Towns in

Situated at the crossing of the Roman Fosse Way (now the A429) and the old  London to Worcester highway (A44), Moreton-in-Marsh came to early prominence as  a coaching stop. Its broad High Street is lined with elegant 17th and 18th  Century buildings, among them the White Hart Royal, a former manor house in  which King Charles I sheltered during the Civil War.

Opposite the Redesdale Hall, a neo-Tudor building dating from 1887, the old  Curfew Tower still boasts its original clock and bell, dated 1633. The 'Four  Shires Stone' on the eastern outskirts of the town denotes the original meeting  place of the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and  Worcestershire. There has been such a monument here since Saxon times, but  recent rationalisation of county boundaries has robbed the site of its  Worcestershire connection.

Although that part  of the Parish was administered with Hamptun Manor, it retained its identity,  being henceforth referred to as the Tything of Rodborough. For the next 500  years Rodborough and the areas which now constitute modern Amberley Parish, were  linked for local government under one officer known as a Tything man, with full  responsibility to uphold the law in the whole Tything. It is during this period  that historical facts are extremely difficult to find, making the next stage of  the development of the Parish difficult to relate.

However, the fact that there are still various buildings and dwellings in the  Parish from this period gives a firm impression of gradual habitation during the  period from the 14th to the 18th centuries. There are several examples of old  weavers' and estate cottages of the later middle ages in Watledge, Theescombe  and St. Chloe and somewhat larger houses in Houndscroft, Pinfarthings and  Theescombe, while beginnings of industry were emerging in mills along the  Nailsworth stream boundary in the Woodchester valley during the same period.

The western area of the Hamptun Parish was developed mainly in the later 18th  and early 19th centuries when the building of cottages on the hillsides at the  edge of the Common greatly enlarged Box and produced another sizeable village at  Littleworth and smaller settlements at St. Chloe, Amberley, Theescombe and  Pinfarthing. Most of the seventy or so cottages built on former Common land that  paid rent to the Lord of the Manor in 1809 were in those places.

The building of the new Churches at Amberley in 1836 brought considerable  change to the ecclesiastical part of the old Hamptun Parish. The end of an  incumbency saw the dismemberment of the benefice by the creation of new  ecclesiastical districts, both for those Parishes and for the ancient Church at  Rodborough which had been served in later years by a priest who was regarded as  a curate by the Hamptun Vicar. These changes, together with the one at the end  of the 19th century which saw Nailsworth created a Parish from parts of Hamptun,  Avening and Horsley manors, created different boundaries for the civil and  ecclesiastical parts of the newly formed Parish of Amberley.

It seems surprising that when this newborn Parish was brought to its  christening and someone said "Name this child" it was Amberley that emerged, not  Littleworth or either of the other settlements around it. Possibly the fact that  the Methodist Church was known as Littleworth may have been the determining  factor because the only part which seems to have been previously known as  Amberley was the area between Spriggs Well and where the Amberley Inn now  stands, and this was part of Amberley Coppice.

The only Amberley place name in a document written before 1066 is, strangely  enough, The Drillies. The word can mean either a dry pasture or path and seems  to be the name given to the area enclosed by the earthworks on the Common  between the Post Office and the Pines. This may have been a large stockade with  a path leading out across what is now the road in front of the school, and  entering the dense woods which largely covered the hillside between Nailsworth  and the space occupied by Amberley Churchyard today.

This document is a Charter connected with grants of Church land and is  included in the records of the old Hamptun manor. It apparently states that, in  the reign of Alfred the Great, AD 871-901, there were disputes about the Parish  boundaries of that time. Apparently, the boundary marks were to be cleared of  all undergrowth and the inhabitants were to walk from mark to mark until they  knew their exact positions. The name Amberley does not appear in these old  documents or in the later manorial rolls but it seems almost certain that it  existed, not as a village, but as a place where the people assembled to beat the  bounds.

