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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Cowley is a rural parish lying above the Cotswold escarpment 8 km. south of Cheltenham. The ancient parish, which contained 1,898 a., was irregular in shape and included in the western corner part of Birdlip village. (fn. 1) The boundaries, which those of Cowley manor described in 1757 closely followed, included the main Gloucester–Cirencester road, the Roman Ermin Street, on the south-west, the river Churn, then called Cockleford's brook, on the east, and tributary streams on part of the north in Coldwell bottom, then known as Goldwell bottom, and on the south-east. (fn. 2) The north-western boundary, which followed the crest of the escarpment, including a short spur called the Peak, was defined where it ran across common land north of Birdlip in 1869 following an encroachment by Lady Cromie, owner of the Witcombe estate. (fn. 3) In 1935 the parish was enlarged to 2,019 a. (817 ha.) by the transfer of 121 a. at Birdlip from Brimpsfield. (fn. 4) The following account relates to the ancient parish except that Birdlip village is treated wholly under Brimpsfield.
Above the valleys of the boundary streams the parish occupies a plateau of rolling country lying at over 244 m. and reaching over 290 m. in the west, where there are extensive views north-westwards across the Vale of Gloucester. The valley bottoms lie on Midford Sand while the plateau is formed by the Inferior Oolite, overlaid in places by fuller's earth, or on some higher land by the Great Oolite. (fn. 5) Open fields and commons occupied much of the parish until the 18th century. Barrow Wake, a small common at the top of the escarpment, remained uninclosed in 1978. (fn. 6)
In 1086 the Cowley estate included woodland measuring three furlongs by one, (fn. 7) presumably in the south-east (fn. 8) at Cowley wood, also called Norgrave in 1652. (fn. 9) In the later 17th century copyholders could take sticks for wattle in the wood. (fn. 10) A view aligned on the manor-house had been cleared by 1778 (fn. 11) and by 1874, when the wood comprised 90 a., two fishponds had been created at its northeastern corner. (fn. 12) Harcombe bottom to the north and an area south-east of the Peak were planted later that century (fn. 13) and in 1901 woodland and plantations accounted for 157 a. (fn. 14) East of Cowley village a small deer-park was laid out on either side of the Churn in the mid 1850s and two lakes with small islands were then formed in the river as part of the pleasure grounds of Cowley Manor. (fn. 15) In the later 1890s the park was enlarged (fn. 16) and a third lake created downstream. (fn. 17) The Churnside Schools Camp and Adventure Centre north of the village opened in 1962, (fn. 18) and the Gloucestershire Girl Guides Association built its headquarters in the park on land leased to it in 1968. (fn. 19) Birdlip radio station on Shab hill in the western part of the parish was established by the Air Ministry early in the Second World War. It was later used for air traffic control but from 1977 provided only cover for VHF radio. (fn. 20)
One of the early tracks crossing the parish ran near the top of the escarpment, (fn. 21) where late Iron Age finds, including the 'Birdlip Mirror' discovered on Barrow Wake in 1879, and Roman finds provide evidence of early occupation. (fn. 22) Ermin Street, which remained an important thoroughfare, (fn. 23) was turnpiked between Birdlip and Cirencester in 1747. (fn. 24) The Painswick–Cheltenham road turnpiked in 1785 included the route running north-eastwards from Birdlip across Barrow Wake. (fn. 25) A green way recorded in the north-eastern part of the parish from the later 13th century was possibly part of a route ascending the escarpment from Shurdington and leading to the village. (fn. 26)
