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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Rendcomb, a small parish and estate village, lies in the valley of the river Churn 7.75 km. north of Cirencester. The parish is apparently named from the coomb south of the village, for the stream flowing through the coomb into the Churn was known as hrindan broc in 852. (fn. 1) Twenty acres transferred from North Cerney in 1935, when the boundary at the south was moved from the Churn to the Cheltenham—Cirencester road, (fn. 2) brought the area of Rendcomb parish up to 2,606 a. (1,055 ha.). (fn. 3)
The Churn valley is the central feature of the parish but on the east and west the boundaries take in the high wolds at 200–250 m. Smaller coombs lead into the Churn valley on either side and the deep Shawswell valley formed by the tributary stream of the Churn breaks into the high ground in the east. The high ground is on the Great Oolite while the underlying strata of the Upper Lias, the Inferior Oolite, and fuller's earth, which forces out several springs, outcrop in the valleys. (fn. 4) The high ground was once cultivated as open fields while the Churn valley provided some rich meadow land. Most of the hillsides appear to have been wooded from ancient times. Cliffordine wood was granted c. 1180 to Bruern Abbey to form part of its Marsden estate (fn. 5) and Eycot wood was recorded in 1546. (fn. 6) In 1837 there was a total of 285 a. of woodland, all owned by the Rendcomb Park estate. (fn. 7) The landscaped park stretching along the east side of the Churn valley is a major feature of the landscape. The park existed by 1544 (fn. 8) and in 1676 included 250 a. (fn. 9) The river Churn, which was incorporated as a feature of the park and formed into a lake at its northern end, has long provided trout-fishing for the owners of the manor; in 1477 100 trout were reported to have been poached from it. (fn. 10) Some of the high land of the parish near Rendcomb Buildings together with adjoining land in North Cerney was used for an airfield by the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War. (fn. 11)
Before the building of the new Cheltenham–Cirencester turnpike alongside the Churn in 1825 (fn. 12) Rendcomb village in its wooded valley was in an isolated situation. The White way passing across the high ground to the east, presumably the ridgeway in Rendcomb south field mentioned in 1408, (fn. 13) was the only thoroughfare of any importance. The road on which the upper part of the village stands, continuing along the high ground at the top of the park and down to Marsden, perhaps provided access towards Cheltenham to the north, while Cirencester was presumably once reached by way of Woodmancote on the west side of the Churn valley or by a steep road which crossed the Shawswell valley to meet the White way near the south boundary of the parish. (fn. 14) About 1773, however, the owner of Rendcomb, Sir William Guise, improved access from the village to Cirencester by building a new road from the lower part of the village up through Conigree wood to meet the White way near its junction with the North Cerney–Calmsden road; (fn. 15) it was stopped up after the new Cheltenham– Cirencester road was built. (fn. 16)
The small village stands on the road up the hillside from a crossing of the Churn, where probably stood the Mill bridge mentioned in 1438, (fn. 17) and forms two separate groups of buildings, one of them, including the old mill, around the river crossing and the other higher up near the church. The Old School House in the lower group, named from a dame school that was once held in the small stone building in the garden, (fn. 18) is probably the oldest house in the village. Surviving 14th-century features–a stone doorway and a roof-truss, both in situ, and some reset window tracery–and a late-medieval fireplace in a first-floor room suggest that the north-east corner of the house formed the parlour end of a medieval house. To its west the hall range, which now has an upper-cruck roof of 3 bays, appears to have been reconstructed in the 16th or early 17th century, and to the south of the medieval block there is an extension of the 17th century. The other older houses of the village are small farm-houses and cottages of the 17th and 18th centuries and include in the upper part of the village the former farm-house of Rendcomb farm (fn. 19) (later used as the rectory), which is 17th-century in origin with later additions.
