A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 7. Originally published by Oxford University Press for Victoria County History, Oxford, 1981.
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The rural parish of Brimpsfield lies above the Cotswold escarpment 10 km. south of Cheltenham. Brimpsfield village, the primary settlement of a manor and ecclesiastical parish which originally included Cranham to the west, was once the site of a castle and a priory. The parish, which also included part of Birdlip village, the hamlet of Caudle Green, and several outlying farmsteads, was approximately diamond-shaped. The boundaries, which contained 2,729 a., were determined by the crest of the escarpment on the north-west and the main Gloucester–Cirencester road, the Roman Ermin Street, on the north-east. In the north that road marked the division of Birdlip village between Brimpsfield and Cowley parishes. Elsewhere the boundaries followed streams and field boundaries. The bank forming part of the south-western boundary (fn. 1) probably marked the earlier limit of Hazel Hanger wood. After 121 a. at Birdlip were transferred to Cowley in 1935, the parish covered 2,608 a. (1.055 ha.). (fn. 2) The following account concerns the parish as it existed until 1935 and those parts of Birdlip village which lay in Cowley and Great Witcombe.
The parish lies almost entirely above the 183-m. contour and is mainly formed by a plateau of rolling country which rises to over 290 m. near the escarpment where it affords wide views northwestwards across the Vale of Gloucester. Most of the plateau, which is broken by the valleys of several streams draining southwards into the river Frome, lies on the Inferior Oolite, overlaid in places by bands of fuller's earth, but parts, including Brimpsfield village in the centre, are on the Great Oolite. Most of the outlying farmsteads stand near the valleys, the bottoms of which are formed by Midford Sand. (fn. 3) A reservoir was built in 1884 to guarantee a regular water-supply for Birdlip. (fn. 4)
The parish contains large areas of arable and grassland and, in the valleys, much woodland. Only remnants of the open fields remained in the centre of the parish in 1842 when they were inclosed. The extensive beech woodland, part of the Brimpsfield estate in the later 11th century (fn. 5) and subject to common pasture rights by the early 14th, (fn. 6) centred on Cranham but included Buckle wood in Brimpsfield. (fn. 7) That wood, which covered 109 a. in 1837, (fn. 8) passed with the Cranham property acquired in 1871 by William Frederick Hicks Beach (fn. 9) and measured 82 a. c. 1942. (fn. 10)
A park had been created in Brimpsfield by 1227. (fn. 11) In 1261 the lord of the manor was granted 15 deer to stock it (fn. 12) and in the mid 14th century a tenement at Bentham in Badgeworth was held from him by the service of carrying a horn in the park whenever he hunted between the feasts of the Assumption and Nativity of the Virgin (15 Aug.–8 Sept.). (fn. 13) The park lay south-east of the village (fn. 14) but in 1338 the 200 a. of park-land on the manor also included 100 a. of beeches, (fn. 15) possibly at Hazel Hanger wood in the west; that wood had been inclosed by a stone wall by 1379 and was described as a park in 1447. (fn. 16) A warren of 60 a. was also mentioned in 1338. (fn. 17) In the 15th century the park-land and woodland were administered together. (fn. 18) Hazel Hanger wood contained 117 a. in 1807, (fn. 19) and in 1901 the parish retained 342¾ a. of woodland, (fn. 20) including the small Calley wood in the south which had been granted to the lord of Miserden in 1308. (fn. 21) A fishpond created on the south-western boundary near Climperwell in Cranham by 1227, (fn. 22) had been filled in by 1807 (fn. 23) but another pond was created there after 1926. (fn. 24)
The lord of the manor's levying of toll at Wortwold, evidently Woodhill green between Buckle and Hazel Hanger woods, in the mid 13th century (fn. 25) indicates the importance of a route which crossed the northern part of the parish and was known as Potters or Pothook Lane in 1786 when parts were closed. (fn. 26) Ermin Street remained an important thoroughfare (fn. 27) and the section from the top of Birdlip hill to Cirencester, which was in a bad state in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, (fn. 28) was turnpiked in 1747. (fn. 29) As a result of the growing importance of Cheltenham the route from Painswick through Birdlip was turnpiked in 1785. (fn. 30) It was straightened south-west of the village the following year but its junction with Ermin Street was moved westwards a few years later. (fn. 31) The section from Cranham (formerly Prinknash) Corner in Cranham was included in an Act of 1853 providing an alternative route between Gloucester and the top of Birdlip Hill, (fn. 32) and the road joining it in Buckle wood was turnpiked in 1800 as part of a new Stroud–Cheltenham route. (fn. 33)
Brimpsfield village stands 1.5 km. west of Ermin Street. The parish church, which had been built by the 12th century, stands a short distance north-east of the village and overlooks a valley containing the site of an early castle and Brimpsfield Park house. House platforms visible west of the churchyard in 1977 indicate that the village, or much of it, was displaced probably in the 12th century, when a second castle was built to the south. By the mid 13th century there was a priory adjoining the northern side of the churchyard. (fn. 34) The ruins of the later castle provided a quarry for buildings in the village, which lies along a street running from north to south with a lane leading westwards on the Knapp. East of the street Brimpsfield House, which dates from the 17th century, was the farm-house of a freehold estate in the early 19th century when a south wing was added. (fn. 35) In the early 20th century it became the home of Wilfrid Wait, owner of the Brimpsfield estate, (fn. 36) and the east end of the main range was considerably extended and a medieval chimney incorporated in a gable. The field on the opposite side of the street contains traces of a building. On the Knapp the Old Malthouse dates from the early 18th century and an outbuilding is dated 1789. (fn. 37) Yew Tree Farm to the north was built in the 19th century. Houses built in the mid 1950s included a council development by the Climperwell road in 1957 when the village had c. 34 houses. (fn. 38) A few more houses had been built in the southern part by 1977.
