THE STORY OF OUR VILLAGE: SHIPTON OLIFFE AND SHIPTON SOLERS
REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF THE SHIPTON W.I.
(THIS TEXT WAS WRITTEN IN 1982 AND IS A REFLECTION OF THE VILLAGE AT THIS TIME)
Shipton Oliffe is a long straggling village lying in a fold of the Cotswolds parallel with the main London Road, seven miles from Cheltenham. Shipton Solers lies in a hollow with Shipton Oliffe set on higher ground, its cottage homes sprawling along either side of the by-road and reaching out in the direction of the Stow Road. The name Shipton literally means ‘Cattle Enclosure’ or ‘Sheep Farm’. Originally there were two separate villages, the names Olyve and Solers being derived from the owners of the separate manors. At one time Shipton Solers was the larger village, but all that remains today is the Church, Manor, farm and a few cottages by the main road.
Shipton Oliffe church (dedicated to St. Oswald) was founded at the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th century. In 1776 the parishes of Shipton Oliffe and Shipton Solers were united by the Bishop of Gloucester and have since remained so. The livings had long been held in plurality and it was much more satisfactory for the Rector to administer one large parish than two smaller ones. The Bishop drew up detailed instructions about the holding of services in the two churches and stressed the fact that Shipton Solers church was to be the mother church. The fact that this had always been the larger village was doubtless the reason for the choice although at the date of the union, Shipton Oliffe was already slightly larger than Shipton Solers. As Shipton Oliffe grew in size and importance the church then became more important and although never legally, became the actual mother church of the parish,Rectors have been inducted there. Eventually Shipton Solers became so small that the church, dedicated to St. Mary, became, in the 19th century, disused. Its windows were blocked up and it was used as a farm store. One parishioner remembers sheep racks being stored and collecting eggs from stray nests. In 1884-5 it was restored under the direction of Mrs Pugh, the wife of the Rector, but it was soon allowed to fall again into disrepair and remained so until 1930. In that year it was thoroughly restored and re-furnished by Mr E. Fieldhouse, of the Manor, in memory of his parents.
By all accounts, St. Oswalds has not always been so well cared for as it is today, for in 1569 it was reported to the Gloucester Diocesan Consistory Court that the church possessed no surplice, that the rector did not attend to his duties, and that the church was ruinous. Again, there was cause to complain three years later, when the windows of both the nave and the chancel were unglazed, the mounds of the graves in the churchyard were out of repair, there was no parish clerk and the parson had lost the key so that the church door could not be locked. St. Oswald’s church was again restored in 1902-4 when the old gallery at the west end was taken away, also the old box pews, and new oak seats were installed all facing the East. The old pews were used for panelling around the church. An interesting feature of the church is the 13th century bell turret and another is the canopied piscina in the chancel. Another piscina was discovered in the south transept when the old pews were taken out. In it is standing a curious stone basin with a hole in the bottom. The old two-tiered pulpit was taken out and later a new oak pulpit was put in.
The old saying “As sure as God’s in Gloucestershire” could easily apply to Shipton as regards the churches, as there is also a Methodist Chapel which was built on the site of two cottages that were converted in 1879 to form a place of worship. Previous to that, services had been held in cottage homes and before that in the open air. The original foundations of the cottages were used at the front of the building, and while it was in course of erection, services were again held in the open air, or if the weather was unkind - in a carthouse. The attendances at the churches and chapel have sadly diminished over the years.
There are two charities connected with the church and a brass plate in the church states that so much money was left by the Fletcher family for the distribution of coal for the poor of the parish. A trust was formed from money left by Miss Mary Handy for the further education of the children.
The earliest mention of Shipton Oliffe Manor is of John Turberville the owner in 1216. Now it is the home of Major and Mrs K.C.W Shennan. The Shipton Solers Manor (photo below) is undoubtedly of very great age with walls over three feet thick and massive oak beams which have been there for centuries. It is now the home of the Lord of the Manor, Mr E.F. Fieldhouse who is also the patron of the livings.
Another interesting and old house in the village is one belonging to the North Farm. It probably had a very interesting history for one of the outbuildings looks exactly like a chapel, but unfortunately no records can be found to give proof of this.