The character of the village is set, however, by the additions made by Sir Francis Goldsmid when he rebuilt the manor-house, Rendcomb Park, in the mid 1860s. They include the heavy ornamental bridge carrying the drive over the road, the imposing stable courtyard which dominates the upper part of the village, and the group of model cottages–six pairs and a trio–at the top of the village; all were designed by Philip Hardwick, the architect of the house. (fn. 20) Also in the upper part of the village are some houses and old people's bungalows built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The village, for so long dominated by the big house and estate of the Guise family and their successors, remained in the 20th century largely an adjunct of Rendcomb College, the school founded in the house in 1920 by F. N. H. Wills of Miserden. The pupils, whose numbers had risen to 60 by 1926, were at first all free scholars drawn from the elementary schools of the county and from preparatory schools but from 1923 fee-paying pupils were also taken. The school later bought the rectory house and adapted the stable courtyard, and a period of expansion in the 1960s, which brought the number of pupils up to 160, involved the addition of purpose-built buildings in the grounds of the house and in the village, including houses for the headmaster and other members of staff and in 1967 a new arts block. (fn. 21) A new boarding house was built on the north side of the house in the early 1970s and a new sports hall was under construction in the upper village in 1978. The school owned most of the village in 1978 and the houses were mainly occupied by its employees. (fn. 22)
In the Middle Ages the parish contained a small hamlet called Eycot, the centre of a separate manor which apparently comprised all the land lying west of the Churn. The hamlet had a chapel by the beginning of the 12th century (fn. 23) and 8 inhabitants were assessed for the subsidy in 1327 (fn. 24) and c. 12 for the poll tax in 1381. (fn. 25) There were still a few tenants at Eycot in 1442 (fn. 26) but no later record has been found of the hamlet, though the manor-house, which was absorbed with the rest of the manor into the Rendcomb estate, was recorded by the name Eycot Farm until 1732. (fn. 27) The name of the hamlet, derived from a cottage near an island or watermeadow, (fn. 28) suggests that the site of Eycot was down by the Churn and it seems likely that the manor-house survives as the oldest part of Lodge Farm (renamed Rendcomb Manor in the 20th century), which stands by a ford near the north end of Rendcomb park. If that is the case the final disappearance of the hamlet may possibly be associated with the creation of the park some time before 1544. In the late 18th century Lodge Farm, so called by 1777, (fn. 29) was the centre of farm which included Eycot field, evidently a former open field of the manor, and most of the other land on that side of the river. (fn. 30) The house dates partly from the 17th century but has an early-19th-century wing and some 20th-century additions in Cotswold style. The farm buildings at Eycot field were the only buildings on the high ground on that side of the river in 1837 (fn. 31) but c. 1930 a large Cotswold-style residence, called Aycote House, designed by Norman Jewson, was built for the owner of a small estate established in that part of the parish after the break-up of the Rendcomb estate. (fn. 32)
Marsden, which takes its name from the coomb on the north boundary of the parish, (fn. 33) was the site of a manor belonging to Bruern Abbey in the Middle Ages. The manor was sometimes referred to as a grange (fn. 34) and probably never had a village or hamlet attached to it, though a house or houses recorded at Shawswell on the high ground to the east in 1676 were said to have once been part of the manor. (fn. 35) Shawswell Farm at the latter site, though remodelled in the 19th century, may incorporate a 17th-century house. On the other side of the Shawswell valley two farm-houses, Greenmeadow and Rendcomb Buildings, were established in the 19th century on former open-field land and a new house called Chittlegrove was built c. 1928 to the designs of V. A. Lawson. (fn. 36)
In 1086 a total of 39 inhabitants of Rendcomb and Eycot was recorded. (fn. 37) Nineteen people were assessed for the subsidy in 1327 (fn. 38) and c. 36 for the poll tax in 1381. (fn. 39) There were said to be c. 61 communicants in the parish in 1551 (fn. 40) and 12 households in 1563. (fn. 41) Later estimates of the population were 18 families in 1650, (fn. 42) about 120 inhabitants c. 1710, (fn. 43) and 139 inhabitants c. 1775. (fn. 44) In 1801 it stood at 147 and there was a slow rise to 264 by 1851. In the next 120 years the population fluctuated between 211 (reached in 1881) and 295 (reached in 1921), and in 1971, excluding the pupils of Rendcomb College, it stood at 218. (fn. 45)
There was an inn on the manor estate in 1732 (fn. 46) but no later record of one at Rendcomb has been found. A reading-room, provided by the lord of the manor, existed in 1878 (fn. 47) and there was a village hall in 1978.
Sir Thomas Roe (1581?–1644), ambassador and explorer, (fn. 48) was living at Rendcomb in 1608 when his mother Dame Eleanor Berkeley owned the manor. (fn. 49)