The Romans maintained a settlement on Ermin Street at the top of the escarpment (fn. 39) where the village of Birdlip, which had been established by 1221, (fn. 40) has continued to serve the needs of travellers. In 1506 two of its inhabitants were presented as brewers in the Cowley frankpledge court, (fn. 41) and Thomas Baskerville, a traveller in the early 1680s, noted the entertainment provided by its inns. (fn. 42) The only innkeeper listed in Brimpsfield and Cowley parishes in 1608 (fn. 43) kept an inn at Birdlip which was called the Talbot in 1704 (fn. 44) and renamed the Red Lion before 1781. (fn. 45) It stood east of the Brimpsfield road and was closed after William Metcalfe, rector of Brimpsfield, bought it in 1793. He rebuilt it shortly afterwards as a farmhouse, known as Birdlip House, for the freehold estate which he created. (fn. 46) At the top of Birdlip hill stood three inns. The George, so called by 1757, (fn. 47) was in the later 19th century the meeting-place of the Cowley frankpledge court (fn. 48) and the site of the Cowley pound. (fn. 49) The inn, described in 1802 as an old building with four rooms on a floor and stabling, (fn. 50) was rebuilt later and by 1897 had been renamed the Royal George hotel. (fn. 51) To the southeast the King's Head, described in 1753 as an ancient inn (fn. 52) and called the King William in 1837, (fn. 53) closed in the late 1860s. (fn. 54) It was rebuilt shortly before 1902, when it was a private hotel, and converted c. 1904 as a sanatorium for consumptives. (fn. 55) In 1977 it was an antiques shop. The inn with a fine view from its garden in 1796 was probably the Black Horse, west of the Painswick road, (fn. 56) where refreshments were being served in a summer-house in 1800 (fn. 57) and where the Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club held its first meeting in 1846. (fn. 58) It became a temperance hotel in 1890 (fn. 59) but was leased before 1908 as a private residence. (fn. 60)
There were nine houses in Birdlip c. 1710 (fn. 61) but many buildings, including a school and a former nonconformist chapel, date from the 19th century. Ivy Lodge, which stands south of the Royal George, possibly on the site of cottages called Smiths in 1536, (fn. 62) was the farm-house for a small freehold estate from 1614. (fn. 63) It was rebuilt in the 19th century, possibly by William Lawrence of Cirencester (d. 1837), who bought the estate from Richard Welch in 1829. (fn. 64) Lawrence's initials appear on a barn to the west dated 1829. North of Ermin Street Birdlip Farm, a 17th-century farmhouse with later additions, was part of Mary Weedon's Cowley estate in 1848. (fn. 65) By 1848 a farmhouse to the east had become part of the Ivy Lodge estate, then owned by George Whalley, and was occupied as cottages, (fn. 66) later rebuilt. A remodelled 17th-century farm-house stands to the east. At the western end of the village a lodge was built for Witcombe Park in 1845. (fn. 67) A police station was built in the late 1940s, and later buildings included a church and a few houses in traditional Cotswold style. In 1957 the village had c. 66 houses. (fn. 68) Southwest of the village Wood House, a barn on the edge of Buckle wood recorded in 1777, was converted to domestic use in the 19th century. (fn. 69)
The buildings on Ermin Street include a group of 19th-century cottages at Parson's Pitch, east of Birdlip. Malthouse Farm, a small farm-house on the road 1 km. north of Brimpsfield village, was destroyed by fire in the early 20th century. (fn. 70) Further along the road there was a small settlement at Nettleton by 1777. (fn. 71) The Golden Heart inn, which was built there between 1772 and 1796, (fn. 72) served Brimpsfield village in 1977.
The hamlet of Caudle Green, in the southern corner of the parish, lies on the side of a valley and is named partly from a source of water. (fn. 73) It was apparently settled before 1327, when Thomas of Coldwell was assessed for a subsidy, (fn. 74) and there were 15 houses c. 1710 (fn. 75) and 20 in 1957. (fn. 76) Several early cottages have survived. Woodfield House, south-east of the green, dates from the 18th century. Morcombe Farm, higher up to the west, was built in the same century for the Welch family and has a back wing dated 1764 with initials, probably those of William Welch. (fn. 77) Caudle Green Farm, north of the green, was built at the end of that century for an estate belonging in turn to the Taylor and Palling families. (fn. 78) Below the hamlet to the north-east are a few cottages, including Ostrich Cottage, which as Ham Cottages formerly contained several dwellings. (fn. 79)
There was apparently a habitation at Eddington, a farmstead 1 km. NNE. of Caudle Green, by 1241, (fn. 80) and in 1706 the lord of Brimpsfield manor sold a messuage there to Matthew Walbank. (fn. 81) In the 19th century when it passed with the Syde estate it was known as Hill House Farm but by 1893 it had been abandoned (fn. 82) and later the buildings were demolished. At Morcombe, north-west of Caudle Green, a farm-house was built on the Walbank family estate in the mid 18th century. (fn. 83) It was used as a cottage by the mid 19th century (fn. 84) and was later abandoned. In 1977 the substantial out-buildings, which included a barn dated 1817 with initials acknowledging it as part of William Welch's estate, were derelict. (fn. 85)
