protuberant contours on the western side of the river are thought to have given rise to the name Swell. (fn. 5) The lower parts of the parish are on the Lias Clays, with a narrow strip of alluvium along the river, and the higher ground on the Inferior Oolite, Chipping Norton Limestone, and Great Oolite, (fn. 6) from which stone has been quarried since the 16th century. (fn. 7) The western end of the parish, part of the exposed Cotswold uplands, was for long primarily a sheep-pasture but was later taken into cultivation and dotted with small coverts. (fn. 8) In the valley of the Dikler a park of c. 400 a. was created in the mid-13th century (fn. 9) and helps to give the east end of the parish a wooded aspect. As it ran through the park the river fed a fishpond from the 13th (fn. 10) to the 16th century. (fn. 11) An artificial lake was formed in the early 20th century. (fn. 12)
The village of Lower Swell lies a short way west of the river and a mile from Stow, on the main road between Stow and Gloucester. This road, turnpiked in 1755, (fn. 13) is the ancient Cotswold Ridgeway, but where it passes through the village its course was diverted when the park was created. (fn. 14) The original course is likely to have been straight from the bridge (which existed by 1741) (fn. 15) over the Dikler to the churchyard, a hundred yards north of the later course. The village appears to have been an occupation-site in prehistoric times, (fn. 16) and Lady's Well, east of the church, is thought to have been a sacred spring. (fn. 17) In the parish are the sites of two Roman buildings (fn. 18) and a number of barrows. (fn. 19) The parish is crossed by the Roman Ryknild Street.
In the Middle Ages Lower Swell village was sometimes distinguished from Upper Swell as Little Swell, (fn. 20) though by the 16th century it was larger in population and remained so. (fn. 21) The village had developed, by the 17th century and probably much earlier, along the main road and the road which runs south from it to Upper and Lower Slaughter. Thus it was L-shaped, with roads leading off from the angle to Winchcombe (turnpiked in 1792) (fn. 22) and to Upper Swell. The road junction gives the village a focal point, with a small green drained by a culverted stream. On the green stands a war memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and beside the green, on the site of the village pound, (fn. 23) a village hall built in 1912. (fn. 24) Building in the 19th and 20th centuries, while making the village denser, did not significantly alter its shape, since many of the new houses were built on old sites. (fn. 25)
North-east of the village, between Lady's Well and the river, is a moated site which may have contained the mansion house 'at the Bowl'. (fn. 26) This house was demolished in 1671, being replaced by a new house (fn. 27) which adjoined the farm buildings. (fn. 28) The new house was in turn partly demolished, or rebuilt on a smaller scale, c. 1800, (fn. 29) and in 1867 a new house for the owner of the estate was built on the other side of the river at Abbotswood. (fn. 30) This house, considered aesthetically unsatisfactory, was remodelled and enlarged under the direction of Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1902. Its grounds were soon afterwards laid out as gardens that have attracted great attention. (fn. 31)
In the west of the parish a sheep-house existed at Morden leasow, apparently near the site of Barn Cottages, in the 16th century. (fn. 32) Later a farm-house was built there, but it was demolished in the mid18th century, when Swell Wold Farm was built a little higher up the valley. (fn. 33) Other scattered buildings in the west of the parish, including Swell Hill Farm, Swell Buildings Farm, and houses at Chalk Hill (Choakwell in 1790), (fn. 34) were put up in the 19th century. In the south-east of the parish Southhill Farm and Tarnpit Farm were built in the early 19th century, Tarnpit Farm becoming Manor Farm after the building, between 1903 and 1909, of Nether Swell Manor. This, a house with no title to the name of manor, is a careful essay in the Cotswold style by Sir Guy Dawber, built for Sir John Murray Scott and occupied as a private school (Hill Place School) since 1947. (fn. 35) In the same corner of the parish J. L. Pearson built for the Rector of Stow in 1857 the house called Quarwood, designed in the Rhenish Gothic style, but subsequently much altered. (fn. 36)
The presence of the town of Stow immediately beyond the eastern boundary of the parish has resulted in the building along that boundary of houses and shops that belonged economically and socially (and since 1935 administratively) to Stow rather than to Lower Swell. Some houses were built there, and demolished because they infringed the rights of the lords of Stow, as early as the 12th century, (fn. 37) but most of the building there was done in or after the late 19th century.