In 1086 two estates at Rendcomb were held by Gilbert son of Turold; 5 hides had formerly belonged to Aluric and 3 hides were held from Gilbert by one Walter, (fn. 50) apparently his son-in-law. (fn. 51) Gilbert's estates had passed to the honor of Gloucester by the late 12th century (fn. 52) and it is possible that then and until the mid 13th century the manor which the de la Mare family held from the earls of Gloucester included all of the Rendcomb land. (fn. 53) In 1255, however, Earl Richard de Clare reserved to himself and his heirs 2 ploughlands (fn. 54) and that land, known as the manor of RENDCOMB, was retained by the earls together with lands in North Cerney and Woodmancote. After the death of Gilbert de Clare in 1314 (fn. 55) his manor and the overlordship of the de la Mare's manor were assigned to his sister Margaret, wife of Hugh de Audley, earl of Gloucester (d. 1347). Hugh was succeeded by his daughter Margaret, wife of Ralph Stafford, (fn. 56) created earl of Stafford in 1351, and the manor and overlordship passed with the Stafford earldom, though Anne, widow of Thomas, the 3rd earl, and later wife of Edmund, the 5th earl, held them as dower (fn. 57) until her death in 1438. (fn. 58) Edward Stafford, duke of Buckingham and earl of Stafford, granted the Rendcomb land attached to the manor to Edmund Tame in 1508 but retained the manor-house, manorial rights, (fn. 59) and the North Cerney lands, which after his execution and attainder in 1521 were held for life by his widow Eleanor (d. 1531). (fn. 60) Later in 1531 the Crown leased the manor for 21 years to Sir William Kingston and Edmund Tame (fn. 61) and later the same year the reversion was granted for life to Anthony Kingston. In 1554 the reversion was granted to Henry Stafford, Lord Stafford, son of the duke, and his wife Ursula, (fn. 62) who evidently took possession on Anthony Kingston's death in 1556. (fn. 63) Henry died in 1563 (fn. 64) and in 1566 Ursula and her son Edward, Lord Stafford, sold the estate, then called the manor or manors of Rendcomb, North Cerney, and Woodmancote, to Thomas Taylor, rector of North Cerney. (fn. 65)
Taylor sold the estate in 1576 to Richard Davies; Davies sold in 1585 to William Holliday; and Holliday sold in 1593 to Richard Poole, a Stroud mercer, who obtained a conveyance from Edward, Lord Stafford, in 1599. Poole's tenure of the estate was complicated by his many debts and at least two of his creditors appear to have gained temporary possession of the whole or part of the estate. In 1610 Poole conveyed it to Henry Gastrell as a trustee for a sale but, according to Poole, Gastrell's sale of the estate to Sir Valentine Knightley in 1612 was made without his consent. (fn. 66) Sir Valentine later conveyed the estate to Richard Poole's brother William Poole of Long Newnton (Wilts. later Glos.) with reversion to Richard's son Abel Poole; William conveyed his interest to Abel in 1619. (fn. 67) It was later claimed that Abel made a conveyance in 1638 for the benefit of his creditors Richard Poole (apparently his cousin) and Thomas Freame, and that Richard Poole bought out Freame and was succeeded by his son Richard Poole of London. In 1683, however, the younger Richard was being challenged by Sir John Guise (fn. 68) whose claim derived from the Rich family. Thomas Rich of North Cerney (d. 1647) had acquired a long lease of the estate which he left to his wife Anne, and his grandson Thomas Rich, (fn. 69) who apparently claimed the freehold, sold the estate to Sir John before 1676. (fn. 70) In 1721 the Guises bought out a right claimed by Nathaniel Poole of Stonehouse, whose father Richard Poole of Painswick was devisee of Richard (fl. 1683), but in 1731 the Guises' claim to the estate, or at least to the Woodmancote manor that was attached to it, was once more being disputed, at that time by Jane Parry, apparently a great-niece of Richard (fl. 1683). (fn. 71) The Guises' right to the estate appears to have later remained unchallenged. The manor-house belonging to the estate, called the Earl's Court, still existed in 1566 (fn. 72) but its site is not known.
The manor of RENDCOMB, held under the earls of Gloucester and their successors, was probably owned by Robert de la Mare, who was among the earl's knights in 1166. (fn. 73) William de la Mare held it c. 1180, (fn. 74) apparently in right of his wife: the gift of the manor and a manor in Hardwicke made by Robert son of Gregory to his sister Amfelice, wife of William de la Mare, was confirmed by John, as count of Mortain, c. 1190, the service due to the honor of Gloucester being that of 2 knights. (fn. 75) Thomas de la Mare was lord in the early 13th century when he made a grant of the service of the free tenants and other rights to his son William, (fn. 76) who held the manor in 1243. (fn. 77) In 1255 Richard de Clare confirmed the manor, with the reservation mentioned above, to one Simon and Parnel his wife to hold with the Hardwicke manor for 9½ fees, (fn. 78) though later the two manors were usually assessed only at 2½ fees. (fn. 79) Parnel, then called Parnel de la Mare, died c. 1263 and was succeeded in the manor by her son William de la Mare (fn. 80) (d. by 1296). (fn. 81) John de la Mare held it in 1303 (fn. 82) and in 1331 when he settled it on his son Thomas with contingent remainder to another son William, (fn. 83) presumably the William de la Mare who held it in 1347. (fn. 84) In 1387 Rendcomb and Hardwicke were held by Thomas and Robert de la Mare (fn. 85) and Thomas held Rendcomb in 1390 subject to dower rights of his mother. (fn. 86) Thomas died before 1414 leaving as his heir his son John who came of age in 1419. (fn. 87) John (d. by 1462) was succeeded by his son John (fn. 88) (fl. 1480). (fn. 89) By 1500 the second John had been succeeded by a kinsman John Westby who sold Rendcomb manor in 1503 to Edmund Tame of Fairford. (fn. 90)
Sir Edmund Tame, as he became, was succeeded at his death in 1534 (fn. 91) by his son Sir Edmund (d. 1544), (fn. 92) whose widow Catherine held Rendcomb manor in 1547 when the reversion was assigned to the younger Edmund's sister Margaret, wife of Sir Humphrey Stafford. (fn. 93) Margaret's son Sir Humphrey Stafford (fn. 94) sold the manor in 1564 to Richard Berkeley (later knighted) of Stoke Gifford but that transaction may only have involved the reversionary right, for Roger Lygon, third husband of Catherine, granted a lease of the manor to Berkeley in 1566. (fn. 95) Sir Richard held the manor at his death in 1604 and his widow Eleanor (fn. 96) retained it until her death in 1629 (fn. 97) when it passed to Sir Richard's grandson Richard Berkeley. (fn. 98) In 1635 Richard's son, Sir Maurice, sold his reversionary interest in the manor and in the family's other estates in the parish to Sir William Guise of Elmore, (fn. 99) whose grandson Sir Christopher Guise, Bt., (fn. 100) took possession on Richard Berkeley's death in 1661. (fn. 101) From Sir Christopher (d. 1670) it descended in the Guise family from father to son, to Sir