2017 meetings & visits
19th October: Old Stroud Brewery
Marion Hearfield showed us pictures of the Stroud Brewery in its prime – where the Ecotricity HQ is now and the empty triangle opposite. The windows with bars that face the canal (bring repaired at the moment) were where the wines and spirits were kept securely. Stroud Brewery took over Godsells Brewery at Salmon Springs, and we saw pictures from our visit as well as Marion’s peek into the attics. Marion’s book tells the story of the Old Stroud Brewery at Wallbridge
14th September: Salmon Springs
During tea and biscuits in the Malthouse Bar, we listened to a talk about the malting process. Looking up, we could see the original tiles with holes in the floor above. In the basement we saw where malting took place, and found pillars made at TH & J Daniels and beams with the original Baltic shipping marks. Then we went outside and explored the Salmon Springs site, hearing about its many owners and uses, and a couple of rather odd stories.
20th July: Hawkwood College
18 of us had a guided tour and heard about the history of the house and estate which was originally called The Grove. The Capel family owned it for over 200 years. The house was rebuilt in the 1840s after a fire, but the stables are older. We heard about Lily Whincop, who started Hawkwood College with Margaret Bennell. Since then it has changed and developed into an educational and conference centre, with its farmland and woodland managed by partner organisations.
15th June: Bailey Paints at Griffin Mill, Thrupp
The company not only sells other companies’ paint and advises customers on all aspects of decorating – the interesting part is that they also make their own paint. As well as launching a range of domestic paints, they have a research department to meet the demand for specialist paints to be applied in unusual places and temperatures.
Old photographs and stories were on display in the room where we had tea and biscuits, then small groups of us were taken round the factory where we found out just what has to happen to get paint into a tin. Milling and grinding of pigment blocks goes on in huge rolling vats that are much older than the present owner, Richard Townsend. Blending pigments, mixing, quality testing and filling of tins all happen on site, with a surprisingly large turnover. It is a busy place.
The company was founded at Stafford Mill in the 1880s by Stanley Gordon Bailey, who had come to Stroud from south London. It was later taken on by Richard’s father and the company is now with another generation of ownership and enterprise.
18th May: Brockworth Court
We had a rare opportunity to visit this former prior’s house, which Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited in 1535, only a few years before Llanthony Secunda prior was dissolved. The current owners told us about restoring the house and showed us the unusual raised jetty, rare early 16th century wall paintings in the Solar room, and a priest hole. The delightful garden has a fish pond with an island, and the church next door retains Norman arches. They served tea and a lovely selection of cakes for the 31 of us in the huge restored tithe barn.
20th April: From oil mill to snow mill at Ebley
Marion Hearfield showed us pictures from our wonderful visit to Snow Business in July 2016, and we heard about the various uses that the mill has had. She even made snow into a snow ball – but did she throw it at us???
Howard Beard’s illustrated talk was both popular and entertaining. He showed us 150 pictures of transport in the Stroud area, including donkeys, a pig, traction engine, steam roller, road roller, fire engine, carriages, carts, wagons, horse and motor taxis, horse bus, motorcycles, cars, trains, railcar. Also deliveries of milk and bread, a butcher doing his rounds, collecting in the harvest and some accidents.
For our Gala Afternoon in The Old Town Hall, we had a fascinating talk by Mark Davies about the first hot air balloon flights from Stroud. Paul Hawkins Fisher, the Stroud Historian, witnessed James Sadler make the first ever balloon ascent from Stroud in 1785, and William Capel, owner of The Grove (now Hawkwood), recorded in his diary that he saw Mr Green’s ascent in 1834.
James Sadler was a pastry cook and confectioner who became the first Englishman to build and fly a hot-air balloon – in Oxford in 1784 – and the first person to cross the Bristol Channel by air. He was a man of many talents and skills and Mark Davies has written his extraordinary story. Find out more here: www.amberley-books.com/king-of-all-balloons.html.
The talk was accompanied by displays from Marion and Barry, Pauline and Marion’s model hot air balloon, then afternoon tea.
