A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1965.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Great Washbourne, a rural parish of 638 a. lying six miles from Tewkesbury and six miles from Evesham, and south of the road between them, was in 1935 merged in the civil parish of Dumbleton. (fn. 1) Before the Dissolution of the monasteries it was known as Abbot's Washbourne, and for a while afterwards as King's Washbourne, (fn. 2) to distinguish it from its neighbour, Knight's or Little Washbourne, which was a hamlet of Overbury (Worcs.) (fn. 3) until it also was included in Dumbleton in 1935. (fn. 4) The estate at Washbourne that was granted to Bredon monastery (Worcs.) in 780 is likely to have been Little Washbourne rather than, as has sometimes been stated, (fn. 5) Great Washbourne.
The parish was roughly rectangular in shape, with a projection reaching north-west to the road from Tewkesbury to Evesham which formed part of the boundary. South from that road the boundary of the parish followed the post-1931 county boundary to the Washbourne brook, which marked the south-west boundary of the parish. From the brook, the southeast boundary ran nearly straight, along hedges to the plantation on Washbourne Hill, which it followed north-westward before turning south-west along a watercourse and then north-west again along a hedge to the main road. (fn. 6)
Most of the parish is flat and low-lying, between the 100-ft. and 200-ft. contour-lines, but in the eastern corner the land rises sharply to 500 ft. on Washbourne Hill, a spur of Alderton Hill which is one of the prominent outliers of the main Cotswold escarpment. (fn. 7) Nearly the whole parish is on the Lower Lias clay, but the land above 300 ft. is on the Middle Lias; there is, moreover, alluvium along the Washbourne brook and a patch of gravel and sand close to it near the middle of the south-west boundary of the parish. (fn. 8) The soil of the lower land is a rich and fertile clay, providing good pasture and arable land. (fn. 9) Over one-third of the land had been inclosed by 1622, and there was some further inclosure during the next two centuries. The rest of the land was inclosed in 1812 under Act of Parliament. (fn. 10)
The road from Beckford to Alderton runs through the parish parallel to the Washbourne brook; Great Washbourne village is grouped round a village street leading south-west from that road and stands on the gravel patch mentioned above. In the 17th century two cottages were built on the lord's waste; at least one of them, which was allowed to remain because its occupant was a pauper, (fn. 11) was on the Town Hill (fn. 12) near the eastern corner of the parish, where there were two cottages in 1769. Three other cottages lay mile north of the village by a kink in the road from Beckford to Alderton; (fn. 13) the kink was straightened soon after the inclosure of 1812, (fn. 14) and two of the cottages were replaced by a row of four 'model' cottages in the mid-19th century. The 'model' cottages had been converted to three by 1962, and the older surviving cottage was demolished c. 1952. (fn. 15) In 1769 a farm-house and two cottages lay at the northeast end of the village on the road from Beckford to Alderton. (fn. 16) The number of houses in the parish grew by two-fifths between 1801 and 1871, but shrank again by one-seventh in the next decade: (fn. 17) the village contracted at its north-east end, leaving the smithy in an isolated position facing down the village street, and the cottages on the Town Hill disappeared. (fn. 18)
The village is small and compact, and before the 19th century was even smaller. There were only 9 taxpayers in the parish in 1327, (fn. 19) and in the 16th century there were about 10 households. (fn. 20) In the late 17th century this figure (fn. 21) rose by about half, (fn. 22) and by 1801 there were 89 people in 16 houses. The population rose, with fluctuations, to 117 in 1851, and from 115 in 1871 it fell to 85 in 1901 and 65 in 1931. (fn. 23) In 1961 it was said to be 102. (fn. 24) Main electricity was available in the village by the Second World War; (fn. 25) by 1962 water was piped from a spring east of the village, (fn. 26) replacing the supply from wells in the village. (fn. 27)
In the buildings of Great Washbourne, lying in the vale but close to the Cotswolds, the timber-framing and thatch of the one mingled with the rubble walls and stone-slated roofs characteristic of the other; by 1962, however, small red-brick buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries predominated and most of the thatch had gone. Apart from the early 12th-century church (rubble and stone-slated, but with a timber bell-turret of the 17th century), (fn. 28) the older buildings survived from the 16th and 17th centuries. Manor Farm, called the Farm House or Manor House in 1653 (fn. 29) and having six hearths in 1672, (fn. 30) was built in the 17th century in the Cotswold tradition, three stories high of rubble with a Cotswold stone roof, and with coped gables, continuous dripmoulds, and mullioned windows; most of the mullions had been removed by 1962.