John (d. 1695), Sir John (d. 1732), Sir John (d. 1769), and Sir William (d. 1783). The estate, by then including the whole parish except for the rector's glebe, (fn. 102) was devised by Sir William to his sister Jane, wife of Shute Barrington, bishop of Salisbury, later bishop of Durham. (fn. 103) On Jane's death without issue in 1807 it passed to Sir Berkeley William Guise, (fn. 104) son of Sir William's cousin and heir, and he was succeeded at his death in 1834 by his brother Sir John Wright Guise. Sir John sold the estate in 1864 to Sir Francis Goldsmid, Bt., (fn. 105) M.P. for Reading and one of a family of successful Jewish financiers. Sir Francis (d. 1878) was succeeded by his nephew Sir Julian Goldsmid (fn. 106) who sold the estate, which with the North Cerney, Chedworth, and Colesbourne land attached to it comprised 4,775 a., (fn. 107) in 1883 to James Taylor, a cotton-manufacturer of Bradford. (fn. 108) After Taylor's death in 1896 his widow Editha held the estate. (fn. 109) It later passed to James Herbert Taylor, who had a life-interest under Taylor's will, and in 1914 he and the trustees of the will sold the greater part of the Rendcomb land to William Mewburn. (fn. 110) It passed within a few years to a syndicate of owners which broke up the estate. (fn. 111)
The de la Mare family appears to have usually lived at Rendcomb (fn. 112) and later lords to use the manor-house there included the younger Sir Edmund Tame. (fn. 113) The Berkeleys, though usually described as of Stoke Gifford, also used the Rendcomb house on occasion, (fn. 114) and Sir Richard entertained Elizabeth I and her court there for two days in 1592. (fn. 115) In 1672 Sir John Guise was assessed for tax on 27 hearths in two houses, (fn. 116) the second perhaps being that of the estate formerly the Staffords'. About 1685 Sir John built a new house, (fn. 117) a substantial mansion of plain design, (fn. 118) which was used by the family as its chief residence during the 18th century. (fn. 119) It was demolished in the mid 1860s by Sir Francis Goldsmid who built a large Italianate mansion on the same site. The new house was designed by Philip Hardwick and built by the firm of Thomas Cubitt (fn. 120) and, though the workmanship and detail are of a high quality, the inappropriateness of such a building to its parkland setting in a narrow Cotswold valley has often been remarked on. Features contemporary with the house include the massive stable court with its tall tower, the ornamental bridges which carry the south drive over the village road and the river, and the south lodge, which apes the style of the house. A classical lodge of the late 18th or early 19th century survived at the north entrance to the park until the mid 20th century. (fn. 121) In 1918 the house and village and the surrounding park-land were bought by F. N. H. Wills for the purpose of founding Rendcomb College. (fn. 122)
In 1086 the manor of EYCOT, extended at 1 hide, was held by Ordric from the bishop of Worcester as a member of the bishop's manor of Bibury. (fn. 123) An intermediate lordship between the bishop and the tenant-in-demesne was held by Gilbert de Mynors and Roger de Mynors at different times during the 12th century and a further lordship under Roger was held by Robert Mucegros. (fn. 124) In 1209 and later, however, the manor was said to be held directly from the bishop, being accounted as ⅓ knight's fee. (fn. 125) Early holders of the manor were Reynold and Richard of Beckford who made a grant of tithes in Eycot to Gloucester Abbey (fn. 126) before 1100. (fn. 127) At some time in the 12th century the manor was held by Robert Russel in right of his wife Basile, and his heir William (fn. 128) was perhaps the William Russel who held Eycot in 1209. (fn. 129) William was dead by 1232 when the right of his widow Alice to have the whole manor as dower was questioned by his heir John Russel on the grounds that it represented more than a third part of all William's possessions. (fn. 130) Robert Russel, to whom a small estate in Eycot was conveyed in 1241, (fn. 131) may have held the manor, and it later passed to John le Brun, apparently by his marriage to Margery, daughter of John Russel. (fn. 132) John le Brun, who in 1278 acquired from Walter Wyth ½ plough-land in Nether Rendcomb, Woodmancote, and North Cerney, (fn. 133) held Eycot in 1303 (fn. 134) and in 1312 his widow Margery granted it to Thomas Neel of Purton. A contingent remainder in that grant was for the benefit of John of Burton and his heirs, (fn. 135) one of whom was presumably Thomas of Burton who held the manor in 1346. (fn. 136)
Thomas of Burton died in 1375 leaving as heir to Eycot his son Thomas, a minor, (fn. 137) and the manor was placed in the custody of William Archibald. (fn. 138) In 1385, however, Thomas, not yet of age, was impleaded by John Atwood who claimed Eycot under a grant made by a John Russel to his ancestors Robert and Margery Crook in Edward II's reign. John Atwood recovered seisin (fn. 139) and in 1386 granted the manor to John Pouger (fn. 140) (d. 1405). (fn. 141) In 1410 John Pouger's son John made a settlement with John Warre, nephew and heir of the younger Thomas of Burton, under which he quitclaimed Eycot to Warre. (fn. 142) By 1421 the manor was in the possession of Winchcombe Abbey (fn. 143) but the abbey's title was not apparently secured until 1429 when it had quitclaims from feoffees acting for John Warre's sister Catherine and from Robert Andrew, another heir of the Burtons. (fn. 144) After the Dissolution the manor passed to Sir Edmund Tame, whose widow Catherine held it after his death, the reversion being assigned with Rendcomb to the Staffords. (fn. 145) It was perhaps included in the sale to Richard Berkeley in 1564 and it had certainly passed to the Berkeleys by 1605. The freehold then descended with Rendcomb manor (fn. 146) but Robert Berkeley, a younger son of the second Richard Berkeley, held the capital messuage and farm, which apparently then comprised the whole estate, under a long lease until his death in 1690. (fn. 147) As suggested above, the capital messuage may have been the house later called Lodge Farm.
