Monthly Archives: December 2012

A lucky find on Westcote Hill

No, not a golden idol or even an Anglo-Saxon ornament! But an interesting find, nonetheless. Today the last set of form 37s for the Lloyd George survey were transcribed, for the parish of Westcote (Glos. Arch. D2428/2/171). Far Westcote, Nether Westcote and Church Westcote are named. Nineteen forms at the end were for ‘allotment land’ on Westcote Hill. Seven plots measured 27 perches, one was 24, one 22, two 21, one 17, one 16, two 14, three 8 and one only 3 perches. So they were rather various in size. All were occupied by their owners, and all had different owners,  though there were obviously several members of the same families owning strips.

‘Strips’ is the clue to the origin of these allotments on Westcote Hill. They are survivals of the ancient open-field holdings of medieval farmers. It appears that part of Westcote Hill had been enclosed in 1842, but not all. The strips were said to be farmed in the traditional way in 1905. There had been a demand for small holdings in the parish in 1895, and it may be that these strips were allocated as allotments in response to the agricultural depression being suffered at that time. The Victoria County History volume 6 page 176 ( notes  that they were called ‘allotments’ on the Ordnance survey map of 1922. We know they were called that in 1909.

A few years ago the strips could still be seen running up the hill and separated by grass balks or banks. The separate ownership of the strips ensured that they survived for many years. Can any still be seen?



Christmas @ the Archives: house sales, a flaming santa and reindeers!

On Christmas day in 1347 John Baker sold a house in Mitcheldean to Thomas Wodeward. He was able to gather seven people to witness the sale of the property – they must have received enough food and drink to make it worth their while!

The first reference to Christmas in its shortened form Xmas appears in 1647. In a lease of a ‘messuage and appurtenances’ made between Arthur Weaver and John Bowyer the rent for the property included ‘a fat goose and a couple of capons at Xmas’ (D2153/3/61).

The first reference we have to a Christmas tree is in 1868, when the wife of the Rector of Edgeworth gave a tree to the church (P133 VE 2/1), while the first Christmas carol reference occurs in 1847 when a songwriter (thought to be E. Hodges of Stretton on Fosse) wrote a special carol for Christmas. 

As for Christmas presents, the earliest reference that hints at presents being bought comes from the archive of the Clifford Family of Frampton-on-Severn in 1678, when John Clifford, in his personal account book, lists ‘payments at Christmas’ (D149/A26). By coincidence this volume also gives us the earliest direct reference to another Christmas tradition, that of mumming and mummer’s plays. The same John Clifford also records making payments to mummers and a trumpeter, at New Year, 1677.

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without Father Christmas however and, within the remarkable diaries and notebooks of W T Swift (schoolmaster of Churchdown School in the latter half of the 1800s), is a somewhat bittersweet reference to the great man.  In his diary entry for the 4th February 1885, Mr Swift records that he had “Met Mr. Webb who had been severely burnt about the face and hands while playing Old Father Christmas at Sunday school tea party.” (D3981/14)

Finally as for the creatures that Santa could not do without on Christmas Eve – his reindeers – we have just one reference; the sale of the ‘Reindeer Inn and adjoining house, at Bearland’ in Gloucester in 1884 (GBR/L/6/4/7).

Merry Christmas, and happy New Year!

The Lloyd George survey of land values

Thanks to many volunteers, a mass of material on property values, owners and occupiers for the whole county is being transcribed and loaded onto a website:

Numerous points of interest arise at every session in the Archives Office.

Particularly needed are volunteers to visit The National Archives and photograph the Field Books for parts of the county around Stroud which are missing from the Gloucestershire Archives collection. If anyone thought of doing some photography, please contact either John Loosley (see post on turkish bath) or Anthea, writing here, in order not to duplicate work already done.


Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum

Filled with thousands of cardboard boxes and hundreds of filing cabinets, the galleries of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum hardly looked ready for a party of visitors, but twenty-seven Friends of Gloucestershire Archives were greeted warmly and given a three-part tour by three enthusiastic museum staff. They work tucked into corners amidst the boxes, and in a corner of the upstairs landing is the  tea and coffee-making facilities. Also tucked into corners of the ‘storage galleries’ were small tables with exhibits put out for our interest. To find material was a triumph, but of course they know where everything is stored.

There were examples of Archives files relating to items in the museum, full of interest, but almost completely unknown to visitors; there were fascinating books of William Morris’s writings from the nationally significant but little known Emery Walker collection of books which he published; and there were photographs and papers relating to Cheltenham shops.

Gloucestershire Archives staff walk miles each day collecting and returning material to the storeooms, and they can certainly appreciate the organised chaos of packing everything up and moving it elsewhere. No need to ask if the Museum staff are looking forward to taking possession of their new building  –  after this really interesting glimpse of ‘behind the scenes’, we can now all appreciate the work which will be involved in moving and unpacking.

The afternoon was brought to a warm and hospitable conclusion for the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives with tea and cake in the Well Walk Tea Room.

Turkish Baths

Liz Jack alerted me to this blog. Yesterday I was transcribing the Lloyd George 1909 Survey field books for Cainscross and came across a building that was formerly used as a Turkish Bath. Does anyone know if there has been any research on Turkish Baths in Gloucestershire?

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