2016 meetings & visits
Marion Hearfield’s illustrated talk gave us local stories and pictures from a snowy Christmas past. She was ably assisted by Howard and Sylvia Beard (complete with accents) and Dave Stevens. The audience contributed memories and had a go at the quizzes and raffle. We also saw some old photos that we have received, as the result of enquiries via the website, and our tree from the Christmas Tree Festival was recreated. Our delightful Sunday afternoon was complete with savoury nibbles, home baking and mulled wine.
Ray Wilson from Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology took us on a tour of local mills, from the very small to the huge complex at Dunkirk. We heard about processes in producing cloth (surnames Walker, Tucker and Fuller all relate to fulling), and the organisation of the cloth industry; we saw pictures of various mills and how they were adapted from water power to steam power to electricity. We have a rich heritage today as a consequence of the woollen cloth industry, as fortunately many of the former mills and other buildings have been put to a wide variety of other uses. This interesting talk was very popular – 60 people came
20th October: Some History of the Stroudwater Canal at Stonehouse, by Jim Dickson from Stonehouse History Group
The canal was authorised in 1776 and by the end of 1778 it reached Ryeford, but they had spent most of the money, and had to raise more to continue to Stroud. They had to cut through the churchyard at St Cyr’s, and provide bridges, but there was no towpath until 1825 – before that men used the banks and climbed over stiles. There are several pill boxes – one is at Bond’s mill – which were part of a defensive ring around Bristol. In 2012 there were boats on the canal as part of the Jubilee celebrations.
15th September: Old farm implements and old farming methods
Our September meeting took the form of a talk on farm implements by Paul Griffiths (cattle breeder and grazier on Edge Common). Paul is a true countryman, as the evening proved. Not only did he bring along two large sacks full of tools to demonstrate to us, he also displayed a group of fascinating photographs to accompany them. In addition, his talk was delightfully punctuated by poems on a rural theme, several by Frank Mansell. Along the way we learned about Paul’s early life and his many talents. He’s a stock breeder, upholsterer, cabinet maker and an enthusiastic cyclist having, in 2010, completed a ride from Barcelona to his home at Edge, to raise money for charity. Paul’s presentation was much appreciated by the audience.
We had the privilege of visiting Snow Business at Ebley, and had a wonderful time. It is great to see a worldwide business restoring our local heritage.
Marion Hearfield presented a slide-show of the history of the oil mill – Michael Lane (SLHS member) had provide much of the information, as he is the grandson of William Lane, who was the corn mill manager. The oil mill (rape and linseed oil) was built in 1721. It was later extended and became a fulling mill in 1727, then a corn mill from 1840 to 1891. After that various businesses used different parts of the buildings.
It became the Snow Mill in 2001 and has been rescued from dereliction – the mill buildings, mill pond and grounds have been sympathetically and ecologically restored, and some of the machinery from the corn mill is still in situ. After a very interesting tour, we heard about Snow Business and some of the feature films they have provided snow for. We saw a speeded up conversion of a location from summer to winter and the clean up after – they used 7 types of snow! A wonderful evening, in spite of the rain!
16th June: Visit to Stroud Brewery
First we had a talk and slide-show from Marion Hearfield about the Old Stroud Brewery at Rowcroft. The process of brewing started at the top of the building and used gravity, with the barrels being filled on the ground floor. She has found out such a lot, and her book – written as a fund-raiser for our Society – is at the printers now.
Then Greg Pilley told us about how he developed a hobby into the new Stroud Brewery, which has just celebrated its 10th birthday. His first brew won a prize, and later a grant + friends enabled expansion. He told us about the process of brewing and the speciality beers they now produce. We saw hops growing and casks of different sizes. A pin = 4.5 gallons; a firkin = 9 gallons; a kilderkin = 18 gallons (144 pints). A barrel is much larger, holding 36 gallons. By this time the bar was open, so some bought a souvenir to try later. What an interesting afternoon!
26th May: Stroud Brewery Pubs
Howard Beard showed us pictures of pubs that were owned by the (old) Stroud Brewery – ranging from Chalford, Bussage, Minchinhampton, Burleigh, Thrupp, to Stroud, Paganhill, Cainscross, Dudbridge, Stonehouse, Eastington, Frampton, Framilode, and Arlingham. Also from Painswick and Pitchcombe, to Wallbridge, Rodborough, Woodchester, Nailsworth and Leighterton. We then went further afield to Gloucester, Cheltenham and Hereford. Whilst we recognised many of the pubs, some still serve food and ale, some are now houses, but some of the buildings are long gone.