The growth of the area since the Churches were built can best be seen by  studying maps and census records of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Old tithe  maps of 1804 and 1839 give indications of some 30 to 40 and around 100 dwellings  respectively, suggesting some 150 to 200 persons for the former, and around 500  for the latter. Census figures for the middle of the 19th century show a  dramatic rise to well over 300 dwellings and a population of around 1600. It is  fair to point out that the 1804 map only included the area from Watledge to  Lower Littleworth, while the 1839 figures included the whole of Houndscroft to  the Bear Inn. The population figures drop to some 1250 by the end of the  century, probably because of the creation of Nailsworth Parish from parts of  Avening, Horsley and Hamptun manors in 1892. This figure appears to have been  maintained throughout the 20th century up to the time of the second world war.

To close, it is worth looking at the ways of travelling from the Parish to  other areas such as Minchinhampton, Nailsworth and the Nailsworth valleys  several centuries ago. A study of the large Ordnance Survey map for the area  shows it criss-crossed with a large number of footpaths and tracks, and it is  obvious these were then the only way of getting in and out before the road  system we have today was developed. Most of the paths and tracks, which cross  the Common to Minchinhampton, Burleigh and Box linked up with others which led  through the various woods and fields to points along the Nailsworth valley.  Several of these are still usable today as long as one is dressed to suit, but  many have become almost completely covered in undergrowth.

The map also clearly confirms the fact that the whole Parish area is riddled  with underground streams which cascade into the valley stream at many points. A  walk along the old railway line from Nailsworth to Woodchester clearly  demonstrates this, as there are a considerable number of piped entries into the  stream which runs alongside it. Another source of confirmation is the fact that  many of the houses for sale during the period from the 1850s until the 1930s  were advertised as having their own spring water and/or well supply. Records  indicate that before the present water supplies became available, many of the  houses had their own wells, most of which have now been filled in or built over.

This combination of underground streams and the soil structure has also  resulted in several instances of landslip along the hillside during the 19th  century. Examples recorded are at Dyehouse when the railway was being built,  when apparently one Mr. Tabram went to bed at night with a saw and a hatchet so  that he could open his bedroom door when it jammed in the night. There was also  a stream below Amberley Court in Theescombe which was only contained by a  combination of drains and buttress walls and a further example resulted in the  old house at the Highlands being pulled down because it had become unsafe for  habitation. It is certain, however, that without this natural water supply, our  Amberley may never have existed, as it was a long way from the valley streams.

Finally, it is interesting to note the way that some of the Parish names have  developed over the years. Originally, part of the old Hamptun Manor boundaries  were marked by a path, and this was apparently known as the Bagpath or Packpath.  Along the line of this path were the holdings of lands held by various persons  either by means of a rent payment alone, by rent payments and specified services  or by services only. Among these in the old Rodborough Tything were the ones at  St. Loes, as previously mentioned, Houndscroft and Watledge. Houndscroft  apparently derived its name from the holding of one John Hund while the  neighbouring one, now occupied by Moor Court and the Bear Inn in particular, was  at that time and for many years, the holding of the Horestone family, possibly  named from the very stone which marks the limit of the Rodborough and Amberley  civil Parishes. Watledge bears one of those names which have passed through many  changes of fortune and seen better days. It seems to have begun as Heardanleah,  a boundary post mentioned in Ethelbald's Woodchester grant. This means the  Warders clearing, or the Warders field, and approximately 500 years later had  become Wadden. Later still it was Wadden Edge. Then, in the early 19th century,  it was Wadedge and later Watledge with the T creeping in during the last 100  years. On a tentative map of the Hamptun Manor c. 1300, the area now known as  Theescombe is referred to as Maelscombe, possibly after Roger Mael or Mayel, a  14th century adventurer. It seems, however, that the modern name is probably  derived from the words 'Thieves Combe' denoting a valley haunted by thieves.

Pinfarthing, referred to during the 19th century without the 's' at the end,  appears to have emerged from a combination of pen (as for enclosing property or  stock) and farthing (a quarter).

Text, map and photos extracted by permission from "A Village of Parts" by Roy  Close
ISBN 0 9511658 0 1