Georgian Cirencester

Nicholas Herbert

Gloucestershire Gargoyles

John Putley

Workers in the Mills

Ian Mackintosh

Llanthony Secunda - History and Current Works

Liz Griffiths

Canals in the Landscape

Tony Condor

Rococo Gardens and William Kent

Roger Turner

Stroud Museum in the Park

Alexia Clark

AGM followed by  David Archard (Slide Show - topic a surprise!)

Our annual outing is a guided tour of Frampton on Severn

Celtic lady rouses worldwide interest

When Neil Holbrook and his small archaeological team began a dig on a derelict garage site on the outskirts of Cirencester in 2011 they did so without any great expectations. However, just below the surface they discovered the remains of about 70 people – a rewarding find indeed. Despite some problems with petrol leakages and gas levels many sections were well preserved and the indications were that it was a 1st/2nd century cemetery.

However, these were not normal graves as Romans at that time cremated their dead. There was also evidence of status, mainly grave goods such as an enamelled bronze cockerel figurine, one of the best ever found in Britain.

Returning in 2015 before new building started on the site, they found more graves – a final total of about 120. One large stone was initially ignored but once cleaned it began to excite great interest. The BBC came to film the lifting and, despite Neil’s fear that it might be nothing, in fact the underside displayed spectacularly clear lettering naming a woman called Bodicacia, a Celtic name meaning victory. But there was a conundrum – the skeleton underneath was that of a man.

The top of the stone was elaborately carved representing the Roman god Oceanus. Obviously the stone had been moved but why and by whom? Maybe Christians who did not want pagan symbols perhaps. The placing of the stone over the grave was deliberate. This is unusual, but there were many unusual features and consequently many questions over interpretation. It has aroused worldwide interest and Neil’s presentation was certainly outstanding – one which other Painswick groups may like to consider.


The Saxons did reach Gloucestershire!

Little physical evidence of Anglo-Saxon Gloucestershire was known until the 19th century when archaeologists began excavating. Whilst many early finds were of pagan burials Gloucestershire in fact appears to have been largely Christian and more Celtic. Carolyn Heighway explained to members at the February meeting that, despite this, several interesting Saxon finds have been made in parts of the county.

By the early 7th century the area mainly comprised scattered farming communities and most people were thus occupied. It was a society dependent entirely on memorising everything from rules, systems, precise boundaries etc. Peasant houses were simple and only recently have archaeologists been able to describe what they may have looked like. The great halls and thegns’ houses by contrast were grand and sophisticated.

Anglo-Saxon minsters were monasteries founded by and for aristocrats as economic and arts centres. Evidence, in particular sculpture, from some of these in Gloucestershire is to be found in several places. Bisley, which was the centre of Bisley Hundred of which Painswick was one village, Lypiatt, Deerhurst and Berkeley all had minsters and still contain examples of Saxon sculpture.

By the 11th century estate sizes had decreased and certainly by the time of the Domesday survey many places had changed. Painswick was clearly established as a market centre, though still very agricultural, and, with a priest listed, probably had a church. Gloucester by this time had become very important with a large population and ten churches.

Quaint and Quirky

At the March meeting of the society Angela Panruka presented just ‘a small selection’ of the many quaint and quirky features to be found in Gloucestershire. This highly entertaining and lively presentation covered a breathtaking range of curiosities, both old and more recent and often to be found in unusual situations.

Starting with animals, such as the Compton Abdale crocodile and the Hartpury beehive, she moved on to the original mediaeval stone wall pew now in Great Barrington churchyard, the wonderful Bisley wells, other wells at Clearwell and Hempstead and the rather concealed well near Flaxley still believed by some to have curative powers. The pagan green man appears in over 40 places including many churches, but the maypole, once a common feature, is now rare. Slightly hidden from view are lock-ups at Northleach, Bibury and Bisley and St Briavels Castle still has a torture chamber – beware you youth hostellers!