We also heard a brief history of the Old Stroud Brewery that Marion Hearfield is writing a book about – it originated in Middle Lypiatt. There were artefacts from the old Stroud Brewery to see, and photos to identify. A very interesting and well attended evening, interspersed with anecdotes from Howard.
We started with the first farmers 6,000 years ago keeping cattle, sheep and pigs, and using antler and stone tools to grow cereal crops. In the Iron Age cattle were very important, and sheep were kept for milk and their wool (which did not need shearing). Also pigs, geese and chickens, but they grew few vegetables, although herbs were used for food and medicines. Iron tipped ploughs enabled cultivation in the vale. The Romans had farming manuals, and introduced long wool sheep here. This was the time of countryside supplying town markets. Anglo-Saxon times saw a return to self sufficiency in villages and hamlets, until Burghs were formed. Cote = sheep enclosures and wold = rolling hills. Medieval times used three field rotation, with one fallow. The Domesday Book recorded the farms. The Normans created Royal Forests for hunting, and farmed rabbits – giving us names such as Coney/Conigree and Warren. Manors were self sufficient, with open fields in strips. A consequence of Black Death in 1349 was higher wages for the fewer remaining workers. 1750 – 70 saw the Agricultural revolution – really an evolution –with new machinery and 4 field rotation with no fallow year, and Inclosure changed the field system. We ended with the Victorians applying science to farming, and increasing productivity. Transport also improved, which led a decline in farming from the 1870s due to imports.
A comprehensive and interesting talk from John
John Canton (1718 -1772) was a very well known scientist and mathematician in his day who has been forgotten, unlike contemporaries such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and John Harrison. Canton studied static electricity and lightning, luminescence, made artificial magnets, predicted lunar eclipses and proved the compressibility of water. He won the Copley Medal for outstanding scientific achievement twice and was awarded a degree from Aberdeen University. During this time he was also working as a school master.
He came from humble beginnings – the son of a weaver; born in Middle St Stroud; his schooling at the Old Town Hall (where this blue memorial now hangs) ended when he was nine. However he studied astronomy and mathematics, designed and carved a sundial, and calculated the latitude of Stroud – all before he was 17 and was taken to London.
Stroud should remember this eminent scientist. Thank you Barry for a fascinating talk.
We were taken on a tour through a wonderful collection of 1940s toys, books, clothes, and everyday household bits and pieces. Virginia and Gillian’s stories about evacuees (and their little suitcases), school uniforms, comics, the Wireless, rationing, utility furniture and clothing prompted many memories. This was also a social occasion with a suitably old-fashioned Gala sit-down tea.
2015 meetings & visits
We had a lovely afternoon with a fascinating talk, with Tudor themed refreshments, decorations and a Tudor song. Cherry lived as a Tudor for a year, so is very knowledgeable. She brought food prepared to Tudor recipes, and talked about the ingredients they had available (oranges, but no potatoes). We heard about fasting during Advent, bread made from dried peas, and coffin pies – they did not eat the pastry case. We learned the difference between a Feast (for every guest) and a Banquet (sugary extravagances served only to the favoured few), and the origin of ‘curfew’, all to the lovely aroma of mulled wine warming on a candle.
Our AGM was followed by a very informative talk which was both gruesome and fascinating, about medicine from the 1200s to the 1800s. In those days the physicians, apothecaries and barber/surgeons were separate professions, and the theory of illnesses was based on the imbalance of the 4 humours. Many people could not afford to pay a professional, so went to the local wise woman, who made use of the hedgerows. Urine samples aided diagnosis – the colour, smell and taste. Astrology determined treatment, and often focused on removing bodily fluids. Cures may have involved snails, walnut, clove, kidney beans, lungwort, vinegar, opium, willow bark, egg white, deer antler, mouldy cheese, coal, or tobacco for a cough! Surgery was quick – no anaesthetic.
