It’s true – you can find anything on the internet if you look long enough. At other times, things seem to find you. The subject of this article is one of the latter, and given the major changes taking place in the lower end of the village, its appearance was strangely timely.
I stumbled across an internet auction that harked back to a much earlier one – in this case, it was 1832 and the lot in question encompassed Nupend, Nastend, West End and several farms. I managed to buy the sales particulars that describe one enormous lot that essentially covered a sizable chunk of the village beyond the canal. It’s not clear who was selling this great tract of land and buildings, although potential bidders were directed to Mr Savage ‘the principal tenant in the village’. The sale was advertised in Gloucester, Cheltenham, Bath, Bristol, Dursley, and Covent Garden in London, amongst others. The auction itself was held at the Auction Market in London at 12 o’clock on Thursday the 25th of October 1832, with Mr George Robins presiding.
Details of what was on offer provide an interesting insight into the makeup of that part of the village and how some of the residents made their livings. The sale particulars describe:
a valuable freehold investment known as Nupend, Nastend or Nassend, West End and Elm Tree Farms, consisting of suitable farm houses, labourers’ cottages and 415 acres.
In Disneyesque fashion it goes on to describe capital land, divided into snug farms and occupied by a respectable, happy and contented tenantry (I wonder how happy they really were?!) – situated in the rich Vale of Gloucester. No less than four farm houses were mentioned and the fertility of the land was emphasised – it was described as proverbially rich and suitable for all forms of agriculture.
Further attractions for potential buyers included its proximity to the Bristol-Birmingham high road, and the Thames and Severn Canal that runs parallel with the boundary of the property (it’s actually the Stroudwater Canal at this point. It doesn’t become the Thames & Severn until it reaches Wallbridge in Stroud). The nearness of the canal was stressed as a useful means for transporting agricultural produce to the ports of Bristol and London. Of the 415 acres of land offered, around 170 were considered to be arable. It was suggested that the rental income generated from the farms etc. would amount to £784-17-0 a year, although the sale particulars quietly noted that this was 20% lower than it had been in earlier times. However, it goes on to state that:
it may be inferred, now that the sun shines so brilliantly on the efforts of its industrious and talented farmer, that the former rental may (and at no great distance of time) be contemplated.
Apart from arable land and buildings, the lot also included groves, orchards and plantations. As if this wasn’t enough to attract a wealthy buyer, a further inducement was noted:
there are several interesting spots to erect a corresponding mansion, and so inviting that a man of taste will find it exceedingly difficult to resist the temptation; and it he be fond of field sports he may indulge in it to his heart’s content, with lots of game everywhere.
The fine details of the sale make interesting reading as it provides the names of individuals actively working the land at the time. The biggest farm offered was being run by Joseph Savage, with smaller ones occupied by Thomas Mitchell and Ann Carefield. A ‘good dwelling house’, garden, orchard and other land was occupied by a Mr Hawkins. Also mentioned was a grove of thriving young oaks and timber, as well as sundry plantations. The annual rental value of each is listed, as it was for various cottages and gardens at Nastend, as well as a farm house converted into two dwellings. Other cottages mentioned were at Nupend and West End. Between them all, they supposedly provided a rental income of £79 each year.
These papers are an interesting and rare survivor that for 175 years, somehow managed to escape the wastepaper basket or fireplace! They offer a fleeting glimpse into a time long gone, when many villagers earned their daily bread working on the land. But times change and the rosy picture painted in the sales documents don’t necessarily tell the whole story. At the time, agriculture in general was going through tough times and farm workers often faced great hardship. It can only be imagined how difficult it must have been to live in a rundown tied cottage, hot and dusty in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. It was certainly no rural idyll.
Once again, changes are taking place in this part of the village, but this time, it won’t be wheat and barley being grown and harvested. A new, very different crop is appearing, as houses begin to smother this venerable land. I wonder what it will look like in another 175 years?