After the last ice age, 10,000 years ago extensive woodlands grew in this area, in which Mesolithic people hunted and gathered. Almost the only traces of these people are the flints, such as scrapers, knives and arrow-heads, as well as the left over chips and cores discovered in recent years, usually after ploughing or road works have disturbed the ground. They have been found all over the parish from the north-west corner by Wyevale Garden Centre to the south-east past Itchington, from Stidcote in the north-east to Woodleaze in the west. One flint tool in particular, found on Barmersland Farm by Robert Hetherington, is an unusually fine fine tool, some 19cm (7.5 in.) long, used as an axe or chisel and highly polished. (Possibly imported from Brittany). Another prehistoric find was part of a ceremonial mace head about 4ins long found at Stidcot in the 1950's. It is not clear whether this belongs to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. By the the end of the Neolithic period parts of the parish would have been occupied, cleared, and settled before the slow introduction of, first bronze and about 700 B.C., iron. Two interesting burials, probably of the Bronze Age, were uncovered as a result of quarrying activity into the hillside behind the church. One a 'crouched' burial was found to the north of the church yard during the construction of the railway line into the Church Quarry - one of several which went unrecorded, according to local tradition. Also a collection of twelve skeletons in two rows in shallow graves, with their heads pointing to the west were found on Tytherington Hill.
The Iron Age followed, marked in Tytherington by the hill fort on the high ground to the west of the village, locally known as 'The Castle'. This was an early type, with a single ditch and rampart enclosing about 9 acres and its entrance on the S.W. side. (Other openings are modern.) At roughly this period, two bodies, one of them 6ft 6ins tall, were laid to rest, north to south, in stone coffins in a field near Stidcote. Two thousand years later, around 1750, they were discovered by men working in the fields. The skeletons, 'in perfect condition', soon disintegrated and the stone slabs were probably incorporated in nearby stone buildings. All that remains is the account in Rudder's History and the field-name 'Coffin ground'. In the relatively brief period of Roman occupation, some 300 years, the people became settled, with husbandry and some small domestic industries. In Tytherington parish, a tessellated pavement uncovered at Stidcote in the 17th century has been lost, but three Roman bronze coins found there in recent times have survived. Three separate locations in the parish have yielded sherds (broken pottery) of this period, while a yet uninvestigated scatter of tessera and hypocaust flue tiles suggests that a Roman villa was sited near Mill House.
After the Romans left, the region largely degenerated into woodland again. Nothing tangible seems to have survived here, though no doubt settlements of houses built of wooden posts and beams with wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs grew up along the little streams of West Street and Stow Hill in Tytherington and the Itchen (a Celtic river name, hence ICENATUNE in a document of the year 967) in Itchington. Such houses leave little trace apart from the post holes. The Anglo-Saxon origins of the name Tytherington indicate a settlement here during this period. The conquest of the country by the Normans in 1066 and the massive survey carried out twenty years later began a different era.
Of the men connected with the parish before the Norman Conquest of 1066 the names of only five are recorded. Alfwy, a vassal of Earl Harold, held the Manor of Tytherington; some of the lands in Itchington were held under lease by Aethelweard and Wulfgar, and later by Wulfric and Wulbyr. After the Conquest, Normans often took the place of Saxons; lands in Itchington were granted by the bishop of Worcester to Constantine and to Osborn Gifard (cf. 'Stoke Gifford'), while Tytherington became a personal possession of Osbern, Bishop of Exeter, doubtless by grant of the Conquerer to whom he was related.
In the Domesday Survey, Tytherington is recorded as having had in Saxon times an annual return to the Lord of the Manor, in terms of money and kind, of 100 shillings, but of only 40 shillings in 1085. The inference is that the manor had been badly neglected. It was rated at five hides. A hide originally meant a measure of land as much as would support one free family and dependants; the OE 'hid' derives from 'hiw' a household. It was perhaps 100 acres or so, but obviously varied with the nature of the land. By the time of the Domesday Survey, however, the term was used for value, not land area, and rating of five hides was a tax assessment. Tytherington's total assessment of five hides contrasts with Constantine's five hides and Osborn Gifard's four hides in Itchington.