A very interesting talk about how most place names originated in Saxon times, and were descriptive. Even the use of cester for previously Roman towns was a Saxon term.
Margaret shared her knowledge about the historic picturesque landscape and internationally important tree and shrub collection which were collected from all over the world. Planting started in the 1850s by Robert Holford, the rich Victorian landowner to whom the Westonbirt estate belonged.
July Summer Exhibition at the Museum in the Park – click here for photographs
16th July: Chipping Campden – Court Barn Museum, talk and walk
To see photos click here
Six members met at Court Barn Museum, for a talk about Arts and Crafts, a look around the museum, and a very informative walk through the town to the Old Silk Mill craft centre.
This market town was planned in the 12th century; “Chipping” derives from the Old English cēping, “a market/market-place”. It has a layout of main street and burgage plots, and became an important centre of the wool trade.
In the early 17th century, Sir Baptist Hicks, a silk merchant, built a grand manor house (which was burned down in the Civil War), almshouses and the market hall (both still in use). The long, broad and curved terraced High Street contains many Cotswold stone buildings, built by wealthy merchants between the 14th and 17th centuries.
Due to the decline of the wool trade the population reduced. Revitalisation came in the early 20th century when C R Ashbee relocated his Guild of Handicraft, from London’s East End to the Old Silk Mill in 1902, bringing the Arts and Crafts movement to Chipping Campden. Descendants of George Hart,silversmith, still have a workshop there. This was more than art and design – use of traditional skills was important, but also a better way of life than factory work and its living conditions. F L Griggs, etcher, draughtsman and illustrator, arrived here in 1903 and was influential in preserving and restoring the heritage of the town and surrounding area.
18th June: Jet Age Museum, Staverton
The Jet Age Museum was opened specially for our evening visit and we were divided into groups of four to be taken round by volunteers. Each one specialised in one part of the museum so we had an informed and close inspection of the several different periods of aviation – pioneered or manufactured in Gloucestershire – exemplified so well in this lovely little museum. Shortly after I took this photograph of the Vulcan cockpit, Jenny and Keith were sitting in the pilot and co-pilot seats right at the top. SLHS members and their guests and were impressed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the volunteers who run it and our visit was a great success.
14th May: Marlborough visit – The Merchants House – The House of Thomas Bayly 1653 – Guided tour
It was one of the wettest days of the summer when we had the first of our summer outings, but nothing daunted we met outside the Merchant’s House as arranged having lunched separately in various eating places beforehand. The entrance is through their well appointed gift shop from where we went upstairs to see the house which Thomas Bayly, a silk merchant, built after the disastrous fire that destroyed both sides of the High Street between 1653-70. 244 houses in total were burnt down. It is a large property of three bays and four storeys, timber-framed, with shops on the ground floor under a projecting canopy, fine diagonal chimneys above a tiled roof and leaded lights throughout in the original oak frames. Over the centuries it has been subdivided and tenanted from Thomas’ death in 1670 onwards and the shop soon became two by the insertion of a through passage. Between 1926 and 1990 it was a branch of W.H.Smith, did they have a policy of using prestigious timber-framed historic buildings in the 1920’s as the Cirencester branch is also in a similar one?
Much of the interior is original and the rest is being restored. Many of the upper rooms have walls with painted patterns, mainly bold coloured stripes; a bedchamber has vertical trailing bands of foliage in green, orange and black. These painted rooms were fashionable in c17 houses [we ran out of time on our trip to Ledbury in 2013, where the upper floor of the Town council office has some good examples.] The period furniture, pottery etc..has been acquired as per the Trust’s policy but only one of the Turkey work chairs is original, the other twelve have been commissioned. The covering of knotted wool on coarse linen is shown being worked on a tapestry frame, making a long dense pile, again in rich deep colours, and featuring tulips. It would be interesting to return once the restoration is complete, a large and costly yet very worthwhile project. Mention must be made of Howard Beard wearing a long curly Restoration wig which visitors could try on; he looked superb.
16th April: Fairgrounds – Deakins Fair by Bill Treen
Bill was born and bred, and works in Barton Street, Tewkesbury, which has been the site of the annual Mop Fair held annually on 9th & 10th of October since the 12th century. Bill could see the fair from his house, and has always been a ‘Deakin’s fan’. He has researched the Deakin Family, got to know them, and has written a book about them.
