A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 9, Bradley Hundred. The Northleach Area of the Cotswolds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Compton Abdale, a small rural parish 12.5 km. ESE. of Cheltenham, was often known as Great Compton (or Compton Magna) (fn. 1) to distinguish it from other Comptons in Gloucestershire, particularly the adjoining Little (later Cassey) Compton, which is mainly in Withington parish. The derivation of the adjunct 'Abdale', which was recorded from the early 16th century (fn. 2) and eventually became the established form, is unknown. In the 17th and 18th centuries the place was sometimes called Compton-in-the-Hole, referring to the confined valley site of the village, (fn. 3) but that was evidently only a colloquial and very local usage. The ancient parish included a detached part comprising 110 a. at Upper Hampen, (fn. 4) c. 2.5 km. north of the main body of the parish, a connexion that seems to have originated in the disposition of ancient estates of St. Oswald's priory, Gloucester. In 1883 Upper Hampen was transferred to Shipton parish (with which it is included in this volume), leaving Compton Abdale parish with an area of 2,188 a. (886 ha.). (fn. 5)
The parish comprises a largely featureless tract of the wolds lying between the river Coln on the south and the main road from Gloucester and Cheltenham to Oxford on the high ridge called Puesdown on the north. The north boundary follows that road except at its east end, near the Puesdown inn, where it is on a short length of an ancient ridgeway, known in the late 18th century as the old London road. (fn. 6) The south-east boundary follows field boundaries down to the Coln, which the south-west boundary then ascends to Cassey Compton house. From the house the west boundary ascends Compton brook and then returns by field and wood boundaries to the Cheltenham road.
On the Puesdown ridge at the northern edge of the parish the land reaches 256 m. close to where a prominent landmark, the Puesdown Ash, stood in the mid 18th century. (fn. 7) Below the ridge the hillside is broken into by the Springhill valley, formed by a small tributary brook of the Compton brook, but the ground generally falls to Compton Abdale village, which is situated in a narrow coomb at c. 170 m. South of the village the land rises again to 247 m. before descending to the Coln valley. The lower parts of the parish are on the Inferior Oolite and the high wolds are on the Great Oolite, with an intervening band of fuller's earth outcropping on the valley sides (fn. 8) and forcing out the springs which combine to form Compton brook. (fn. 9) The brook was anciently known in its lower course, where it forms the parish boundary above Cassey Compton, as Dene brook. (fn. 10)
There was enough woodland on Compton manor for its lord to employ a man as forester and wood vendor in 1401, (fn. 11) and a woodward managed the lord's wood in 1535. (fn. 12) Of the two main areas of woodland in the parish, one, Compton grove on the west side of Compton brook, had been reduced in size by the start of the 19th century. In 1805 the name Compton grove was applied to a total of 111 a. but half of that land, lying west of the lane to Withington village, had been cleared of trees, leaving the wood as 58 a. on the slope to the brook on the east side of the lane. The grove was apparently a common wood until the inclosure of the parish in 1805, though all rights were probably by then restricted to the occupiers of the three or four farms in the parish. (fn. 13) The bulk of the wood passed after inclosure to the Lower Farm estate, (fn. 14) and it formed part of an estate based on that house in 1999 and was used by the owner to rear pheasants. (fn. 15) Up to the First World War it was managed as coppice and the wood auctioned off for making hurdles. (fn. 16) A plantation of conifers at Ash Bed north of Compton grove was made before 1911 (fn. 17) and later enlarged.
The other wood was Compton wood in the Coln valley, adjoining the Yanworth woods, in the neighbouring part of Hazleton parish. Its north part was called Star wood after being laid out with radiating drives as an adjunct to a large park which adjoined it. The wood covered 106 a. in 1805. The origins of the park, which occupied almost the whole of the rest of the hillside in the south part of Compton parish, (fn. 18) are obscure. Presumably it was laid out by the owners of Cassey Compton house, in the immediately adjoining part of Withington, perhaps in the mid or later 17th century when Cassey Compton and Compton Abdale manor came into the same ownership, that of the Howe family. (fn. 19) About 1710 the park, grazed by a herd of deer, was in two divisions, the well-wooded Little park, which was bounded by walls with ornamental gateways and, along the Coln on its south side, by palings, and Great park occupying the higher, more open land to the north of Little park and Star wood. The whole area of parkland was 356 a. (fn. 20) It may not have been maintained as a deer park after the mid 18th century, when the owners lived at Stowell Park house and Cassey Compton house was leased to a farmer. In the mid 19th century the park was shared among the tenants of four nearby farms on the Stowell Park estate, with the largest part included in that based on Cassey Compton. (fn. 21) By the end of the 20th century it was indistinguishable from the farmland of the rest of the parish.
Until the inclosure of the parish in 1805 most of the land outside the woods and park was cultivated in large open fields. There was also an area of common downland, called Compton Bushes or Compton Downs, on Puesdown at the northern edge of the parish. (fn. 22)
The site of a Roman villa, in a secluded position beside Compton brook below Compton grove, was known to local people by the mid 19th century, when some surviving materials were removed. It was excavated in 1931 by a schoolmaster and pupils from Cheltenham grammar school. The principal trench left by their operations was later filled from the brook by the landowner to form a swimming pool. (fn. 23)
In 1086 32 tenants were recorded on Compton Abdale manor, (fn. 24) and in 1327 15 inhabitants were assessed for the subsidy. (fn. 25) In 1551 there were said to be c. 90 communicants (fn. 26) but a figure of only 24 communicants was recorded in 1603, (fn. 27) and in 1650 there were said to be only 12 families in Compton. (fn. 28) About 1710 the population was said to be c. 130 people living in 30 houses (fn. 29) and the same number of people was recorded c. 1775. (fn. 30) In 1801 157 people, occupying 37 houses, were enumerated and the population rose to 260 by 1841. After 1861 it declined slowly to 159 by 1901 and 119 by 1931. There was little change in the later 20th century, with 126 enumerated in 1991. (fn. 31)
The parish has a simple pattern of lanes centred on the White way, a former Roman road from Cirencester which runs northwards through the parish from a crossing of the Coln near Cassey Compton to the site of the Puesdown Ash by the CheltenhamOxford road. The White way is joined in the village centre by lanes from Withington in the west and from Northleach in the east, and on the ridge south of the village by an old road from Yanworth and Stowell, only mantained as a bridle path in 1999. The CheltenhamOxford road at the north boundary was a turnpike from 1751 to 1870. (fn. 32)
The small village of Compton Abdale stands in a narrow valley, grouped around the meeting point of the lanes. Its focal point is the outlet of Compton brook, for which a local mason carved a spout in the form of a crocodile's jaws in the mid 19th century. (fn. 33) Apparently at the same period, the brook, which had flowed along the floor of the valley among the houses north of the lane leading westwards towards Withington, was diverted to follow the south side of that lane. (fn. 34) The parish church is set high on a bank to the south of the lane, while a group of former farmsteads stands below on the north side.
