Economic History

(Victoria History of Gloucestershire XIII, draft text by John Juřica: © University of London 2011)


(Victoria History of Gloucestershire XIII, draft text by John Juřica: © University of London 2011)


The Middle Ages

In 1086 the demesne land on Gloucester abbey’s estate at Leadon was worked by two ploughteams and its tenants included eight villans and one bordar with eight ploughteams between them. The estate, then worth scarcely 30s., also included 10 a. of meadow.[1] In the early 16th century the abbey administered its property in Upleadon and Highleadon together but leased its demesne in the two places separately,[2] that in Upleadon being in the hands of the Keys family by 1515.[3]

Little else is known about agriculture in Upleadon in the medieval period. Surname evidence points to the presence of a shepherd there in the later 13th century[4] and sheep farming is attested by the record of a sheepcot on the manor in the early 15th century, when the customary tenants’ dues included payments for keeping pigs.[5]

The Early Modern Period

In the 16th and 17th centuries Upleadon contained open arable fields and common meadows that were, or had been, extensive. Traces of ridge and furrow evident to the north of Upleadon Court[6] indicate that the open fields covered some of the land on the east side of the parish close to the river Leadon as well as the higher land. In the 17th century they included the Rudges on Eden’s hill and also areas called the Doles,[7] Oketts, Brunscroft, and Hind Town.[8] Much of Hind Town field in the centre of parish to the west and south of Middletown had been inclosed by 1700[9] but part of it remained open in the late 18th century together with the Parsonage Close on Eden’s hill on the south side of Forge Lane.[10] There was also open-field land in a south field[11] and an area called Suffields Yate.[12]

            The common meadows, one of which was called Cow meadow in 1695,[13] were located beside the river Leadon, among them Bunn meadow in the north and the Ham in the east upstream of Upleadon mill between the river and the old course of the Glynch brook. Cold meadow was further downstream between river and the brook’s old course and Lyd meadow, recorded from 1656,[14] was possibly the same as Leachford meadow, which stretched back from the river beside the Ell brook on Upleadon’s southern boundary and in which Middletown farm had a share in 1700.[15]

            Farming in Upleadon, as elsewhere in the region, had a strong pastoral component in the early modern period. Cattle and sheep were raised and the investigation in 1597 of a theft of 15 cheeses from one house in Upleadon is early evidence for the place of dairying within the local economy.[16] In the 18th century there were extensive corn fields and a third of the parish, the land adjoining the Leadon, was pasture and meadow.[17] In the middle of the century arable land was usually fallowed every third year[18] and in 1739 it was reported that the tenants on Thomas Hammond’s estate received an allowance for liming their land.[19] Four fifths of the 395 a. reported as being cropped in the parish in 1801 were under corn, mostly wheat, and the remainder was devoted to peas and beans.[20]

Cider orchards were cultivated next to many of the farmsteads including Middletown before 1700.[21] In 1627 a garden was known as the cherry hay and in 1678 an arable close was called perry grove field.[22] In 1739 it was reported that Thomas Hammond’s estate included several thousand fruit trees from which one tenant had made 100 hogshead of cider in a year[23] and in the late 1770s it was said that the fruit from orchards in Upleadon made excellent cider.[24]  Among orchards planted in the corn fields by the early 19th century were several of squash pears[25] and in leasing Lower House farm in 1817 the landowner James de Visme reserved pear but not apple windfalls.[26] Both apple and pear trees were also cultivated at Middletown which was one of the farmsteads with its own cider mill.[27]

From the 1830s

In 1831, when the resident population included 47 agricultural labourers, all but one of the eight famers employed labour.[28] Of the farms based on farmsteads in Upleadon in 1851 Upleadon Court covered 432 a. and employed 23 labourers. Five other holdings worked between 100 and 230 a., among them Hay farm[29] which had long been amalgamated with Hogsend farm in the adjoining part of Newent.[30]Three farms of between 22 and 36 a. also provided some employment and a farm bailiff lived on Edens Hill.[31]