Growth in this area presumably accounts for the relative stability of the population of the parish since c. 1870, for in the rest of the parish the population appears to have contracted, as in neighbouring villages. Before then there was a steady increase, starting perhaps in the 15th century, for in 1551 there were 58 communicants (fn. 38) where in 1381 there had been 44 poll-tax payers. (fn. 39) The increase was perhaps more marked in the late 16th century and early 17th, (fn. 40) possibly encouraged by the enfranchisement of the tenant farmers, (fn. 41) and continued more mildly in the 18th: the number of houses rose from 31 in 1671 (fn. 42) to 37 c. 1700, (fn. 43) 44 in 1775, (fn. 44) and 54 in 1801 (eleven years after inclosure), when the population was 239. The population rose to a peak of 456 in 1871, (fn. 45) and the village itself, with the building of new houses, began to grow again after 1931. (fn. 46) Main water was brought to the village shortly before the Second World War, to replace the supply from numerous springs in and around the village, and main electricity shortly after the war. A small sewerage system was built probably early in the 20th century. (fn. 47)
The buildings of the parish are remarkable in that all of them (except some of those beside Stow) are of local stone, and most have Cotswold stone roofs. In the early 16th century the houses were probably timber-framed, for 120 fully grown oaks and ashes on the manor were reserved for house repairs, (fn. 48) and materials specified for repairs included timber and slate or tile but not other stone. (fn. 49) The new quarry in use by 1584 (fn. 50) perhaps represents a change from timber to stone, though it may have been a source of roofing slates only. The oldest surviving houses are apparently of the 17th century, and have windows with mullions and dripmoulds, and dormer windows to the upper floors. They include the 'Golden Ball', known as the 'Ball' in 1786 (fn. 51) and as the Fox Inn in the late 19th century. (fn. 52) Some of the 18th-century cottages have segmental-headed windows or wooden lintels, and Rectory Farm has round-headed windows with keystones. Chalk Hill Lodge, apparently built in the early 19th century, has round-headed windows with architraves and imposts, while Southhill Farm, of the same date, has ogee-headed windows, derived presumably from Sezincote.
On the road leading up from Lower Swell to Stow is a more remarkable imitation of the Hindu style. The spring belonging to an 18th-century cottage there was discovered in 1807 to be rich in mineral deposits (fn. 53) and a spa house in ashlar with elaborate oriental decoration was added to the cottage. The opening of the spa, which brought hopes of prosperity to Stow, (fn. 54) made no apparent difference to the village apart from giving it one exotic building. By 1926 the well was nearly dry and the spa house had been converted into cottages. (fn. 55)
Several of the landowners of Lower Swell, and at least one of the vicars, were men of more than local importance. (fn. 56)
Manor and Other Estates.
Before the Norman Conquest Lower Swell was part of the estate belonging to Ernesi, and in 1086 it was divided between two tenants in chief, Ralph de Tony, who held the larger part and William of Eu. (fn. 57) In the 14th century it was claimed that Lower Swell had belonged before the Conquest to Evesham Abbey, (fn. 58) which held Upper Swell, but there is no evidence to confirm that any of the pre-Conquest grants to the abbey of land in 'Swell' related to Lower Swell. (fn. 59)
The overlordship of Ralph de Tony's estate passed in the 13 th and 14th centuries with the earldom of Gloucester and was still recorded as part of that earldom in the mid-15th century. (fn. 60) The undertenant in 1086, Drew son of Poyntz, was succeeded by his brother Simon, to whose grandson Nicholas Poyntz (d. 1222 or 1223) the estate descended. The Clifford family, descendants of Richard son of Poyntz, appears to have had an interest in the estate, but Nicholas Poyntz's grandson Nicholas (d. 1272) (fn. 61) sold the manor of LOWER SWELL to Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans, (fn. 62) before 1257. In that year the earl gave to the Cistercian abbey of Hailes, which he had founded, most of his property in Lower Swell (fn. 63) which comprised more than what he bought from Nicholas Poyntz and may have included part at least of William of Eu's Domesday estate. (fn. 64) The remainder of the earl's estate was given to the abbey by his son Edmund, Earl of Cornwall. (fn. 65) The abbey's manor included almost all the parish, (fn. 66) and in 1313, 1360, and 1392 freehold estates held of the manor were granted to the abbey. (fn. 67) The abbey held extensive franchises in Lower Swell, (fn. 68) and also a share of the rectorial tithes. (fn. 69)
