An early history of the Shipton area

Early Land Ownership
  • Around 2000 years ago (the late 'Iron Age') the Shipton area was in the possession of the 'Dobunni' tribe - until they were themselves conquered, or more likely capitulated being primarily a farming community, following the second Roman invasion of this island in AD43.

  • Evidence of Roman settlements have been found in Whittington, Compton Abdale, Withington, Farmington, Shipton and Turkdean.
     
  • At Wycomb near Andoversford, evidence of a small town has been excavated including the remains of a shrine that could pre-date the Roman invasions. Shrines were often placed at the site of a spring that flowed continuously.   A 'Time Team' dig at Waltham Villa near to Whittington Court can be found on Youtube.  The episode includes a view of the nearby town of  Wycomb.

  • Later ‘dark-age’ settlers benefitted from the Romano-British clearance of the land during 250 to 400 AD.

  • By 577AD, the West Saxon, Caewlin had defeated the British Kings of Bath, Gloucester and Cirencester at Deorham (now Dyrham) and ruled the Cotswolds.

  • Shipton sat within an administrative area called the Wacrescumbe hundred and was quite intensively settled by the late Anglo-Saxon period.

  • A monastery was founded at Withington in the 7th century AD which had title to estates at Dowdeswell, Notgrove, Cold Aston and Andoversford by the 8th century.

  • The three largest parishes by the time of The Domesday Book (1086) were Northleach, Withington and Sevenhampton. The number of tenants recorded in Domesday suggests much of of the land in the area was already under cultivation by this time.

  • Two references to Shipton can be found in the Domesday book of 1086, the larger entry is shown below (it is the second entry from the bottom of the left column and is partially shown in a magnified form). A red line was drawn through the hundred and village names by the scribe to help the reader to more easily find the relevant records as they searched through the entries:



  • The first Domesday reference relating to Shipton (the larger of the two holdings listed) can be summarised as follows: Taxable units: 360 Acres, Taxable value 2.8 geld units. Taxed on 2.75.  Value: Value to lord in 1066 £2. Value to lord in 1086 £1. Households: 1 villager. 4 slaves. 1 priest. Ploughland: 2 lord's plough teams. Lord in 1066: Asgot of Hailes. Lord in 1086: Geoffrey. Tenant-in-chief in 1086: William Leofric.

  • The second Domesday entry for the smaller holding in Shipton is as follows: Taxable units: 60 acres, Taxable value 0.8 geld units. Taxed on 0.75. Value: Value to lord in 1066 £0.5. Value to lord in 1086 £0.5. Ploughland: 1 lord's plough teams. Lord in 1066: Bil. Lord in 1086: Ansfrid of Cormeilles. Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Ansfrid of Cormeilles.

  • The Domesday Book showed that England comprised 12% freeholders (essentially rent paying tenant farmers who owed little or no service to the lord of the manor), 35% were serfs (who generally rented land but owed a proportion of their time to work for the Lord of the manor), 30% were cotters and bordars (ranking below a serf but having 1 to 5 acres of land to work for themselves and a basic cottage), and 9% were slaves with no land rights. It was often the case that when land was sold, any service that was legally owed by the serfs living on that land could be included as part of the package.

  • In 1086 Shipton formed part of an area called the Wacrescumbe hundred.  A hundred consisted of roughly 100 ‘hides’ of land. A hide was enough land to sustain a peasant family and was usually around 120 - 140 acres. While this may appear to be significant area of land for one family, it indicates that agriculture was a hard, unpredictable business and that the farming techniques were inefficient when compared to the present day. The Domesday Book tended to simplify the definition of a hide to be any area of land capable of generating £1 of income per year.

  • Wacrescumbe hundred consisted of 72 hides and ‘owed suit’ to Withington Manor which by 1105, formed some of the lands controlled by the Bishop of Worcester (his name was Samson and he died 5th May 1112).  Samson was also the Treasurer (or Dean) of the church of Bayeux where his son became Bishop, showing the strength of the Norman links at the time.  Samson was described as ‘gluttonous but charitable’.

  • A representation of the Wacrescumbe hundred can be seen below, the shaded areas show the parishes included before 1220 (based on an 1845 map).

  • By 1189, the hundred is controlled by Cirencester Abbey as one of the ‘Seven Hundreds of Cirencester’ that it exercises legal rights over.

  • By 1220 Shipton Solers and Shipton Oliffe, (including the hamlet of Hampen), are described as individual parishes and the Wacrescumbe hundred has been absorbed into the Bradley hundred.

  • By this time, around half the parishes inhabitants could attend local courts or ‘views’ based on the manorial courts system (often with a jury formed of 12 freeholders) rather than by the traditional hundred court. The remainder attended a hundred view of ‘frankpledge’.  In 1303 Cirencester Abbey held a view for a part of Shipton called Shipton Pelye, the remainder of Shipton attending the hundred courts.