The settlement at Cowley is a small estate village dominated by Cowley Manor, a substantial 19th-century mansion beside the Churn. The church stands east of the house and in its grounds. Manor Farm, an 18th-century house to the north-west, ceased to be a farm-house in the early 1930s. (fn. 27) The village grew up a little way to the west around the junction of several local routes where an ancient stone cross, recorded in 1713, stands; (fn. 28) the head of the cross dates from the 19th century. (fn. 29) The village spread westwards along the lane rising from the cross, and in that part, known as the west end in 1537, (fn. 30) the most substantial house is a farm-house, the former rectory, which stands a little way south of the lane. (fn. 31) North of the lane a cottage, which was part of the glebe and was occupied by the parish clerk in 1848, has been rebuilt. (fn. 32) In the early 19th century a row of three cottages was built north of the road to the church (fn. 33) but most buildings in the village, including a school and school-house west of the cross, were put up or remodelled by owners of Cowley Manor later that century. One pair of estate cottages was built in 1888 by William Baring-Bingham and five more pairs were built in 1897 and 1898 by James Horlick (fn. 34) who also provided the village with a water-supply. (fn. 35) In 1904 Horlick built a pair of houses and stabling some distance north-east of Manor Farm. (fn. 36) The former school had been adapted as a village hall by 1951. (fn. 37)
Stockwell, 2.5 km. west of the village, was recorded from the early 13th century when land there was incorporated into the manor estate. (fn. 38) The settlement, which grew up around a green (fn. 39) and contained 10 houses c. 1710, (fn. 40) was evidently depopulated during the inclosure of the open fields there in the late 1780s and early 1790s, for in 1802 several tenements were derelict and there was only one farmstead. Stockwell Farm (fn. 41) appears to have been rebuilt in the late 19th century but a back wing may incorporate the earlier house. To the south-east is a 17th-century out-building and a pair of 19th-century cottages. There are several outlying post-inclosure barns, (fn. 42) of which one, south-west of Cowley wood and called Wood Barn in 1802, (fn. 43) had been converted as cottages by 1857. (fn. 44) Hill Barn by the road from the village to Stockwell and a pair of cottages to the north were built in the mid 19th century. On Ermin Street the settlements at Parson's Pitch and Nettleton included houses in Cowley parish. (fn. 45)
At the junction of the Gloucester–Oxford and Painswick–Cheltenham roads in the northern corner of the parish an inn opened shortly before 1777 (fn. 46) in a building which appears to have been a pair of cottages. (fn. 47) It was known as the Balloon by 1796 (fn. 48) and later as the Air Balloon. (fn. 49) There was a tavern in Cowley in 1284 (fn. 50) but the village, which had a beer-house in the 1870s, had no inn in 1978. (fn. 51)
Twenty tenants were recorded on the Cowley estate in 1086 (fn. 52) and in 1327 only 2 people in Cowley were assessed for the subsidy and 8 in Stockwell. (fn. 53) More than 14 in both settlements were assessed for the poll tax in 1381. (fn. 54) There were said to be c. 50 communicants in 1551 (fn. 55) and 14 households in 1563, (fn. 56) but 95 communicants were recorded in 1603. (fn. 57) In 1650 there were said to be 67 families. (fn. 58) The population, which was estimated as 160 c. 1710, (fn. 59) had risen to 268 by c. 1775 (fn. 60) and was 251 in 1801. By 1831 it had increased to 323 but it then fell to 293 by 1871 and to 269 by 1901. By 1911 it had risen to 317 but had dropped again to 221 by 1931. Aided by the addition in 1935 of part of Birdlip and by the use of Cowley Manor as a conference centre, it had reached a peak of 361 by 1951 but had fallen to 280 by 1971. (fn. 61)
Pershore Abbey, which by 1086 held an estate comprising 5 hides at Cowley (fn. 62) and was granted free warren there in 1251, (fn. 63) retained the manor of COWLEY until the Dissolution. (fn. 64) In 1542 Cowley was granted with the abbey's property in Longney to the dean and chapter of Westminster (fn. 65) but William Blomer, to whom the abbey had granted a lease of that estate in 1538, (fn. 66) held Cowley until his death in 1554. William left the lease to his brother-in-law William Colley of Buscot (Berks.) (fn. 67) but in 1576 a member of the Blomer family farmed the manor. (fn. 68) In 1608, although Giles Blomer maintained a large household in Cowley, the lessee was apparently Frances (d. 1623), widow of Giles Bridges, Lord Chandos. (fn. 69)