In 1545 the manor was exchanged by the Crown with the Bishop of London, (fn. 70) but in 1591 the bishop conveyed it back to the Crown, (fn. 71) from whom it passed by a series of transactions to John Carter. (fn. 72) John died at Lower Swell in 1627, and was succeeded as lord of the manor by his son and heir Giles, (fn. 73) who had been outlawed for murder in 1616. (fn. 74) Giles appears to have mortgaged the manor in 1638 to Sir William Courteen of London, (fn. 75) into whose effective ownership the estate had passed by 1659, when, after Courteen's death, it was sold to Sir Robert Atkyns, (fn. 76) later Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Lords. He lived at Lower Swell from 1683 or earlier until his death in 1710, when the manor passed to his son, Sir Robert Atkyns, the historian of Gloucestershire. The younger Sir Robert died the next year, (fn. 77) but meanwhile he had made a settlement overriding one made by his father in 1669. Under the second settlement the manor passed to Robert Atkyns, grandson of the elder Sir Robert, and on his death in 1753 (fn. 78) to his two daughters and their husbands, Thomas Horde, who was living at the manor-house in 1774, (fn. 79) and Edmund Chamberlayne. In 1777, however, John Atkyns and his sister, descendants of the elder Sir Robert Atkyns's brother, obtained title and possession under the settlement of 1669. (fn. 80) John Atkyns alone was lord of the manor in 1790, (fn. 81) and from him it passed to Anne Dorothy Atkyns, perhaps his daughter. (fn. 82)
The estate comprised 1,088 a. in Lower Swell in 1844, (fn. 83) when, apparently, a large part of it including the manor was sold to John Hudson. (fn. 84) In 1865 an estate including the manor-house and park, amounting to over 400 a. in all, (fn. 85) was sold to Alfred Sartoris, who also owned a large part of Upper Swell. In 1870 there was said to be no lord of the manor. (fn. 86) Sartoris, who built the house at Abbotswood, (fn. 87) and Mark Fenwick (d. 1945), to whom he sold the estate c. 1901 (fn. 88) and who enlarged the house, in turn played a leading part in the life of the locality. (fn. 89) In 1946 Harry Ferguson (d. 1960), the engineer and inventor, bought the estate; he and his wife (who survived him) lived at Abbotswood, which also housed the holding company for his business enterprises. (fn. 90)
Before 1221 Nicholas Poyntz granted land in Lower Swell to Notley Abbey (Bucks.), which had also appropriated the church there by 1236, (fn. 91) and from then until the Dissolution the abbey owned glebe land and two-thirds of the corn tithes. (fn. 92) The impropriated rectory was granted in 1542 to Christ Church, Oxford, (fn. 93) which in 1790 at inclosure received 157 a. for 4 yardlands of glebe and 103 a. for tithes. (fn. 94) In 1961 Christ Church, as owners of Rectory Farm, remained one of the chief landowners in the parish. (fn. 95)
About 1130 Simon son of Poyntz granted demesne tithes in Lower Swell to Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 96) Some of Tewkesbury Abbey's property there passed to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and then to Hailes Abbey, (fn. 97) but Tewkesbury retained a portion of tithes there until the Dissolution. (fn. 98) In 1553 the portion was granted to two inhabitants of Tewkesbury, (fn. 99) and seems to have later been commuted for tithe-free land. (fn. 100)
The two estates in Lower Swell in 1086 were assessed at a total of ten hides. The smaller estate, of three hides, may have recently gone out of cultivation, for its value had fallen from 2 to 10s. and no tenants or servants for it are enumerated. The larger estate supported ten ploughs, four of which were on the demesne. (fn. 101) This demesne was divided, by the early 12th century, into two parts, (fn. 102) but whether the division was agricultural or, following the possible absorption of the smaller Domesday estate by the larger, tenurial is not known. The demesne of the Poyntz family's estate in 1223 appears to have been less than three carucates; (fn. 103) in 1291, however, Hailes Abbey had nine carucates in demesne, (fn. 104) and in the following century more land was granted to the abbey, perhaps to be added to the demesne.