The names of the principal houses of the village, altering over the years, are unusually confusing. (fn. 35) Hard on the road near the junction of the lanes is an old manor farmhouse, whose farm was called Upper farm in the early and mid 19th century, the house being known in 1999 as Manor Farm House. To the north, more prominently sited, is the former farmhouse of the rectory farm, called Parsonage Farm in the 19th century, renamed the Manor c. 1911, and in 1999 called the Manor House. To the west of that house a small farmhouse belonged to a freehold owned by the Dyer and later Cossins families in the 18th century and the early 19th century, (fn. 36) but after being briefly used as the vicarage c. 1880 (fn. 37) it became known (imprecisely) as Old Parsonage Farm. (fn. 38) The L-plan building dates from the late 17th century or the early 18th and has some 20th-century extensions. West of Old Parsonage Farm is a substantial house built as the vicarage in 1884 and, after its sale in 1962, (fn. 39) called the Old Vicarage. Set apart from the village some way down the Withington road is a farmhouse which was the centre of an important freehold called in the 18th century the Farm or Compton farm and from the mid 19th century Lower farm. The few cottages interspersed with the larger houses included a pair with an adjoining malthouse belonging to the rectory estate in 1792. (fn. 40) The pair of cottages was rebuilt shortly before 1911, (fn. 41) converted to a single dwelling called Compton House in the 1930s for the landowner and former occupant of the Manor, E. G. H. Maddy, and enlarged as the residence of a later landowner, Col. F. J. Beckford, in the 1950s. (fn. 42)
Most of the former labourers' cottages, all dating from the late 18th century or the early 19th, stand just above the main part of the village on the road to Puesdown. They include a terrace of four on a prominent site. The village mill is the main building on the eastern lane leading towards Northleach, and a school built in 1852 (fn. 43) stands above the village on the lane leading southwards over to Cassey Compton. To the west of the village a pair of cottages called Small Hopes (later Smallhope) had been built by 1793, belonging then to the Dyers' small farm. (fn. 44) The cottages were converted to a single dwelling and a new gabled wing added at the west end in the mid 20th century, before 1968. (fn. 45) The Northleach rural district council built two pairs of council houses in the years 19489 (fn. 46) at Pike Hill Rise above the village on the Puesdown road.
The only early outlying habitation recorded in the parish was at its southern end near Cassey Compton (anciently called Little Compton). In 1442 a tenant of Compton Abdale manor, William Hawkins the elder, held a toft and yardland at Little Compton, and in 1498 it was recorded that he had also held and relinquished through poverty a toft and 12 a. there. The sum owed in rent and other circumstances suggest that the latter tenement represented a holding of Thomas Rogers recorded in 1400 (but given no location) as having been formed from several small tenancies, including three cottages. (fn. 47) The site of those dwellings may have been beside the river Coln c. 450 m. downstream of Cassey Compton house, where earthworks and some visible stonework mark the foundations of buildings. The present layout of the site suggests a group of farm buildings and the most prominent foundations, on the slope above the river, have the plan of a sheephouse, suggesting that a yard and buildings for gathering flocks (fn. 48) replaced the small hamlet after its desertion in the 14th century. Further complexity to the remains is given by a straight leat (dry in 1999) which runs through the site just above the winding course of the Coln. No mill or millpond is recorded where the leat rejoins the river further downstream, and the leat may have been dug to make a neat south-west boundary for the Compton deer park, which had a row of palings at that point c. 1710. (fn. 49)
After inclosure of the parish in 1805 buildings were put up in the upland areas for its two principal farms. By 1828 the manor farm (Upper farm) had a yard and buildings at Compton Abdale barn, (fn. 50) later called Hill barn and Compton Farm, near the east boundary of the parish. A cottage in the revived Cotswold style was added there in the mid 19th century, a detached dwelling for the farm's head shepherd shortly before 1911, (fn. 51) and a pair of farm cottages in the mid 1950s. (fn. 52) In 1999 the farm buildings were occupied as a craft centre. In the northwest part of the parish, on a lane leading to Shipton, farm buildings, also called Hill barn but later known as Springhill, were established before 1821 for Lower farm. (fn. 53) Four families of labourers were living there in 1851 (fn. 54) and there was a pair of cottages in 1911. (fn. 55) In the 1930s the cottages were remodelled to form a house in the traditional local vernacular, and a pair of cottages was later added further up the lane to the north-west. From the early 1940s to the late 1970s the house and buildings at Springhill were the centre of a large estate belonging to Mrs. Gladys Brutton. (fn. 56) Farm buildings called Windmill Buildings were put up in the north of the parish beside the Puesdown road before 1911 (fn. 57) and enlarged later; after a house was built near by in the mid 20th century, that group of buildings was renamed Manor Farm. A small house built in Compton grove for the Lower Farm estate before 1821 later became the house of the estate's gamekeeper. (fn. 58) It was the centre of a separate farm in the mid 20th century (fn. 59) but was again occupied by a keeper in 1999.
An innkeeper was living in the parish in 1608, (fn. 60) but no later reference to an inn there has been found. A small village hall, standing on the south-east of the road junction in the village, was provided c. 1925 at the cost of the principal landowner E. G. H. Maddy. (fn. 61)
Manor and Other Estates.
