Mill Farm, Duck Street

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Medieval Cloth Trade

Mill Farm & James Pullin

Mill farmhouse (now known as Mill House) is older than its neighbour New House farmhouse. It is perhaps in origin a longhouse, that is, built to house family and animals under one roof, and was extensively remodelled early in the 17th century. It was part of the estate of the Verney family, who possessed the Manors of Tytherington and Itchington. The first recorded tenant was James Pullen, who died in 1690. That he lived at Mill Farm is shown by the inventory of his goods made at his death, in which the room-by-room listing correlates closely with Mill farmhouse but with no other house in the village. The inventory shows clearly that he was a man of substance, with four-poster beds upstairs, with curtains, the fashionable coffee-pot in the kitchen, and with social ambitions, for the will specifically mentions the Silver Cup given by 'my Lady Allington' and another from Sir Richard Ashfield Baronet. His assessment for the Poll Tax of 1673 was by far the highest in the parish. It seems likely that the family, a hundred years or so before, had joined in the prosperous cloth trade of the Stroud region. The clothiers provided the capital, undertook the preparation and the finishing of the cloth, while the wool was spun and woven by families in the village.

Around 1600, many men in Tytherington were employed in weaving and by 1700 the village was still busy with cloth making as well as farming. Older maps show a layout of ponds around Mill farmhouse similar to those at other cloth mills a reservoir (fed by the leat along Duck Street) to store water to work the fulling hammers, and a field under the eye of the clothier where the cloth could be dried. Many clothiers became rich; James Pullen even by 1667 is described as `Gentleman', no longer yeoman or clothier, and by the time of his death he was perhaps enjoying a comfortable retirement. His possessions we valued at 277 6s 11d, but not included was the value of a house in Tytherington which he owned.
New House farmhouse, by contrast, was built (though no doubt on the site of an earlier building) in the early part of the 17th century and has remained largely unaltered, though carefully restored. It is a fire a typical example of Northavon farmhouses of this prosperous era, though it had some unusual features. Linda Hall writes that these features 'imply (that the) builder (was) a man of wealth and originality An inventory of 1708 lists all the usual rooms, but includes, also, in do attic, a wool loft with beam scales and a warping loft with warping bar, squirm (part of the warping mechanism) and teazles, and outside a full equipped shear shop. In the house were wools, serge, and broadcloths both finished and 'in yarning'. The central attic has a very large window, to light the weaving; and even in recent years a carder, a weaving spear and teazles have been found in the house. Clearly, New House had been purpose-built as home, farmstead and for weaving.  (Mill House pictured right in the winter of 2009).

We know that a John Hobbs lived at the `Malthouse', close by in Duck Street, early in the 1600s. The Hobbs family was prominent in the area, involved in the cloth trade, farming and as landowners. It is tempting to speculate that the Pullens at Mill Farm and the Hobbs at Malthouse had co-operated as clothiers. Perhaps Mill Farm had the water supply necessary for the washing of the wool and the fulling of the woven cloth, but was itself unsuitable or inconvenient for other processes such as shearing. Was it a Hobbs who rebuilt New House Farm in the heady days of the early 1600s, as farm and home, and to provide weaving and shearing facilities to supplement what already existed at Mill Farm? New House built, did John Hobbs move from Malthouse, to be followed in turn by his son Edward, his grandson John and his great- grandson Edward, all clothiers? The initials I H carved on a beam at New House may well be those of John Hobbs (1656-1701), and is it no more than coincidence that elaborate decorative plasterwork on beams at Mill Farm is identical with that on the beams at New House?
Although broadcloth was still being woven in Tytherington at the end of the 17th century, and the industry in its heartland of the Stroud Valleys could look forward to many decades of increasing prosperity, small scale production further south in Gloucestershire was in decay. Perhaps great-grandson Edward Hobbs was clear sighted enough to decide to turn his back on Tytherington; he married about 1704 and Sarah his wife bore him 18 children. But his interests, and those of his children were increasingly directed to Bristol. The family was selling off some of their land, and Edward's son was no longer 'clothier' but `Gent'. The importance and wealth of the Hobbs family in Tytherington can be gauged by the fact that it has more monumental inscriptions inside the church than any other family six on the walls, 2 stones on the floor. But after 1700 they figure little in the parish story, and Edward's grandchildren were the last Hobbs to be baptised in the parish.