The Domesday Book tells us some more about Tytherington. There was one 'villager', who may have had a sizeable amount of land, five 'smallholders', each with a little land, and two slaves, who worked the lord's land. The lord of the manor had two plough-teams, each of eight oxen, so was a substantial farm, and it seems likely that, in a depressed parish, the 'smallholders' may have been working on the lord's land. The total population of Tytherington was probably between 25 and 40. There were 20 acres of meadow and perhaps 60 acres of woodland. The nearest mills were at Cromhall and Thornbury.
At this time, Itchington was in the Hundred (an administrative area) of Brentry, Tytherington in the Hundred of Bachestone (Bagstone). However, by 1200 Itchington, with no church of its own, had been incorporated into the parish of Tytherington and has remained there.
Early History of the Church in Tytherington
About the year 1109, a small priory of Austin canons was formed high up in the Black Mountains, now in Gwent, Wales. In a place 'truly fitted for contemplation', an abbey was built (the ruins are still there). A daughter house was soon established in Gloucester in 1136, and this, in a more favourable environment than among the wolves on the mountains, flourished under the patronage of Milo of Gloucester (Miles, Earl of Hereford).
Domesday Book tells us that Tytherington was a personal possession of the Bishop of Exeter, Osbern. On Osbern's death, King Stephen (1135-1139) granted these lands in Gloucestershire to Milo Sheriff of Gloucester, who then let the Abbey enjoy some of the income from his property in Tytherington. Twenty years later, in 1155, Richard Foliot granted the church of Tytherington to the monks, stipulating that Symeon be made priest of the same Church. Symeon was a postulant, that is, a candidate for admission to the Church. It seems, on architectural evidence, that the present stone church - the basic nave and chancel - was begun at this time. We have the names of only three subsequent Rectors, Gilbert Cumyn, Robert of Wych and William de Wyke, during the next 150 years, though building continued - the two aisles, the base of the tower and the wagon roofs.
In 1315 and 1316, the whole of Europe suffered incessant wet weather and was hit by 'possibly the greatest agricultural disaster ever recorded'. The Abbey suffered not only from the famine, but also from a fire which destroyed its church, and disease and floods on its lands. The prior petitioned Bishop Orlton for help, and in 1330 the Canons were given the advowson of the church at Tytherington. No longer was there a Rector; the income from the church went to the Abbey and out of it was paid a small stipend to a vicar. The clerk appointed in 1331 was Reginald de Pyriton. It was in this year that the great building, now Gloucester Cathedral, was began.
We don't know how long the new vicar lasted. In 1348, the plague came to Weymouth and soon spread to Bristol. A wet autumn - it rained every day from Michaelmas to Christmas - aggravated the filthy conditions in which people lived, and by the following autumn the Black Death had killed one in every three people throughout England. In Llanthony Abbey, 19 of the 30 canons died.
Thirty years later, the prior of the Abbey, William of Chiriton, had embarked on ambitious building programmes, in one of which the grange at Tytherington was 'new made'. We may perhaps ascribe the building of the chapel at the east end of the South aisle in the Church, and the completion of the Tower, to his administration. In the 14th century the Register of Llanthony Abbey, Gloucester, records the granting of the church in Tytherington to the monks of Llanthony in 1155. The extract from the Latin translated by Roger Howell reads:
'Notification of Richard Foliot to John Bishop of Worcester concerning the Presentation to Benefice of the Church of Tytherington.
To the Venerable John, Bishop of Worcester by the grace of God, Richard Foliot sends greetings, I make known to you that I grant the Church of Tytherington to the monks of Llanthony in perpetuity, granting that the Postulate Symeon be made priest of the said Church. I ask therefore, your holiness, in that which concerns you to grant the same church to the aforementioned canons and to affirm it with the protection of your authority. Farewell.'