In 1630 the dean and chapter granted the manor for three lives to Henry Brett, (fn. 70) a royalist who was fined for his sympathies. (fn. 71) In 1673 he took another lease for three lives, including that of his grandson Henry Brett, (fn. 72) who succeeded him as lord farmer of the manor at his death the following year (fn. 73) and was granted a similar lease in 1695 or 1696. (fn. 74) The younger Henry, who built residences at Cowley and Sandywell in Dowdeswell (fn. 75) and was a bellringing enthusiast, fell heavily into debt. (fn. 76) In return for an annuity and the payment of his debts he conveyed Cowley in 1721 to his son-in-law William Henry Morgan of Bristol (fn. 77) but was described as lord of the manor when he died in 1724. (fn. 78) The following year the dean and chapter leased the manor for 21 years to his mortgagee, James Jennings. That lease was surrendered in 1727 in favour of Morgan who took another, for a similar term. (fn. 79) Morgan, who also fell into debt, sold that lease to Samuel Hawker of Rodborough, a clothier, in 1736, (fn. 80) and thereafter the dean and chapter renewed the lease every seven years. (fn. 81) Samuel (d. 1760) (fn. 82) was succeeded by his son George (d. 1786). George left the lease to his illegitimate son Joseph Hawker or Ockford who surrendered it in 1787 in favour of the mortgagee Thomas Arundell. Arundell sold the lease the following year to Theyer Townsend of Steanbridge House, Painswick (d. 1801), who left it to his brother Charles, (fn. 83) a gunpowder merchant living in Hackney (Mdx.). Charles (d. 1803) left it to a cousin, William Lawrence of Shurdington (fn. 84) (d. 1820), (fn. 85) whose son and heir, William Edwards Lawrence, was a minor. In 1829, following a Chancery suit, the trustees sold the lease to Lindsey Winterbotham and Edward Weedon, both then of Tewkesbury. (fn. 86) Winter-botham, a solicitor later involved in banking, (fn. 87) acquired sole interest in the lease in 1830 (fn. 88) but the following year granted Weedon some copyhold land for three lives. In 1842, after Weedon's death, that land passed in freebench to his wife Mary who was said to own c. 545 a. in 1848. In 1853 the land was surrendered to James Hutchinson who had become lord farmer of the manor after Winterbotham c. 1852. (fn. 89)
Hutchinson, a London stock-broker, purchased the freehold from the dean and chapter in 1860 and enlarged the estate by purchasing the Cowley part (105 a.) of the Ivy Lodge estate (in Brimpsfield) in 1866 and land in Elkstone and Coberley. (fn. 90) He died in 1873 (fn. 91) and the following year the estate of 1,870 a. was sold to Robert Richardson-Gardner, M.P. for Windsor (Berks.). (fn. 92) In 1882 it was bought by William Baring-Bingham (fn. 93) and in 1895 by James Horlick (fn. 94) (cr. Bt. 1914, d. 1921), the founder of the Horlick's Malted Milk Co. Horlick was succeeded by his son Sir Ernest Burford Horlick (fn. 95) who owned c. 2,920 a. in 1928 when the break-up of the estate began. (fn. 96) The house and some land, which were purchased by Sidney Allen, (fn. 97) had passed to Cyril Heber-Percy by 1937. (fn. 98) Gloucestershire county council bought the house with c. 618 a. in 1946 and retained 101.5 ha. (251 a.) in 1978. (fn. 99)
The footings, and possibly some of the outer walls, of the house built by Henry Brett in 1695 (fn. 100) survive beneath the main block of Cowley Manor, an Italianate house which James Hutchinson built to the designs of G. Somers Clarke c. 1855. (fn. 101) That house, like its predecessor, had main fronts of five bays and was three storeys high. (fn. 102) There was a covered colonnade on the south which extended beyond the house along the front and side of a conservatory on the east and along part of the front of a two-storeyed wing on the west. North of the wing were service quarters, partly of three storeys. (fn. 103) In the late 1890s James Horlick demolished the two-storeyed range, extended the earlier house westwards by six bays, and enlarged the service wing. R. A. Briggs was the architect