Prince Bariatinsky’s Organ

Whilst transcribing some entries from the account books of Theodore Gwinnett, a Cheltenham solicitor,  I came across the following, dated 1809 April 26:

“Paid coachfare in London at different times to Portland Place, etc., making enquiries after Lord Kensington and others and also to Mr Frost, etc., respecting Prince Bariatinsky’s organ.”

Who was Prince Bariatinsky and what or where was his organ?  Does anyone know?


The delights of the Field Books

Several of our Lloyd George volunteers are transcribing entries in the Field Books which are in the National Archives (TNA/IR 58). Every session on the documents, whether Field Books or sources held by Gloucestershire Archives, throws up interesting points. Often at the same time an entry sets us a puzzle in interpretation. Maureen Anderson has come across what she found a rather puzzling description of a property (hereditament 675) called The Knoll in Amerberley, recorded in the Field Book (TNA/IR 58/21298). The house was owned by Mrs E S Dauncey and occupied by Percy C Newman. Here is the description:

Rough cast over brick & red tiled modern residence built on Daily Mail £500 prize plan;
GF Drawing room with dining recess, hall, lavatory, kitchen & scullery combined, pantry;
1st F 4 bedrooms, bathroom & WC (fitted lavatory basins);
Coal house, garden, wood shed, potting shed, drive entrance, gas, s[pring] water

The property was inspected on the 16th April 1915, and was valued at £660; the ground area was 1 ¼ acres.

So it cost £500 to build, and had increased in value by 1909 (the date relevant to the valuation) – but what was the prize plan? The answer is probably the Daily Mail’s Ideal Home Exhibition. The London Museum website ( suggests that the Daily Mail started the exhibition in 1908 to boost newspaper sales and advertising revenue; it was held at Olympia. ‘There were various demonstrations and associated contests, including the Arts and Crafts competition and the architects’ competition to design the ‘Ideal Home’’.

The Knoll may have been entered for the competition rather than actually winning prize money. Does the house still exist and if so can we have a photograph of it please? Has it been altered?

Next Event: Berkeley Castle

Wed 7th August 1.30 pm

Castle staff suggest we assemble at 1.30pm by the gates from the car park to the Walled Garden where we can count heads before going to the ticket office.  Once inside, our guide will meet us by the Guides’ Lodge.

If you arrive early, the Yurt Restaurant will be open for tea / coffee / lunch.  And we will go to the Yurt later for afternoon tea, after the tour and David Smith’s talk.

Any questions to


Strontia works in 1909 and after

Two entries in the Lloyd George 1910 land survey ‘Domesday Book’ for Cromhall [D2428/1/25], transcribed by Mike Beacham, refer to ‘Strontia Works’ [Nos 198-199], valued at twenty-five and twelve pounds per annum respectively. He was surprised and followed them up, sending us some more information.

One entry in the book for Dodington [D2428/1/59] refers to a ‘Strontia Quarry’ [No 143], valued at twenty-five pounds, with another ‘Works’ at Raysfield Farm [No 27] valued at five pounds ten shillings. Being shamefully ignorant of what strontia was or is, a bit of on-line searching, including the Archives’ on-line catalogue, and a fruitful consultation with Anthea brought resolution of a sort. Strontium sulphate, or celestine, is a crystalline compound of strontium found in shallow beds usually not far below the surface, which were ‘mined’ in the opencast manner, with the disturbed grounds back-filled once the celestine, known locally as ‘spar’, had been extracted.

From the late eighteen eighties until World War II the greater part of the world’s requirements for celestine were provided by opencast works in and around Yate in south Gloucestershire, and all hand-dug. Kelly’s 1914 Directory estimated annual exports of 12000 tons – and that’s a lot of shovelling! Although the mineral is found in various countries around the globe – Germany and the USA, for instance – the Yate area workings contained the purest spar, and as such, was highly prized.

The ‘Domesday Book’ for Yate itself [D2428/1/86] shows at least four sites being worked, three of which are valued much higher than the foregoing examples. The ‘Spar quarry’ at Godwins Farm [No 65] and the one at Goose Green Farm [No 290] were both valued at three hundred pounds; spar at a Yate Rocks property [No 332] was worth one hundred, while R.N.Hooper’s quarry at Stanshawes [No 208] was only worth twenty.

The mineral had several uses: it formed part of a German process to make sugar from sugar beet; it burned with a bright red flame and was ideal for making fireworks; as the war approached, again because of its red colour when heated, it was used in the manufacture of ‘tracer’ bullets; and also in incendiary bombs.

After the war, mechanical diggers were used to increase production, but the beds were becoming worked out, and new manufacturing processes could utilise low grade material which was plentiful elsewhere. Stiff competition saw exports more than halved after the end of the war, and although the mining continued for forty years or more, the ‘glory days’ were long gone.

Lower Swell Park

Abbotswood gardens in Lower Swell are amongst the best known in Gloucestershire. The medieval park, on the other hand, which helped to shape the development of the Abbotswood estate and gardens, and provided its name, is not well known. The Park’s clearly defined boundaries have remained distinct, but the name of the park was effectively superceded by Abbotswood in the later nineteenth century. The park has nonetheless remained a distinct feature in the landscape, much of it still with the appearance of parkland.