For another 150 years, little is recorded about Tytherington church. This was a dark age for recording in England in general. But Llanthony's continuing possession of estates in Tytherington was confirmed in a document of 1477, and subsequently it acquired the Lordship of the Manor. In this period, a reasonable dwelling for the vicar seems to have been provided. The acquisition of the Lordship of the Manor - something all Monastic Orders desired - enabled the Abbey to use on the grange lands the labour owed to the Lord, at a time when seasonal labour after the Black Death, was a relatively great expense. At the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), the Crown took possession of Llanthony Abbey's estates, including the church and manor of Tytherington., cultivated in long strips
Medieval Open Field Farming in Tytherington
By the medieval period, a system of mixed agriculture had been established, and villages like Tytherington were surrounded by great hedgeless fields, cultivated in long strips, which were bundled together into furlongs, which in turn were grouped into fields. Most villages originally had two or three open fields, one being left fallow every year in rotation. The village provided the pool of labour, for the plough, for the autumn slaughter of beasts, for the maintenance of fences and ditches. In the early days each man had two or three strips, of both good and poor land, often widely separated. The fields were farmed according to a communally agreed policy - it was a basically co-operative form of farming, socially advantageous, but with the great weakness that any experiment of enterprise was stifled. As well as the open fields there were meadows for hay, downlands for the common rights of grazing, woods for fuel and timber. When the limits of expansion within the parish boundaries had been reached, the inefficiency of the system began to be significant, and quite early on in Tytherington, parts of the open fields were either voluntarily or by coercion divided up; holdings were consolidated, hedges were planted, and over the years the landscape we see today was created. However, there is not much positive and detailed evidence about the open field system in the parish - occasional references in documents and two maps, the Itchington Estate map of 1769 and the Tithe Award map of 1839. The picture remains rather shadowy.
The 1572 Terrier (an inventory of church lands and property) makes it clear that some parts of the parish had already been enclosed, and other parts were still cultivated in open fields. The church owned land in Stidcote Field (between Stidcote and the hill), Philpes Field (south of the highway to Thornbury, now almost completely quarried), and Up Field (roughly the extent of Barmersland Farm before it was dismembered by the quarry and the M5 motorway). Other documents refer to Tytherington Field, Itchington Field (north of the hamlet) and Itchington Moor (east towards Ladden Brook). No doubt another field lay to the east of Tytherington, but this seems to have be imparked when William de Corbet was granted hunting rights in Tytherington in 1307. Open fields varied greatly in size over the country, but here in Tytherington may have averaged about 150 acres each. An extract from the 1572 Terrier lists both an enclosed field and an open field: 'Item one close called Porbridge containing 2 acres, Item in Stidcote Field of arable land by estimation 8 acres and a half'.
An insight into the layout of an open field can be glimpsed from part of Itchington Moor unenclosed in 1769 and shown on the estate map below.
The complexity of the organisation can be imagined from the entry in the flysheet of the Church Register of 1702, which refers to the glebe (church land) in Tytherington Meade:-
'An account of the Lot-acres in the Common Meade belonging to the Vicaridge
The 1st Cross in the Furlong, half acres. The 1st and 2nd Cross, the the crooked Lots, quarter Lots. The first Cross in the Short Lots, quarter Lots. The 1st Cross in the half acre Lots and the Ladle, half acre Lots. The 1st Cross and 2nd Cross and the Ladle in the next furlongs, being Quarter Lots. The st Cross and the Ladle in the last Furlong - '
No interpretation is offered, though some of the terms used in organising the routine survived into the 19th century. For example, Holme in 1592 became The Ham by 1839; it was a 'stinted common pasture'. 'Stinted' means a regulated restriction of the commoner's pasturage rights, necessitated only when demand outstripped the available common pasture. Today, one or two traces of the open field system can still be observed. For instance at the top of the hill leading from Itchington towards Latteridge, on the east side, is a long narrow field. This is the survival of five narrow strips, and shows the characteristic reversed 'S' shape which arose from the manner the oxen had to be driven when ploughing in order to achieve the turn round at the headland. Mead Lane, 300 metres past Hawkins on Stidcot Lane, is another survival; it was the common access to the meadows by Ladden Brook.
It is difficult to imagine the landscape around Tytherington in medieval times - a flat treeless field stretching from Stidcote all the way south to the parish boundary with Iron Acton, with Tytherington and Itchington on the one side, Ladden Brook on the other, another equally flat and treeless stretch from Green Lane and the rabbit warren on Milbury Heath in the north, across the highway from Tytherington to Thornbury, and south to Itchington Common. Only in between was there variety, common land on Tytherington Hill with woodland below, then the village with its church and cottages, Ramsoak Wood, and perhaps the windmill, and then the cluster of dwellings at Itchington.
In contrast to the landscape, the routine of farming 400 years ago will have had an almost familiar ring with today. The Colymers, Hobbises, Webbes, Poolyngs and Tylers of 16th centruy Tytherington would know well the annual farming round, as would the Cullimore, Hobbs, Webb, Pullen and Tyler of today.