At this point, it seems fairly certain that the ownership of New House Farm passed to Edward's aunt Mary on the death of his parents in 1701 and 1705. Mary had married William Pullen of Mill Farm, and had three sons and several daughters. On William's death, she remarried and lived at Bromwich's in West Street (now Porch House). Her eldest son John, who seems to have been somewhat dissolute, probably continued a while with the tenancy of Mill Farm. It was not long before he had mortgaged his inheritance. The middle son, William, died on the eve of his marriage. James, the youngest, in all probability moved to New House farmhouse, (vacant after the death in 1705 of his widowed aunt Elizabeth Hobbs), when he married Mary Berry in 1708; and it may well have been he who carved 'JP 1712' on a beam.

James Pullen, in his will of 1690, declares that he and his neighbour Edward Hobbs were 'great friends' and this perhaps endorses the suggestion that the Hobbs and the Pullens had worked together through the 17th century in the making of cloth in Tytherington. But this was the peak century of prosperity for the cloth industry in these parts outlying from Stroud. The Hobbs family, associated with Tytherington and Itchington since at least 1327, was moving away. The Pullens were reverting to farming; they continued at New House Farm for another hundred years, until in 1822 the heiress married a Cornock, while another branch of the family at about the same time moved to Itchington and is farming there still. This is the point at which to trace the stories of Mill and New House farmhouses separately.
 

The origins of Mill Farm, and its involvement with the cloth trade and New House Farm, concluded with the marriage of James Pullen of Mill Farm to Mary Hobbs of New House Farm in 1675, and the probability that their eldest son John continued the tenancy of Mill Farm, which belonged to the Verney family. John seems, was not a model young man, either morally or financially. Some of his inheritance was mortgaged early on (though later bought back into the family) and by 1720 he had died.         

             In 1728, the Verneys sold the Manor and all their property in Tytherington (though not the Manor of Itchington); most of Tytherington, including Mill Farm was bought by Peter Hardwicke, doctor of physic from Bristol but with close family connections with Chipping Sodbury. The tenancy of Mill Farm in the 18th century, after the Pullens, is not clear. Timothy Roach was tenant in 1780 and 1784 this was perhaps Timothy junior who married Sarah Smith in 1768 maybe Timothy senior had preceded him in the tenancy in the mid part of the century. Again, we know that in 1800 and 1809 the tenant was Moses Tyler, whose family was prominent in Tytherington throughout the 19th century. Then for a while the tenancy changed quickly, in this unsettled period of history; the land tax was paid by Thomas Attewell in 1810, by John Alway (whose brother had emigrated to Canada) in 1821 and 1825. But in that year Jeremiah Russell, younger son of a prominent yeoman, with experience at Tower Hill Farm and his father-in-law, and in Frampton and Berkeley, came to Mill Farm where he described himself as 'farmer and dealer in cattle'. In 1839, he took on additionally the tenancy of Tower Hill Farm. He died in 1848 aged 68, but his wife Mary continued with the tenancy, helped for a while by her three unmarried sons, until 1861, when she retired and moved to Thornbury. Edward Meredith took over the farm, and Merediths continued at Mill Farm for over 50 years. In 1871, Edward, with three men and a boy, was farming 200 acres; when he died in 1875, his widow Sarah, with no children, brought in her young nephew Edward Meredith as 'farm bailiff'. When Sarah died in 1891, Edward took the tenancy, and worked the farm up to the war years of 1914-18, when his only surviving son Herbert was called up into the army. George Pearce recollected that Edward Meredith gave up the tenancy early in the war, saying 'My son will never return what's the point of going on with the farm?' Herbert survived the war, but Squire Hardwicke, pressed for money it is said, because he had invested heavily in Russian oil, offered Mill Farm for sale. Herbert Pearce of Lower Farm, Itchington, bought it for his married son Lionel. Lionel was followed by his son Douglas, who in1978, while retaining the farm, sold the house to Muriel Whittaker and her daughter Gillian, who re-named it Mill House. Gillian lived in the house until her death in November 2014.  Douglas' son Reg now runs the farm from the new Mill Farm House built early in the 21st century.

The old farmhouse has been added to and altered internally from time to time, although the original longhouse through passage can still be clearly traced. Ceiling beams have plasterwork roses and thistles in high relief on the soffits, leaf patterns in low relief, and incised hearts perhaps indicating a restructuring in the early part of the 17th century.

Read more about Mill Farm and the medieval cloth trade HERE.