The tradition that Manless Town, a field northwest of Morcombe recorded in 1622, (fn. 86) was once the site of dwellings is supported by archaeological evidence. (fn. 87) To the west by the stream Moorhouse, where there was apparently a habitation by 1557, (fn. 88) had become the farm-house for a small freehold estate by the late 18th century. (fn. 89) About 1890, after it had been absorbed into the Brimpsfield estate, a small farm-house was built higher to the north-east near the outbuildings. The older house was abandoned in the early 20th century but its overgrown ruins remained visible in 1977. (fn. 90) A cottage at Climperwell, to the north-west, was rebuilt as two dwellings after 1837. (fn. 91)
The farmstead at Stoneyhill, south-west of Brimpsfield village, includes an early-18th-century farm-house. The farm-house at Blacklains, northwest of the village, was built c. 1820. (fn. 92) The house at Watercombe, 1 km. north-east of the village, has been extended and remodelled in the 20th century but the eastern three bays date from the 18th century; the inscription, on a reset plaque above the porch, that William and Mary Barrett built the house in 1712 may record that work. Muzzards across the valley to the south-west dates from 1935. (fn. 93)
Some of the 35 tenants recorded on the Brimpsfield estate in 1086 presumably lived on that part which became Cranham. (fn. 94) In Brimpsfield 7 people were assessed for the subsidy in 1327 (fn. 95) and at least 11 for poll tax in 1381. (fn. 96) The estimated number of communicants in the parish rose from 77 in 1551 (fn. 97) to 160 by 1650, (fn. 98) and the population from about 200 c. 1710 (fn. 99) to 283 by c. 1775, (fn. 100) to 299 by 1801, and to 443 by 1851. By 1861 it had fallen to 392, and from 425 in 1871 it dropped to 323 by 1901 and to 272 by 1921. By 1931 it had risen to 338, including 73 in the part transferred to Cowley in 1935, and the reduced parish had 219 inhabitants in 1951 and 233 in 1971. (fn. 101)
Two friendly societies formed at Birdlip in 1879 and c. 1886 respectively had a total membership of c. 140 in 1957. The assembly room at the Royal George and the summer-house at the Black Horse were used for meetings until c. 1920 when a hut was erected north of the Birdlip school. (fn. 102) It was demolished and replaced by a new village hall in 1958. (fn. 103) In Brimpsfield a village hall was built northwest of the rectory in the late 1960s. (fn. 104)
The achievements of the various landowners are described below. In July 1788 George III rode out to Birdlip from Cheltenham. (fn. 105)
Manor and Other Estates
In 1086 Osbern Giffard held the large manor of BRIMPSFIELD, formerly held by Duns from Earl Harold; extended at 9 hides, it included the whole of Cranham. (fn. 106) It had passed by 1096 to Ellis Giffard (I) (fn. 107) (d. by 1130), and then descended in the direct line to Ellis (II) (d. by 1162), Ellis (III) (d. by 1190) and Ellis (IV), a minor. Ellis (IV) who came of age in 1203 died in 1248 and the Brimpsfield estate, which then included part of Cranham, passed to his son John, a minor who had come of age by 1254. (fn. 108)
The manor and castle of Brimpsfield, which John Giffard was said to hold by barony, (fn. 109) were assessed at 1 knight's fee in the 14th century. (fn. 110) John, a leading figure in the civil disorders of the early 1260s and founder of Gloucester College, Oxford, (fn. 111) was granted free warren in 1281. (fn. 112) After his death in 1299 (fn. 113) his wife Margaret was granted custody of the castle during the minority of his son John, (fn. 114) who took seisin of the Giffard estates in 1308 when he was still under age. (fn. 115) John, who forfeited his lands in 1321 because of his part in the rebellion against Edward II, was executed at Gloucester the following year (fn. 116) and his estates were granted to the elder Hugh le Despenser for life. (fn. 117) John's widow Avelina received Brimpsfield manor as part of her dower in 1327 (fn. 118) but died later that year. John's lands were then entrusted to the custody of John Mautravers (fn. 119) who was granted them in fee in 1329. (fn. 120) The following year Mautravers, to whom John of Kellaways, the heir of the Giffards, had released his right, (fn. 121) forfeited his lands because of his part in the death of Edmund, earl of Kent, the king's uncle. (fn. 122) Custody of Giffard's lands was granted in 1334 for life to Maurice of Berkeley (fn. 123) who in 1339 received a grant of Brimpsfield manor in fee. (fn. 124) Maurice (d. 1347) was succeeded by his son Thomas, a minor, (fn. 125) but in 1351 the manor was restored to John Mautravers as a reward for service in Flanders. (fn. 126) The following year Mautravers granted it to Lionel of Antwerp, the king's son. (fn. 127) Lionel, earl of Ulster, was made duke of Clarence in 1362 and died in 1368 leaving as his heir his daughter Philippe, wife of Edmund Mortimer, earl of March. (fn. 128) Catherine de la Pole, to whom Lionel had apparently granted some rights in the manor, quitclaimed them to Edmund and Philippe in 1374. (fn. 129) The manor then passed with Edmund's part of Bisley manor until 1548 when, on the death of Catherine Parr, (fn. 130) it reverted to Sir John Bridges under a grant of the previous year. (fn. 131)