Land in the north part of the parish was given to Bruern Abbey (Oxon.) by William de la Mare c. 1180 and by other members of his family at other times; it was added to adjoining land in Chedworth given to the abbey by Roger, earl of Warwick (d. 1153), (fn. 148) to form the manor of MARSDEN, based on a farmstead on the boundary between the two parishes. The abbey had a grant of free warren in the manor in 1366. (fn. 149) In 1537 the Crown granted Marsden, then held at farm by John Meysey, (fn. 150) to John Berkeley (fn. 151) (d. 1545) who settled it on his wife Isabel who survived him. She was succeeded by their son Richard, later Sir Richard, (fn. 152) who acquired Rendcomb manor. On Sir Richard's death in 1604 Marsden passed to his son Henry (fn. 153) (d. 1608) who was succeeded by his son Richard. (fn. 154) By the conveyance of 1635 it was to pass to the Guises on the deaths of Giles Hyett and his wife Edith, lessees under the Berkeleys. (fn. 155) It then descended as a farm on the Rendcomb estate (fn. 156) until the break-up of the estate when Marsden became a separate freehold, owned in 1927 by Mrs. M. M. Fitzgerald (fn. 157) and in 1978 by Mr. R. H. N. Worsley.
The manor-house at Marsden was recorded in the 1530s (fn. 158) and the house still contains two 16th-century roofs (though only one is in situ) as well as other features of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was evidently much altered, however, in the 18th or early 19th century, (fn. 159) and before the extensive alterations and enlargements that were carried out in the early 1920s it apparently comprised two distinct structural blocks which abutted on one another but had no common axis. The remodelling of the 1920s was in 17th-century Cotswold style including careful reproductions in both stone and timber. At the same time a separate building was put up on the north side to house a library. (fn. 160)
The Knights Hospitallers had a claim to 40 a. of land in Rendcomb, which they had perhaps received with their Calmsden estate; in 1225 their right to the land was bought by Thomas de la Mare. (fn. 161)
In 1086 1 team and 7 servi were recorded on the demesne of one of Gilbert son of Turold's estates while the other, held from him by Walter, had 2 teams and 6 servi. (fn. 162) In 1307 the part of Gilbert's former estates retained by the earls of Gloucester had in demesne 120 a. of arable and a small acreage of meadow and pasture. (fn. 163) At Eycot 2 teams and 2 servi were recorded on the demesne in 1086. (fn. 164) In 1375 the demesne arable on that manor covered 120 a. but half of it had by then gone out of cultivation and the other half was hilly and unprofitable land. (fn. 165) In the later Middle Ages the demesne land of the various manors, and presumably much of the tenant land too, was used extensively for sheepraising; court records of the 15th century reflect continual pressure on the available sheep-pasture of the parish. (fn. 166) In the late 14th century the earl of Stafford's demesne was farmed by a shepherd, (fn. 167) and in 1402 a flock of 328 sheep was leased with it. (fn. 168) By 1413, however, the demesne flock of 211 animals was in hand, together with some meadow land to provide it with winter fodder. The flock suffered continual losses from murrain and was finally given up by the owners of the manor c. 1440. (fn. 169) John de la Mare retained part of his demesne land or pasture-rights for sheep-raising in 1435 (fn. 170) and in 1443, when he was also lessee of the sheep-house belonging to the earl of Stafford's demesne. (fn. 171) Bruern Abbey had a sheep-house on its Marsden estate in the late 13th century (fn. 172) and its flock there numbered at least 500 in 1366. (fn. 173)
The tenants on one of Gilbert son of Turold's estates in 1086 were 3 villani and 7 bordars, with 3 teams between them, and a Frenchman whose holding was equivalent to that of 2 villani. The other estate had 4 villani and 3 bordars with 2 teams. (fn. 174) The only tenants listed on the earl of Gloucester's estate in 1307 were 4 free tenants holding 2 yardlands, (fn. 175) but the survey apparently omitted the North Cerney and Woodmancote lands of the estate in which most of the customary holdings recorded in later centuries lay. (fn. 176) Details of the tenantry of the larger manor, held by the de la Mares, do not survive. On Eycot manor in 1086 there were 2 villani and 4 bordars with 2 teams. (fn. 177) In 1375 the lord of that manor received only 23s. 1d. rent from tenants-at-will, (fn. 178) a decline in the population having probably by then broken down the old system of tenures. There were still copyholds on the Rendcomb estate in the 1750s (fn. 179) but the larger farms were apparently already held on short leases before the main inclosures began at the end of that century. (fn. 180)
The north and south fields of Rendcomb, recorded from 1372, (fn. 181) occupied the high ground of the east part of the parish on either side of the Shawswell valley. (fn. 182) On the west side of the Churn valley the closes in the coomb below Eycot wood have names that suggest that they were inclosed at some date from an open field, (fn. 183) and further south Eycot field, an inclosed field covering 90 a. in 1795, probably represented other open-field land. (fn. 184) In Chittle grove on the east side of the parish some copyholders claimed customary rights of common in 1753 but Sir John Guise was able to establish that they held those rights under lease from him and not by right of their holdings; (fn. 185) the grove had in fact been an ancient manorial warren. (fn. 186) All the other woods of the estate were then held in severalty, though rights of common had been enjoyed in the Marsden woods until some time in the 13th century when Bruern Abbey secured their extinction. (fn. 187) The open fields, however, afforded customary rights of common for considerable flocks of sheep in the 18th century and the customs for the tithing of sheep recorded in 1705 suggest that some were regularly summered in the parish by non-parishioners. (fn. 188) The Churn valley provided the parish with a narrow but rich belt of meadow land and the practice of controlling the river to flood the meadows there is recorded from 1419. (fn. 189)