There has been a flurry of interest in historic and modern parks, partly because the pressure to find land for building threatens their survival. As well as the national register of parks and gardens, we have the Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust. On the first Thursday in the month you may have noticed the researchers in the Archives Office delving into records that illuminate the development of parks and gardens. Each volunteer takes a site. My interest has become medieval parks, of which there were many but few have been researched.

There is a nice collection of material in the Archives relating to Lower Swell park, which in 1659 was bought by Sir Robert Atkyns, and was inherited by his son, another Sir Robert, author of The Ancient and Present state of Glostershire, published in 1712. This volume is particularly interesting to the GGLT researchers because a large number of full page engravings of great houses in the county were included, commissioned from the Dutchman Johannes Kyp. They are birds eye views, despite no helicopters or balloons to aid the artist, and they show the surroundings as well as the buildings. Naturally there is one of Sir Robert Atkyns’ house at Lower Swell, known as The Bowl or The Boulde. It is fascinating to compare the detail in the engraving with what is known of the park about a century later.

The park covered 250 acres, and stretched from the Fosse Way at Stow to the road linking Lower Swell with Upper Swell, and was bounded north and south by two more roads, so defining it quite unmistakeably. The new house called Abbotswood was built on a part of the park; ‘Abbots Wood’ was an alternative name for the park because it had once belonged to Hayles Abbey.

Volunteer researchers and GGLT members are warmly welcomed! For details please see GGLT website.

A windmill in Almondsbury

Excitement – one property surveyed in 1909 for the Lloyd George survey of land values (Gloucestershire Archives D2428/1/3) was described as a windmill, and this was the first time that we had come across one – mills, yes, flour mills, yes, but no windmills. Of course, by 1909 the contribution of windmills to the nation’s flour supply, produced by means of this early medieval technology, however up-dated with new pieces of equipment it might have been, was very tiny, if any at all. Large steam-powered flour mills had displaced both wind and water mills.

One of the volunteers transcribing the 1909 data, M J A Beacham, is also author of Mills and Milliing in Gloucestershire (Tempus, Stroud, 2005). Could he tell us something about the Almondsbury windmill? After some searching and to and fro-ing in email communication, it turns out that all was not as it seemed.

The owners in 1909 of the property described as ‘windmill’ were the trustees of Almondsbury Memorial Trust, and there was a note that formerly it had been part of Woodhouse Farm. Recourse to the Ordnance Survey map revealed a windpump on Woodhouse Farm at this date. Would this have been called a ‘windmill’? Researchers were sceptical. The history of windpumps on farms, which were once quite numerous, is yet to be written, Mike comments.

A real windmill may have existed on Almondsbury Hill from the mid-seventeenth century. There was certainly one marked on Isaac Taylor’s map of Gloucestershire dated 1777; windmills provided very helpful landmarks to travellers. Two years before Taylor’s map, a lease of a windmill in Almondsbury (GA D674/a/E29), shows it to have been part of the Knowle estate of William Bromley Chester; Col. Chester-Master owned Woodhouse Farm in 1909, suggesting this was tbe the windmill we were looking for. It was marked on the OS 1830 map (surveyed perhaps twelve years earlier) as circular in plan, and may have been a tower mill of brick or stone, with the latter more likely. By 1843 only ‘Windmill field’ was marked on the tithe map. The windmill probably ceased work at about the same time as the one in Falfield a few miles to the north.

The Almondsbury Memorial Trustees still own Windmill field, but in 1909 it was only the memory of a windmill. The search has been interesting, and our thanks to Mike who has contributed substantially to this account.

Valentine’s Day

Posted by Admin on behalf of Elizabeth Jack

On 14th February 1924 (in G.A. Ref: D37/1/510) Maynard Ciolchester Wemyss wrote to the King of Siam:

It is curious how customs and habits change. Today is Valentine’s Day and when I was young & in fact for some time afterwards, it was widely recognised as the chief day in the year for the love-lorn youths and maidens to exchange tokens of their affection. I believe the custom began with verses always supposed to be the production of the sender. I believe these date back for a great number of years. I think Pepys refers to them & very likely he was author of many amatory verses. Then I believe came the time when the love-lorn swain was himself the Valentine to be accepted as such or rejected by the lady of his choice though I don’t think her acceptance implied necessarily anything but a very temporary arrangement. Then much later on came the Penny Post and with it the printed and illustrated Valentine no longer the prided product of the sender and though the swain was only, at first, supposed to send one, the maiden might rake in as many as she could get, and regarded them as sort of trophies, somewhat in the light that an Indian warrior regarded the scalps of his enemies. Now-a-days one never hears of such a thing as a Valentine and very few people indeed realize or remember that 14th February has any special history attaching to it. I never could make out how or why the custom came to be associated with St. Valentine. I believe he was a nameless and blameless individual who came to a tragic end. How different is the position and life of a young girl now to what her grandmother’s was in the days when she received tributes of Valentines and perhaps very demurely admitted their receipt. I am conservative enough to feel a little regret when such an innocent and humble little custom as this passes into oblivion. It is one of the vanishing links with the past and I always regret it when these links are broken.