Brimpsfield then descended with Sir John's manor of Coberley to Giles Bridges, Lord Chandos (d. 1594), who was survived by his daughters Elizabeth and Catherine. (fn. 132) In 1606 his nephew Grey Bridges, Lord Chandos, provided part of Elizabeth's portion by conveying the estate, called by then the manors of Brimpsfield and Cranham, to trustees including Sir William Sandys of Fladbury (Worcs.). (fn. 133) Sir William, who was named as lord of Brimpsfield in 1608, (fn. 134) acquired sole interest in 1623. He died in 1641 having outlived his son Sir Miles, whose wife Mary, later Lady Richardson, retained the house and park-land as part of her jointure in 1683. The estate passed with Miserden to Miles Sandys (d. 1697), whose son William (d. 1712) granted it in 1711 to his kinsman Windsor Sandys. Windsor (d. 1729) was succeeded by his son Windsor, who retained the beech woods and common land centred on Cranham after 1740 when Alice and Emm Gilbert foreclosed on a mortgage. (fn. 135) Emm (d. 1750) left her share of the estate to her nephew John Gilbert, bishop of Salisbury, who purchased the share of Alice's trustees in 1753. John, who became archbishop of York in 1757, settled the estate in 1761, the year of his death, on the marriage of his daughter Emm and George Edgcumbe, Baron Edgcumbe; (fn. 136) some land was sold by the trustees of that settlement in the 1760s. (fn. 137) George, who was created Viscount Mount Edgcumbe and Valletort in 1781 and Earl of Mount Edgcumbe in 1789, died in 1795 and was survived by Emm (d. 1807), but his son and heir Richard (fn. 138) owned c. 768 a. in Brimpsfield parish in 1799. (fn. 139)
Joseph Pitt of Cirencester, who bought the estate under an agreement of 1802, (fn. 140) enlarged it by several purchases, including in 1807 c. 170 a. acquired by Windsor Sandys in 1716. In 1829 he sold it with his Syde property to William Lawrence, (fn. 141) an eminent London surgeon. (fn. 142) Lawrence owned c. 1,119 a. in the parish in 1837 (fn. 143) and apparently sold his estate in 1847 to John Hall of Bury (Lancs.), (fn. 144) a cottonmanufacturer (fn. 145) who also acquired the Climperwell estate. (fn. 146) He died in 1870 (fn. 147) and in 1873 the manor was sold to Thomas Pendlebury. (fn. 148) Later, probably in 1880, the manorial rights and some land were acquired by William Killigrew Wait of Clifton, M.P. for Gloucester 1873–80. William and his son and heir Wilfrid built up an estate covering 1,543 a. in Brimpsfield and Cranham in 1926 when it was broken up. (fn. 149) Part including Brimpsfield Park house was bought by John Kendall, the owner until 1942. It was then acquired by the Cirencester Conservative Benefit Society and in the late 1950s by Peter Percy. Mrs. L. P. Larthe, who bought the house and 280 a. of farm-land in 1960 and Poston and Syde woods in 1965, owned c. 162 ha. (c. 400 a.) in 1977. (fn. 150)
A motte and bailey castle stood on the side of a valley 0.75 km. west of Ermin Street but, further west, a much larger castle had been built overlooking the valley by the mid 12th century; masonry of that date is incorporated in several buildings in the village. (fn. 151) The later castle, which was the Giffards' military base (fn. 152) until its demolition by royal order in 1322, (fn. 153) was partially moated and had an elaborate southern gateway. The outer bailey apparently contained the hall range and stabling, and the inner bailey to the east a square keep and other buildings. (fn. 154) Substantial earthworks survived in 1977 but were overgrown.
East of the village a house was built in the park, probably in the early 17th century when it was known as Brimpsfield Lodge. (fn. 155) In 1672 Miles Sandys was assessed on 13 hearths for the house, (fn. 156) which was in ruins c. 1775. (fn. 157) A few years later it was rebuilt as a substantial farm-house, (fn. 158) known later as Brimpsfield Park, which was remodelled in the 19th century and again by John Kendall. He also laid out extensive ornamental gardens on the slope east of the house. (fn. 159)
St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Gloucester, was granted 2 yardlands in Brimpsfield to sustain a chaplain by Osbert Giffard c. 1227 and land at Groveridge hill in the centre of the parish by Nicholas of Kellaways c. 1260. (fn. 162) In 1837 the hospital's trustees, the mayor and corporation of Gloucester, owned c. 82 a. near Stoneyhill. (fn. 163) In 1881 part of a near-by field, held by the mayor and corporation as trustees of a charity established under the will of John Cooke, was added to the hospital's endowments. The hospital land, which was apparently sold to Theodore Crewdson of Syde in 1899, (fn. 164) had passed by 1920 to J. D. Crewdson, the owner of over 240 a. in the parish. (fn. 165)
At Caudle Green part of the property of the Welch family, settled there by 1629, (fn. 166) passed to Jeremiah Hooper (fn. 167) who sold his land in 1703 to Matthew Walbank. Matthew, who built up an estate based on WOODFIELD HOUSE, (fn. 168) died in 1721. (fn. 169) Another Matthew Walbank (d. 1761) left the estate to his second son Abraham, who sold it in 1766 to his elder brother William, rector of Cranham. After William's death in 1784 his wife Hester retained the estate, (fn. 170) which comprised c. 163 a. in 1799. (fn. 171) It was broken up after her death in 1802; Joseph Pitt bought the house and Eddington farm (c. 123 a.) and Walter Welch the land at Morcombe. (fn. 172) The 18th-century house has 19th-century bay-windows and additions. By 1837 it had been acquired by John Biddle Ockwell, (fn. 173) and in the early 20th century it was a farm-house until Theodore Crewdson made it his home. (fn. 174)
In 1086 Brimpsfield manor, which then included Cranham, had in demesne 3 plough-teams worked by 8 servi and 4 ancillae. (fn. 175) In 1327, when the demesne land comprised 600 a. of arable, 4 a. of meadow, and 24 a. of pasture, some tenants of Gloucester Abbey owed ploughing and harrowing services on the estate. (fn. 176) Those services had possibly been retained when land in Cranham had been granted to the abbey. The same tenants owed hoeing-services in the late 14th century. (fn. 177) After 1338, when a yardland contained 48 a. and the arable demesne extended to 5 ploughlands (960 a.), (fn. 178) there was a change to pastoral farming on the Brimpsfield estate (fn. 179) but by 1413 the demesne pastures and meadows were leased. (fn. 180)