for that work and the interiors were lavishly panelled with hardwoods and the main ceilings were richly decorated. (fn. 104) About 1930 Sidney Allen created a new entrance hall, removing Horlick's staircase and replacing it with one in mid-18th-century style, but by 1934 the house was unoccupied. (fn. 105) Cyril Heber-Percy, who c. 1937 refitted some of the rooms, his additions including a glass-walled bathroom in the 'modern' style, was probably responsible for removing most of the decorated ceilings. The house, which was leased to Cheltenham Ladies' College during the Second World War, (fn. 106) was used by the county council as a conference centre and for social events in 1978. (fn. 107) The pleasure grounds laid out by Hutchinson south of the house included a terrace and an ornamental pond linked to the Churn below by a cascade. (fn. 108)
Land in Cowley granted c. 1240 to St. Bar-tholomew's Hospital, Gloucester, has not been traced. (fn. 109)
In 1086 the demesne of Cowley manor supported 5 servi working 2 plough-teams. (fn. 110) One of the two people assessed for tax in Cowley in 1327 was a cowherd (fn. 111) and in the mid 14th century ploughmen and drivers of ploughteams, shepherds, and a dairymaid earned wages on the estate. In October 1349 three shepherds received allowances of corn but the account for that year recorded no sheep in stock. (fn. 112) The inhabitants of Cowley and Stockwell in 1381 included a cowherd and a shepherd. (fn. 113) Pershore Abbey had let the demesne by 1422. (fn. 114)
The tenants recorded at Cowley in 1086 were 14 villani and a bordar working 7 ploughs (fn. 115) and in the early 13th century they included a shepherd at Stockwell, who owed labour-services at the usual agricultural tasks. (fn. 116) From 1360 a tenement was held by the annual service of providing an arrow. (fn. 117) Copyhold tenure was recorded in the early 16th century, (fn. 118) and the 13 husbandmen listed in the parish in 1608 probably included tenants holding by copy. (fn. 119) In 1713 there were 21 copyhold tenements, 16 of which comprised 1 yardland or less and the largest 4½ yardlands. (fn. 120) Those tenements were granted by the lord farmer for terms of three lives. In the 18th century large copyhold estates were built up by James Pitt of Gloucester and his son John, and by the Revd. Thomas Baghot (d. 1762), who became rector of Naunton and Dumbleton. (fn. 121) In 1778 copyhold land covered 898 a., of which 132 a. were in hand and the remainder in 17 holdings ranging in size from one of 13 perches to one of 342 a. held by John Pitt with other copyholds of 95 a. and 4 a. Thomas Baghot held 222 a. and four other tenants 20–25 a. each. The demesne, which covered 652 a., included a farm of 513 a. let to the Humphris family. Cottages and a mill were part of 39 a. held on leases for lives. (fn. 122)
An agreement of c. 1268 allowed intensive cultivation by Pershore Abbey of part of an arable field, called Nether Cowley, north of Cowley village. Under the agreement the abbey retained the right to inclose a third of the field when fallow temporarily in an 'inhook' for its own use and granted Giles of Berkeley, lord of Coberley manor, and his men common rights in the other two-thirds. (fn. 123) That grant might be the reason why in 1848 three small areas of land by the Churn were said to be open. (fn. 124) Outside the valley, open fields and commons occupied much of the land. In the mid 13th century there were a south and a west field. (fn. 125) In 1673 the open-field land was contained in five areas, a north and a south field at Cowley, a north and a south field at Stockwell, and a field north of Birdlip. The pasture rights in those fields, which were stinted, were used primarily for sheep, (fn. 126) and court rolls contain evidence of sheep-farming in the early 16th century when two sheep-houses were mentioned. (fn. 127) In 1652 Cowley Downs, the main common pasture, lay in two parts, the lower and the upper downs, north and south of Cowley wood respectively. (fn. 128) In the early 18th century that common was opened on 14 May (fn. 129) and was grazed by cows and sheep in alternate years. In 1736 its area was 121 a. (fn. 130) Another common pasture recorded in 1652 was Conygers hill in the south-east, (fn. 131) and in the later 17th century at least three tenants apparently shared common rights in the Ox Pasture, south-west of Cowley wood, and the Moors, which were opened by agreement. (fn. 132) In 1762 there were in the parish six common pastures, including two quarries, covering 39 a. The largest, Barrow Wake, then called the Woolpits, comprised 26 a. and a small common called Yew Tree bank, at the top of Birdlip hill, 2 a. (fn. 133)