In 1861, when Middletown was occupied by a farm bailiff, the largest farms were based on Upleadon Court (470 a.) and Lower House (380a.).[32] On acquiring Upleadon Court in 1882 J.D. Birchall[33] installed a manager to run the farm alongside the home farm on his Upton St Leonards estate but in 1885 he handed the Upleadon farm back to a tenant.[34] At that time a bailiff managed Drew’s and Bayton’s farms for Henry Thompson.[35]

            In the late 19th century nearly all the land was worked by tenant farmers. Only two of the eighteen agricultural occupiers returned for Upleadon in 1896 owned any land.[36] Of nineteen holdings returned in 1926 one comprised over 300 a., four between 100 and 150 a., two between 50 and 100 a., three between 20 and 50 a. and the rest were smaller.[37] In 1956 eighteen holdings were returned with one comprising over 300 a., five between 100 and 150 a., and one between 50 and 100a. Of the smaller holdings seven had less than 5 a.[38] In 1966 most of the agricultural land was divided between six farms.[39]

            Apart from a small area of Hind Town field inclosure of the arable fields had been completed by the mid 19th century.[40] In 1866 the 497 a. of arable returned for the parish included 224 a. under wheat, 69 a. under other cereals and pulses, and 183 a. under clover, grass leys, roots, and cabbages. Permanent pasture accounted for 495 a.[41] and among the livestock returned were 177 sheep, 160 cattle (including 38 milch cows), and 88 pigs.[42] Several farms had resident dairymaids, among them Upleadon Court,[43] a mixed farm which included a large flock of sheep in the mid 1880s.[44]

            In the later 19th century some arable land was turned to meadow or pasture. That process continued after 1905, when Upleadon contained 405 a. of arable and 795 a. of permanent grassland,[45] and 948 a. was returned as grassland in 1926. Accordingly the area devoted to cereals decreased and the numbers of sheep and beef and dairy cattle increased, with 195 breeding ewes and 82 milch cows being among the animals returned in 1926.[46] In 1956, when 147 a. was returned as growing cereals, 210 breeding ewes and 135 milch cows were reported and there was commercial poultry farming within Upleadon.[47] The area of orchards was returned as 44 a. in 1896 and 30 a. in 1956.[48] One farmer ran a business as a fruiterer from the 1890s[49] and several farms retained their cider mill and press after the First World War.[50]


Little of the ancient woodland that belonged to Gloucester abbey’s estate in Upleadon in 1086[51] remained standing in the early 16th century. Then Corn grove and Elm grove, in an area next to the Leadon that the abbey had been licensed to impark in 1333,[52] were leased as pastures with Upleadon mill.[53]

In the modern period Upleadon’s woodland (43 a.) was contained in coppices on the west side of the parish,[54] where in the late 17th and early 18th century there were one or two areas of common woodland next to the Rudges open field on Eden’s hill.[55] In 1739 the majority of the timber trees on Thomas Hammond’s estate, which had coppices covering 32 a., were oaks but only a few of them were available with some elms and ash for repairs.[56] In the mid 18th century coppices within the parish were cut generally on a cycle of 13–16 years.[57] There were regular sales of timber from Upleadon in the early 19th century.[58]


Upleadon mill, recorded from 1086 as part of Gloucester abbey’s estate,[59] was situated on the river Leadon at the confluence of the Glynch brook. The river’s course above the site has been embanked and partially stone lined to serve as a leat.[60] The abbey entered agreements with landholders immediately upstream in Staunton (Worcs., later Glos.) to guarantee the flow of water to the mill and to enable repairs to the mill pond after flooding.[61] 