The tenants on the manor in 1086 were 16 villani, 6 bordars, and a priest, with 12 ploughs between them. There were also 5 burgesses in Gloucester belonging to the manor. (fn. 181) In 1327 there were 13 free tenants on the estate, and 21 customary tenants of whom 9 were half-yardlanders, owing money rents and labour-services. Nine cottagers and 34 other tenants owed cash rents. (fn. 182) In 1380 one tenant was described as a mondayman. (fn. 183) By 1536 some of the holdings had been amalgamated and in Brimpsfield parish there were 7 free tenants, 4 at Brimpsfield, 2 at Birdlip, and 1 at Caudle Green, and 14 customary tenants, 9 (including Sir John Bridges) at Brimpsfield, 3 at Birdlip, and 2 at Caudle Green. (fn. 184)
Open-field land recorded in Brimpsfield in 1221 (fn. 185) had probably been reduced to a relatively small area by 1380 when 301 autumn works were not used, but oats were sown in various parts of the parish. (fn. 186) In the later 17th century there were at least four open fields in the parish, a north and a south field (the latter also known as the middle field) on opposite sides of Brimpsfield village, a far field beyond Manless Town, and Caudle Home field west of Caudle Green. (fn. 187) In 1788 most of the open-field land was confined to a single area which, when fallow, was open to sheep between 19 April and 5 September. The sheep, which were stinted at two to the acre, were also allowed in with cattle after the harvest. (fn. 188) That area, lying south and south-west of the village, and a small area south of the Blacklains, called the Slait common field, comprised 181 a. in 1842 when they were inclosed. Commissioners were appointed in 1838 but agreement between the landowners was delayed mainly by disputes between St. Bartholomew's Hospital and William Lawrence and Joseph Winning, the owner of Stoneyhill farm. Under the award, which concerned 309 a. of openfield land and inclosures, fifteen landowners received allotments. The largest, 57 a., went to William Lawrence, and six other owners each received 20–50 a., the rector 13½ a., and the rest each under 7½ a. A series of exchanges confirmed by the award consolidated the holdings of nine landowners. (fn. 189)
There were several areas of common pasture. Buckle wood, the largest, remains uninclosed but Woodhill green to the south-east, which was possibly subject to common rights in the 1230s (fn. 190) and was open in 1380 between Whitsun and the feast of the Purification, (fn. 191) was finally inclosed by the lord of the manor c. 1786. (fn. 192) Two parcels remaining commonable in 1977, the green at Caudle Green and Muzzards common in the valley north-east of Brimpsfield village, were both closed between Candlemas and Whitsun in the mid 1780s. (fn. 193)
The importance of sheep-farming by the early 13th century is indicated by a grant to Flaxley Abbey of common rights in Brimpsfield and Cranham for 240 sheep, (fn. 194) and in 1327 the person assessed for most tax in the parish was a shepherd. (fn. 195) The manor estate, which included a sheepfold in 1327, (fn. 196) had been reorganized for large-scale sheepfarming by 1380 when the sale of wool realised nearly six times as much as the sale of corn and timber combined. (fn. 197) In 1536 the estate had a sheephouse in Birdlip, (fn. 198) and St. Bartholomew's Hospital had one on its estate in the mid 17th century. (fn. 199)
In 1801 a relatively low acreage (608½ a.) produced arable crops, mainly cereals with some turnips and peas and small areas of rye, beans, and potatoes. (fn. 200) In 1807 most of the farms had a mixed economy with substantial areas of pasture; only one farm was predominantly arable. (fn. 201) By 1837, however, the arable land comprised more than half the farmland in the parish (fn. 202) and in 1866 1,467 a. were returned as under crops, mainly cereals and roots, or temporary grass, and 881 a. as under permanent grass. By 1896 the area under cereals and roots had decreased by almost 500 a. and permanent grassland accounted for at least 1,052 a. (fn. 203) In the late 1880s cheese was produced on Caudle Green farm. Dairying expanded in the 1930s (fn. 204) and by then the red poll variety of cattle had been introduced on Brimpsfield Park farm. (fn. 205) Sheep-farming remained important throughout the later 19th and early 20th centuries (fn. 206) and by the 1930s the Cotswold breed had given way to others. (fn. 207) The number of pigs reared dropped in the early 20th century and large-scale poultry-farming had begun by 1926. (fn. 208)
In 1807 the farms on the Brimpsfield estate of Joseph Pitt covered 552 a., 171 a., 95 a., and 42 a. Walter Welch's land at Birdlip and Caudle Green (214 a.) was farmed as a unit and another five freehold farms, comprising 179 a., 171 a., 142 a., 139 a., and 128 a., were in hand. (fn. 209) In 1831 eight farmers in the parish employed a total of 44 labourers. (fn. 210) In 1896 most of the land was rented and cultivated in 22 holdings. In 1926 half of the 16 holdings returned were under 50 a. each but there were 4 farms of 150–300 a. and 21 agricultural labourers found fulltime employment in the parish. (fn. 211) At that time Park farm (385 a. including Poston and Syde woods), Blacklains farm (280 a.), Yew Tree farm (237 a.), and Moorhouse (35 a.) were part of the Brimpsfield estate (fn. 212) but in 1957 most of the 13 farms in the parish were worked by their owners. (fn. 213) By 1976, when there were a few smallholdings worked parttime, the production on five larger farms, each of which was returned as containing over 50 ha. (124 a.), was specialized; two were given over to dairying, one to cereals, one to cattle- and sheep-rearing, and one to poultry-farming. (fn. 214)