Some inclosure took place in the 1720s and early 1730s when the lord farmer was consolidating the demesne and laying it down as pasture. (fn. 134) In 1727 the rector granted him the open-field land belonging to the glebe for a term in return for a piece of land north of the village. Cowley Downs and the remainder of the two Cowley fields were inclosed in 1739 by agreement between the lord farmer and seven copyholders. The lord farmer took the downs in severalty while the largest allotment (230 a.) in the fields went to the Revd. Thomas Baghot. Thomas Welles, rector of Cowley, received 44 a. for copyhold land and four tenants 27 a., 23 a., 10 a., and 3 a. respectively. The seventh allotment, 2½ a. of pasture in the lower downs, (fn. 135) was surrendered the following year. (fn. 136) The Stockwell and Birdlip open fields, which provided common pasture for sheep until at least 1787, were inclosed by the lord farmer following the surrender of much of the copyhold land there in the late 1780s and early 1790s. (fn. 137) A small area north of Birdlip Farm in Birdlip remained uninclosed in 1828 (fn. 138) but by 1848 the parish had been completely inclosed apart from the commons at Barrow Wake and the top of Birdlip hill and the three small areas by the Churn. (fn. 139)
At the inclosure of the Stockwell and Birdlip open fields the lord farmer created consolidated farms (fn. 140) but the land remained copyhold until 1875 when 976 a. were enfranchised. (fn. 141) The principal farms on the Cowley estate in 1802 covered 470 a., 419 a., 284 a., 154 a., and 83 a., (fn. 142) and in 1828 723 a., 345 a., 285 a., and 157 a. (fn. 143) In the later 19th century most of the parish, apart from land farmed from Highgate Farm in Elkstone, was included in three large farms, Manor, Stockwell, and Birdlip farms. Respectively they comprised 511 a., 471 a., and 311 a. in 1859, (fn. 144) and 489 a., 484 a., and 416 a. in 1881. (fn. 145) From the later 1890s they were taken in hand but were let again after the First World War. (fn. 146) In 1926, when 24 agricultural labourers found full-time employment in the parish, there was another farm of over 150 a. and five smallholdings with less than 20 a. each. (fn. 147) Manor farm was broken up during the sale of the estate in the later 1920s. (fn. 148)
In the early 18th century the land was chiefly in tillage (fn. 149) but in the 1720s and early 1730s some was converted to pasture (fn. 150) and large herds of cattle were kept. Tillage still predominated, however, c. 1775, (fn. 151) and in 1839 there was a flock of c. 400 sheep on Stockwell farm. (fn. 152) In 1848 arable covered 1,128 a. and meadow and pasture 520 a., (fn. 153) but in the later 19th century and early 20th the area returned as under crops, mainly cereals and roots, decreased by over 300 a. and the area of recorded permanent grassland rose from 472 a. in 1866 to 998 a. in 1926. (fn. 154) Many sheep were kept in the later 19th century (fn. 155) and James Horlick established a flock of Oxford Down sheep and also introduced a herd of shorthorn cattle. (fn. 156) The number of dairy cattle returned for the parish increased from 141 in 1896 to 350 in 1926. (fn. 157) In 1976 dairying was important on three of the four farms returned for the enlarged parish. (fn. 158)