The former smithy at the north-east end of the village, which may be of the 16th century, has a gabled front and is mostly timber-framed with a later brick filling and a thatched roof, representing the tradition of the vale, but its end wall is of rubble. One cottage, formerly thatched, has rubble walls up to the first floor and then timber-framed walls with a plaster filling. At its gable-end there are curved braces below the wall-plate and in the apex. The cottages opposite the church, which have a Cotswold stone roof apparently replacing thatch, (fn. 31) and the cottage west of the church that is reputed to have been an inn have timber-framed walls on rubble bases. Parts of each have deep curved braces to the lower stories. These black-and-white cottages line the short village street and are its most obvious feature. East of the church Great Washbourne House was built for the lord of the manor in the mid-19th century, of red brick and some stone with Dutch gables.
Some families of distinction have owned the manor, and they are mentioned below. Until the 19th century, however, none of the lords of the manor, which was monastic property in the Middle Ages, lived at Great Washbourne. The Cartwright family was perhaps the most influential in the parish over an extended period. William Cartwright was lessee of the manor and rectory from 1519; after his death c. 1543 his sons William and John quarrelled about their rights in survivorship, (fn. 32) and they seem to have compromised in 1552 by William's taking the manor and John's taking the rectory. (fn. 33) William the younger died in 1581: his youngest son James (fn. 34) and his grandsons owned the freehold of the rectory, (fn. 35) but the lease of the manor passed from his family before 1630, (fn. 36) perhaps on the death of his eldest son Timothy in 1628. (fn. 37) John Cartwright, the traveller and author (fl. 1611), is said to have come from this family, and William Cartwright, the poet (d. 1643), who was born near Tewkesbury and whose father, once a gentleman of fair estate, became a publi may also have belonged to it.
In 1086 three hides in Washbourne were returned as belonging to the church of Tewkesbury. (fn. 38) Soon after the refoundation of Tewkesbury Abbey in the early 12th century Washbourne was assigned to the maintenance of the monks' table, (fn. 39) and the manor of WASHBOURNE was confirmed to the abbey by William, Earl of Gloucester (fn. 40) (d. 1183). In 1220 six ploughs in Great Washbourne were accounted for by the Earl of Gloucester's bailiff. (fn. 41) The whole parish and some meadow in Alderton (fn. 42) belonged to the manor, with which the rectory was held. (fn. 43)
The manor remained the abbey's until the Dissolution. In 1386 the kitchener accounted for farm produce from Great Washbourne: (fn. 44) in 1535 the rents and other profits were received by the cellarer. (fn. 45) In 1557 the manor was granted to Anne, widow of Sir Adrian Fortescue, (fn. 46) whose family may have had an earlier connexion with Great Washbourne. (fn. 47) The manor passed to Anne's eldest son, Sir John Fortescue, Chancellor of the Exchequer, (fn. 48) who died seised of it in 1607 and was succeeded by his son Sir Francis. (fn. 49)
Sir Francis sold the manor in 1622 to Elizabeth, widow of Sir William Craven, Lord Mayor of London 161011, and her son William. (fn. 50) She died in 1624, (fn. 51) and her son (who was created Baron, Viscount, and Earl Craven) in 1697; (fn. 52) Great Washbourne had been forfeited with his other estates during the Civil Wars and bought by Philip Starkey in 1646, (fn. 53) but it was later redeemed (fn. 54) and descended with the barony of Craven to William, 6th Baron Craven (d. 1791). (fn. 55) Under the will of the 6th Lord Craven the manor descended to his second son, Henry Augustus Berkeley Craven, (fn. 56) a major-general, who died in 1836. (fn. 57) By 1856 the manor was owned by Robert Prance, of Hampstead (Mdx.) and Great Washbourne, who was succeeded c. 1865 by Robert Rooke Prance, M.D. A Mrs. Prance owned the manor in 1894 and 1906; though the chief house remained occupied by a member of the Prance family until 1936, the manor was bought soon after 1906 by Henry William Eyres of Dumbleton, (fn. 58) whose daughter and heir Caroline married Bolton Meredith Monsell (later Eyres Monsell, and created Viscount Monsell in 1935). (fn. 59) She died in 1959, and their son the Hon. H. B. G. Eyres Monsell (fn. 60) was the owner of the whole parish except for a few cottages in 1962. (fn. 61)