Although a customary holding, the mill was included with the fishery in the estate held by the Keys family from the abbey in the early 16th century,[62] and it was operating, presumably as a corn mill, in the early 17th century.[63] By 1697 the site was occupied by a forge[64] which was used by the Foleys to process pig-iron brought from their Ellbridge furnace outside Newent.[65] The forge, of which Rowland Pytt was lessee in 1777, was unoccupied in 1783 when a Stourbridge (Worcs.) ironmaster provided details about the site and the lease,[66] and it had been replaced by a flour mill by the beginning of the 19th century.[67] The mill, which occupied a new building,[68] was worked in the 1850s by the Allaways, farmers at Upleadon Court, in an operation restricted to one set of stones[69] and it was occupied in 1871 by a miller employing two men.[70] Following the installation of electricity the Dunns, who had taken over Upleadon Court farm, used the mill until 1995 to produce animal feed. The mill’s undershot wheel remained in place in the early 21st century.[71]


A bakery in Upleadon needed repair in 1412.[72] In 1608 none of the men included in the muster roll for Upleadon was described by a craft or a trade.[73] A clothier was among parishioners in 1678[74] and a tailor was present in 1751.[75] A tinman from Leicester lived in Upleadon at his death in 1761,[76] a time when a forge stood on the site of Upleadon mill.[77] 

            In the early 19th century only a handful of Upleadon’s families followed a trade or handicraft.[78] Several carpenters and wheelwrights worked there in the later 19th century[79] and a smithy at the crossroads on Eden’s hill continued to operate until after the First World War.[80] In additional to basic rural crafts basket making was also represented in Upleadon in the later 19th century. That craft presumably used withies cut from osier beds lining the river Leadon and its tributaries and the principal practitioner, established by the early 1860s, continued in business in the 1900s.[81] A hurdle maker was among employers living in Upleadon in 1891.[82]

            A shopkeeper lived on Upleadon green in 1815[83] and there was a shop at a house by the Gloucester road at the junction of the road to Okle green (Golden Valley) in 1840.[84] The parish had several shops in the mid 19th century, with two agricultural labourers running grocery businesses in 1861.[85] The parish retained two shops in the late 1880s and had one shop in the 1930s. In the 1860s a carrier operating from Pool Hill, in Pauntley, provided a carrying service between Upleadon and Gloucester on Saturdays and in the 1870s and 1880s an Upleadon woman and a business in Corse ran similar services.[86] In the late 1920s a motor bus owner lived in Upleadon.[87]

            Following the Second World War Upleadon’s population increasingly worked away from the parish in Gloucester and other centres.[88]

[1]           Domesday Book (Rec. Com.), I, 165v.

[2]           Valor Eccl. II, 409.

[3]           Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb. Malvern, I, ff. 15v.–16, 196v.–197v.; II, f.

150 and v.; see above, manor.

[4]           D 936a/ M 1, rot. 6d.

[5]           Ibid. M 4.

[6]           SMR Glos. no 30011.

[7]           GA, D 2079/III/20; D 892/T 91; D 2957/320/6, 16, 19, 22–3.

[8]           Ibid. D 892/T 91.

[9]           Ibid. D 6/P 1.

[10]         Ibid. E 4, no 3; E 5.

[11]         Ibid. D 2379/2.

[12]         Ibid. D 602.

[13]         Ibid. D 892/T 91.

[14]         Ibid. D 2094/31, deed 8 Mar. 1715/16; D 602; D 2176/1/2/5; D

2957/320/3, 9–10; GDR, T 1/188.

[15]         GA, D 6/P 1.

[16]         BL, Harl. MS 4131, f. 502.

[17]         Rudder, Glos. 784; Rudge, Hist. of Glos. II, 49.

[18]         GA, D 936/E 193.

[19]         Ibid. D 678/1 F12/1/328.

[20]         1801 Crop Returns Eng. I, 179.

[21]         GA, D 6/P 1.

[22]         Ibid. D 2079/III/20; D 2957/320/3, 9.

[23]         Ibid. D 678/1 F12/1/328.

[24]         Ibid. D 936/E 194.

[25]         Rudge, Hist. of Glos. II, 49.

[26]         GA, D 2957/320/1.

[27]         Ibid. D 6/E 3/2–3.