The manor of COMPTON ABDALE was apparently a part of the ancient endowments of the minster (later priory) of St. Oswald at Gloucester, and in 1066, assessed at 9 hides, it was among the possessions of Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury, who had obtained lands of the minster. After Stigand's deprivation in 1070 the manor passed to Thomas, archbishop of York, but in 1086 a part of Compton, 3 hides, was held by a follower of Roger d'Ivry against the claim of the archbishop. (fn. 62) The 3 hides were apparently recovered by the archbishop or one of his successors but may have continued as a separate sub-manor, for an estate at Compton, assessed at fee, was held from the archbishops by Adam le Despenser in 1285; (fn. 63) its later descent has not been traced.
Compton manor remained in the possession of the archbishops of York, as a member of their barony of Churchdown, (fn. 64) until 1545 when it passed to the Crown as part of an exchange of assets. (fn. 65) In 1552 the Crown granted Compton with the other manors of the barony to Sir Thomas Chamberlayne, (fn. 66) who later commenced a suit to secure possession of it against Lawrence Mace, Thomas Mace, and Thomas Townsend, tenants under a lease granted by the archbishop in 1543 to George Throckmorton. (fn. 67) Sir Thomas Chamberlayne died in 1580, leaving the manor to his second son Edmund. (fn. 68) Edmund, who was described as of Compton Abdale in 1596 and 1604 (fn. 69) and evidently maintained a household there, sold the manor in 1608 to Sir Richard Grobham of Great Wishford (Wilts.). (fn. 70) Sir Richard Grobham died in 1629, having settled Compton Abdale on his widow Margaret with reversion to a nephew, George Grobham. (fn. 71) By 1652 Compton Abdale was apparently in the possession of another of Sir Richard's nephews, John Howe (later Sir John), (fn. 72) owner of the adjoining Cassey Compton estate.
The ownership of Compton Abdale manor in the later 17th century has not been traced, but it presumably descended with Cassey Compton to Sir John Howe's second son John Grubham (or Grobham) Howe and his widow Annabella, before reverting to the elder branch of the family in the person of Richard Howe, who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1703. Sir Richard held Compton Abdale c. 1710 and died in 1730 when it passed to his widow Mary; she died in 1735 and was succeeded by Sir Richard's nephew John Howe. (fn. 73) Compton then descended as part of the Stowell Park estate, (fn. 74) which in 1842 included 1,262 a. of the parish, comprising the large manor farm (Upper, later Parsonage, farm) in the north-east part of the parish and the former park and Compton wood in the south. (fn. 75)
In 1911 the 3rd earl of Eldon sold Parsonage farm, then 932 a. (including the former rectory farm) to Edwin Gilbert Hatherley Maddy, (fn. 76) who took up residence at the former rectory farmhouse, Parsonage Farm (which he renamed the Manor). Maddy sold off large parts of the farm in the 1930s, when the Manor and over 200 a. were bought by Col. D. W. C. Davies-Evans. Maddy continued to farm land based on buildings near the east boundary of the parish (later called Compton Farm) but before his death in 1945 he sold that land to H. A. Greenway, who also bought the land of Col. Davies-Evans. (fn. 77) From c. 1957 until 1964 the Compton Farm buildings and over 500 a. in the east of the parish were owned and farmed by Col. F. J. Beckford. (fn. 78) In the 1980s those buildings and some land were bought by Lord Vestey and re-united with the Stowell Park estate, but that side of the parish remained divided among several owners in 1999.
The south part of the parish remained, with Cassey Compton, part of the Stowell estate during the 20th century (except for a few years in the 1920s). The history of Cassey Compton is given below under Withington. (fn. 79)
With the apparent exception of Edmund Chamberlayne in the 1590s, (fn. 80) Compton Abdale had no resident lord of the manor. E. G. H. Maddy was, however, regarded as squire of the village in the early 20th century. (fn. 81) The principal farm on the manor estate, Upper farm, was by the early 19th century (fn. 82) based on the house called Manor Farm House in 1999. It occupied a very constricted site, south of and close to Parsonage Farm, the rectory farmhouse, and, although in 1812 it was described as part of a mansion house now used as a farmhouse, (fn. 83) it seems unlikely that it represents the medieval manor house. It was evidently used as the farmhouse of Upper farm until the mid 19th century when the farmers started to occupy Parsonage Farm. It was described as little better than a cottage in 1878. (fn. 84) Manor Farm House is a fourbayed, two-storeyed, lobby-entry house of the mid 17th century; the date 1661 appears on the east front. The central stack, which is surmounted by four rebuilt diamond-shaped flues, heated the rooms on both floors, those on the ground floor being a two-bayed hall on the north and a parlour on the south. By 1819 a twostoreyed bay window had been built to command a view of the village street; the west entrance had by then been modified and an east lean-to built. (fn. 85) A service wing, apparently replacing an earlier service end (presumably demolished before 1812), was added on the north in the late 19th century.
The origin of the large freehold farm called the FARM or COMPTON FARM, and later LOWER FARM, has not been discovered, but it may have represented the medieval demesne farm; that had been alienated from the manor by the early years of Elizabeth I's reign when Richard Pate of Gloucester claimed it by purchase from Sir Henry Dee and others. (fn. 86) Compton farm was owned in the late 17th century by John Rogers (d. 1698) of Haresfield, who left it to his nephew John Parker. (fn. 87) In 1744 Thomas Parker of Longdon (Worcs.) left it to his two sons, Thomas and John Parker, who sold it in 1760 to John Heart, (fn. 88) a solicitor of Stroud. (fn. 89) Heart died intestate in 1763 leaving a widow Betty and two sons Thomas and John. Thomas apparently succeeded as heir-at-law and died in 1778 when he was succeeded by his brother. John (d. 1779) left Compton farm to his wife Catherine during the minority of his children, and she held it in 1792 when it comprised 389 a. The surviving child Mary Sophia Heart came of age in 1799 (fn. 90) and in 1804 sold the estate to the lord of the manor John Howe, Lord Chedworth, (fn. 91) whose purchase was presumably made in order to facilitate the inclosure of the parish then in progress. Lord Chedworth died the same year and, following the inclosure, his devisees sold a large estate based on Lower Farm house.
