Amberley

Gloucestershire

History - Page 2

Article Index

 

It seems surprising that when this newborn Parish was brought to its christening and someone said "Name this child" it was Amberley that emerged, not Littleworth or either of the other settlements around it. Possibly the fact that the Methodist Church was known as Littleworth may have been the determining factor because the only part which seems to have been previously known as Amberley was the area between Spriggs Well and where the Amberley Inn now stands, and this was part of Amberley Coppice.

 

The only Amberley place name in a document written before 1066 is, strangely enough, The Drillies. The word can mean either a dry pasture or path and seems to be the name given to the area enclosed by the earthworks on the Common between the Post Office and the Pines. This may have been a large stockade with a path leading out across what is now the road in front of the school, and entering the dense woods which largely covered the hillside between Nailsworth and the space occupied by Amberley Churchyard today.

This document is a Charter connected with grants of Church land and is included in the records of the old Hamptun manor. It apparently states that, in the reign of Alfred the Great, AD 871-901, there were disputes about the Parish boundaries of that time. Apparently, the boundary marks were to be cleared of all undergrowth and the inhabitants were to walk from mark to mark until they knew their exact positions. The name Amberley does not appear in these old documents or in the later manorial rolls but it seems almost certain that it existed, not as a village, but as a place where the people assembled to beat the bounds.

 

AmberleyThe growth of the area since the Churches were built can best be seen by studying maps and census records of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Old tithe maps of 1804 and 1839 give indications of some 30 to 40 and around 100 dwellings respectively, suggesting some 150 to 200 persons for the former, and around 500 for the latter. Census figures for the middle of the 19th century show a dramatic rise to well over 300 dwellings and a population of around 1600. It is fair to point out that the 1804 map only included the area from Watledge to Lower Littleworth, while the 1839 figures included the whole of Houndscroft to the Bear Inn. The population figures drop to some 1250 by the end of the century, probably because of the creation of Nailsworth Parish from parts of Avening, Horsley and Hamptun manors in 1892. This figure appears to have been maintained throughout the 20th century up to the time of the second world war.

 

To close, it is worth looking at the ways of traveling from the Parish to other areas such as Minchinhampton, Nailsworth and the Nailsworth valleys several centuries ago. A study of the large Ordnance Survey map for the area shows it criss-crossed with a large number of footpaths and tracks, and it is obvious these were then the only way of getting in and out before the road system we have today was developed. Most of the paths and tracks, which cross the Common to Minchinhampton, Burleigh and Box linked up with others which led through the various woods and fields to points along the Nailsworth valley. Several of these are still usable today as long as one is dressed to suit, but many have become almost completely covered in undergrowth.

 

The map also clearly confirms the fact that the whole Parish area is riddled with underground streams which cascade into the valley stream at many points. A walk along the old railway line from Nailsworth to Woodchester clearly demonstrates this, as there are a considerable number of piped entries into the stream which runs alongside it. Another source of confirmation is the fact that many of the houses for sale during the period from the 1850s until the 1930s were advertised as having their own spring water and/or well supply. Records indicate that before the present water supplies became available, many of the houses had their own wells, most of which have now been filled in or built over.

 

This combination of underground streams and the soil structure has also resulted in several instances of landslip along the hillside during the 19th century. Examples recorded are at Dyehouse when the railway was being built, when apparently one Mr. Tabram went to bed at night with a saw and a hatchet so that he could open his bedroom door when it jammed in the night. There was also a stream below Amberley Court in Theescombe which was only contained by a combination of drains and buttress walls and a further example resulted in the old house at the Highlands being pulled down because it had become unsafe for habitation. It is certain, however, that without this natural water supply, our Amberley may never have existed, as it was a long way from the valley streams.