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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
- One of the first responses to our mailshot was that a neighbour knocked on Marion's front door and presented her with an original plan of the auction Lots. Tony had already been given a copy of the plan for the southern half of the estate and this was the other half! It is very damaged and torn and still waiting for one of us to have the courage to repair it. But what an encouraging start.
- We were given access to the Title Deeds of William COWLE's own Park House, and later a guided tour of the building itself. Key images are in this PDF file of the Park House story.
- The Museum produced William COWLE's own scrapbook - an 80-page day book from the 1890s containing notes, articles, sketches, aides memoire and newspaper cuttings, and some wonderful clues and answers to many of our research queries. The scrapbook had been found in the loft of the Cemetery Lodge in Bisley Road and donated to the Museum in the 1950s. We very carefully photographed every page and the images are now waiting for expert editing. For The Field Estate, a hand-written note on a photograph of The Field (it said "H. Cowle - grandfather's sister's house") suddenly put James BROWN, WC's Leamington-born counterman in Stroud and buyer of a block of Lots at the auction, into a believable context. His prominence within The Field Estate development had been a real puzzle until he surfaced as the son of Helen COWLE's sister Emma, who had married and moved to Leamington Spa. Simple when you know the answer, but it took weeks of work to follow the thread. In the meantime here is a list of the contents, with a few illustrations of the original pages.
- The Stroud Local History Society opened its archives and book collection for us, and let us identify maps and papers that can be used in conjunction with the research archive. Here is a link to their own website, where you can see a copy of their catalogue, as well as an impressive collection of transcripts, stories and images of the Stroud area.
- Title Deeds are surfacing that go right back to the very first transactions following the 1873 auction. These are wonderful and provide a really useful list of local names, and the great and the good who lent money as mortgages. Building Societies had not really got started, although George HOLLOWAY soon put that right. Here is a transcript of his thoughts about the benefits of home ownership.
- A copy of George HOLLOWAY's will and probate turned up in a set of Title Deeds. This clearly shows his early connections with the various Lypiatt and Dorington terraces, despite the cover-up attempted by the auctioneers.
- Marion is creating a one-page summary for each of the original 103 building lots, to say who bought it, what was built there, and when.
- Every set of Title Deeds that is lent is photographed by Tony and then Marion makes a summary of all the events into a House History, taking particular care to include all the pre-1950s names and addresses, and how much they paid (you would be astonished).
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!
- The link between the mysterious front man Reuben Underhill GREENHILL and the 1873 auctioneers finally surfaced - here is a link to that story.
- Thanks to the Museum in the Park, we now have photographs of both William and Helen COWLE:
- When William COWLE died on the last day of 1899, Park House was bought by Mr James TRATT. Except the title deeds showed that the money had actually come from his wife Alice Beatrice. The story of Alice Beatrice, her guardian (business partner of James, local businessman and Sunday School superintendent) David WILLIAMSON, and the origins of the Hill Paul building, took us off in all sorts of directions, but despite great and ingenious efforts we still do not know for certain which of the KIDDLE sisters was her mother.....
- Entries in WC's day book led us to more information about his wife Helen COWLE and her own BIRT family, and to the discovery of a great-great-great(?)-nephew living in Kent, who came to visit for the weekend of our Open Day in June. That was very satisfying, and it was his wife who unearthed the family link between Helen and James BROWN, one of the key players in the development of The Field Estate, so thanks and kudos go to Gill.
- Marion continued her digging into the earlier ARUNDELL family history and the bitter arguments over the final transfer of ownership from ARUNDELL to HAWKINS; this is still work-in-progress.
- A direct descendant of the local WHEATLEY family of builders produced title deeds to show what they had built, and later lived in. Whilst researching this link, Marion discovered another member of the family living in Devon, who was very interested and helpful. We want to expand the Wheatley Brothers' story this year.
- Marion transcribed a list of all the staff and patients in Stroud General Hospital in the 1881 census, for the Friends of the Hospital.
- William COWLE was not the only local grocer to do well. Mr Joseph STONE invested very carefully in a range of properties across The Field estate and when his widow died her 1932 will listed the ones still giving her a nice rental income:
- a dwellinghouse known as Branfield [Brantfield], Bisley Road [that is where she – and he – had lived. And the title deeds of 18 Bisley Rd say that she was living at No 16, which identifies Brantfield as No 16.]
- 4 cottages known as 1, 2, 3 and 4 Lower Churchfield Road Cottages
- 4 cottages known as 1, 2, 3 and 4 Churchfield Road Cottages
- 4 cottages at Mount Pleasant, Bisley Old Road [possibly 1,2,3,4]
- 4 cottages known as 1, 2, 3 and 4 Montpellier Cottages, Bisley Old Road [now 5, 6 and 7 Mt Pleasant: Nos 7 and 8 were knocked through in the 1960s]
- 6 cottages (Nos 1 to 6) and workshop at Daisy Bank
- 3 cottages in Bisley Old Road [Title Deeds of 39 Bisley Road suggest they were what is now 22,26,28 BOR]
- Work on the census transcripts has not progressed as fast as we hoped. Many of the late 19thC residents came from other parts of the country but Marion doesn't yet have enough to start her analysis of where and why.
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.