Plans to inclose the remaining open fields were made by Sir William Guise (d. 1783) but the main inclosure was apparently carried out under his successor Shute Barrington. The Rendcomb Park estate included the whole parish apart from the glebe, and c. 1785 almost all of the surviving openfield land was apparently comprised in the 843 a. belonging to the 1,030-acre Rendcomb farm; there were then three other farms–Shawswell with 485 a., Lodge farm with 387 a., Marsden with 82 a. in the parish but a much larger acreage in Chedworth–and some smaller holdings, all under 30 a. (fn. 190) In 1787 Barrington made exchanges with the rector under which all the glebe was inclosed (fn. 191) and by 1792 c. 100 a. had been taken from the open fields. Inclosure of the remainder was probably contemplated under the lease of Rendcomb farm granted in the latter year to Richard George. (fn. 192)
Rendcomb farm, which continued in the tenure of the George family, remained a farm of over 1,000 a. in the early 19th century. (fn. 193) By 1837, however, it had been divided, 490 a. remaining with the small farm-house in the upper part of the village and 472 a. attached to Greenmeadow in the east part of the parish. Shawswell farm then had 562 a. and Lodge farm 339 a. (fn. 194) There was some reorganization of the farms before 1878, involving the creation of a new one based on Rendcomb Buildings, (fn. 195) but by 1885 all the Rendcomb land of the estate had been taken in hand and was administered by a farm bailiff. That arrangement continued for some 20 years but by 1910 the land was once more leased, three large farms being based on Greenmeadow, Shawswell, and Rendcomb Buildings. (fn. 196) Later in the 20th century, after the break-up of the estate, there was a more varied pattern of individually owned farms. In 1976 10 farms, ranging in size from 10 to 300 ha., were returned, four of the smaller ones being worked on a part-time basis. (fn. 197)
Following the inclosures the land was cropped on one of the usual Cotswold rotations, under which roots or temporary grass leys were fed off by sheep whose manure provided fertility for corncrops. The lease of Rendcomb farm in 1792 provided for two years of turnips, or alternatively turnips in the first year and clover and grass-seeds in the second, and two years of corn-crops, (fn. 198) and some such rotation evidently continued in the 19th century. In 1837 the parish contained 1,507 a. of arable and 708 a. of permanent grassland (fn. 199) and the division was much the same in 1866. (fn. 200) Later in the century the agricultural depression, presumably the main reason for the farms being taken in hand, resulted in a greater concentration on grassland farming. It was presumably for that purpose that James Taylor built a comprehensive system to supply water to the upland fields from a reservoir by the White way and rebuilt many of the farm buildings. (fn. 201) By 1896 the conversion of arable to permanent grass had produced a roughly equal acreage of each and the number of cattle returned was 263 compared with 131 in 1866. The flocks of sheep had also been much increased, 1,801 being returned compared with 847, and they were presumably then fed more on permanent grass, for the amount of turnips and pasture leys had suffered a considerable reduction in common with the wheat and barley crops; oats, however, had shown a marked increase. (fn. 202) The statistics for 1926 indicate a further contraction in the traditional pattern of agriculture, with only 258 a. returned for cereal and root crops and the number of sheep down again to 781. The effort to develop dairying and beef production as new sources of income had not apparently been pursued to any extent following the break-up of the estate. (fn. 203) In 1976, however, dairy and beef cattle were of considerable importance in the parish and there had been a revival in sheepfarming: of the 6 largest farms based there 3 specialized in cattle- and sheep-raising, 2 in cereal crops, and 1 in dairying. The total number of cattle returned was 768 and of sheep 2,660. The farms still gave employment to 33 people. (fn. 204)
In 1086 three mills were recorded in the parish, one on each of Gilbert's estates and one on Eycot manor (fn. 205) but only one site can be traced later, that on the Churn at the bottom of Rendcomb village. The village mill, probably the one recorded on the de la Mares' manor in the late Middle Ages (fn. 206) and on the Guises' estate in 1676, (fn. 207) continued to work until at least 1906. (fn. 208) That mill or another may have been a fulling-mill in the late 14th century, for William Walker, a tucker, was living at Rendcomb in 1381 (fn. 209) and had responsibility for the upkeep of a watercourse in 1400. (fn. 210)
Rendcomb never had many tradesmen, probably only some four or five, including representatives of the usual village crafts and a shopkeeper or two, as was the case in the later 19th century; (fn. 211) the tallowchandlers mentioned in 1779 and 1830 (fn. 212) were the only tradesmen found recorded that are less usual for a small village. Only one tradesman, a smith, was listed in 1608 (fn. 213) and only 5 families were supported by trade in 1831. (fn. 214)