In the earliest days of the Church, the parson or rector (i.e. ruler) was supported by tithes, lands and offerings. Tithes, originally voluntary, are a tenth part of the produce of the soil and became obligatory on those living close to a particular church. The rector also had some land, called glebe. In 1330, however, the church in Tytherington was 'appropriated' to the canons of Llanthony Abbey in Gloucester. The effect of this was that all income went to the Abbey; in return a chaplain was appointed and provided with a living wage, accommodation and security of tenure. So it came about that in Tytherington, from 1331 to 1983 we had a Vicar, not a Rector. .
During the reign of Elizabeth I, the church realised that the spoliation of its properties by laymen (begun with the dissolution of the of the monastries) had gone far enough; the incomes of the parish clergy were threatened. So in 1571 an order was made for the drawing up of terriers of glebe, that is, inventories of the Church's possessions, from Latin terra, land. Very few of the earliest returns exist in England; exceptionally Tytherington's terrier of 1572 is to found in the Record Office in Gloucester, together with subsequent terriers of 1584, 1683,1807 and 1828. The glebe in 1787 was listed by the vicar in the baptism register, and the Tithe Award of 1839 lists the glebe in detail.These seven sources, covering 250 years, enable the glebe to be shown on a parish map with some accuracy. The glebe in Tytherington was sold, piecemeal, between 1918 and 1924, the original vicarage (renamed The Manor) in 1925, and the replacement vicarage at the top of Stow Hill in 1983, bringing to an end the church's direct interest in land in the parish, other than the church and churchyard.
The glebe, some 64 acres in all, was widely scattered over the parish; ten acres or so in the northern tip of the parish by Jones' Wood, 30 acres on the eastern boundary by Ladden Brook, 10 acres in the north-west adjoining Milbury Heath, and at some time a strip of one acre in the Open Field in Itchington Moor was claimed for the church. It was named the Parson's Acre and although it was sold in 1919 the field boundaries and the name itself still survive today. In earlier days, the glebe lands were worked by the parson; he was a parson on Sundays but on all the other six days he might be properly called a farmer. Later, when the parson became upgraded socially, the glebe was usually let. For instance, in 1789 60 acres were let for £44-2s per annum; by 1914, 125 years later, the rent had increased to no more than £80-2s.
For a long time the parson himself collected the tithe, the tenth part of all produce, and incurred the odium of its collection. The tithes were usually divided in to great tithes - the corn and hay, profitable and easy to collect - which went to the appropriate Rector (Llanthony Abbey for many years) and the lesser tithes of milk, eggs and so on, which were left for the vicar. Inside the Tytherington Baptism Register is a note, dated 1787, probably written by the then vicar, Rev. James Hardwicke, spelling out in detail the 'vicarial or small Tythes - Calves, Pigs, Apples etc., Geese, Eggs, Wool, Sheep, Aftermath, lambs, milk, potatoes, clover seed etc.'. Aftermath was a second mowing or crop of grass from land that had already yielded one crop earlier in the year. He adds that hay is not a vicarial tithe in Tytherington, that no estate is tithe free, and that the tithe could be compounded by a payment of 'one shilling in the pound according to the Bona Fide rent.' Needless to say, there are innumerable records of attempts to cheat the parson of his dues, for the payment was much resented.
The payment of tithes in kind was finally abolished by the Tithes Act of 1836. Each parish was surveyed, each and every piece of land was listed, with names of its owners and of its occupier, with its acreage (in acres, roods and perches), 'state of cultivation' (e.g. arable, orchard, garden), the amount of rent charged for each piece and how much went to the vicar and how much to the Impropriate Rector. This was the first detailed and accurate survey of the parish and gives a complete and invaluable picture of the village 150 years ago. The total acreage of the parish was measured as 2218 acres. It was not until 1976 that payments of tithes were officially and finally abolished.
William de Tytherington is Tytherington's first conspicuous son; he is recorded first as the Sheriff's itinerant bailiff between 1314 and 1318. He became a retainer of Ralph, Lord Stafford (of Thornbury Castle), and his appearance as knight of the Shire for Gloucestershire in March 1330 points to the importance he enjoyed under Lord Stafford. He represented the borough of Gloucester in 1332 and 1336 and he was Lord Stafford's steward 1339-41. By 1346 he was Steward of Llanthony, one of the humbler holders of this office, as he was not the Lord of a Manor. At one time he was a Coroner.