In 1888 the paying of tithes was discontinued and so much land was given to form a Glebe Farm and the foundation stone of Glebe House was laid by the late Mrs Pugh - wife of the rector, in September 1888. Afterwards the farm was sold and the money invested.
About 100 years ago there was a flourishing timber business in the yards opposite St. Oswald’s church, owned by Mr Silas Smith, who when he retired built the house known now as the Gables. He also had four cottages built adjoining the two existing ones on the timber yard. One of these was a beer house kept by a man named Peachey, who rumour says imbibed not wisely but too well, so that he forgot to turn off the tap, and the beer flowed out through the cellar door.
Hampen is a hamlet of Shipton Oliffe. The Manor and the two estates there are mentioned in the Domesday Book.
The only Inn is the Frogmill Inn, half a mile from the village. It is supposed to be an old coaching inn where the horses on the London to Gloucester stagecoach were changed. Renovations in recent years have changed it from an old fashioned country pub to an up to date road house.
The village school is not old as schools go. There are those in the village who can remember it being built, and who themselves were taught their first lessons in a dame school, paying 3d per week. The never forgotten school-mistress Miss Haneford did duty there for fifty years, and it is said that one could draw a line between the scholars who were under her care and those who followed. Orders were given by higher authority for the school’s closure and, more the pity, closed it had to be, and so another link in village life was broken. The children are now taken by bus to Andoversford and Charlton Kings. The school is now the property of the church council and has been renamed “The Church Hall”.
Shipton has the Reading Room which is the social centre of the village. It was built in 1909 largely by the efforts of the late R.F. Stratton as a place where the men and the boys of the village could go for reading and recreation. Now it is used as a club for the younger generation and for dancing, whist drives and meetings.
Shipton was always famous for its cricket activities. Time was when there were three teams. They had the pitch in a field belonging to R.F. Stratton, who with his brothers, once fielded a Stratton team against the village team. That was the times when they had a barrel of beer perched on the wall with bread and cheese for refreshments. So great was the enthusiasm that one player carried the barrel of beer on his shoulder from the brewery at Brockhampton - a distance of three miles - when the brewers forgot to deliver it. Fine sport they had. When the Stratton family moved from the village, cricket was played in a field lent by Mr E.F. Fieldhouse at the other end of the village, and the team won the Cheltenham Cricket Challenge Cup three years in succession.
Games used to be played in the street, such as ‘Shinny Right’, a game similar to hockey. ‘Duck, Double Duck’, was played with a big stone and a small stone on the top. Then there was a season for Tops, Hopscotch, Marbles, Dibs or Five-stones and Skipping. The girls played a lot of singing games such as “Bobby Bingo”, “Poor Mary sits a-weeping”, “The queen of Baebaly”, “The farmer in the dell”, and many others.
Now Shipton has the privilege of having their own sports field which was presented to the parish by Mr. Fieldhouse. It is situated at the far end of the village beyond the Frogmill Inn. The sports club now consists of three sections, cricket, football and hockey, but unfortunately because of the shortage of young people living in the parish, all three sections have to be supplemented from other parishes.
Some of the people residing in the village at the present day can remember the teams of Oxen being used in agriculture, and they were stabled in ‘Bowsins’ off the Frogmill Road. These Oxen were gradually superseded by teams of horses which were under the charge of a head-carter assisted by several under-carters. Then there were shepherds, cowmen, and if the farmer was a hunting man, he employed a groom, who also cared for the ladies’ pony and trap. Then there were the general workers on the farm employed in thatching, ditching, hedging, and walling so that up to twenty men were employed on one farm alone, the highest wages for the headman being 10 shillings per week.
Women were employed on the farms in the summertime, raking the hay into cocks, helping to tie the sheaves of corn, and putting them into stooks. Then there were jobs of stone picking, hoeing turnips and charlock pulling. When the wheat fields were cleared of sheaves the women were allowed to go gleaning or leasing. The corn was thrashed after the farmer had finished and often half a sack of wheat was the result. The Miller collected it and took it to Syreford Mill to grind it into flour for a shilling a sack, not refined white flour we have today, but real brown for bread and cakes which were baked in large ovens in the home. These were heated by thorny sticks and for the large families, often sixes or sevens or even ten or a dozen could be baked at a time.