In 1220 the whole of Lower Swell was said to contain 14 carucates, (fn. 105) so that by the end of the 13th century the tenants' lands together were probably less extensive than the demesne. The size of the tenants' holdings may be indicated by the five freehold estates granted to the abbey in the 14th century: they were described as 2 yardlands and 19 a., (fn. 106) 26 a., 4 yardlands, (fn. 107) and 1 carucate. (fn. 108) There had been ten villani with six ploughs in 1086; (fn. 109) the number of tenant farms in the early 14th century may not have been very different from the number of taxpayers, six in 1327. (fn. 110) By that date there was at least one small holding of 6 a. in the fields of Lower Swell that belonged to an estate centred on Stow; (fn. 111) in 1539 all of the six freeholds of Lower Swell manor seem to have been of much the same size and similarly connected with estates in the town. (fn. 112) There were only 13 copyhold yardlands in 1539, divided among six tenants of whom three held 3 or 4 yardlands, while another five copyholders held messuages or cottages only. (fn. 113) In 1539 all the copyholds owed heriots, some the best beast and others cash, (fn. 114) and a heriot was still payable on a life-hold in 1662. (fn. 115) The copyholds did not descend necessarily by inheritance in the early 16th century. (fn. 116) Most of the copyhold land, however, became freehold later in the century. (fn. 117)
About 1220 the demesne included pasture for 500 sheep, (fn. 118) and from the late 13th century the demesne land, owned by a Cistercian abbey, was mainly a sheep-farm. In the hands of the earls of Cornwall the park may have been used for game; at least one free tenant's pasture rights over it were bought out in 1284. (fn. 119) In 1291 the carucates of the demesne arable were assessed at a comparatively low value, and were presumably either small or comparatively unproductive, whereas the profits from stock-rearing were high by the standard of neighbouring manors. (fn. 120) Before the end of the century the abbey acquired a further 180 a. of pasture. (fn. 121) By 1539 the park formed one sheep-run, with its own sheep-house; Morden leasow, another several pasture with a sheep-house, supported 600 sheep in the west of the parish; and yet more sheep of the demesne farm (420 in 1592) were pastured in the open fields. (fn. 122) Walter Baston, who became a wealthy sheep-farmer, (fn. 123) was farming the park and the demesne farm (Bowl farm) by 1527, Morden leasow by 1537, (fn. 124) Tewkesbury Abbey's tithe portion by 1553, (fn. 125) and the rectory estate by 1566. (fn. 126)
On the other farms in the parish sheep were probably as predominant: in 1535 nearly half of the vicar's income came from tithes of wool and lambs (fn. 127) although the vicar is unlikely to have received more than a third of those tithes, (fn. 128) and his yardland of glebe had, in 1584, 200 sheep-commons. (fn. 129) The number of sheep kept in the parish appears to have fallen, however, from the end of the 16th century. The demesne sheep-commons in the open fields became slightly fewer between 1592 and 1606, (fn. 130) and by 1680 the vicar's yardland had only 120. (fn. 131) In 1757 the normal number of sheep-commons to a yardland seems to have been 50 or 60. (fn. 132)
The arrangement of the arable land seems to have remained unchanged between 1584 and 1680. (fn. 133) In the 18th century, perhaps in connexion with the fragmentation of particular yardlands, (fn. 134) there was some consolidation of strips. (fn. 135) In 1680 the glebe arable lay in 35 pieces, (fn. 136) and in 1757 a farm of 1 yardland had 60 separate pieces in the open fields. (fn. 137) The size of the yardland was between 15 and 25 a., (fn. 138) and the strips, referred to as half-acres in the 16th century, (fn. 139) seem to have averaged about half a statute acre. There is no record that the furlongs were grouped into fields or quarters. In 1786 there were, apart from Bowl farm and Swell Wold farm, three tenant farms of 300, 200, and 100 a. respectively; no others had more than 25 a. (fn. 140)