In 1086 the manorial demesne was a large part of the estate, having two out of the five ploughs, and the only inhabitant described as a bordar was enumerated with the servi (fn. 62) as though he held an insignificant amount of land or none and worked largely or exclusively on the demesne. The demesne may have been enlarged after 1363, when the reversion of a lifehold estate was granted to Tewkesbury Abbey, (fn. 63) and in 1386 it was providing food for the monks. (fn. 64) By 1519, however, and probably much earlier, the demesne was being leased. (fn. 65) In 1535 the annual rent from the demesne alone accounted for one-third of the abbey's gross income from the whole estate, including the impropriate rectory. (fn. 66)
In 1086 the tenants also had comparatively large holdings, six of them sharing three ploughs. (fn. 67) The total amount of arable in the manor increased between 1086 and 1220 when there were six ploughs in all. (fn. 68) The customary holdings maintained their size: an estate held for life in 1363 was 3 yardlands, (fn. 69) one in 1545 was 2 yardlands, (fn. 70) and one in the late 16th century (the largest copyhold) was 3 yardlands. (fn. 71) The yardland was between 20 a. and 30 a., measuring in statute acres rather than field acres, which in Great Washbourne seem to have been about half a statute acre or less. The number of substantial copyholds in 1540 was five, having between 40 a. and 85 a. in the open fields, and there were in addition three copyholds with 10 a. or less. (fn. 72)
None of the tenants of the manor held freeholds in the 16th century, and the reversionary interest granted to the abbey in 1363, as mentioned above, is the only possible suggestion that there were freeholds at an earlier date. At the time of the parliamentary inclosure in 1812 the lord of the manor and the owner of the rectory estate between them owned the freehold of the whole parish. (fn. 73) The copyholds, which were usually held for several lives in survivorship, were not heritable. In the 16th century and early 17th widows were entitled to retain their husbands' copyholds as freebench. Heriots were payable, (fn. 74) and in 1630 (fn. 75) and 1660 were paid in kind. (fn. 76) References to copyholds, or to freebench and heriots, have not been found after the 17th century, and it is likely that this form of copyhold tenure was easily changed into leases for lives, the form of tenure which survived the inclosure of 1812. (fn. 77)
In 1622 the demesne amounted to 220 a., (fn. 78) the same size in proportion to the tenants' holdings as in 1086. By 1622, however, the demesne had been consolidated and at least partly inclosed. Before this change the open fields had covered most of the parish except the meadow land along the river, home closes round the village, and rough grazing on the higher ground along the north-east side of the parish; a small grove of woodland mile east of the village existed in 1540 (fn. 79) as in 1962. (The plantation marking the north-east boundary of the parish is not recorded before the 19th century, and the large plantation of conifers on the slope of the hill was made in the mid20th. (fn. 80) ) The land inclosed or consolidated by 1622 was round the village and to the south of it, and along the north-west and north-east sides of the parish, but the Town Hill, forming the eastern corner, remained open. It included 82 a. in four 