By 1821 the owner of Lower farm was Thomas Hope of Deepdene (Surr.), whose estate comprised the farmhouse, outlying buildings at Springhill, and 653 a. covering the northwestern sector of the parish. (fn. 92) It descended with his estate in Hampnett until 1911 (fn. 93) when Lord Francis Hope sold Lower farm to the Cavendish Land Co., which sold it in two or more parts during the next few years. In 1915 the farmhouse and 263 a. were owned by John Hughes. (fn. 94) In the 1920s and early 1930s a large part of the farmland was owned by Ernest Turner of Shipton Oliffe (fn. 95) and from 1934 to c. 1957 formed an estate owned by the Mayall family, based on a small house in Compton grove. (fn. 96) Another part of the former Lower Farm estate was acquired in the 1940s by Mrs. Gladys ('Jackie') Brutton, who lived at Springhill and had a racehorse training stable there. She also bought the farm based on Compton grove and during the 1960s and 1970s added to her estate cottages in the village and some land in the east part of the parish. Some parts were sold again before her death c. 1978, when she owned a total of 725 a. in Compton parish. (fn. 97) The land based on Compton grove and Springhill was bought in 1978 by Maj.-Gen. D. J. Tabor, who also bought Lower Farm house, which had been owned with only a few acres from the early 1930s, and other land; his total estate of 900 a. reconstituted roughly the Hopes' 19th-century estate. Maj.-Gen. Tabor owned and farmed the estate in 1999, his farming operations being based on Springhill. (fn. 98)
Lower Farm is a two-storeyed house with attics, having a three-bayed south front with two- and three-light mullioned windows. It appears to have been built mainly in the 17th century on an L plan, but the gabled east crosswing, which is on a different alignment and has a very thick east wall, may survive from an earlier building. Before 1842 (fn. 99) the house was extended eastwards by two bays, following which the cross-wing was extended north and west and the two bays to the east of it refronted; all the new work was done in a golden-coloured limestone. Later alterations, made before 1911, (fn. 100) included the remodelling of the west end with ashlar facing and with a Venetian window in the gable wall. The farm buildings comprise an 18th- or early 19th-century range of stables with haylofts above, adjoining the house, and, neatly ranged around a yard to the west, 19th-century barns, stables, and an implement shed open to the road. (fn. 101) The buildings had all been converted to domestic use by 1999.
St. Oswald's priory, Gloucester, owned all the tithes of the parish, together with glebe land. Its rectory estate formed part of the endowment granted by the Crown in 1542 to the dean and chapter of the new cathedral of Bristol. The glebe was described in 1535 as two yardlands, (fn. 102) but that probably included a separate freehold called Cropthorne, which the priory held under Compton manor in 1401 (fn. 103) and which was later held with the rectory estate. (fn. 104) A rent in respect of Cropthorne was charged in a lease of the rectory to William Rogers and his wife Joan in 1529, their other obligations including maintenance of the chancel of the church and the provision of wine and wax for services. From 1564 the lessees under the dean and chapter of Bristol were charged with finding the curate's stipend. (fn. 105) In 1603 the lord of the manor Edmund Chamberlayne held the rectory, probably as sub-tenant to Sir Hugh Brawne, who held a lease under the dean and chapter in 1614. The tithes were valued at 50 in 1603, and Brawne's sub-tenant, Francis Jones, paid him a rent of 80 in 1614; (fn. 106) c. 1710, however, the the total value of the rectory was said to be 60. (fn. 107) The lease remained in the possession of Sir Hugh's descendants, being held from 1692 by the Revd. John Brawne (d. 1736) of Saintbury. (fn. 108) In 1768 the lord of the manor, Lord Chedworth, became lessee (fn. 109) and in 1792 glebe land of 168 a. was sublet under the 4th Lord Chedworth to the tenant of his manor farm, Thomas Walker. (fn. 110) A small part of the rectory, comprising 12 a. of glebe and cottages in the village, had however been held under separate leases from the dean and chapter since the late 17th century. (fn. 111) Following inclosure in 1805 the glebe comprised 148 a. lying on the north side of the village. (fn. 112) The whole rectory estate was leased from c. 1814 to Capel Cure of Bobbingworth (Essex), (fn. 113) who received a corn rent charge of 400 for the tithes in 1842; the land of the estate was then sublet to Thomas Walker, apparently the tenant of Lower farm. (fn. 114) Cure's lease ended in 1878 when the rectory reverted to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners under the transfer to them of the chapter's property in 1862. In 1879 the Commissioners sold the rectory farmhouse and the bulk of the glebe (130 a.) to the earl of Eldon, (fn. 115) who absorbed it in his manor farm.