View of frankpledge in Rendcomb and its members was exercised by the de la Mares in the early 13th century when Thomas de la Mare granted to his son the 'free hundred belonging to the manor of Rendcomb'. (fn. 215) In 1255, however, the overlord, Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, reserved the view of frankpledge to himself (fn. 216) and in 1287 his successor was holding a view at Rendcomb for a group of Cotswold estates of the honor of Gloucester. (fn. 217) The earl also laid claim in the late 13th century to return of writs and excluded the royal bailiffs from Rendcomb. (fn. 218) The tithings attending the Rendcomb view were Over and Nether Rendcomb, apparently the manors of the earl and the de la Mares respectively, Woodmancote and Calmsden in North Cerney, Aylworth and Harford in Naunton, and Coates and Trewsbury in Coates. Rolls of the court survive for about 30 years in the period 1387–1481 when it was held twice a year together with the court baron for the earl of Stafford's own manor. (fn. 219) The right to the view remained attached to that manor (fn. 220) and records survive of views held by the Guises in 1760 and 1819. At the latter date jurisdiction was claimed only over the Rendcomb and Cerney tithings and over Aylworth. (fn. 221)
The part of Bruern Abbey's Marsden estate that lay in Rendcomb had exemption from the earl's jurisdiction under a grant of 1246 (fn. 222) but rights over Marsden were claimed by the hundred lord, Cirencester Abbey, whose bailiffs held a separate view at Marsden after the view at Rapsgate. (fn. 223) Eycot attended the view held at Bibury for the bishop of Worcester and his successors. (fn. 224) Manor court rolls for Eycot manor survive for 1421 and 1442. (fn. 225)
Churchwardens' accounts for Rendcomb survive from 1686 and there are a few late-18th-century overseers' records. (fn. 226) Land was leased for building a new poorhouse in 1832. (fn. 227) Poor-relief was probably never a very serious burden, for the inclusion of the parish in a single estate restricted any influx of poor families and the residence of the Guises at the manor-house, and the park and woodlands maintained around it, presumably provided useful supplementary sources of employment to farmwork for the small population. The cost of relief and the numbers receiving it on a regular basis, 23 in 1803 and 17 in 1813, were about average for a parish of that size in the early 19th century, (fn. 228) but at a time of agricultural prosperity in the middle of the century there were not enough resident labourers to work the farms of the parish. (fn. 229) Rendcomb was included in the Cirencester union in 1836 (fn. 230) and was later in Cirencester rural district (fn. 231) until the formation of Cotswold district in 1974.
The earliest record found of the church at Rendcomb was in 1255 when the earl of Gloucester reserved the advowson in his grant of the manor. (fn. 232) The living was a rectory in 1291 (fn. 233) and remained one. From 1974, however, the living was served by a priest-in-charge, combining the role with that of chaplain to Rendcomb College, which supplied part of his income. (fn. 234)
The advowson descended with the earl of Gloucester's manor until the execution of the duke of Buckingham in 1521. (fn. 235) The Crown presented in 1535 and 1536 (fn. 236) and again in 1576, though Ursula, Lady Stafford, claimed the advowson in 1563. (fn. 237) That claim was still made by the Staffords in 1625 (fn. 238) but by 1603 the incumbent William Broad owned the advowson (fn. 239) and it evidently remained in his family until at least 1710 (fn. 240) though exercised by various trustees or assignees. (fn. 241) In 1738 the incumbent George White conveyed the advowson to Charles Coxe (fn. 242) who presented in 1748. Thomas Jayne presented himself to the living in 1786. The advowson later belonged to the Pitt family: Joseph Pitt of Cirencester exercised it in 1798 and it passed to his son Cornelius, who held the living himself from 1831 until his death in 1840, and to Cornelius's son Joseph, who held the living from 1844 (fn. 243) until 1887. (fn. 244) Sir Julian Goldsmid owned the advowson by 1879 and it passed with the manor. (fn. 245) F. N. H. Wills, the founder of Rendcomb College, bought it (fn. 246) before his death in 1927 and it passed to his widow Margery, later Mrs. H. M. Sinclair, who gave it c. 1970 to her son Mr. H. D. H. Wills. (fn. 247)
Half the demesne tithes of Eycot were granted by Reynold and Richard of Beckford to Gloucester Abbey before 1100 and were later commuted for a pension of 9s. The pension was to be paid to the abbey by the priest serving the chapel which existed at Eycot in the 12th and 13th centuries (fn. 248) and which may have been endowed with the rest of the tithes of the hamlet. The chapel had perhaps already gone out of use by 1291 when the rector of Rendcomb was held to be responsible for the pension and accused of detaining it. (fn. 249) It continued in dispute between him and the abbey until at least 1351. (fn. 250) In 1541 it was settled on the bishopric of Gloucester. (fn. 251)
The rector's tithes were commuted for a cornrent of £440 in 1837. (fn. 252) In the 16th century his glebe comprised 1 yardland of arable, various small closes, and pasture for 60 sheep and 7 beasts. (fn. 253) In 1775 the rector exchanged his closes with Sir William Guise and in 1787 his open-field land, then comprising 35 a., was inclosed by agreement with Shute Barrington. (fn. 254) In 1837 the total acreage of glebe was 24 a. (fn. 255) The rectory house, east of the church, was rebuilt as a substantial residence by Cornelius Pitt in 1832–3. (fn. 256) In 1932 it was sold to Rendcomb College which used it as a headmaster's house and later as a junior house, adding a large new wing c. 1966. (fn. 257) The former farm-house of Rendcomb farm became the rectory.