'furlongs' or fields, which appears to have been consolidated from the open fields in or very shortly before 1622. That most of the rest of the demesne, lying in closes in 1622, had been inclosed since the mid-16th century is suggested by the changes in the arrangements for pasturing sheep. The inclosed demesne included a high proportion of rough grazing land, perhaps because inclosure was intended to make the demesne a sheep farm, and only one-third of the pasture on the hill remained open and subject to the tenants' commoning rights. One result was that the tenants had to reduce the number of their sheep-commons, and a man who had held pasture for 90 sheep on the hill was reduced to 40. The total number of the tenants' sheep-commons had been 334 in 1540 and was 155 in 1630. (fn. 81)
In 1630, as in 1622, (fn. 82) there were eight copyhold tenants: five held between 50 a. and 100 a., the others 10 a. or less. The number of substantial tenants was the same in 1700, (fn. 83) but had been reduced to four before 1769, when four holdings were held by three tenants; there were in addition 7 tenants holding under 5 a. in 1769. (fn. 84) By 1812 there were only two large leasehold tenures and three cottage holdings, but the number may have been intentionally reduced to facilitate inclosure. (fn. 85) Before the parliamentary inclosure of 1812 there had been some piecemeal inclosure of the tenants' land. The total commonable land had been reduced from 327 a. in 1622 (fn. 86) to 270 a. in 1812. (fn. 87) Manorial court orders of 1682, prohibiting the sale of furze from the Town Hill, and of 1700, ordering that the furze and thorns were to be cleared from the town leasow, (fn. 88) may indicate attempts at improvement, and the New Ground inclosure named in 1812 (fn. 89) may have been an inclosure of rough grazing land made after 1622.
The good quality of the pasture and arable land of the parish was noted in the early 18th century (fn. 90) and in the early 19th. (fn. 91) The statement c. 1775 that the land was mostly pasture (fn. 92) is modified by the fact that the open fields then amounted to over 200 a. In 1630 the fields were divided into four units, (fn. 93) and in 1801 a four-course rotation was followed, three crops and a fallow; (fn. 94) in that year 238 a. (not necessarily all in the open fields) were sown, and the chief crops were wheat, barley, oats, and beans. (fn. 95)
The inclosure award of 1812 covered 625 a., the whole parish except for roads. To meet expenses 35 a. were sold, and bought by the owner of the rectory estate, who received 72 a. in the north-west of the parish in lieu of tithes. The rest of the land was allotted to the lord of the manor (342 a.), his two major lessees (88 a. and 80 a.), and his lessees of cottages. (fn. 96) In the mid-19th century the parish was mainly arable land, growing wheat, beans, and roots. (fn. 97) By the 1930's the proportion of arable had been reduced to one-third. (fn. 98) In 1831 there were six farms, all of them large enough to employ labour. (fn. 99) In the late 19th century Manor farm was much the largest; before the Second World War it was one of two farms over 150 a., and there was also one under that size. (fn. 100) In 1962 the parish was mostly divided between two farms, supporting beef-cattle, dairycattle, and sheep. (fn. 101)
Apart from a weaver named in 1608, (fn. 102) no people employed outside agriculture occur in the parish before the early 19th century, when a small and declining proportion of the population was employed in trade and handicrafts. (fn. 103) There was a blacksmith by 1828 and until 1894, and a butcher, a shopkeeper, and a horseclipper in the early 20th century. (fn. 104) In 1962 a few inhabitants went out of the parish to work. There was then no inn or shop; c. 1900 there had been a small shop, and the timber-framed cottage west of the church was said to have been an inn, (fn. 105) but no written evidence of either has been found.