He told us about the origins of the Mop Fair for hiring workers; the Deakins Family and how the first Deakin became involved in fair grounds, with his wife carrying on the business after his early death; life on the road; their charitable work for Tewkesbury Hospital. They travelled all over the country from their base in Wales, and Bill has lots of photos, including the fair at Stroud.
26th March: The Purton Hulks – beached Severn Trows by Paul Barnett
We had a talk to follow up our visit to Purton last year. Paul told us about how he became involved in researching the ships graveyard, and showed slides of some of the boats when they were still in use.
On Sunday 15th February 2015 we met at the Old Town Hall for a Gala Afternoon to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Society. We were welcomed by the chairman, Howard Beard, and were then treated to a slide show of newspaper cuttings and photographs showing events and places in Stroud over the past 30 years. This slide show, put together by Pauline Stevens and presented by Marion Hearfield, resulted in many reminiscences and surprise at the changes to Stroud in a relatively short period of time.
Following this, Marion described the various research projects being carried out by the Society and its members. She encouraged members to embark on local history research and report their findings to the Society. One very successful research project involved discovering the association of a J.S. Smith with Stroud. In the first World War injured soldiers were treated at the old Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge and entered messages of thanks and drawings in a recently discovered autograph book put together by a nurse. One soldier, Cadet J S Smith wrote a piece of music for a Vesper Hymn. Following a lot of investigative work by many people it was discovered that John Sidney Smith came from Stroud, survived the war and continued to be the organist of the local church for over 50 years. Addenbrooke’s choir sang an evening prayer to this music in December and we were treated to a recording made at the service.
A lovely tea had been prepared by members and a birthday cake was cut by the immediate past chairman, Sue Harrison in the presence of two former chairmen, Clive Bircher and John Loosley. During tea a photo quiz of architectural features on buildings in Stroud was displayed and members were asked to identify these buildings. It was surprising how little notice we take of the features of familiar buildings.
Howard Beard thanked all the members who had made this Gala Afternoon a great success and hoped that the Society would flourish during the next 30 years.
18th January 2015: We heard about a young man born in Stroud, who was apprenticed to the Stroud Journal back in 1872 and then applied for and got a job on the Ceylon Observer in 1878. He moved to Madras, India to work on the Madras Mail and then bought a printing business in Madras which he expanded into fancy goods and later into bicycles and motor cars.
2014 meetings & visits
Gala afternoon with Tea and Cakes and A Demonstration of Gadgets & Toys from the 1950s’ – Virginia Adsett & Gillian Morse
January 19th: Lots of items displayed, and remembered by many of the audience.
William Cowle and the Field Estate by Marion Hearfield
Gloucester’s Railways – Then and Now by Tony Conder
March 20th: An interesting look at where the railways used to be in Gloucester and how the routes came to be where they are now. Who remembers the second station?
‘E P Conway – Nailsworth’s Edwardian Photographer’ by Howard Beard
April 24th : Howard admirably gave an impromptu talk, as the booked speaker unfortunately was unwell.
The Purton Hulks – wrecked Severn Trows visit
May 22nd: The Society’s visit to the Purton Hulks proved an interesting and rewarding experience.
We parked by the church at Purton and met Paul Barnett, who took us to see the ships graveyard that protects the Gloucester & Sharpness canal. We saw an empty River Severn and homes which originally housed donkeys, as well as remains of barges. Paul Barnett is both knowledgeable and dedicated to the preservation of the historically important boat graveyard. The weather stayed kind to us for nearly all the evening and, as dusk approached, Paul was thanked for a fascinating guided tour of the site.
Use these links to find out more:
John Craven visits Purton Hulks – see him talking to Paul Barnett
Tewkesbury: Guided Tour
June 19th 2014: A small group of us were guided around the historic market town of Tewkesbury, along the main street and down the numerous narrow by-ways, by local historian Dr John Dixon, with his wife at the rear to ensure we did not get left behind and lost – certainly many places we would not have found exploring by ourselves. There was lots of history and the more modern flood protection developments to see as well.