- However, one resident in the late 1950's was a Reverend Professor - Dr H H ROWLEY - who found the place in a dilapidated condition and set about restoring it, such that by the completion of works, he was able to house in a library his collection of 14,000 books - his life's collection while working in his capacity as a world authority on Hebrew languages and literature. And we found that little gem in a newspaper cutting stored in the title deeds of a house on Cowle Road.
- Park House is now owned and run by the local health authority, who were very helpful and interested, and gave us free rein and a clear desk to photograph whatever we wanted from the title deeds; these images will form part of the research archive. And more has been learnt about the creation and development of the Hospital from a talk given by Dr Lamb of the Friends of the Hospital. It's an institution for the people of Stroud but, until nationalisation of the Health Service, was very much part of the local people, too. Paul Hawkins Fisher wrote about the early days of Stroud's hospitals in his 1871 Notes and Recollections of Stroud, with the story continuing in John Libby's Twenty Years History of Stroud, 1870-1890. And there is a good summary on the Stroud Local History Society's website.
- Southfield - next door to Park House - is now owned by Glos County Council, who have very kindly just sent us copies of the title deeds, which show how its use has varied over the years.
- Deben House - Tony and I were invited by the present owners to admire their restoration of what was originally called Surrey Lodge - the first house to be built along the Lots facing the London Road - and to see the original woodwork in the attics. The first occupant appears in the 1901 census: Mr Thomas DANGERFIELD, General Carrier born Dodmarton, Oxfordshire. But his name first appears in The Field Estate archives as one of the original Lot buyers – he bought Lot 5 at the 1873 auction – so he clearly had long-term plans. In the 1897 Kelly’s directory he is listed as a beer retailer and carrier based in Gloucester Street. In 1911 he is still at Surrey Lodge, now describing himself as a cab proprietor (whilst his sons do the carting!). In the late 1950s a local garage owner Henry DANIELS took over and the business premises he started are still there, in the form of Bristol Street Motors.
- We also confirmed our expectations that most of the houses were rented, at least to begin with. In 1905 the annual rent for 1 Upper Field Terrace was £9 6s + rates. In 1920, 67 Horns Road was bought for £210; the monthly mortgage repayment was £2 3s 11s. In 1939, 37 Bisley Road was sold for £450; 1962: £2,400; 1988: £86,500. So you can see how much can be found in Title Deeds!
- Tony is collecting a good set of information about local quarries as sources of the building stone - including contact with the people who now live next to the Coneygre quarry (just up the valley), the cottages restored in the original Arundell Mill, and a visit to Balls Green stone mine near Box, of which much more later.
- He also arranged for Nigel Paterson (author of a book about the vernacular architecture and buildings of Stroud and Chalford) to visit Daneway - one of the original Arundell buildings that formed part of The Field itself and seems to be one of the original Arundell buildings. There is a most intriguing scratch on one of the windows in that house - The S facing dormer window sill has some initials RW, HW, SW and the date 1674, although we don't yet know who scratched them.
- Our collection of photographs is growing steadily. In March 2011 we realised if we did not get across to Rodborough Common before the trees came into leaf we would have no chance of creating our own panorama photograph of the complete estate. The climbing frame and platforms in the children's playground there came in very useful. One neighbour also lent us a 1932 aerial photograph of this part of Stroud. And we have quite a few photographs of individual houses.
Some of these items will link to large files rather than drill-down webpages - [links will be added soon].
- Stroud District Council has granted a licence for the researchers to use copies of various Ordnance Survey maps for our backroom work. The Crown Copyright on these is very tight and any publication - even here - has to have specific permission. So we are a bit restricted but we do have paper copies that we can display at exhibitions, and we can probably get away with using snippets in illustrations. The key map has been a copy of the modern OS very-large-scale map that Marion has been able to overlay with the plan of the original auction lots, and she is now gradually colouring in the buildings to illustrate the various stages of building development. This is still work-in-progress.
- John Hearfield has re-drawn some of the old OS maps of The Field Estate itself (and some other even older local maps), which are a great improvement on the originals but too big to display here.
- Gloucestershire Archives produced a map dated 1690 of the Widow Clutterbuck's estate which shows the location of some of John ARUNDELL's pasturelands and houses.
- GlosArc also allowed us to photograph the huge and beautiful 1820 map of The Tithings of Upper and Lower Lypiatt, and Steanbridge, by Charles BAKER. Actually, we had to take 19 overlapping photographs to get everything in. This opportunity was an unexpected highlight in our research, and one of Tony's finest moments.
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.
- All of the Title Deeds we have been lent still belong to their owners, who have agreed that the copies and summaries we make can be used by all amateur researchers for their own personal use. But please do not unpick the summaries for your own gain. Unauthorised plagiarism is not acceptable.
- Please be aware that in some cases the owners of old photographs retain the copyright and you should get in touch with them directly if you wish to use a copy in your own research, or at least acknowledge the copyright as it is marked. It is good practice, and plain courtesy, to do so.
- If the photograph has been taken specially for the research project the title will say so, in which case all you need to do is acknowledge the source as The Field Estate research project, Stroud.
- All documents and artefacts that are stored by the Museum in the Park need the acknowledgement "courtesy of the Cowle Trustees".
- Any census transcripts included here are courtesy of the National Archives and are reproduced here on the understanding that the information will only be used for personal research.
If you have any doubts, or want to know more, or want to join in, please get in touch with Marion or Tony.