In 1354 Lionel, earl of Ulster, had a grant of a Tuesday market and a two-day fair at Corpus Christi in Brimpsfield. (fn. 217) There is no evidence that they were ever held, apart from a statement c. 1775 that they had been long since discontinued. (fn. 218) In 1856 a non-statutory fair for sheep and cattle was held in Birdlip on the last Tuesday in April. In the 1860s there was also a similar Tuesday fair at the end of September. (fn. 219)
A walker had land in Brimpsfield in 1262 (fn. 220) but the only cloth-workers found recorded later were members of the Gardner family which owned property at Moorhouse in the 17th century and early 18th. (fn. 221) In 1608 3 tailors, 2 badgers, a baker, and an innkeeper were listed in the parish, (fn. 222) where 22 families were supported by trade in 1831, as opposed to 44 supported by agriculture. (fn. 223) Many of the tradesmen lived in Birdlip, which grew up to serve road traffic and had a smith by 1287. (fn. 224) There were several smithies there in the late 17th century and early 18th, when other village trades were represented there, (fn. 225) and two smithies closed in the early 20th century. A garage opened in 1922. (fn. 226) A clockmaker lived there in the early 19th century (fn. 227) and in 1977 the village retained a shop and a saddler. At Wood House, where a wood turner carried on his trade by 1837, (fn. 228) a workshop with a new saw-mill was leased in 1895 to James Gastrell of Cranham, a timber-merchant. From 1900 the mill was worked by J. G. Ayers, whose company J. G. Ayers & Sons Ltd. of Pitchcombe (fn. 229) employed up to 21 people there in 1907. (fn. 230) It closed in or soon after 1922. (fn. 231) The sale of faggots in Cheltenham, carried on in the later 19th century by the Driver family of Birdlip, declined in the early 20th. (fn. 232) In the early 19th century stone was quarried in Buckle wood. (fn. 233) There were important quarries north of Birdlip, (fn. 234) where a building firm, established in 1913 by Martin Partridge, employed c. 60 people in 1957 (fn. 235) and continued in business in 1977.
Brimpsfield inhabitants included a gunsmith in 1739. (fn. 236) Most of the usual village trades were to be found in Brimpsfield village and Caudle Green until the later 19th century and carpenters worked in Caudle Green until the Second World War. In the later 19th century and early 20th carriers connected the three main settlements of the parish with Cheltenham, Gloucester, and Cirencester (fn. 237) and by 1957 several residents worked in Cheltenham or Gloucester. (fn. 238)
Ellis Giffard (IV) raised and used gallows in Brimpsfield but the abbot of Cirencester as lord of the hundred secured their demolition c. 1222. (fn. 239) Under an agreement of the 1230s, concerning the liberties of the manor, the abbey's right to try thieves was confirmed and Ellis was to have the amercements from the two views of frankpledge to be held each year in his manor court by the abbey's bailiffs upon payment of 2s. at each view. Ellis was also entitled to pecuniary rights in cases arising from the hue and to strays. (fn. 240) A reference to Brimpsfield hundred in 1382 (fn. 241) presumably relates to the holding of the view, which in the early 15th century was attended by the inhabitants of Birdlip and Cranham. (fn. 242) In the early 16th century, however, the Cowley court held view of frankpledge for the Cowley part of Birdlip. (fn. 243)
For Brimpsfield manor there is a court roll of 1546 recording tenurial and agrarian matters. (fn. 244) By 1788 the court, meeting in October at the King's Head inn, was called a court leet. (fn. 245) Presentments to that court survive for the period 1798–1829, during which it still dealt with Cranham matters; the main business was preventing encroachments on commonable land and fencing off quarries, but it elected constables and haywards for both parishes. (fn. 246) The court leet had moved by 1869 to the Golden Heart, where in 1875 it appointed a hayward and dealt with the state of a brook. (fn. 247)
The parish had two churchwardens from the late 15th century (fn. 248) although there may have been only one in the early 19th. (fn. 249) Their accounts for the period 1703–96 survive. (fn. 250) Two surveyors of the highways were recorded from 1786. (fn. 251) The cost of poor-relief, which was £50 in 1776, had risen to £133 by 1803 when 20 of the 29 persons being helped received regular aid. (fn. 252) The number on occasional relief rose in following years and the cost in 1815 was £232. (fn. 253) From 1828 a doctor received expenses for attending the poor; part of the cost of vaccinating 88 children in 1831 was met by the rector, William Moore. By 1835 the number of poor receiving weekly payments had fallen to eight. (fn. 254) From 1831 a house north-east of Caudle Green was used as a poorhouse. (fn. 255) Brimpsfield parish, which joined the Cirencester poor-law union of 1836, (fn. 256) remained in Cirencester rural district. Birdlip was wholly in Cheltenham rural district after the 1935 boundary change (fn. 257) and was included in Tewkesbury district in 1974 when the rest of the ancient parish of Brimpsfield became part of Cotswold district.