In 1287 the Abbot of Tewkesbury claimed that Great Washbourne was a member of Stanway and attended the view of frankpledge there, (fn. 106) and the view for Great Washbourne was being taken at Stanway in 1535. (fn. 107) By 1545, however, the view was taken in the manor court at Great Washbourne. Rolls of the manor court survive for that year, (fn. 108) for 156186, (fn. 109) and for 16601702. (fn. 110) In 1559 the view for Great Washbourne was taken with those for Tredington and Pamington (in Ashchurch), (fn. 111) and the manor court rolls for 15614 do not include view of frankpledge; after that date they do. Apart from frankpledge the court dealt with copyhold business, agricultural regulations, and the appointment of officers, namely a tithingman or constable (not both), two surveyors of highways, and two surveyors of fields. (fn. 112) The court leet was said to be held c. 1775 and c. 1803; (fn. 113) these may be unverified repetitions of a much earlier statement. (fn. 114)
Parish expenditure on poor relief, low in 1775, increased after that date with unusual rapidity: it had grown sixfold by 1786, and again fivefold by 1814. In 1803, however, the parish rate was about average, and the number of people on permanent relief was six, as in 1814. (fn. 115) In 1812 the parish was the tenant of two cottages, occupied presumably by paupers. (fn. 116) Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 the parish joined the Winchcombe Poor Law Union, (fn. 117) and it became part of the Winchcombe highway district in 1864 (fn. 118) and of the Winchombe rural sanitary district in 1872. When Great Washbourne was absorbed in Dumbleton parish in 1935, it became part of the Cheltenham Rural District. (fn. 119)
The parish church of Great Washbourne was built in the early 12th century as a chapel of ease to Beckford, but in 1177 the Rector of Beckford, in an agreement about tithes, released all his rights in Great Washbourne to Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 120) Thereafter the abbey received all the tithes and any other profits due to the church; no vicarage was endowed. (fn. 121) Presumably one of the monks held the services in the church: the priest who was curate in 1532 and 1548 (fn. 122) was described as formerly religious in 1540. (fn. 123) In 1540 it was said that the abbot and convent had provided a chaplain, and the king's bailiff had paid 5 5s. as the chaplain's or curate's stipend. (fn. 124) The rectory estate had been leased in 1519, (fn. 125) and under a new lease of 1552 the lessee was obliged to pay the curate's stipend. (fn. 126)
The rectory estate, including all the tithes and the right to nominate the curate, was granted in 1574 to Drew Drury and others, (fn. 127) but by 1583 it was owned by members of the Cartwright family, (fn. 128) to which the lessees of the rectory and manor from 1519 onwards had belonged. (fn. 129) James Cartwright, who held the rectory in 1594, (fn. 130) died in 1614 and was succeeded as lay rector by his son and heir Charles. (fn. 131) Charles died in 1663, (fn. 132) but the lay rector in 1642 was James Cartwright, (fn. 133) apparently Charles's cousin, who held the rectory until 1651. (fn. 134) By 1656 it belonged to John Darke, (fn. 135) and thereafter to successive members of the Darke family: Richard (1673), (fn. 136) Thomas (1680), (fn. 137) John (1704, 1750), (fn. 138) Richard (1773), (fn. 139) John (1788), (fn. 140) Richard (c. 1790), (fn. 141) and John, who in 1808 sold the rectory to Henry Fowke. (fn. 142) At inclosure in 1812 Fowke received 75 a. in lieu of tithes, and bought a further 35 a. that were sold to pay the expenses of inclosure, (fn. 143) and his estate became known as Tithe farm. The right to nominate the curate passed from Fowke to C. B. Endell (fn. 144) and thence to Charles Covey and his successor as curate. (fn. 145) Miss H. A. R. Covey in 1884 nominated Charles Rogers Covey as curate, and his trustees exercised the nomination in 1929. (fn. 146) In 1948 the nomination passed to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 147)