In 1291 the rectory was valued at £8 6s. 8d. (fn. 258) and in 1535 it was let at farm to Sir Edmund Tame for £14 5s. 2d. (fn. 259) It was valued at £80 in 1650, (fn. 260) £120 c. 1710 and in 1743, (fn. 261) c. £130 in the 1770s, (fn. 262) and £381 in 1856. (fn. 263)
The medieval rectors of Rendcomb included William of Appleton who had licence for 7 years' study in 1305. (fn. 264) Humphrey Horton, rector from 1536, (fn. 265) was non-resident in 1551 when the curate serving the church was found unable to repeat the commandments. (fn. 266) Horton held two other benefices in 1576. (fn. 267) In that year he was succeeded by William Broad, the first of six members of that family to hold the living. William (d. 1611) was succeeded in the rectory in turn by his sons Samuel (d. 1612) and Thomas (d. 1635) (fn. 268) and Samuel's son Samuel was instituted in 1635 and ejected in 1649 because of his service with the royalist army. (fn. 269) Henry Prime, described as a preaching minister, held the living in 1650 (fn. 270) and by 1653 it was held by William Warren (fn. 271) whose persecution at the hands of Samuel Broad and his supporters is said to have caused his death. (fn. 272) Broad, who perhaps lived at that time on the family estate at Woodmancote, (fn. 273) also organized opposition to the minister at Bagendon, ousting him from his pulpit in 1658. (fn. 274) He returned as rector of Rendcomb at the Restoration and at his death in 1679 was succeeded there by his son Samuel (d. 1710). The younger Samuel was also vicar of Down Hatherley, and the three succeeding rectors were also pluralists: Samuel Broad, 1710–12, was rector of Coln Rogers, George White, 1712–47, was rector of Colesbourne from 1729, and Thomas Shellard, 1748–85, was vicar of Tytherington. (fn. 275) From 1925 the parish church and its life were closely associated with Rendcomb College, which attended the services corporately and provided the choir, organist, and bellringers. (fn. 276)
The church of ST. PETER, which bore that dedication by 1508, (fn. 277) is built of coursed rubble and ashlar and has a chancel with south chapel and north vestry, a nave with south aisle and south porch, and a west tower. From the early church three piers of a 13th-century arcade, incorporated in the north wall, are all that survive. Otherwise the whole building is the product of a rebuilding carried out in the early 16th century, apparently by the elder Sir Edmund Tame, (fn. 278) whose initials appear in the glass of one of the nave windows. The new church is notable for the spacious arrangement of the interior which has a wide south aisle and chapel and no chancel arch. It retains the 16th-century wooden screens and nave roof but the chancel roof was renewed before 1887. (fn. 279) Restoration work was carried out under F. R. Kempson in 1895, (fn. 280) when the small vestry may have been added.
The Norman font, decorated with figures of the apostles, (fn. 281) came from the old chapel at Elmore Court and was used as a garden ornament at Rendcomb Park before being installed in the church in the mid 19th century. (fn. 282) It replaced a plainer tub-shaped font, also apparently Norman work. (fn. 283) Fragments of the early-16th-century stained glass survive. (fn. 284) In the south chapel are a monument to Dame Eleanor Berkeley (d. 1629) and one to the Guise family in general, both of them rebuilt or remodelled in the 19th century; the monument to the Guises originally comprised a pyramid of marble and was completed in 1785 by John Bryan. (fn. 285) In the chancel is a baroque tablet to Jane (d. 1672), daughter of Robert Berkeley. There are three medieval bells and three that were recast by T. Mears in 1841 or 1842. (fn. 286) The plate includes a pair of Elizabethan flagons and some 17th-century pieces. (fn. 287) In the churchyard are the steps of a medieval cross, to which a new shaft and head were added in the mid 19th century. (fn. 288) The parish registers survive from 1566 with some gaps. (fn. 289)
Sir Berkeley William Guise paid a woman to teach a charity school at Rendcomb from 1808, (fn. 290) and 16 children were being taught in 1818 when Sir Berkeley was also supporting a Sunday school. (fn. 291) Sixteen children were still being educated free at the day-school in 1833 and another 12 attended at their parents' expense. (fn. 292) A National school was built in the village in 1857 and in 1867 was supported mainly by Sir Francis Goldsmid and the rector Joseph Pitt, though pence were also charged. Average attendance was 25 at the latter date (fn. 293) but had fallen to 20 by 1885. (fn. 294) In the early 20th century average numbers in the school varied with the fluctuating population, reaching as high as 40 in 1922 but falling to c. 10 by 1930 when the school was closed. (fn. 295)
Charities for the Poor
Rendcomb shared in a Cirencester apprenticeship charity founded by Sir Thomas Roe in 1638; the parish was entitled to submit one child to the trustees every three years (fn. 296) but appears to have used the right only intermittently, if at all, before the early 19th century. (fn. 297)