The priest recorded on Brimpsfield manor in 1086 (fn. 258) presumably served in the church which was granted, probably in the 12th century, with some manorial tithes to Fontenay Abbey (Calvados). The abbey endowed a cell, Brimpsfield Priory, with the demesne tithes, (fn. 259) and a vicarage, which had been ordained at Brimpsfield by 1230, (fn. 260) was in the gift of the priory in 1317. (fn. 261) The Crown presented when the priory was in the king's hands during the war with France (fn. 262) and after its suppression in 1414, (fn. 263) although in 1427 the bishop held an inquiry into the patronage. (fn. 264) In 1441 Henry VI granted the advowson with the priory to Eton College (fn. 265) but in 1461 the bishop collated to the living (fn. 266) and later that year Edward IV revoked his predecessor's grant. (fn. 267) By 1465 his mother Cecily, duchess of York and lady of Brimpsfield manor, had secured the patronage of the church, and the demesne tithes had evidently been absorbed into the living, which was then and later called a rectory. (fn. 268) In 1798 the living was united with Cranham (fn. 269) but the union was dissolved in 1892. (fn. 270) Brimpsfield was united with Elkstone and Syde in 1972. (fn. 271)
The patronage of the rectory passed with the manor, (fn. 272) although the bishop collated through lapse in 1585, and John Guise of Gloucester and Charles Coxe of Nether Lypiatt were patrons for turns in 1672 and 1726 respectively. (fn. 273) The church had the same patron as Cranham when the livings were united. (fn. 274) By 1803 the rector, James Pitt, had bought the patronage of the united benefice (fn. 275) and after his death in 1806 it belonged to his wife Mary (d. 1836), (fn. 276) who left it to William Goodrich (d. 1845). His son James sold it in 1879 to Denne Denne of Canterbury and in 1890 the rector, Richard Henry Denne, acquired it. (fn. 277) He sold the patronage of Cranham shortly afterwards (fn. 278) but the Denne family retained the patronage of Brimpsfield, in which G. H. Pritchard-Rayner had an interest by 1949, (fn. 279) until it was acquired by the bishop c. 1967. (fn. 280) In 1977 the patronage of the united benefice belonged in turn to the bishop, Mrs. G. M. Price, and the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 281)
The vicar's portion was presumably included in the valuation of the church at £10 in 1291 when the parish included Cranham. Flaxley Abbey then had a portion, valued at £1 5s., for the Climperwell tithes. (fn. 282) Brimpsfield rectory was worth £9 11s. 11d. clear in 1535, (fn. 283) but its value had risen to £42 6s. 8d. by 1650 (fn. 284) and to £70 by 1750. (fn. 285) The glebe was extended at c. 33 a. in 1664. In 1680 tithes of cows, calves, sheep, and lambs were paid in kind and nothing was owed for milk and aftermath. For the tithes of Brimpsfield park and the manorial demesne 6s. 8d. and £10 respectively were paid in composition then, (fn. 286) but in the early 19th century £9 16s. 11½d. was paid in moduses or in composition for the tithes of over 946 a. (fn. 287) It was because of its poverty that the living was united with Cranham in 1798 when the united benefice was valued at £259. (fn. 288) The Brimpsfield tithes were commuted in 1838 for a corn-rent-charge of £303 and the Cranham tithes the following year for a corn-rent-charge of £162. (fn. 289) In 1856 the living was worth £458. (fn. 290) In Brimpsfield, where in 1842 the rector had been awarded 13½ a. for his open-field glebe, reduced after exchanges to 9 a., (fn. 291) most of the glebe was sold in 1923. (fn. 292) The rector retained 1.6 ha. (4 a.) which was let in 1977. (fn. 293)
The rectory house mentioned in 1664 contained four bays in 1680. (fn. 294) The house, at the northern end of the village, (fn. 295) was considerably enlarged in the 19th century. It had been sold by 1974 (fn. 296) and a new rectory house to the north was occupied from 1975. (fn. 297)
Of the vicars of Brimpsfield William of Cowley, instituted in 1380, and Robert Cranham, apparently his successor in 1382, (fn. 298) were probably local men. Thomas Lane, rector by 1540, (fn. 299) who was found to be moderately learned in 1551, (fn. 300) was resident until he became rector of Cranham in 1565. In 1572, when the chancel and other parts of the church were in disrepair, Brimpsfield was served by a curate shared with Syde. (fn. 301) Lane, whose curate in 1576 was absolved from excommunication, (fn. 302) was resident in 1584 when he was described as neither a graduate nor a preacher. (fn. 303) William Wolley, who in 1636 became rector of both Brimpsfield and Miserden, (fn. 304) used curates at Brimpsfield, (fn. 305) which he retained in 1664. (fn. 306) In the mid 1650s the living was possibly served by Henry Hooke, who was described as rector in the later 1660s, (fn. 307) but in 1670 Humphrey Randall, vicar of Down Hatherley, became rector. He also employed a curate and was succeeded in 1672 by Hooke (d. 1710). (fn. 308) The rectors between 1726 and 1785 appointed curates; Thomas Chamberlayne Coxe, rector from 1726, was also rector of North Cerney from 1736; (fn. 309) John White, rector from 1745, was also rector of Minchinhampton from 1774; (fn. 310) and James Parsons, rector from 1777, was also rector of Eastleach Martin (fn. 311) but lived in Cirencester. (fn. 312) Between 1785 and 1797 the rectory was held in plurality with Cranham by William Metcalfe (fn. 313) who resided in Brimpsfield. (fn. 314) James Pitt, rector from 1797, (fn. 315) was instituted to Cranham the following year when the livings were united. (fn. 316) James Phelps, his successor in 1806, lived in Alderley where he was rector. (fn. 317) For Brimpsfield with Cranham he employed as curate from 1819 John Davies, owner of the Overtown estate in Cranham, who lived in Painswick and from 1823 William Moore who lived in the Brimpsfield rectory house. Moore, who succeeded Phelps as rector in 1829, (fn. 318) retained the united benefice until 1879 but his successor R. H. Denne (d. 1914) had relinquished Cranham rectory by 1892. (fn. 319)
The parish church of ST. MICHAEL, so called by 1791 (fn. 320) although it bore dedications to the Blessed Saviour c. 1708 (fn. 321) and St. Lawrence in the early 1920s, (fn. 322) is built of rubble and ashlar and has a chancel, nave with eastern tower, north vestry, and south porch. The nave, which has an undecorated chancel arch and south doorway of the late 11th or early 12th century, is unusually wide for the area and may originally have had arcades. (fn. 323) The chancel, which is almost square, and part of the north wall of the nave were rebuilt in the 13th century. During the 14th century new windows were put into the south side of the chancel, the south porch was added, and the lower parts of the tower were built into the east end of the nave. The east and west walls of the tower rest on plain pointed arches, that to the east being beyond the chancel arch; the north and south walls incorporate 13th-century piers and are flanked by small side chapels in the east end of the nave. Later in the 14th century part of the north wall of the nave was rebuilt to incorporate a low window, lighting the adjacent chapel, and a stair which gave access to a rood-loft against the west face of the tower. The rood-screen cut off the side chapels from the nave and narrow openings were made into them through the north and south walls of the tower. In the 15th century the west wall of the nave was rebuilt, new windows were put into the nave, and the top of the tower was added or rebuilt.
