FEWC - our 2011 discoveries

This page describes what has happened during the third - 2011 - phase of our research into the Field Estate in Stroud. Having taken the summer off for frivolous tasks like family events and holidays and decorating, and lots of gardening, Tony and I will soon be resuming our joint investigations, beginning with a closer look at the buildings and architecture, and trying to find out who did the actual building work (we already know something about those WHEATLEY brothers).

map of The Field estate in 1873

Here is a sketch showing the relationship of The Field estate to the rest of Stroud. You can see how much land was suddenly available and can maybe understand the enthusiasm of local investors at a time when the demand for housing was increasing. The Uplands area had been similarly developed in the 1860s on the northern side of the Slad Road, and there was an appetite in the town for more property development.

Here is a link to my original 2009 research, where I wrote about the ARUNDELL and HAWKINS families who were the early owners of the land, and about the purchase of the whole estate in 1873 by William COWLE. And here is a link to what happened during the 2010 switch of focus to the post-1873 development.

A summary for 2011

Phase three actually started in October 2010, when we made our first mailshot, inviting local residents to turn out their attics and filing cabinets to see what we could borrow for inclusion in our growing research archive. This small pilot brought very satisfactory results that went on to occupy a lot of our time - photographing the old documents and summarising them into material suitable for archiving. We have since delivered mailshots to more houses but not yet all of them. I also wrote an article for the Friends of the Museum's magazine Jackdaw, and a printable summary of our research for those neighbours who do not have computers. By the early summer of 2011 we had been given permission to photograph the title deeds of about 15 houses (we have since had more), and local author Howard Beard (who also lives here) had picked a selection of local postcards from his own collection, to add to our resources.

So we decided to have an Open Day at our local pub in early June. As part of the publicity we put an article in Stroud Life and were interviewed on Stroud FM. It being June, it rained all afternoon on the very pleasant Crown and Sceptre pub on Horns Road, so we squashed onto the verandah instead of spreading out in the garden. The landlord was very accommodating and some of our printouts and maps are still in the bar of the pub for local visitors to browse. As well as a display of his own archaeological findings in The Horns, the valley to the east of The Field Estate, one new collaborator produced a slide show for us of old photographs which ran continuously through the afternoon, in the main bar. Our many visitors included what I think of as the heavy hitters in local history research and we were gratified and encouraged by their comments. It was also pleasing to receive offers of help, armfuls of title deeds, and offers of some very early photographs owned by Owen Kirton. One of them doesn't have a known date at all and we are using the title deeds to tell us which of the houses on the photograph were not yet built. So far this has allowed us to narrow the date-of-photograph to after 1898 and before 1906. Here is The Field Estate detail from his very large panorama - you can see that Horns Road was pretty well filled up on the north side, but Bisley Road still had some interesting gaps. A few more title deeds will help us narrow the date even further.

Stroud panorama photo 1900

Almost all of the 2011 discoveries were the consequence of clues found in Title Deeds. There would be no research archive at all without these key and vulnerable documents. So straight away, we want to say thank you to the modern residents of The Field estate for being so generous, and interested. The staff at the Museum in the Park and the Gloucestershire Archives have also produced unique documents for us to see, photograph and transcribe, and add to our growing archive of what we are now calling The Field Estate of William Cowle. We even have a logo now:

Field estate project logo

which locals might recognise as the viewing tower on his home at Park House - a fitting and appropriate symbol for our very local research project.

So here is a list of the key events and discoveries of 2011. Some of the items lead to a separate page of pictures, or maps, or stories. Others don't, yet, but will do so in due course.


Please note that a natural reluctance to name present residents and owners, or their parents, means we are not going to publish full House Histories online - this website does not have the capacity, for one thing, and we want to wait another year or so to ensure we have as many details as possible. At that stage we will produce a digital file - probably a DVD - containing everything, that will be available to anyone prepared to pay the postage.

Tony's researches into William COWLE himself have uncovered a number of interesting references concerning Stroud town and WC's preoccupation with water supply. In 1854, following a Cholera epidemic the General (National) Board of Health held an Inquiry and recommended that the commissioners became a Local Board of Health. William COWLE was a Commissioner on that Board for many years. The British Library holds a copy of that 1854 report, and so does the local website Stroud-History, so here is a link to that version.

WC's executors had to dispose of his property - his home at Park House, three semi-detached large stone-built houses on The Field Estate (the splended pairs of villas named Westminster/Richmond, Brunswick/Grosvenor, Berkshire/Devonshire), and three business premises in George Street, one of which (No. 4 - the one with the curved glass bay windows) we believe to be his grocery shop. Eventually, despite his bequest to the citizens of Stroud, his observatory had to be disposed of, too, as the noble citizens simply didn't want to use it!


William Cowle and Helen Cowle portraits

Buildings and photographs

Photo annotation

The Field, the Arundel family's home and briefly the home of William and Helen whilst Park House was being built, has kept its secrets from us virtually completely. And we know that William and Helen did live there only because of a series of four very old and discoloured photographs stored at the Museum in the Park, and this very faint annotation in the top right-hand corner. The photograph images are too faded to be displayed here, but they show four views of The Field, surrounded by pleasure gardens and paths. WC's desire to keep development well away from his own back yard meant that The Field and its gardens remained undeveloped until the 1930s. By that time the whole central part of the estate had been bought by one man - Ulrich HOLBOROW - who lived at The Field with his own family. On his death the surrounding land was sold to the Hospital Trustees, who sold off enough land for the Cowle Road houses to be built. Here is a link to the story of the Cowle Road development.

Maps and Plans

Some of these items will link to large files rather than drill-down webpages - [links will be added soon].


We are getting to the stage where we now have images that will be of interest to other family and social historians, so it is time to mention our expectations concerning copyright, if you use any material from this website, or the archive itself.

If you have any doubts, or want to know more, or want to join in, please get in touch with Marion or Tony.

Copyright © Marion Hearfield (email link on left) and Tony Macer (email: tonymacer(at), 2011