Inclosure in 1790 dealt with 1,680 a. (or over 70 per cent.) of the parish. Of this, nearly one-third was allotted to the lord of the manor, most of whose land was not affected by the inclosure award, and nearly one-sixth to the impropriators. There were six allotments of between 70 and 200 a., and seven of between and 30 a. (fn. 141) The inclosure appears to have been sought with the aim of improving tillage, not with the intention of converting to grass. (fn. 142) Ten years afterwards over one-third of the total area of the parish was sown with crops, a high proportion when the existence of the park and the nature of the land is allowed for. Much of the land was used for turnips, which covered a greater acreage than wheat; the acreages of barley, oats, and peas were also relatively high. (fn. 143) In the mid-19th century the west end and centre of the parish were mainly arable, (fn. 144) and in the south-east there was a fairly even division between arable, meadow, and wood. (fn. 145) There were five farmers employing labour in 1831, (fn. 146) and the number of substantial farms did not apparently change much later. (fn. 147) In the mid-20th century the farming included dairying, beef, sheep, and corn. Most of the east part of the parish was grass, while in the west were roughly equal areas of grass and arable. (fn. 148)
There is little record of trade and manufacture at Lower Swell before the 19th century, and it may be that the village looked to Stow for many things that larger and more distant villages provided for themselves. Carpenters are recorded only in 1608, (fn. 149) and there is no definite reference to a smith before the 19th century. (fn. 150) A tailor, however, was mentioned in 1635, (fn. 151) a mason in 1638, (fn. 152) and a cloth-worker, obliged by his lease not to depart from the manor, in 1662. (fn. 153) In the 18th century the position of the village on a main road appears to have supported some trade: there was a brewery in 1724, (fn. 154) a malthouse in 1755, (fn. 155) and at some time before 1786 there were apparently two inns. (fn. 156) In the early 19th century about ten families were engaged in trade and industry. (fn. 157) There was a stone-mason in 1856, shopkeepers, bakers, shoemakers, and wheelwrights are mentioned throughout the later 19th century, and there was a blacksmith in the village until after the First World War. (fn. 158)
A mill belonged to the larger estate in Lower Swell in 1086, (fn. 159) and was presumably the same as the water-mill granted with the manor in 1257. (fn. 160) This water-mill was clearly the Bowl Mill recorded as part of the manor in 1540. (fn. 161) A fishery 'in the water of the whole manor' was separately granted in 1589, (fn. 162) but in 1638 both the mill and the fishery were part of the manor. (fn. 163) The mill was destroyed between 1755 and 1774. (fn. 164) Another mill was part of the estate granted to Notley Abbey before 1221, (fn. 165) but is not otherwise recorded. A windmill used for pumping water to Stow is mentioned above. (fn. 166)
When Richard, Earl of Cornwall, was lord of Swell (but not earlier, it seems) (fn. 167) the vill enjoyed quittance from the hundred and the county, perhaps without just title, (fn. 168) and the Abbot of Hailes succeeded in maintaining these and other liberties, including infangtheof, waif, and felons' goods. (fn. 169) There is no record of attendance by Lower Swell at the hundred in the Middle Ages, and in 1535 Hailes Abbey was paying to Syon Abbey (Mdx.) a guinea a year, presumably for leet silver. (fn. 170)
A list of tenants and their holdings in 1540 (fn. 171) is the only document known to survive from the manor court. Parish records begin with churchwardens' accounts in 1738, (fn. 172) but there are no others before 1842. In the 18th century and early 19th there was only one churchwarden, (fn. 173) though there had been two in the 16th. (fn. 174) The overseers seem, to judge from figures for poor-relief expenditure, to have had a less exacting task than in most neighbouring parishes, where the increase in expenditure in the late 18th century and early 19th was sharper and more sustained. (fn. 175) The overseers owned a house in the village (fn. 176) which may have been used for the poor but was apparently not a workhouse. (fn. 177) Between 1803 and 1815, while expenditure on the poor increased slightly, the number relieved declined but the proportion receiving relief regularly rose from one-third to three-quarters. (fn. 178)
Lower Swell was included in the Stow-on-theWold Poor Law Union under the Act of 1834, (fn. 179) the Stow-on-the-Wold highway district in 1863, (fn. 180) and the Stow-on-the-Wold Rural Sanitary District under the Local Government Act of 1872 (being transferred to the newly formed North Cotswold Rural District in 1935). (fn. 181) In 1961 the parish council did not meet regularly. (fn. 182)