A western gallery of 1833 was removed during a restoration of the church in 1883, when the window lighting the gallery was presumably blocked and new pews were installed. (fn. 324) The church retains a medieval font and a pulpit dated 1658. The bells include one cast by Robert Norton of Exeter (fl. c. 1420–1460) and another by Thomas Gefferies (fl. 1508–46). A third bell dated 1657 was recast in 1904 (fn. 325) and a fourth was cast in 1910. (fn. 326) The church plate includes a late-17th-century chalice and a salver of 1730. (fn. 327) The registers survive from 1587. (fn. 328)
An altar stone, which before 1937 was used as a stile, (fn. 329) has been placed in the north chapel. A few sculptured stones of early medieval date have been moved to the chancel from the churchyard, which contains many richly carved, 18th-century monuments. (fn. 330)
A church mentioned in Birdlip in 1287 has not been traced. (fn. 331) An iron mission church, dedicated to ST. MARY, opened there in 1897. The church, built by subscription on land next to the Black Horse provided by W. F. Hicks Beach, (fn. 332) was served by the rector of Great Witcombe or lay readers. (fn. 333) After the First World War the rector of Brimpsfield took the services (fn. 334) and in 1928 the church was included in Brimpsfield ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 335) The church was destroyed by fire in 1954, and in 1958 a new church of St. Mary opened by the Brimpsfield road. (fn. 336) That church, built of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings, comprises chancel with north vestry, nave, and south porch.
The nonconformist meeting in Birdlip for which the Stroud Congregationalist minister John Burder registered premises in 1820 and 1821 (fn. 337) was shortlived, (fn. 338) as was that in Caudle Green for which Thomas Davis registered a meeting-place in 1825. (fn. 339) Davis, a missionary of the Particular Baptist chapel at Eastcombe, was later minister of Coberley, from where he introduced services to Birdlip in 1833. (fn. 340) The Baptists, for whose use the building in Birdlip registered the following year was possibly intended, (fn. 341) built a chapel there in 1841 and in 1851 it had congregations of 26 for afternoon and 30 for evening services. (fn. 342) The chapel, south of Ermin Street, (fn. 343) was a mission of Cambray chapel, Cheltenham, by 1891 and until 1952 (fn. 344) shortly after which it closed. (fn. 345) In 1846 a Cheltenham man registered a house in Caudle Green as a meeting-place. (fn. 346)
In 1818 only c. 16 children attended a day-school in the parish (fn. 347) but in 1833 there were separate schools, supported by the rector and parents, for 11 boys and 21 girls. (fn. 348) In 1841 a National school was built at the northern end of Brimpsfield village. (fn. 349) About 1846, when the income came from subscriptions and pence, the boys and girls, who numbered 13 and 20 respectively, were apparently taught separately. (fn. 350) In 1867, when there were 40 children on the roll, the average attendance was 20 and the teacher elderly and untrained. (fn. 351) The school taught 36 children in 1875 (fn. 352) and, as Brimpsfield C. of E. school, had an average attendance of 22 in 1936. (fn. 353) It closed in 1947, when 12 children were transferred to Birdlip. The building was sold and later demolished. (fn. 354)
One of the day-schools recorded for Cowley parish in 1833 was possibly in Birdlip, (fn. 355) which apparently had a dame school in the mid 19th century. (fn. 356) In 1877 Birdlip C. of E. school opened in a new, small building in simple Gothic style, erected at the eastern end of the village by Robert Richardson-Gardner of Cowley Manor. It had an average attendance of 35 in 1885. (fn. 357) After the county council bought the building in 1929 the school was known as Birdlip Council school, which had an average attendance of 28 in 1936, (fn. 358) and later as Birdlip County Primary school. In 1977 it taught 67 children from surrounding villages and hamlets. (fn. 359)
Charities for the Poor
The parish had £14 stock, arising apparently from gifts by Sir William Sandys and two others, by 1683 when it was lent out and the interest paid to poor people not receiving parish relief. (fn. 360) Following a gift of £6, apparently made after 1704, the charity had an income of £1 distributed on Easter Monday. In the later 18th century four legacies of £5 each, another of 2 guineas, and £5, part of a fine, were added to the charity, which was again augmented in 1805 by a legacy of 2 guineas and raised to £50 by adding 12s. of fines and 4s. of gifts. The income of £2 was distributed among 11 people in 1813 and among 35 in 1871. (fn. 361) By will proved 1873 Mary Ann Ockwell of Caudle Green left £200 for the poor of the parish. (fn. 362) In 1882 her charity was combined with the Easter gift charity, and the combined charities were distributed until 1893 at Christmas in coal for up to 50 persons. From 1895 they gave cash to 40 people but the number of recipients fell in the early 20th century. The charities, which in 1921 paid £2 to the parish nursing fund, benefited 28 people in 1927 (fn. 363) but in 1970 the income of £6 was shared between two old people living alone. (fn. 364)
Thomas Bicknell (d. 1780) left £1 from his estate for the poor but his heirs did not pay the legacy. (fn. 365)