The rectory farmhouse was recorded from 1529 when a lease by St. Oswald's priory reserved the use of rooms at either end of its hall. (fn. 116) It stood near the centre of the village on the site of the house called the Manor House in 1999, and the outbuildings included a tithe barn standing to the south-east alongside the Puesdown road. In 1818 the farmhouse, comprising parlour, kitchen, and cellar in line, with a brewhouse in a south-west projection and farm buildings, including pigsties, adjoining on the north-east, was taken down, and a new one was built before 1826, mainly at the expense of the lessee Capel Cure. (fn. 117) From the mid 19th century it was occupied by the farmer of Lord Eldon's manor farm as sub-lessee under Cure (fn. 118) and it continued as the farmhouse of that large farm after 1879. The house was called Parsonage Farm in the later 19th and early 20th century, (fn. 119) but E. G. H. Maddy, the owner from 1911, renamed it the Manor (fn. 120) and in 1999 it was called the Manor House. The house, as built c. 1820, was a symmetrical two-storeyed, rubble house with a hipped roof, end chimneys, and a plain classical three-bayed south front. The front had been rendered by 1911 and a single-storeyed north-east extension and a south-east conservatory added. (fn. 121) Additions made soon after 1911 (fn. 122) included a gabled south-west wing with drawing-room and, replacing the conservatory, a study and loggia. The old rectory tithe barn was converted to a dwelling in 1967. (fn. 123)
In 1086 there were 2 plough teams and 5 servi on the demesne of Compton manor. (fn. 124) The lord, the archbishop of York, had the demesne farm in hand in 1283 when he ordered it and the demesne of his manor of North Cerney to be stocked with a total of 3 ploughs and 27 oxen. (fn. 125) In 1340 the Compton demesne was extended at 225 a. of arable, 12 a. of meadow, and 40 a. of wood. (fn. 126) It was said to comprise 400 a. of arable in 1401, when it was leased among the tenants, (fn. 127) and it remained on lease among the tenants in 1498. (fn. 128)
The tenants of the manor in 1086 were 22 villani and 5 bordars with a total of 11 ploughs. (fn. 129) The manor had a number of free holdings in the late Middle Ages. In 1401 they were the yardland called Cropthorne held by St Oswald's priory, another holding comprising a homestead and 16 a., and 2 yardlands (later accounted 4 yardlands) held by William Curtis and Thomas Hawkins (fn. 130) and remaining in the possession of the Curtis family during the early 16th century. (fn. 131) There were 24 customary tenants on the manor in 1340. (fn. 132) In 1401 the manor contained 21 customary yardlands but only 11 of them were still occupied as such, their tenants' obligations including cash compositions in lieu of ploughing works. The other 10 yardlands, together with a few smaller tenancies, comprising mondaylands and cottage tenements, had lapsed to the lord and were leased out at small cash rents. (fn. 133) By 1442, when the 10 yardland tenements had accumulated mainly in the hands of two families, the Rogerses and the Hawkinses, all the dwellings on them were styled tofts and had presumably been abandoned. (fn. 134) The same two families remained prominent among the tenantry in the early 16th century. At a fiscal survey of 1522 William Rogers at 60 and John Hawkins at 50 were given high assessments on their goods; (fn. 135) William was the tenant of a threeyardland copyhold at his death c. 1541 when he was succeeded by his widow Joan, (fn. 136) who was one of the lessees of the demesne in 1542. (fn. 137) The yardland used at Compton was said in 1593 to contain 48 a. (fn. 138)
The amalgamation of holdings and associated pasture rights in the late Middle Ages made possible the accumulation of large sheep flocks, which were probably the source of the wealth of Rogers and Hawkins in 1522. William Hawkins the younger built a sheephouse on the manorial waste before 1423 and came to an agreement with the lord c. 1443 for the rent to be paid for it. (fn. 139) It may have been beside the river Coln downstream of Cassey Compton where the foundations of such a building have been identified and where the Hawkins family is recorded as holding tenancies. (fn. 140) The pasturing of sheep in the parish by outsiders from the Vale was recorded in the mid 16th century and was presumably a long-standing practice; in 1551 men of Matson and Whaddon, near Gloucester, kept flocks at Compton but took them home for shearing in order to avoid paying tithe wool to the lessee of the rectory estate. (fn. 141)
The parish was cropped on a two-course system in 1340, when half of the demesne arable was sown each year, (fn. 142) and in 1532, when a fallow field and a corn field were mentioned. (fn. 143) In the 18th century East field, also called Upper field, occupied a large part of the north-east sector of the parish and West field a large part of the north-west sector, and the South field, also called Home field, lay south-west of the village between Compton grove and the lane from the village to Cassey Compton. (fn. 144) The two last mentioned fields were evidently cropped together, for the Compton farm estate had 160 a. in them and 160 a. in East field in 1760. (fn. 145) The total acreage in the three fields just before inclosure in 1805 was 1,241 a. (fn. 146) The number of ploughs and tenants recorded in 1086 and 1340 suggests that the small parish was intensively cultivated in the early Middle Ages, and there was possibly once a fourth field lying to the south-east of the village, including an area that in the 18th century comprised the north part of Compton park and closes lying between the park and the Northleach road; furlongs in which some demesne arable lay in 1401 were called Todecombe and High Todecombe and a valley in that area was later called Tadcomb. (fn. 147)
A tract of common pasture called Compton Downs or Compton Bushes, (fn. 148) used in 1540 for pasturing sheep, (fn. 149) lay at the north edge of the parish bounded by the GloucesterOxford road and, on the east, the lane from the village to Puesdown. Before inclosure the downs covered 77 a. (fn. 150) Compton grove, the wood in the west part of the parish, was re-allotted at the inclosure and had presumably also been subject to common rights. (fn. 151) The meadow land of the parish lay beside Compton brook, below and to the east of Compton grove, and beside the river Coln at the south end of the parish. (fn. 152) It was a valuable commodity in 1340 when 12 a. of several meadow on the demesne was worth 15d. an acre, compared with a value of 1 d. an acre put on the open-field arable. (fn. 153)