About 1130 Simon son of Poyntz, while granting his demesne tithes in Lower Swell to Tewkesbury Abbey, added a third yardland to the two that already belonged to the chapel of Swell. (fn. 183) The earliest parts of the fabric of Lower Swell church belong to the same period. (fn. 184) Its being called a chapel, as apparently it still was a hundred years later, (fn. 185) suggests a dependent relationship on another church, but there is no indication which. Before 1221 Nicholas Poyntz granted the chapel and its endowments to Notley Abbey (Bucks.), which had appropriated them by 1236. (fn. 186) A vicarage existed in 1282, (fn. 187) and to it Notley Abbey presented until the Dissolution. (fn. 188) The advowson then passed with the rectory to Christ Church, Oxford, (fn. 189) which was the patron in 1961 (fn. 190) of the united benefice of Upper and Nether Swell. The union of the benefices, in 1927, did not merge the ecclesiastical parishes. (fn. 191)
Until the union the living was a poor one. In 1291 the vicarage was apparently assessed at 2 13s. 4d., (fn. 192) and in 1535 at 6 12s. 3d. net. (fn. 193) In 1650 (fn. 194) and c. 1700 it was worth about 25; (fn. 195) shortly afterwards it was augmented with 10 a year by Dr. Robert South (d. 1716), and in 1750 it was worth about 50 a year. (fn. 196) The vicarial tithes included one-third of the tithes of corn and, up to 1535, a share of the tithes of wool. The glebe was described as 11 a. of arable and meadow in 1535, and as one yardland in 1584 and 1680. (fn. 197) On inclosure in 1790 the vicar received 83 a. (and a few cash rents) for tithe and 22 a. for glebe. (fn. 198) The parsonage house was converted into two small cottages between 1680 and 1828, and the outbuildings were falling down in 1835. (fn. 199) Two years later a new parsonage was started on a new site. (fn. 200) In the 1820's the living was described as a poor one, and in the 19th century it did not reach 200 a year gross. (fn. 201)
The comparative poverty of the benefice caused the parish to be indifferently served by its incumbents for most of the time before the 19th century. Many vicars lasted only a short time: in each of the years 1340, 1349, 1457, and 1554 there were two changes of incumbent within a year, and the only two known graduates among the medieval vicars held the benefice less than a year. (fn. 202) In 1349, 1368, 1403, and 1457 admission to the benefice was made conditional on continual residence, (fn. 203) presumably in an attempt to check absenteeism. In 1446 the vicar was in the jail at Gloucester castle, (fn. 204) and in 1512 another vicar, who had been in office 14 years at least, (fn. 205) was deprived. It was perhaps for want of other suitable candidates that in 1528 Notley Abbey presented one of its own members to the living. (fn. 206) In the later 16th century the vicars were non-resident as often as not. (fn. 207) The Vicar of Lower Swell that fared no better than average in the bishop's doctrinal test in 1551 (fn. 208) was deprived in 1554; (fn. 209) his offence is unknown. The curate supposedly ministering to the parish in 1563 was said to be impotent and blind. (fn. 210) A graduate became vicar in 1594 but remained so less than three years. (fn. 211)
From 1603 to 1714 the vicars of Lower Swell were also rectors of Stow-on-the-Wold, with the result that incumbencies were longer, three covering the period of more than a century. (fn. 212) Lower Swell, however, was neglected in favour of Stow: in the late 17th century the vicar hurried through services at Lower Swell (this was held partly responsible for the number of dissenters in the parish) (fn. 213) and ignored monitions to make his residence there. (fn. 214) From 1714 Lower Swell and Stow had separate incumbents, (fn. 215) but those of Lower Swell appear to have been non-resident through most of the 18th century and early 19th. (fn. 216) Richard Bliss, vicar 171443, was the schoolmaster at Stow, (fn. 217) and provided a curate for Lower Swell. (fn. 218) Henry Brown, vicar 174695, owned land in the parish, and lived in the neighbourhood; he was also Rector of Upper Swell and in 1786 served the two cures himself. (fn. 219) His successor, who was also Rector of Great Comberton (Worcs.), left Lower Swell in the care of curates who lived in nearby villages. (fn. 220) In 1826 there was one service a week in Lower Swell, taken by a curate from Broadwell. (fn. 221)