Farm: guided tour
July 10th: Byfords Farm, Taynton
This visit was exceptionally well attended even though the local cider had not been advertised beforehand. Eric Freeman has lived in the Newent area all his life and has a collection of old farm implements, several massive dray horses, Gloucestershire cattle, sheep and pigs which are all threatened species.
Stroud and District – An A-Z in Old Postcards, a slide-show by Howard Beard
September18th: An alphabetical tour of the Stroud District illustrated from his huge collection of old photographs and postcards, many of which had never been shown in public before. There were lots of pictures of Stroud in the Edwardian era and at many different events.
‘Stand and deliver’ – Highwaymen, by John Putley – complete with disguise and guns!
October 16th: It included: how to be a highwayman; romance, myths, reality and their demise; who was Tom Long?
On our website, www.stroudlocalhistorysociety.org.uk you can read about the robbery and attempted murder of John Bird of Stonehouse in 1774 and the first regular Stroud to London stagecoach service in 1770.
‘The Man Who Took Stroud’s Temperatures’, by Barry Harrison
November 20th: Thomas Hughes was an apothecary, surgeon and man-midwife who lived in Stroud. He also meticulously recorded the weather here for nearly 40 years. His very detailed meteorological records of 200 years ago are very unusual for the time, and have been looked at again recently. We also learned about his work and connections with other professionals like Dr Jenner, and his family & life at the time. It was a very interesting talk.
Christmas Social Evening – with Magic Lantern Show – by Pat Furley
We had a very entertaining evening when Pat Furley showed original slides with an original Magic Lantern, cleverly woven into a Christmas theme. These very early slides included some interesting animation.
2013 meetings & visits
An Afternoon with an Auctioneer – Philip Taubenheim identified items brought by the audience
The Story of James and Owen of Stroud
Peter Withey talked about the history of James & Owen, the well known stationers in London Road, and the family’s long association with retail and other business in Stroud.
Springs and Water Sources in the Stroud Valleys by Stuart Butler
Stuart has collected information about local springs, and he told us about where the spring-lines are.
A Guided Tour of Fairford’s C15 Church Windows
We were met at the church by Geoff Hawkes, who gave us a fascinating guided tour of Fairford’s nationally important 15th century stained glass windows. His knowledge and expertise were evident and a most instructive evening was enjoyed by all, with many questions and expressions of admiration.
A Guided Tour of Ledbury
We had an afternoon visit to Ledbury with a guided tour around the town. Chris, our guide, met us in the town centre, outside the original St. Katherine’s hospital/chapel, early c14 in red stone, at a right angle to the Victorian hospital and alms-houses. Facing them in the middle of the car-park stands the Master’s House, [Master of the Almshouses], c15, mainly timber framed but with brick additions, currently undergoing major restoration. Owned and used by Herefordshire Council the work entails the use of large quantities of green oak. It should reopen next spring. See the Master’s House Blog for more details. At the cross-roads opposite the Market House, c17, stands the Barrett-Browning memorial institute and clock-tower, 1890’s in brick. [Elizabeth lived in the Homend as a child]. John Masefield the Poet Laureate was born in Ledbury.
Ledbury has a great many black and white buildings, the finest being Ledbury Park, c16, at the traffic lights entering the town, which was the seat of the Biddulph banking family, now apartments. They were town benefactors having endowed the cottage hospital, now converted to office/residential use. Church St. has many historic buildings. The Town Council office has wall paintings upstairs, and there are two small museums further up the street – but there was insufficient time to see inside.
The church is notable for its separate bell tower in the churchyard and the imposing Biddulph family memorial.
A Guided Tour of Gloucester Docks
A balmy sunny evening was very welcome for our July visit to Gloucester Docks where we formed two groups each with an excellent guide from Gloucester Civic Society who brought the history to life and explained the importance of Gloucester as a trading centre, later offloading sea going vessels for the canal network when this was developed.