Unusual trade signs, village signs, pillar boxes, milestones and fingerposts are numerous as are standing stones, posts and structures bearing legends. Red rose blobs are to be found on walls above doors in the churches of plague villages and stained glass windows often tell a local story. With wonderfully clear pictures these were just a few of the features Angela showed. She was unaware of witch marks (apotropaic marks), many of which are to be found in Painswick, and these will undoubtedly feature in her future presentations to the delight of other audiences.

The extraordinary Berkeleys

The Berkeley family, they of Berkeley Castle, certainly have a colourful history. The direct descendants of a Saxon noble, they have occupied the castle for 26 generations. At the January meeting of the History Society, David Smith, retired county archivist and archivist of the castle since 1980, recounted the family’s extraordinary history.

Given the castle by Henry II as a reward for services rendered during the Stephen and Matilda dispute, they were in the front rank of the peerage system as barons from 1154. Over the following couple of centuries the castle was taken from them several times as they became embroiled in various political rebellions and problems – King John and Magna Carta, the Battle of Bannockburn to name but two occasions.

There is a true wealth of documents, many thousands in fact, stored in the muniments room at the castle and through his work there David has been able to uncover the truth about many incidents including the murder of Edward II there in 1327 and indeed details of extensive building in the 1340s. The family were known as soldiers and politicians but they were also very learned and founded Katherine Lady Berkeley School in the 14th century which was unique at the time.

Unfortunately there were many family disputes over claims to the property culminating at one point in the violent Battle of Nibley Green in the 15th century. The dispute continued at great expense for years. During the Civil War the castle was sieged again, changed hands five times and was badly battered, eventually reverting back to the family. In the 18th century a strong illegitimate line led to a prolonged dispute over ownership claims into and throughout the 19th century. The legitimate line was back by the 20th century and the castle is now definitely the oldest in the country owned continuously by the same family.

What’s in a name?

Well, quite a lot, it would seem. Dr Simon Draper has for the past six years been a member of a team carrying out intensive in-depth research into the origins and meanings of British surnames. At the November meeting of the Society he gave a fascinating presentation on this research and its results, to be published in a new Oxford dictionary on the subject.

Before 1066 there were no surnames. Gradually French place names were adopted by the knight class. Later, some mediaeval surnames or nicknames appeared, usually locative, or topographical eg Ash meaning lives near an ash tree, but also occupational, status, relationship or behavioural eg Noble. These were not necessarily permanent and many people changed their names occasionally such as adopting an employer’s name. They were then recorded as one name plus an alias.

In the 16th century parish records were introduced giving rise to new problems through spellings and aliases. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Welsh began to introduce names as the son of ... and during the 19th century thousands of Irish immigrants brought yet more new names; likewise multi-ethnic immigration in the 20th century. Nonetheless, the research shows that in many cases (60000 names are listed) a surname derives from just one family as DNA testing can now prove.

Previous dictionaries are not reliable compared with this new work which is based on stunningly thorough research. The distribution of names, especially noting where there are large clusters, is a good starting point. However, linguistic meanings and changes of spelling mean the subject is very complicated. This project is an excellent example of geography, history and linguistics working together to produce a fascinating picture of British surnames and Dr Draper’s superb presentation evoked great interest in the subject.

"Old" Frampton Court

Frampton Court, home to the Clifford family since the 12th century, is recognised as a grand house. Its immediate predecessor was much smaller but, as Rose Hewlett explained to the meeting of the Society in October, it was certainly a well-loved and happy family home.
In 1651 Captain John instigated the building of the house which was classically designed and painted in fashionable red. Fortunately for today’s researchers there are several extant documents from the time giving precise details of both the building materials used – exact numbers of bricks, tiles, nails etc - and the contents of every room in the house. A clear picture of the interior can be gained, from the various types of tables, chairs, pictures, carpets, table cloths, books, maps, jewellery and so on down to the stocks of rich foods to be found in the kitchens. Even Captain John’s secret cupboards for hiding money are listed.
His account books and inventories show that he was a fashionable dresser and enjoyed entertaining. His gardens were grand though there was a serious mole problem for which he employed mole, or want, catchers. Overall this was a house of pleasurable living and contented family life. The present house was built In the 1830s by Captain John’s great-grandson.