After the Dissolution the living was a curacy with a permanent income of 5 10s. a year charged on the rectory estate. Though the lay rector may sometimes have paid more (fn. 148) he had by 1603 appropriated the house assigned for the curate. (fn. 149) Afterwards there was no house, and none of the perpetual curates is likely to have lived in Great Washbourne. From 1656 to 1660 Great Washbourne was reunited with Beckford, (fn. 150) and for much of the 18th century the parish was served from Beckford. Services were fortnightly, and at other times the parishioners went to Little Washbourne or Beckford. (fn. 151) From 1785 members of the Darke family, the lay rectors, held the living. (fn. 152) Between 1745 and 1828 its value was augmented by endowments from Queen Anne's Bounty: with three sums of 200 given in 1745, 1758, and 1777 34 a. in Ashchurch were bought, and two like sums given in 1809 and 1828 were invested in stock. (fn. 153) This raised the income of the living to c. 60, but it was probably not until 1832, when the perpetual curate began to live in Alderton, that there was any permanent improvement in the frequency of services. From 1842 to 1875 and from 1884 onwards the perpetual curacy was held together with the rectory of Alderton, where the incumbents have lived. (fn. 154) From 1875 to 1883 the living was held by Robert Winning, a qualified physician and barrister as well as a clerk in holy orders. (fn. 155)
The church of ST. MARY is a small building most of which survives from the early 12th century. (fn. 156) It is built of rubble masonry with a Cotswold stone roof, and comprises chancel and nave, with small wooden bell-turret (cement-rendered by 1962) over the west end of the chancel, and a 19th-century vestry reached through the north doorway of the nave. The south and north doorways, the narrow opening to the chancel, and a widely splayed, small single light in the north wall of the nave are all early 12th-century. The north doorway has a plain semicircular arch; the south doorway has a similar arch internally but on the outside has an unusual lintel carved with panels arranged in a semi-circle like a tympanum. The opening to the chancel has square jambs and a square-edged semi-circular arch springing from chamfered imposts. On each side of the chancel arch is a small 14th-century opening; on the chancel side the openings have square heads but they have trefoiled ogee heads on the nave side, and the northern one, which is the larger of the two, has been blocked on the nave side to form an aumbry.
Both nave and chancel were presumably lit by narrow windows like that in the north wall of the nave, but c. 1300 a cusped lancet was put in the south wall of the nave and a similar one in the south wall of the chancel at the west end. In the 15th century a west window was built with two trefoil-headed lights and tracery which comprises three mullions and a transom and occupies more than one-third of the full height of the window.
In 1642 the east end of the chancel was rebuilt in freestone by James Cartwright (fn. 157) and given new north, south, and east windows of one, two, and three lights respectively. It was possibly at the same time that the bell-turret was built or rebuilt: the lower part of its west wall is of stone, perhaps indicating an earlier stone turret or sanctus bellcot. In the 19th century a three-light window was added to the north wall of the nave at the east end, presumably when the vestry was built. The church was thoroughly restored in 1961.
Internally the church is plastered and shows traces of medieval painting. Fragments in the chancel, painted over by 1962, appeared to be 12th-century, with the remains, above them, of the Commandments in English, also painted over by 1962. On the north wall of the nave there was perhaps a 14th-century St. Christopher, and superimposed on it some 15thcentury patterns in red, (fn. 158) fragments of which were visible through the new paint on all four walls in 1962. Carved outside the south doorway and at the east end of the nave are four scratch dials. (fn. 159)
The 15th-century font has an octagonal bowl with quatrefoil panels. (fn. 160) The royal arms, a palimpsest on canvas, are those for the period 180116 though inscribed for George IV, suggesting that they have been brought up to date more than once. (fn. 161) The combined reading desk and pulpit of the 18th century is very plain. The plate includes an Elizabethan chalice and a paten-cover of 1571. (fn. 162) The single bell, (fn. 163) presumably 17th-century, was replaced by one cast or recast in 1857. (fn. 164) The registers begin in 1757 for marriages, and in 1779 for baptisms and burials. (fn. 165)
In 1735 there were said to be two Presbyterians in Great Washbourne. (fn. 166) No record of other nonconformists before the 19th century, and no record of any meeting, has been found.
There was no school in 1825, (fn. 167) but by 1851 there was a Sunday school, (fn. 168) and by 1856 a day and Sunday school, for boys and girls, supported by the lord of the manor. (fn. 169) This school continued in 1870, (fn. 170) but ceased soon afterwards, and the children went to school in Beckford. (fn. 171) In 1962 the younger children went mostly to Alderton. A cottage at the south-west end of the village is remembered locally as the former school-house.