During the recent years, the horses have been superseded by a mechanical age. Instead of the horses, every farmer now has tractors and all kinds of machinery. The work of twenty men is now done by three, which accounts in no small measure for the decrease in the village population, now the young men have to go into industry. The only horses now to be seen are mostly used for hunting.
Shipton used to be quite a self supporting little village with its Cobblers shop, Blacksmith, Wheelwright, and Bakery which had an excellent general store attached to it - now alas, the only industry that is still alive is the Bakery.
There was a horse-drawn carriers van, owned by Mr Charles Makepeace who travelled to Cheltenham three times a week - taking three hours to get there and four for the return journey. Now the old van and “Old Dick” has given place to an excellent coach service now (in 1982) owned by his Grandson J. Perrett.
Shipton used to have its own Brass band, and the story goes, that members used to practice a mile from the village, in the fields at Pen Barn, doubtless to preserve the ears of the inhabitants. There was also a troupe of Mummers, consisting of five young men from the village, who visited the houses, and performed their plays at Christmas time. These always included a fierce battle between St George and Old Beelzebub, to which the Doctor had to be called.
Whitsuntide was a season of festivity - for on Whit Tuesday, the local branch of the ancient order of the Foresters held their parade beginning with a service in the parish church, then they marched in their full regalia to the Frogmill Inn for dinner in the big club room. Afterwards, all the fun of the fair - what excitement the children had, to see the stalls of sweetmeats and coconut shies by the road-side, and the fun of having a monkey on a stick. One year an epidemic of measles struck the village and only two children escaped. What orders those two had to bring the various lolly pops for the unfortunates. In later years this parade was revived by the late Rev. Charles Pugh who composed a hymn which he called the “Foresters Hymn”. Another custom at the end of the harvest was the Harvest Home Supper.
Communications with the outside world were not as easy as nowadays. The postman used to walk from Andoversford in the morning and collected the letters from the letterbox in the evening. He carried a whistle which he blew at intervals coming through the village and if it was too late to post in the box, he obligingly took the letters and stamped them too. The London newspapers were sent by post, and the local “Echo” was sent by train to Dowdeswell station where the paperboy collected them and delivered them sometime in the evening. There was a weekly paper delivered by Mr Boddington on a tricycle - who called out “Free Press”, the title of the paper as he journeyed through the village. At the present time , things are far easier, the village is well supplied with papers, periodicals, and all kinds of literature, delivered by the newsagent - Mr Pritchard from Andoversford.
The nearest railway station is at Andoversford, but since the advent of buses, it isn’t used nearly so frequently, in fact, Dowdeswell station that used to be the nearest was closed in 1930 and has now been demolished, after being in service for only 43 years - for the railway line was constructed in 1887.
As a means of communication with the other villages, many footpaths were used daily across the fields, but unfortunately many of them now have been ploughed up and only the stone stiles are left to show the way - only two field paths are left for people who feel so inclined to have a ramble over the hills.
The roads show a great improvement. They used to be made of white stone brought from the local quarries. These stones were tipped in large heaps on the side of the road, and were broken by the stone-breakers, usually by old men so that the saying arose, “He’s come to his last job”. The result was a white but dusty road. They show a vast improvement in the last twenty years, the local white stone was replaced by hard blue stone from the Clee Hills, and later by tarmacadam with footpaths and kerbs at the side.
Shipton always had a good water supply. Besides various springs and wells, the main supply was a stream rising at the “Wells Head”, a spring bursting from the rocks at the side of the road by the South Farm, and flowing through the village where it has two picturesque splashes - first in Bees Lane - named after Farmer Bee, and again in Kilham Lane lower down in the village. It flows through the Shipton Oliffe Manor grounds, the Rectory fields and also through Shipton Sollars Manor grounds, joining the River Colne near the Frogmill. A century ago people fetched water from “dipping holes” in the stream. An improvement was made by Mr Edward Handy who had water pipes connected with the spring and laid to three convenient points. It was a common thing to see people carrying a couple of buckets of water with a yoke on their shoulders. Now the majority of the houses are on the main water supply put in by Gloucestershire County Council and this has led to more up to date sanitation.
This overview was reproduced with the kind permission of the Shipton W.I.
© Copyright 2018 Shipton Parish Council