Chedworth Roman Villa

The Society’s new season began in September with a thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Nick Humphris on Chedworth Villa. Situated close to Cirencester, a town of great importance to the Romans, Chedworth is one of many villas in the area. It is, however, one of the finest and biggest in Britain. With ongoing archaeological work more features are being uncovered, in particular exquisite mosaics and surprisingly intact pieces of fresco work. The workmanship and artistry are exceptional. There were also very sophisticated hypocaust systems in the villa heating the luxurious dining rooms and bathhouses. With a fresh water spring and a small temple this was the scene of luxurious living with grand hunting parties and lavish entertaining. It was very elaborate and the site of some very high status accommodation. With no extant documentary evidence, the owners and occupiers are unknown. However, there is also no evidence that it was the centre of a farming enterprise, the usual practice for Roman villas, and it was therefore probably simply a very luxurious residence.
Started early in the second century the villa, covering two acres, was extended and upgraded over the next two centuries. After the exit of the Romans from Britain the villa went into decline, obliterated by trees and bramble. Rediscovered in 1864 by John Scott the site was cleared and bought by the National Trust in 1924. Some damage was done during the Victorian recovery, for example a hole in the stunning seasons mosaic in a dining room. However, whatis on view today is both stunning and exceptional – well worth a visit.

After the AGM in June two short presentations were given by Barbara Blatchley and Lord Dickinson. Barbara explained that sundials are a truly ancient time-telling system and that the Nutgrove sundial in Painswick, on the wall above the Pharmacy, is an excellent example of the horizontal style. Apparently the oldest mechanical clock, dated 1368, in England is in Salisbury Cathedral.
Recently the lifting of the Hyett ledger tombs in Gloucester Cathedral was the subject of considerable media coverage and Lord Dickinson described how he had been approached by cathedral staff informing him of their intention to install a lift on or near these, his ancestors’, tombs. It was deemed necessary therefore to determine who was in fact interred beneath. The lift will be part of a massive project to improve the cathedral experience for visitors. Lord Dickinson read from Francis Hyett’s family history which notes that the Hyetts were not, apparently, exceptional in any way. He briefly described the lives of some past Hyetts including the death by smallpox of eight children in one branch of the family.


Many of us visit special places perhaps on several occasions and consequently feel we know them well. The Local History Society’s annual outing in May was a guided tour of Gloucester Cathedral and the adjoining historic Parliament Rooms and this was a classic example of debunking that assertion.
Gloucester’s cathedral is without doubt one of the most beautiful and dignified in the country, containing fine examples of architectural and period styles and many important historic features. Magnificent windows, exquisite detailed stonework, fascinating cloisters and breathtaking ceilings – looking upwards to Heaven of course – were just some of the details explained. The recently discovered Hyett tombs and other personal and local features were pointed out and the Parliament Rooms, with Archbishop Laud peering down from over the fireplace, were also a reminder of the past importance of this beautiful building.
With so many different points of interest throughout its many and varied rooms and spaces, this is a local place of beauty and significance, a real gem, which is well worth visiting with a guide. Members were all of the opinion that on future visits they will look at its many points of interest and magnificence with fresh and certainly more knowledgeable eyes.

Providing for the Poor

Not so much in evidence nowadays, poverty was a significant feature of Painswick’s past. At the April meeting of the Society John Loosley explained the effects which the many complex laws concerning the poor had on our ancestors from Tudor times onwards.
Until the Reformation monasteries generally cared for the very poor in society. New laws coincided with an increase in people starting to roam further afield, beggars and vagabonds, described in law as the undeserving poor and hence to be punished. Parishes took on responsibility for providing alms and apprenticeships for the impotent poor and harsh settlement measures were taken to ensure incomers, especially pregnant women, were returned to their original villages.
Painswick had its own poorhouse, approximately where the war memorial now stands, and the poor were generally well treated here. However, all that changed with the building of the Union Workhouses – the local one in Stroud serving 15 parishes and accommodating 500 people – and the new ethos was one of punishment and harsh treatment.
John’s presentation concluded with several examples of Painswick’s reluctance to take responsibility for the poor arriving here but also its willingness to pay for apprenticeships for poor children.