Freemasonry in Stroud
Sharpness – a Country Dock by Ray Wilson
Lionel Hook and Sons, a local engineering company by Barry Harrison
2012 meetings & visits
Traditional song in Gloucestershire by Roy Palmer
Forty years of local history by Russell Howes
Stroud’s other industries by Ray Wilson
Frocester in old photographs by Arthur Price
A visit to Frocester Court & Tithe Barn by Arthur Price
A visit to Winchcombe Railway Museum
Historic tour of Stratford Park Mansion House by Steve Hill
Carved headstones of the Vale & Severnside churchyards by Dr Nicholas Herbert
Child employment in the Stroud Valleys by John Loosley
Stroud Workhouse by Chas Townley
2011 meetings & visits
History of Wycliffe College
A Childhood Treat – Member’s reminiscences
Humour in Edwardian Postcards
Stonehouse High Street talk & visit
The Jewish Communities of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud
2010 meetings & visits
Stroud in 1848
Illustrated by colour images on two screens, the lecture explored the building developments, living conditions and other aspects of life in Stroud in the mid-nineteenth century. The arrival of the GWR was also included. Reproductions of important local oil paintings from the collection at the Museum in the Park further enhanced a thoroughly absorbing afternoon.
Members’ Wartime Memories
The Old Town Hall looked very festive for the Gala Afternoon with tables laid and decorated with a small flower arrangement. There was a small display of wartime items from Oakridge Museum set up by John Loosley and our posters on the theme of ‘Letters Home’ and ‘Childhood in World War II in Stroud’.
Our thanks to everyone who made the afternoon such a success.
The variety of memories was extraordinary, from those of small children to teenagers and an adult playing her part in the war by decoding Japanese messages in Colombo. Some were themselves evacuees from London or the coast. One of these shared a train with exhausted soldiers who had just escaped from Dunkirk. Others received evacuees in their safer part of the country. Both told of their mystification at different life styles, including surprise at the Welsh language. We heard about the difficulty of the army and officials in getting the rural population to take dangers seriously and the use of tear gas to persuade people to understand how to use their gas masks. Speakers related their experiences of bombs, flying bombs and rockets. Some enemy action took place after the evacuees had returned home. They recalled the scary siren, which still alarms whenever it is heard, the trek to air raid shelters and the peculiar smell of bombed and abandoned buildings. One person watched from the coast as Calais burnt. Food was remembered by many including dried eggs, Spam fritters, cod liver oil and orange juice. We heard about gardens dug-up to grow vegetables, pigs in the town garden next door, the blackout, and candles and oil lamps. It wasn’t all bad. Bomb sites made good playgrounds. One speaker met Tommy Handley. Many became more self-sufficient, and people who had lived isolated lives learnt to help each other. One speaker said ‘a sense of humour saw us through’.
After those presentations everyone was ready for an excellent tea with sandwiches and cakes. They went home pleased with an afternoon well spent.
The History of Stroud General Hospital
Medicines were available in Stroud in the 18th century and Gloucester City was so impressed that they tried to follow Stroud’s example.
The Medieval Wool Trade in Gloucestershire & The Merchant of Prato (Italy)
A two part evening started with a talk about the Merchant of Prato and the woollen industry in Florence. Prato merchants looked to the Cotswolds, and especially to the monastery in Cirencester for the best wool. English wool had been used in Florence since the 11th century. This was followed by a talk about the wool trade in Gloucestershire in the Middle Ages. Monasteries were important and excellent wool was produced at Stanway and Beverstone to name just two. Northleach has a number of memorial brasses to local wool merchants who exported widely in Europe and generated considerable wealth, which they invested in local churches and some of the magnificent family houses we appreciate today.
Evening visit to the Museum Stores
17 of us had a very interesting evening and learnt about some of the issues and costs involved in conservation. As only 10% of the museum’s items are on show at the Museum in the Park, there are many thousands of items in storage. We saw fulling hammers; long clocks; statues; a Pedersen cycle; Edwin Budding’s documents for the patent of his lawn mower; an adjustable spanner invented by Edwin Budding; a collection of lace work; a 1890s wedding dress; a land yacht; an embroidery of an aerial view of Cam Mill; pub signs; tools from various local industries; and lots of boxes with small items in them!
An evening Tour of Ebley Mill
We heard about the history of the site and went inside to see some of the original fabric of the building, and where some of the water wheels were.