With the building of a new parsonage, and particularly with the arrival of David Royce as vicar in 1850, (fn. 222) the ecclesiastical affairs of the parish saw an improvement. Royce, in his 52 years as vicar, (fn. 223) found time to spare from his antiquarian activities (fn. 224) to win his parishioners' approval of his pastoral work. (fn. 225) His most tangible achievement was the enlargement of the parish church, where, when he came, only 8 out of 150 sittings were free. (fn. 226)
The church of ST. MARY between the 12th century and the 19th suffered as much neglect as the parish. The small 12th-century chancel and nave remained largely unaltered until the late 15th century, when the nave roof was raised and a south porch, too narrow for the doorway, was added. (fn. 227) A short south aisle or transeptal chapel was added, perhaps in the same period, and a bell-turret in the late 17th century. (fn. 228) The chancel and porch were in a state of decay in the 16th century; (fn. 229) in 1683 the chancel and aisle were both open to the weather, (fn. 230) and the aisle was removed soon after. (fn. 231) In 1852, on the vicar's initiative, (fn. 232) a north aisle considerably larger than the nave was added, and in 1870 a new chancel was added, to make the north aisle into the nave, and the original nave and chancel into a south aisle and chapel. (fn. 233) The new nave and aisle were both built in the Early English style. The bell-turret was rebuilt in 1901. (fn. 234) The 12th-century part of the church is of ashlar, the rest of rubble; the whole has Cotswold stone roofs.
The 12th-century work in the church is noteworthy. Both east and west ends have doublechamfer string-courses. The south doorway has three orders of star-diapering and double-cable moulding, with a tympanum of ten stones closely wedged together and carrying an apparently unfinished carving. (fn. 235) East of the doorway is a blocked round-headed arch which opened to the south aisle from the nave and also gave access to a 15th-century rood-loft. The 12th-century chancel arch, of three orders with the outer one enriched, is surrounded by a band of sculpted stones that is thought to be unique. (fn. 236) The chancel had 12th-century windows in its north and south walls; the south one has internal angle-shafts, with capitals and bases, while the north one, removed in 1870, is said to have been plain. A low side window with a wooden lintel was built in the south wall of the chancel in the 13th century and rediscovered in 1852. The two-light east window and the three-light south and west windows of the nave were inserted in the late 15th century. The north wall of the nave was blank before the alterations of 1852, and had a gallery running its whole length.
East of the south door are two scratch dials. (fn. 237) The 15th-century octagonal font bears the coat of arms of the Slaughter family, and in the churchyard (enlarged in 1870) (fn. 238) is the socket of an apparently 15th-century cross. (fn. 239) To the existing bell of 1683 two new ones were added when the bell-turret was rebuilt in 1901 to commemorate Royce's 50 years as vicar. (fn. 240) The church plate is of 1830 and later. (fn. 241) The church was provided with an organ in 1872. In 1661 there was no register; (fn. 242) the first of the series, beginning in 1685, has been damaged by fire.
In 1676 there were said to be three nonconformists in Lower Swell. (fn. 243) In 1683 Sir Robert Atkyns the elder wrote of Quakers and Anabaptists among the population, (fn. 244) and in the mid18th century there were two families of Baptists and one of Friends, (fn. 245) who presumably belonged to the chapels in Stow. (fn. 246) In 1809 a dwelling-house was registered for worship by Protestant dissenters (fn. 247) who may have been Baptists, (fn. 248) and another, by Wesleyans, in 1827. (fn. 249) No more is known of either of these meetings, and neither seems to have survived in 1851. (fn. 250)
In 1825 18 children were attending Sunday school and six a day school. (fn. 251) A new schoolroom was built in 1851 for a National school, which in 1859 had nearly 50 children, paying fees of 1d. or 2d., (fn. 252) and had a certificated teacher by 1861. (fn. 253) Attendance was 69 in 1903, (fn. 254) but fell to 40 in 1938. (fn. 255) In 1961, when the older children went to Northleach or Bourton-on-the-Water, there were about 30 children in two departments. (fn. 256) From the late 19th century the school has been attended by children from Upper Swell also. (fn. 257)
The sum of 10 given for the poor by a member of the Hodges family had been lost by 1683. (fn. 258) No other endowed charity for the poor is known.