[28]         Census, 1831.

[29]         TNA, HO 107/1960.

[30]         GA, D 4587/2; VCH Glos. XII, 31.

[31]         TNA, HO 107/1960.

[32]         Ibid. RG 9/1760.

[33]         Above, manor (Upleadon manor: Upleadon Ct.).

[34]         Diary of a Victorian Squire, ed. D. Verey (1983), 136–7, 139, 147, 185–


[35]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1885). 610; (1889), 930.

[36]         TNA, MAF 68/1609/16.

[37]         Ibid. MAF 68/3295/15.

[38]         Ibid. MAF 68/4533/174.

[39]         GDR, V 15/1/110.

[40]         Ibid. T 1/188 (nos 230–2).

[41]         TNA, MAF 68/26/17.

[42]         Ibid. MAF 68/25/4.

[43]         Ibid. HO 107/1960; RG 9/1760.

[44]         Diary of a Victorian Squire, 137,139, 147, 186.

[45]         Acreage Returns, 1905.

[46]         TNA, MAF 68/1609/16; MAF 68/3295/15. 

[47]         Ibid. MAF 68/4533/174.

[48]         Ibid. MAF 68/1609/16; MAF 68/4533/174.

[49]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1894), 334; (1914), 359.

[50]         GA, D 2299/1801.

[51]         Domesday Book (Rec. Com.), I, 165v.

[52]         Cal. Pat. 1330–4, 478; above, introd. (landscape).

[53]         Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb. Malvern, I, ff. 108–9, 196v.–197v.; II, f.

150 and v.

[54]         See GDR, T 1/188.

[55]         GA, D 2957/320/9, 15, 23.

[56]         Ibid. D 678/1 F12/1/328.

[57]         Ibid. D 936/E 193–4.

[58]         Ibid. D 6/E 3/4; D 2080/404, 683.

[59]         Domesday Book (Rec. Com.), I, 165v.; Tax. Eccl. 171.

[60]         S. Mills and P. Riemer, The Mills of Gloucestershire (1989), 90.

[61]         Hist. & Cart. Mon. Glouc. I, 375; III, 29–31.

[62]         Glouc. Cath. Libr., Reg. Abb.Malvern, I, ff. 108—9, 196v.–197v.

[63]         GA, D 326/E 10; GDR wills 1624/146.

[64]         GA, D 2957/320/29.

[65]         Bodleian, Top. Glouc. c. 3, f. 137; B.L.C. Johnson, ‘New Light on the

Iron Ind. of Forest of Dean’, Trans. BGAS 72 (1953), 135–6 and n.; see

VCH Glos. XII, 274–5.

[66]         Glouc. J. 23 Sept. 1776; 29 Sept. 1783.

[67]         Rudge, Hist. of Glos. II, 49.

[68]         DoE List, Upleadon (1985), 4/273.

[69]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1856), 380–1.

[70]         TNA, RG 10/2607.

[71]         R. and P. Palmer, Secret River: an exploration of the Leadon Valley

(2004), 48.

[72]         GA, D 936A/M 4.

[73]         Smith, Men and Armour, 64.

[74]         GA, D 2957/320/8, 10.

[75]         Ibid. D 214/T 84.

[76]         TNA, PROB 11/864, ff. 182–2.

[77]         Above (corn mill and ironworks).

[78]         Census, 1811; 1831.

[79]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1856 and later edns).

[80]         OS Map 1:2,500, Glos. XVII.11 (1884, 1823 edns).

[81]         TNA, RG 9/1760; RG 10/2607; RG 13/2421; Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1863

and later edns).

[82]         TNA, RG 12/2008.

[83]         GA, P 346/IN 1/6.

[84]         GDR, T 1/188 (no 200).

[85]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1856), 381; (1863), 367; TNA, RG 9/1760.

[86]         Kelly’s Dir. Glos. (1863 and later edns).

[87]         GA, P 346/IN 1/6.

[88]         See GDR, V 15/1/110.


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