There was a mill on the site in the 14th century, but what we see today is Clissold’s Mill (the Long Block), and the Bodley Block (which replaced the Marling Block that collapsed after a fire). The visit ended with an opportunity to view old documents and maps of the mill site, and photos of the conversion into the present council building.
Newark Park visit
It was quite an experience to look out of the reception room window on to a vast expanse of rural Gloucestershire with the view that was more or less unchanged by the passing of 460 years since the house was built – no electricity pylons, sweeping motorway, housing estate or even prominent buildings. Newark (‘Newe Worke’ to use its original name) House is situated above wooded hillsides and parkland in the Ozleworth Valley and was built as a hunting lodge for a Tudor courtier. A large part of the stone came from nearby Kingswood Abbey which was dissolved in 1538 and demolished about 1550. In the late 1500s Newark House came into the hands of wealthy London merchants who exported Gloucestershire cloth and imported silk; they added the west portion in the 1670s. In 1769 the Clutterbucks, into cloth and banking, owned the house and modernised it around 1790. The house was then rented out from 1860 to a wealthy widow of a Bristol shipping agent whose family continued to live there until 1949 when the Clutterbuck family bequeathed it to the National Trust.
The Trust rather neglected Newark House letting it to a succession of tenants who converted it to nursing home, in which use it declined further.
It was left to an American anglophile to save Newark House. Bob Parsons saw its potential and took on the tenancy in 1970 and set about saving the property. He died there in 2000 having established a welcoming place of good food and good company. The house remains a National Trust property, and the current tenant, who had worked together with Bob Parsons, took us around and told us of the history, the decline and the redevelopment of this fascinating house.
The Early Letter Post in Gloucestershire
A description of nearly four centuries of the development of the public postal system starting in 1635. King Charles I was short of money and decided to take over the private arrangements then in place for carrying letters and create a national service. A delivery charge to various places was made, based on the number of sheets of paper used, with payment on receipt. The papers were folded with the address written on the outside and taken to the despatch office. The ‘letters’ were carried by a horse riding post-boy, mainly overnight. This could be quite dangerous for the post-boy as there were many highway robberies. It usually took three days for a letter to arrive in London from Gloucester.
Small packages and money could be sent but it was recommended that banknotes were torn in half and each half sent by a separate post to try to reduce pilferage and robbery. Banknotes were numbered in opposite corners for identification and at the time there were many banks each issuing their own banknotes.
The Mail Coach was introduced displaying the Royal Arms in 1784. It was driven by a private person but always accompanied by an official Post Office guard. Regular services between London and the main towns were established. Cross routes linking between these towns to cover the rest of the country were developed.
In 1840 Rowland Hill was instructed by Parliament to improve the system and he introduced the Penny stamp as a prepayment method, and with the same charge for the letter for delivery to anywhere in the country regardless of distance – the same basic principle still applies today. Letter boxes as collection points were introduced soon afterwards and the system developed towards the current day countrywide coverage.
The Cotswold Canals – an update
Guided walk around Painswick
Twenty-three of us enjoyed a very interesting walk around Painswick on 20th May 2009. Our guides were very informative and had arranged for us to visit 2 private gardens – accessed by late 13th century donkey doors. We also had a look inside a private house which had a wonderful plasterwork ceiling.
Painswick is a town, as it was granted a market in 1253, and it was mentioned in the Doomsday Book – a priest lived here in 1086.
• National School 1846, now the library,
• Lych gate 1901– Miss Seddons wood work class carved the bells
• The yew trees planted in 1792 – 99 by legend
• The tomb stones – mostly 1750 to 1850 – flat slabs, chest or altar tombs, and pedestal or tea caddy tombs. Also a vault and a pyramid.
• Musket & cannonball damage to the church from the civil war
• Spectacle stocks – 1840
• Old public baths
• Pub signs on what are now private houses – confusing the tourists
• Roman Catholic Church – you can see where the passage to the abattoir was
• Cloth Hall 1429
• The oldest building to be used as a Post Office in England
• Town Hall 1840 (the previous one was where the war memorial is)
• A Palladian house 1760
• Falcon Hotel 1711 – a coaching inn with a bowling green, that used to have a cock pit
2009 GLHA Summer Meeting Northleach