By 1792 the parish comprised only four farms and two smaller holdings. The manor farm had 838 a. and its tenant also held (as under-tenant of Lord Chedworth) the bulk of the rectory glebe (168 a.), the Heart family's Compton farm had 389 a., a farm of the Dyer family had 85 a., and the Cassey Compton farm of the lord of the manor had 487 a. (all inclosed) within the parish. (fn. 154) The management of husbandry in the fields was then said to be fairly uncomplicated as there were so few occupiers, though the lands of the various farms were still much intermixed and it was thought that only one aged parishioner knew where the strips belonging to the rectory farm lay. (fn. 155) Turnips had been introduced by 1801, when 137 a. was returned for the parish, but the total of cropped arable returned, only 599 a., suggests that about half the openfield land was still being fallowed each year. (fn. 156) Sainfoin was being grown on some inclosed arable in 1760. (fn. 157)
The parish was inclosed in 1805 (under an Act of 1803) at the instigation of Lord Chedworth (d. 1804) and his devisees, who paid the expenses of the Act and bought out the owner of Compton farm while the inclosure was in progress. Lord Chedworth's estate received the bulk of the re-allotted fields, downs, and Compton grove, a total of 1,234 a., and received another 129 a. as lessee of the bulk of the rectory glebe. Another lessee under the rectory received 7 a., and William Dyer for his freehold farm received 73 a. (fn. 158)
After inclosure and until the early 20th century the village and parish continued to be dominated by two large farms. Upper farm, which remained part of the lord of the manor's Stowell Park estate, was based on the house called (in 1999) Manor Farm House and on buildings at Compton Abdale barn (later Compton Farm) in the east of the parish; it comprised 775 a. in 1842 and employed 53 labourers in 1851. Lower farm, bought by the Hope family before 1821, had its farmhouse on the west side of the village and buildings at Hill barn (later Springhill) in the north-west part of the parish; it comprised 615 a. in 1842, and in 1851, when, possibly because the tenant also leased the rectory farm, it was accounted as 800 a., it employed 50 labourers. (fn. 159) Upper farm from the late 1780s and Lower farm from c. 1825 were tenanted until c. 1880 by members of the same family, the Walkers. (fn. 160) The small farm formerly of the Dyer family, based on the house which became known as Old Parsonage Farm, had 79 a. in 1842. (fn. 161) Both it and the rectory farm were later absorbed by Upper farm, which, being based on the former rectory farmhouse, became known as Parsonage farm. (fn. 162) In about 1880 it was taken in hand and farmed for Lord Eldon until he sold it in 1911. (fn. 163) Lower farm had also been taken in hand and farmed for its owner, Lord Francis Hope, by 1889, (fn. 164) but from 1898 he again let it. (fn. 165) Much of the former parkland in the south of the parish remained in the 19th and early 20th centuries part of Cassey Compton farm, which had 231 a. in Compton parish in 1842. (fn. 166)
There were still only three farms of any size, together with two small holdings, in the parish in 1926 (fn. 167) but in the mid 20th century a more complex pattern developed, including in the 1930s farms based on Old Parsonage Farm again and on Smallhope and in the 1950s and 1960s farms based on Springhill and Compton Farm. (fn. 168) A total of 10 holdings, six of them between 20 and 150 a. and four between 150 a. and 500 a., was returned for the parish in 1956. (fn. 169) By the end of the century the situation had been simplified with the reconstitution of a large owneroccupied farm in the north-west, based on Lower Farm and Springhill, and with much of the south and east of the parish kept in hand by the Stowell Park estate.
In the mid 19th century the parish had the preponderance of arable common to the area and period. In 1842 there was 1,383 a. of arable compared with 661 a. of permanent grassland, (fn. 170) and in 1866 1,871 a. was returned as under crops (a rotation of grass seeds or clover in two years, wheat, oats, turnips, and barley) and only 261 a. as permanent grassland. (fn. 171) The land returned as under crops had fallen to 1,214 a. by 1896 (fn. 172) and to only 549 a. by 1926. (fn. 173) Sheep flocks, returned (including the lambs) at a total of 1,609 in 1866 and 1,675 in 1926, remained a more stable factor during those years, and herds of cattle, with 183 beasts returned in 1866 and 326 in 1926, were enlarged to help meet the decline in revenue from arable; (fn. 174) Old Parsonage farm had a herd of Aberdeen Angus in 1939. Other enterprises resorted to in the depressed period of the 1930s were represented in the parish by a poultry breeder, a horse breeder and dealer, and a mushroom grower. (fn. 175) By 1956 the amount of land under crops returned had recovered to 1,162 a., with barley then becoming dominant among the cereals and no roots being grown; the number of livestock kept had been reduced considerably since the 1920s, but there was at least one large poultry enterprise. (fn. 176) In the late 20th century the main owners used their land, on the usual pattern then obtaining on the high Cotswolds, for cash crops and sheep.
The two large farms at Compton in the prosperous years of the mid 19th century evidently drew some of their labour force from adjoining parishes, having a total of 103 employees in 1851 at a time when the village contained c. 75 farm labourers. (fn. 177) The total number of employees returned on all the farms based in the parish was reduced to 33 by 1926 (fn. 178) and to 18 by 1956. (fn. 179) By 1971 only 7 men worked on the land in the parish, (fn. 180) and in 1999 Lower farm, with 364 ha. (900 a.) and a flock of 600 sheep, employed only two men. (fn. 181)
A mill was recorded on Compton manor in 1086 (fn. 182) and a water mill in 1340, (fn. 183) but there appears to have been no mill on the manor in the 15th century (fn. 184) and no record of one has been found at Compton again until the 19th century. Probably by 1842 (fn. 185) and certainly by 1882, there was a corn mill on the east side of the village by the Northleach road. (fn. 186) It was powered from a pond higher up the road, filled by a spring. (fn. 187) The mill was sold as a part of Upper (or Parsonage) farm in 1911, (fn. 188) and it continued working until the 1920s. (fn. 189)
In 1401 a stone quarry on the manor estate was on lease to the churchwardens of Cirencester, probably to provide stone for building the tower of the parish church there. (fn. 190) In 1442 the quarry was leased to the tenants of Compton. (fn. 191)
In 1608 a smith, glover, weaver, and innkeeper were the only non-agricultural tradesmen included in the muster roll for Compton, (fn. 192) and later scattered references suggest that the village usually had three or four men following the standard rural crafts. In 1851 six heads of households, 2 masons, 2 shoemakers, a carpenter, and a blacksmith, were employed in trades. (fn. 193) The village blacksmith, whose smithy was on the south side of the central road junction, (fn. 194) was the only tradesman apart from a grocer listed in a trade directory of 1906, (fn. 195) and in 1939 only a grocer was listed. (fn. 196) The village had no shop or tradesman in 1999, though in outlying parts of the parish were a craft centre, in the buildings called Compton Farm, and a restaurant, serving motorists on the CheltenhamOxford road at Puesdown.