  • After the 13th century open fields covered wide areas of the wolds, these were then usually subdivided into strips (also termed ‘selions’).  The open field system dominated the medieval farming system until the Inclosure (or Enclosure) Acts from the 17th century onwards.
Employment & Population up to the early 20th Century
  • By 1086 all 17 of the later parishes had villages as their primary settlements with the three largest being Northleach, Withington and Sevenhampton.

  • Farming provided the main form of local employment. In nearby Farmington, 80% of the parish lay in two great fields that were divided into strips and farmed by members of the local community.

  • One market town was established nearby in the Bradley hundred by charter in 1227 – Northleach.

  • The Black Death of the 14th century hit the area hard with some hamlets deserted or reduced to a single farmstead (e.g. Hilcot, Little Colesbourne and Little Aston).

  • There is evidence of two early abandoned villages in the Shipton area, although this may not be attributable solely to the plague (early examples of enclosure for wool production account for some village closures as early as the 14th century).  A map showing the 'open field' farming system in the Shipton area prior to enclosure is shown below:



  • Sheep rearing maintained the viability of the area with 40 – 50 sheep being reared on a ‘yardland’ comprising 40 or 48 field acres.  In the early 17th century, Withington village ran c. 3,000 sheep on their fields and disputed downland pasture rights with the owner of Hilcot.

  • Woolmen based in Northleach collected the fleeces from the surrounding villages and supplied it to merchants for export or to supply the major domestic cloth markets.

  • Some particularly fine examples of memorials to the woolmen and wool merchants can be seen in Northleach church.

  • Much of the land ownership during the Middle Ages was in the hands of the church with the Bishop of Worcester and Hereford, Gloucester Abbey and Winchcombe Abbey holding large tracts of agricultural land in the Bradley hundred.

  • The Dissolution (1536 to 1541) saw a transfer of holdings to a new landowning class.

  • During the 16th and 17th centuries, notable land holdings were built up in the Bradley hundred by families such as Lawrence (Sevenhampton), Rogers (Dowdeswell), Dutton (Sherborne, Nothleach and Eastington), Howe (Stowell).

  • Some early enclosures at Dowdeswell (1562), Pegglesworth (1680) and Farmington ocurred up to and including the first parliamentary ‘Inclosure’ act (1714) to be applied in the Bradley hundred.

  • 10 parishes were enclosed from 1760 to 1820, this was usually based on the decision of the relevant major landowner.

  • New four, five and six course crop rotations replaced the earlier Middle Age two course rotations, leading to higher productivity and increased wealth for the farmer / landowners.

  • Families including Handy, Hewer, Walker, Fletcher rose to prominence with farms providing the bulk of employment in the Bradley hundred.

  • During 1840 to 1870 a successful Flax Mill operated on the outskirts of Hampen, on the road to Winchcombe.  Owned and significantly developed by Thomas Beale Browne, the mill  became a major producer of flax for sacking and linen cloth products. Browne was a prolific inventor, demonstrating his weaving machinery to Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition of 1851.  With a diverse range of interests making many calls on his wealth by the 1860s, his fortunes turned while expanding his flax production to Ireland. Despite modifying the mill to include bone crushing for fertilser production, he ended his days in 1888 in a small house in Cheltenham, noting in a last correspondence that he could only afford to drink water and a little beer.  Further details of Thomas Beale Browne's story can be found here:  http://www.gsia.org.uk/reprints/1976/gi197617.pdf

  • The census recordings from 1801 - 1901 show the boom and later decline of agriculture as the Industrial Revolution starts to offer alternative employment to workers heralding a fundamental shift away from an agriculture based economy.

     
  • During the 18th and 19th centuries, Northleach enjoyed a resurgence in its fortunes with the arrival of the coaching age serving the coaches between Gloucester and London.  By 1756 The Frogmill provided an important coach stop for services that allowed passengers to travel to London in under two days. Here passengers who had come by post-chaise from Cheltenham joined the London coach. 

  • Railways arrived in the late 19th century with Andoversford becoming a significant livestock market for the area and boasting a decent hotel (this was demolished in 1991 despite efforts to keep the hotel and its associated employment opportunities).

  • An agricultural depression followed in the 1880s with rents falling sharply, rural populations declining and much land being taken out of circulation.

  • Fieldsports became the employment mainstay of the area with gamekeepers occupying the more remote cottages and the local inns catering for their hunting guests and their mounts.

  • The rise of the country estate in the early 20th century saw the arrival of new owners appearing such as; W.A Rixon (Turkdean), R. Gunther (Withington) and E. Fieldhouse (Shipton Solers) - see the photo below, Mr Fieldhouse is shown in the centre of the picture at the re-consecration of St Mary's church in 1930.



  • From the late 1960's onwards, the improvement of the supply of water and electricity services and the building of domestic dwellings characterised the changing face of the village. The picture below shows the construction of The Hive in progress in the latter part of the last century.

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