There was a mill at Cowley in 1086. (fn. 159) In the mid 13th century a corn- and fulling-mill, apparently on the Churn, was granted by Pershore Abbey, with the suit of mill owed by the Cowley inhabitants, to a Coberley fuller for 12s. a year, (fn. 160) and the abbey recovered it from the widow of a walker in 1325. (fn. 161) A corn-mill working in the parish in the early 16th century (fn. 162) was presumably on the site of the mill recorded south of the church on a short tributary of the Churn in 1777. (fn. 163) That mill, which had a bakehouse among its out-buildings in 1793, (fn. 164) was in use in 1848 (fn. 165) but was demolished in the mid 1850s during the landscaping of the grounds of Cowley Manor. (fn. 166)
There was possibly a small cloth industry in Cowley in the 14th century when several inhabitants were surnamed walker. (fn. 167) By 1478 a tenement had been called Tuckers (fn. 168) and a weaver was listed in Cowley in 1608 when four badgers, a tailor, and a mason, some of whom probably lived in Birdlip, also carried on their trades in the parish. (fn. 169) In 1978 the sites of several quarries were visible near the top of the escarpment, where stone was being quarried by the mid 18th century (fn. 170) and where the main 19th-century quarries were located. (fn. 171) One at the top of Birdlip Hill was worked by Henry Arkell in 1828 (fn. 172) and closed c. 1908. (fn. 173) There were limekilns on Barrow Wake in the later 19th century. (fn. 174)
In 1831 58 families in the parish were supported by agriculture and 11 by trade. (fn. 175) Outside Birdlip the trades followed were those usual for a rural parish (fn. 176) but they died out in the later 19th century. (fn. 177) Estate workshops in the northern part of Cowley village in the 1920s included a smithy and a saw-mill. (fn. 178) In the early 20th century the village usually had a bakery and a post office. (fn. 179)
View of frankpledge was exercised at Pershore Abbey's court in Cowley under a charter of 1227, which also granted the abbey and its estates exemption from hundred and shire courts, certain pleas including murdrum, and tallages, but in 1287 the abbey used instruments of punishment belonging to the lord of the hundred at Cirencester. (fn. 180) In the early 16th century the Cowley frankpledge court, which appointed a tithingman and a constable and also acted as a court baron, dealt with assaults, affrays, strays, the state of roads, the sale of meat and victuals, the brewing of ale, and the levying of toll at the mill. (fn. 181) By the late 17th century the lord farmer held the full court in October and convened separate courts baron when required. In 1703 a deodand was presented in the frankpledge court, (fn. 182) which appointed separate overseers of the commons for Cowley with Birdlip and for Stockwell in 1673 (fn. 183) and sheep-tellers for the Stockwell and Birdlip fields from the 1730s. The court, which from 1757 periodically recorded the manor's boundaries, appointed a constable and a hayward in the 19th century, when it dealt mainly with tenurial matters and quarrying on common land. In 1875 it met at the George in Birdlip (fn. 184) which had probably been its meeting-place in 1785. (fn. 185) Court rolls survive for 1501–12 (fn. 186) and 1526–37; (fn. 187) there are draft court rolls from 1673 (fn. 188) and court books covering the period 1703–1875. (fn. 189)
By 1498 the parish was served by two churchwardens (fn. 190) but in the early 19th century there was only one. Their accounts survive for the period 1745–1839 and there are overseers' accounts for the years 1737–40 and 1742. In those years seven or eight people received regular help and in 1742 a woman was paid £1 for being overseer for a year. There were two overseers in 1770. (fn. 191) Expenditure on poor-relief fell from £84 in 1776 to c. £75 by 1784, but £214, a high figure for the size of the parish, was spent in 1803 when 13 people received regular and 10 occasional help. By 1813, when all but two of the 35 people relieved received regular aid, the cost was £361 but two years later it had almost returned to the level of 1803 although the numbers were virtually unchanged. (fn. 192) In the late 1820s, when the overseers rented some accommodation for the poor, (fn. 193) the average annual cost of relief was £156 but in the early 1830s it rose to £215. (fn. 194) Cowley became part of the Cheltenham poor-law union in 1835 (fn. 195) and was later in Cheltenham rural district. (fn. 196) In 1974 it was included in Tewkesbury district.