The manor court for Compton Abdale was held two or three times a year in the 15th century (fn. 197) and in the earlier 16th; at the latter period it was sometimes held in conjunction with the court for North Cerney, another manor of the archbishop of York. Records of the court survive for the years 152843. Among those owing suit in those years were Thomas Tame of Stowell and the lords of Shipton Solers and Shipton Oliffe in respect of lands held from the archbishop in Shipton and in the detached part of Compton at Upper Hampen. (fn. 198) Leet jurisdiction in Compton was exercised by the Bradley hundred court. (fn. 199)
Compton had two churchwardens in the 16th century, (fn. 200) but there was only one in the late 18th century (fn. 201) and usually until 1907, from which time two were again elected. (fn. 202) Their accounts survive from 1772. In the late 18th century and the 19th the office was held either by the farmer of the manor (Upper) farm or of Compton (Lower) farm, both for many years members of the Walker family; (fn. 203) in 1837 the brothers William and Thomas Walker were said to 'govern the whole parish'. (fn. 204) In the early 19th century there were usually c. 12 people receiving poor relief from the parish on a permanent basis, and annual expenditure, at around 100150, was about average for a parish of the size. (fn. 205) Compton became part of the Northleach poorlaw union in 1836, (fn. 206) and it was in the Northleach rural district from 1895 (fn. 207) until the formation of the Cotswold district in 1974.
The church at Compton Abdale was recorded from 1291, when it was a chapel to St. Oswald's church and priory at Gloucester. (fn. 208) St. Oswald's took all the profits of the chapel and after the Dissolution they were used as part of the endowment of the dean and chapter of the new cathedral of Bristol. (fn. 209) The living of Compton Abdale remained a curacy until the mid 18th century when it received several endowments; by 1785 it was styled a perpetual curacy, (fn. 210) and it assumed the style of a vicarage in the mid 19th century. (fn. 211) From 1938 the living was a united benefice with Hazleton, (fn. 212) and Salperton was added to the united benefice in 1953. (fn. 213) Under a re-arrangement of benefices in 1962 a united benefice of Compton with Withington was formed, (fn. 214) to which Hazleton was added in 1975. (fn. 215)
During the Middle Ages curates or chaplains were presumably supplied by St. Oswald's priory, and after 1542 the dean and chapter of Bristol appointed the curates (fn. 216) (later vicars). In 1952 the chapter transferred its right to the bishop of the diocese. (fn. 217)
In 1536, at its dissolution, St. Oswald's was paying a curate 5 6s. 8d. a year to serve the church, (fn. 218) and from 1564 the curate was paid 7 a year by the lessee of the rectory estate under the dean and chapter of Bristol. (fn. 219) The stipend was raised to 10 c. 1740, (fn. 220) which sum was made a legal charge on the estate in 1760; (fn. 221) it remained the only contribution made by the rectory to the curate's income in 1828. (fn. 222) From 1715 the income was increased under a charity of Joshua Aylworth of Aylworth who gave 200 each to augment the livings of four churches; the whole 800 was laid out on land in Cheltenham, (fn. 223) from which Compton's quarter share of the proceeds was 12 10s. in 1828. (fn. 224) In 1737 and 1758 the living was augmented from Queen Anne's Bounty by lot, receiving 200 on each occasion, and the principal was used in 1761 to buy 19 a. of land in Castle Eaton (Wilts.). (fn. 225) In 1760 the living received a further 200 to meet benefactions of 100 from Alexander Colston, as executor of Edward Colston, and 100 from the curate of Compton, Charles Page, and that 400 was used in 1762 to buy 20 a. in Lechlade. (fn. 226) The rents from the lands, with the payment from the rectory lessee, gave the curate an income of 48 10s. in 1763 (fn. 227) and 78 in 1856. (fn. 228) In 1878 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, patrons and owners of the rectory estate, gave an additional annual stipend of 100 from their common fund, (fn. 229) and in 1891 the living had a gross value of 190 a year. (fn. 230)
A cottage called the priest's house was recorded as part of the rectory estate from 1533 and was probably in a group of buildings belonging to the estate on the north side of the main village street (the site of Compton House in 1999). It was presumably used by chaplains serving Compton in the Middle Ages. Although that name long remained in use for the cottage (at least in the leases of that part of the estate), (fn. 231) it is not known if any curates occupied it after the Reformation and there was no residence for the curate in 1735 or in the early 19th century. (fn. 232) About 1880 the vicar was leasing a former farm- house in the village (which later became known as Old Parsonage Farm). (fn. 233) A new vicarage was built in 1884 and occupied from the following year. It was paid for by a grant of 1,500 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and a further 400 from the vicar Henry Morgan, and it was designed by Ewan Christian. (fn. 234) It remained the residence of the vicars until the union of the benefice with Withington in 1962, when it was sold. (fn. 235)
Partly no doubt because of the poverty of the benefice, Compton was not efficiently served during the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1576 the curate Robert Coles (fn. 236) was reported not to preach quarterly sermons, teach the catechism, or give alms to the poor; (fn. 237) the curate in 1599 was said to be neither ordained nor licensed; (fn. 238) and in 1650 the parishioners, petitioning for an augmentation of the stipend so that they might be able to find a 'faithful preaching minister', claimed that the curate then in post had never preached in 20 years and sometimes was absent for months at a time. (fn. 239) Robert Coles was apparently suspected of Catholic tendencies in 1576, for it was reported also that he used a cope and did not possess an English New Testament, and the fact that one of the parishioners had disrupted the administration of communion indicates tension over liturgical matters. (fn. 240) The churchwardens were resisting the reading of the Book of Sports in 1634, (fn. 241) and the petition of 1650 suggests a strong puritan element at Compton. The petition resulted in an augmentation temporarily of 20 a year, (fn. 242) and in 1659 William Beckett, who had been appointed to serve the church the previous year, received 30 a year out of the tithes of other Gloucestershire parishes. (fn. 243) Beckett was ejected after the Restoration and became a Congregational minister at Winchcombe and later at Stroud. (fn. 244) Strong dissent from the established church evidently remained in 1682 when 42 people from the small parish were indicted for failure to receive communion. (fn. 245)
Charles Page, who contributed to the augmentation of the living, served as curate from 1757 to 1784, and was succeeded by another Charles Page (d. 1803). (fn. 246) In the early 19th century the benefice was held in plurality with adjoining parishes and was usually served from them, sometimes however by stipendiaries employed by the perpetual curates. One of the few clergymen to reside in the village itself was the stipendiary curate Thomas Nutt, whose petition to the patrons to succeed James Holmes, rector of Colesbourne, as perpetual curate in 1837 was unsuccessful; some parishioners claimed that his inadequacies had led to an increase in nonconformity in the village, and William Mellersh, stipendiary curate of Shipton and later perpetual curate of Salperton, was appointed instead. (fn. 247) Henry Morgan, vicar 187393, began the work of restoring the church fabric and contributed to the cost of a new vicarage house. (fn. 248) Edmund Lowndes, vicar from 1917 to 1937 or 1938, (fn. 249) was in dispute with his parishioners for much of his incumbency. From c. 1924 until 1931 or later the villagers, led by the chief landowner E. G. H. Maddy, attended services in a barn under lay readers from Cheltenham while Lowndes read services in the church alone or to a tiny congregation. The ostensible cause of the dispute, a minor matter over the disposal of funds for a village piano, presumably masked more deep-seated disagreements over parish matters. (fn. 250)
The church of ST. OSWALD was recorded by that dedication, taken from the mother church of the parish at Gloucester, from 1497. (fn. 251) Built of limestone rubble with the east part of the north aisle and the tower ashlar-faced, it comprises chancel and nave in one, a four-bayed north aisle, a north porch, and a west tower. The addition of a balancing south aisle, which might have been expected from the design of the church as remodelled during the 15th century, was presumably prevented by the site, a narrow terrace in the steep hillside on the south side of the village.