A Working Life on the Severn

At the March meeting of the Society Chris Witts talked of his early life on the working barges now no longer seen on the River Severn. The river’s main function now is as a source of our water, a sort of moving reservoir, but until 20 or so years ago it was one of the busiest waterways transporting cargo in the country.

Chris left school in 1960 and started his working life on the Shell Steelmaker, a very modern craft for its time. Established crews were tough as befitting the life on board, not easy for a youngster. He told the story of the major disaster that caused the bridge collapse and the death of five men. The very nature of the Severn with its dramatic tidal movements combined with poor weather conditions constantly made for difficult sailing conditions.

Chris spent the next few years as part of a crew of four, a tough life but one of interdependency and a valuable experience. He described the importance of the Sharpness Canal locally and the real significance of the barges. After some years he joined the Fire Service but after retiring in 1990 he worked on a grain barge, later becoming the skipper. As bigger, faster roads were constructed the movement of what had been a vast range of cargoes via the river came to a halt and by 1998 it had all but finished.

At the February meeting of the Society Dr Steven Blake gave a truly eye-opening presentation on the wealth of interest along the Cotswold Way. Taking a thematic approach he covered the rich heritage of ancient monuments to be seen such as Belas Knap, four and a half thousand years old and still retaining some original stonework, and Hetty Peglars Tump at Uley. Then on to those representing the Iron Age hillforts, such as Crickley Hill and Old Sodbury, and on to the Roman occupation represented by villas and large farmsteads, Witcombe Villa being a superb example.
Winchcombe was a very important town in Mercia during the Anglo-Saxon period. Its magnificent Benedictine abbey has gone but together with  Hailes Abbey was probably on the route trodden by medieval pilgrims. Some wonderful smaller medieval churches such as that close to Hailes are by contrast in excellent condition. In fact, the church, especially from the 12th and the 16th centuries is a continuous feature along the Way as is the manor, for example that at Stanway. The two are often juxtaposed, perhaps the most spectacular example being at Dyrham.
The Black Death, the Reformation, the Civil War etc are evident in one form or another along the 100 mile route as are famous men and women  often represented by monuments such as Broadway Tower, Tyndale monument at North Nibley and Sudeley Castle (the Tudors). Closer in time, the agricultural and industrial revolutions are evident especially in the Stroud area with its mills and railway.
And finally, there are many WW2 features and the nuclear bunkers at Broadway. Three seasonal events not to be missed along the Way – Clipping at Painswick, Cheese Rolling on Coopers Hill and the Cotswold Olympic Games at Camden.
Members agreed – a walk along the Cotswold Way will be a richer visual experience fromnow on!


At the January meeting of the Society John Putley, of Gloucestershire Archives, gave a spirited and inspiring presentation on the subject of local highwaymen. Using artefacts, (he came armed with pistols), posters, paintings, newspaper cuttings and thoroughly researched information he examined the history of highway robbery from its 18th century heyday to its 19th century demise.
Step by step John debunked the romantic image of the highwayman. He showed that in fact the ‘profession’ was a particularly nasty one usually followed by ex-soldiers but also by servants, young men in debt from wealthy families and bankrupt tradesmen. They often worked with gangs and accomplices and a network of informants especially pub landlords and servants. They seldom held up large coaches full of passengers and preferred to rob lone travellers as it was easier and there was less likelihood of being shot themselves.
Carrying two pistols, each of which took at least five minutes to load, a knife or dagger, a bag for the cash (their only real interest) and wearing a scarf not a mask they generally rode on stolen or hired horses. Women dressed as men were also proponents.
Locally such robberies took place around towns such as Gloucesterand Cirencester and on main roads such as what is now the A46, theA40 and the road near Birdlip. Notorious county highwaymen includedthe Dunsdon brothers, Tom Long, the Pinnell brothers and William Crew.
Rewards were offered for the capture of highwaymen and it was indeed a risky career as robbery on the King’s highway and drawing a pistol carried the death sentence. Such executions - hanging and gibbeting - always drew crowds of thousands and they gained superstar treatment over many years, even to this day in fact.