The fabric of Cowley church dates from the early 13th century and its priest was recorded c. 1242. (fn. 197) In 1291 the living was in the gift of Pershore Abbey. (fn. 198) The abbey was later licensed to appropriate the church (fn. 199) but the living was a rectory in 1342 and has remained one. (fn. 200) Cowley was joined, under an order of 1928, to the united benefice of Coberley with Colesbourne in 1937 (fn. 201) but Colesbourne was detached from the living in 1954. (fn. 202)
Pershore Abbey retained the patronage of Cowley rectory until the Dissolution and in 1542 William Clark and Nicholas Butler were patrons for one turn under a grant from the abbey. Later presentations were made by the Crown. Frances Bridges, Lady Chandos, presented to the living in 1619 but her presentee was evidently dispossessed soon afterwards. By the mid 18th century the Crown appointed through the Lord Chancellor, (fn. 203) who under the order of 1928 had the right to present at every third vacancy in the united benefice (fn. 204) and after 1954 at every other turn. (fn. 205)
In 1291 Pershore Abbey had a portion valued at £1 2s. 6d. in the Cowley tithes (fn. 206) but later the rector took all the tithes. (fn. 207) In 1739 the lord farmer of the manor took a lease of most of the tithes, (fn. 208) and in 1797 the rector received £206 2s. a year in composition for all save the wood tithes, which were worth £2 to him. (fn. 209) The tithes were commuted in 1848 for a corn-rent-charge of £310. (fn. 210) In 1729 the rector consolidated the glebe for the remainder of his incumbency by exchanging 19 pieces in the open fields for 64½ a. north of the village, and that exchange was evidently made permanent by the inclosure of 1739. (fn. 211) The glebe, which was rented by neighbouring farmers by the later 18th century, (fn. 212) comprised c. 78½ a., including a cottage, in 1848. (fn. 213) James Horlick bought 65½ a. in 1900 (fn. 214) and Sidney Allen most of the remainder in 1932. (fn. 215) The living was worth £5 in 1291 (fn. 216) and £8 7s. 9d. in 1535, (fn. 217) but the value was reckoned to be £60 in 1650 when a union with Coberley rectory was recommended. (fn. 218) In 1750 the living was worth £140 (fn. 219) and by 1856 the value had risen to £322. (fn. 220)
The rectory house, which was out of repair in 1690, (fn. 221) was evidently derelict in 1742 when the site was given to the lord farmer as part of an exchange. The rector was allowed to remove material for building a new rectory. (fn. 222) The new house, southwest of the cross, was enlarged by James Commeline in 1797. (fn. 223) Between 1822 and 1870 it was occupied by curates (fn. 224) but it had fallen into such disrepair by 1838 that alterations were needed to render it habitable. (fn. 225) It was sold to Sidney Allen in 1932 and became the farm-house for Manor farm. (fn. 226) The rector then lived in Colesbourne (fn. 227) but by 1978 the incumbent of the united benefice had moved to Coberley rectory.
John Rivet, rector 1453–61, was a doctor of laws. (fn. 228) William Compton, rector from 1530, (fn. 229) employed curates, including a former Franciscan (fn. 230) whom John Bromwich, rector from 1542, retained for a few years. Bromwich, who was also rector of Abberton (Worcs.), (fn. 231) was non-resident and his curates included one who could not repeat the Ten Commandments (fn. 232) and another who in 1572 also served Elkstone. (fn. 233) Bromwich, who had become rector of Rous Lench (Worcs.) by 1576, (fn. 234) was succeeded at Cowley in 1582 by Thomas Paine, who lived in Syde where he was also rector. (fn. 235) In 1588 the uncertain circumstances of Paine's resignation delayed the induction of his successor. James Ingram, D.D., who held Cowley in plurality with Whittington from 1639, had been ejected by 1652 when his curate apparently succeeded to the rectory. Ingram had been reinstated by 1662. (fn. 236) Nathanial Lye, rector from 1673, became rector of Kemerton in 1675 but served Cowley in person for a time. (fn. 237) Later Lye employed a curate (fn. 238) and resigned Cowley in 1717, a few years after his appointment as archdeacon of Gloucester and rector of Dursley. (fn. 239) Thomas Welles, rector 1724–63, lived in Prestbury but served in person. Other 18th-century incumbents usually held livings some distance from Cowley and appointed curates. Between 1776 and 1796 the cure was served for several rectors by Thomas Nash, D.D., (fn. 240) rector of Great Witcombe (fn. 241) and for much of that time also curate of Coberley. (fn. 242) James Commeline, rector from 1796, served in person until 1800 when he became rector of Redmarley D'Abitot (Worcs., later Glos.). (fn. 243) His successor Robert Smith, rector 1837–70, lived in or near Gloucester and employed curates. (fn. 244)