There are no obvious survivals from the church which existed by the late 13th century. The nave with north aisle and chancel are both of the early 15th century and (as the position of a surviving upper door for a rood loft shows) were originally undivided; a plain chancel arch which, with a simple wooden screen, was in position before the restoration of 1883 (fn. 252) was evidently a post-Reformation addition. The north arcade has octagonal piers, very tall for the size of the church, and the north doorway has good quality headstops. The porch was probably built in the 15th century but it was mostly renewed at one of the restorations in the late 19th century or the early 20th. The tower was added in the late 15th century and is of three stages with angle buttresses and a staircase tower. Although generally plain, it has some unusual detail: a man playing a pipe or horn is carved over the west window, couchant rams, presumably a reference to the local wool trade, occupy the offsets of the buttresses, and hounds or wolves clutching posts provide the corner pinnacles of the embattled parapet. (fn. 253) The tower arch has embattled capitals and rosettes. On the soffit of a window at the south-west end of the nave, inserted in the late 15th century, there is a carving of a 'Green Man'.
The body of the church was restored between 1880 and 1883 to the designs of Ewan Christian, at the instigation of the vicar Henry Morgan. The work included replacing two 'unsightly' windows in the south wall of the nave, repewing, and adding dated rainwater heads to the north aisle. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners, owners of the rectory tithes, paid for the restoration of the chancel. (fn. 254) In 1904 and 1905 a further restoration and general refitting were carried out under F. W. Waller at the cost of the earl of Eldon, lord of the manor, who took responsibility for the whole church after a disagreement with the Ecclesiastical Comissioners over details of the restoration of the chancel. The chancel appears to have been much rebuilt and a new window was inserted in its north wall, the roofs of nave and chancel were renewed, the floor of the east bay of the nave was raised and reseated for the choir, and the west end of the aisle was screened off to provide a vestry. (fn. 255) It was apparently at that restoration that the chancel arch was renewed in a more appropriate style.
A defaced carving, possibly depicting St. George and the Dragon, is set internally in the south wall of the nave; it is said to have been discovered concealed in the wall in 1939. (fn. 256) A restored and incomplete set of brass lamp brackets fixed to the pew ends is a prominent feature of the nave furnishings; installed with the pews in the early 1880s, (fn. 257) they were removed and sold when electric lighting was introduced in 1939, but several were recovered and replaced at the end of the 20th century. (fn. 258) The monuments in the church include four wall tablets to members of the Walker family (d. between 1814 and 1910), the leading farmers of the parish in the 19th century. The church formerly had a ring of four bells, comprising a treble and a second bell cast in 1682, a third bell cast by Thomas Rudhall of Gloucester in 1769, and a tenor of late-medieval date, by tradition brought from St. Oswald's priory, Gloucester. In 1880 the peal was recast and enlarged to six and hung in a new frame by Warner & Son of London. (fn. 259) The peal was rehung in a new iron frame in 1986. (fn. 260) The plate includes a chalice of 1762, bought for the church in that year, and a paten and flagon given by the vicar Henry Morgan in the 1880s. (fn. 261) The registers survive from 1720 for baptisms and burials and from 1760 for marriages. (fn. 262) The monuments in the churchyard include a latemedieval chest tomb.
Despite signs of strong dissent in Compton Abdale in the 17th century, (fn. 263) no early nonconformist meeting was established and the parish had none in 1825. (fn. 264) Houses were registered there by Cheltenham men in 1834 and 1846, (fn. 265) and in 1851 Particular Baptists had a meeting in the village with an average attendance of 35 in the morning and 50 in the evening. (fn. 266) There was also in 1851 a meeting of Mormons, attracting a following of c. 30. (fn. 267) The later fortunes of those two groups have not been traced, but in the early 20th century, until c. 1914, Primitive Methodists held services in a cottage in a row on the north side of the village. (fn. 268)
In 1818 Compton Abdale had only a Sunday school, which was attended by c. 47 children and supported by voluntary contributions; (fn. 269) in 1833 its teacher was paid a small salary by the lord of the manor, Lord Stowell. At the latter date the village also had a small day school where up to 10 children were taught at their parents' expense, (fn. 270) but the Sunday school remained the only parish school in the village in 1847. (fn. 271)
In 1852 a new building for a day and Sunday school was built south of the village on the lane to Cassey Compton, the site being given by H. T. Hope, the owner of Lower farm. (fn. 272) The school had been affiliated to the National Society by 1875, when it was supported partly by a voluntary rate as well as by other contributions and school pence. The attendance was then c. 27, taught by a schoolmistress. (fn. 273) In 1885 the average attendance was 35, (fn. 274) and in 1910, as the Compton Abdale C. of E. school, it had an average attendance of 32, still in one mixed class. (fn. 275) The average attendance had fallen to 22 by 1932, (fn. 276) and the school closed in 1937 with 27 children on the roll. (fn. 277) The building was sold in 1939 and converted to a dwelling. (fn. 278)
Charities for the Poor.