The church of ST. MARY, so called by 1743 (fn. 245) although it bore a dedication to St. Michael c. 1708, (fn. 246) is built partly of ashlar and partly of rubble and has a chancel, nave with south porch, and west tower. The font is of the 12th century but the earliest parts of the building are the nave and the third bay of the chancel, which date from the early 13th century and retain most of their lancet windows. The first two bays of the chancel and the lower stages of the tower are a little later in date. There is no chancel arch and it may be that the chancel was extended or rebuilt so that it encroached on the former first bay of the nave. The porch was added in the 15th century as were a rood-stair in the north wall and a window in the west wall of the nave. The upper stages of the tower and the stair turret against the north side were added in the late 15th or early 16th century. The nave was probably reroofed in the 17th century but the chancel was reroofed in 1872 when the church was restored to designs by Albert Hartshorne. (fn. 247)
The church has the bowl of a Norman font on a modern base, and a late medieval carved stone pulpit. The most notable monument is an early-14th-century effigy of a priest in a recess on the north wall of the chancel. (fn. 248) There were three bells before Henry Brett added three cast by Abraham Rudhall in 1697. Of the original bells one was recast by Rudhall in 1707, another by John Rudhall in 1812, and the third by C. & G. Mears of London in 1857. (fn. 249) The plate includes a chalice of 1607 and a paten of 1699. (fn. 250) The surviving registers begin in 1676. (fn. 251)
A house in Cowley parish was registered by protestant dissenters in 1741 (fn. 252) and a Quaker lived in the parish in 1762. (fn. 253) A house registered by John Moss of Cheltenham in 1831 (fn. 254) was for Baptists (fn. 255) whose Easter meeting in 1851 had an attendance of 41. (fn. 256)
A school-house was recorded in 1777 (fn. 257) but a day-school and a Sunday school, which were supported by voluntary contributions, had closed by 1818 because parents failed to send their children. (fn. 258) In 1825 40 children in the parish attended a school. (fn. 259) A day-school, begun in 1831 and supported partly by the principal landholder, possibly Lindsey Winterbotham, and the rector, taught 15–20 children in 1833. At that date another day-school, possibly in Birdlip, teaching 10–20 children depended for financial support solely on the parents. (fn. 260) In 1847 a dame-school in Cowley, supported by pence, was attended by 16 children. (fn. 261)
Cowley Parochial school, established in 1873, derived an income from voluntary contributions and pence and had an average attendance of 33 the following year. It met in the cottage belonging to the rector's glebe (fn. 262) until 1875 when it moved to a new building erected with a school-house by Robert Richardson-Gardner. The school, rebuilt by James Horlick in 1900, (fn. 263) had 30 pupils c. 1910 when it was called Cowley C. of E. school. It closed in 1920 (fn. 264) and the children were transferred to Coberley. (fn. 265) The school building later became the village hall. (fn. 266)
Charities for the Poor
Theyer Townsend by will proved 1802 left £100 stock for a distribution of bread in Cowley on St. Thomas's day. (fn. 267) The rector, who distributed the charity in food, fuel, or clothing in the early 19th century, bought woollen stockings for children attending Sunday school in 1827 (fn. 268) but by 1856 the income was distributed in cash. (fn. 269) James Hutchinson by will proved 1873 left £200 for the poor. (fn. 270) The incomes of the two charities were £6 and £8 respectively in 1971. By then their trustees had established a reserve fund for use in emergencies (fn. 271) and by 1978 the number of old-age pensioners receiving cash payments had fallen to three. (fn. 272)