Highnam Heritage News

Lassington Oak

By | Highnam Heritage News

In Lassington Wood, less than 100 yards from the playing field, was a famous, very old and enormous oak tree. It came down in a gale in 1960, but the trunk is still very visible.

Its history.  (with thanks to the Records Office for letters and old photographs, Janet Frost and Hugh Worsnip).

It’s thought to date from around 1100, making it 850 years old when it fell. It was marked on a 1777 map of Gloucestershire, and said to be biggest in the County – and probably much further afield.

Up to 1900 it was quite hollow, but still standing and producing acorns. On a sunny day people from Gloucester would walk up to the tree for a family picnic. The ground around it was probably grass, maybe grazed, and the wood was much less overgrown and dense, to the extent that Gloucester Cathedral could be seen from the base of the tree. Totally impossible now, following years of no serious management.

By the turn of the 20th century it was in poor shape, and the enormous side branches were in danger of falling. The branches were propped up with giant baulks of timber. In 1920 the Gloucestershire Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids collected its acorns and raised twelve seedlings, and then planted them near the ancient oak.

In 1948 a fire was started inside the hollow trunk, but it still stood until 1960. Vandalism is not new!

A  letter, dated 1926 from Frank Smith, Head Forester, describes it as being ”around 800 years old, standing on comparatively high ground in a small grove of broadleaved timber on a gentle slope facing east”.

If you want a sense of the size, look in the wood for some concrete pillars, about one metre tall. There are three – see if you can find them – and they mark the breadth , the span if you like, of the canopy. Massive!

Copy provided by Geoff Gidley

St. Oswald’s church, Lassington

By | Highnam Heritage News

St. Oswald’s church was originally built by Saxons who lived in the settlement in Lassington. Their village was near Atman’s Farm on the opposite side of the lane. As well as the church there was a small moated rectory for the rector. The stone for building would have been brought by boat and landed on the banks of the Leadon. Travel at that time was easier by water than by road. St. Oswald’s church was closely linked with St. Oswald’s Priory in Gloucester. The Crown and the Church owned most of the land in the country and lassington was owned by the Archbishop of York.

Mrs. Baldwin’s Memories

By | Highnam Heritage News

I was only six when at Lassington Oak, that was 73 years ago. In those days there were very few houses in Highnam. We lived in a cottage by “The Oak” when my father was the game keeper for the Lassington and Highnam estates. His covets, as they were called, were spread over a wide area. I believe his employers were Sir Gambier Parry and Sir William Guise. They lived at Highnam Park. There used to be a big lake there with swans on it and I was fortunate enough as a little girl to be given an egg by Sir Gambier Parry (who used to carry me around sometimes). We often had shooting parties at our house and mother worked hard to prepare and cook the dinners. The drinks flowed freely too on those occasions.

Lassington Woods were beautiful and at the vicarage there were soup kitchens, where all the poor and needy could get cans of soup for (I believe) a penny or halfpenny. Peacocks also paraded the lawns – it was beautiful. The church and schoolwork also much loved. We had to go regularly and “behave”. As children we had to curtsy to the genteel people always, “girls curtsy, boys salute”. Concerts were held at the vicarage at Highnam opposite the school.

There were no buses of course. Mother had to walk to town. A Mr. Trotman kept the Post Office. I often stayed at Highnam Park stables with a Mr. and Mrs. Glover who looked after the coaches and horses so I had a good view of the gentle folk going in and out. Mr. and Mrs. Glover afterwards moved to a lovely old thatched cottage in Two Mile Lane where bats and swallows often fascinated us at night in the thatched roof.

Well, I think this is just a few rambling memories. You may get and idea of a little of the lovely old place Highnam held for me. At least you may get a smile from these rambling memories if nothing more.

This is an extract of a letter received from Mrs. R. Baldwin of Barnwood, Gloucester for Claire Tovey in 1986.

Highnam wins Bledisloe Cup

By | Highnam Heritage News

John Gough’s stirling efforts earned Highnam the coverted Bledisloe Cup for the best kept large village in Gloucestershire.

John was out mowing the lawns and making repairs around the village every day during the three month spell between June and August when the Bledisloe Cup judges came to make their assessments.

“They visited us three times in all, each time meaning we had made it through another round and were one step closer to winning.” John said.

“They looked at the state of the gardens, church, parish hall, primary school, and even the public telephone box before coming to their decision.”

He added: “Winning the accolade for the first time makes all the hard effort worthwhile and gives the whole village something to be proud of.”

Parish Clerk Peter Higgins (73) added, “It is the oldest best kept village competition in the country and to come out on top is fantastic.

“We were runners up two years ago, and had been commended before that, but to actually win is a great tonic for the whole community.

(Article published in the Gloucester Citizen in August 1996)

The Daffodil Line

By | Highnam Heritage News

Daffodil Sunday thirty years ago meant an expedition on the Gloucester – Ledbury railway, through the woods and valleys of the Ryeland countryside; it was one of those pastoral routes that were such a distinctive feature of the Great Western Railway.


The line itself was a delight. From 1940 it was worked by G.W.R. diesel rail-cars, in which children could happily look over the driver’s shoulder. There were few straight lengths of track, and the curving rails were always leading on to new sights and mysteries. These included jthe original brick-built stations at Barber’s Bridge, Newent and Dymock, as well as the primitive platform-and-hut halts apparently isolated in the fields.


When the line was opened in 1885 Gloucester station was decorated with bunting and Chinese lanterns. At first business was good but by the 1940’s, there were only five trips a day even though additional halts had ben opened at Ledbury Town, Greenway, Four Oaks – the nearest to the daffodil woods –and Malswick.

The last passenger train left Dymock on 11thSeptember 1059, its departure witnessed by a few old people with dim childhood memories of the first journey seventy four years previously.


(Extract taken from Brian Smith’s article in the Gloucestershire and Avon Life in March 1977) The attached image shows the line passing Lassington Lane near Over.


Talk on Alney Island

By | Highnam Heritage News

A talk on Alnen Island has been arranged for the 25th March. It will take place in the Parish Rooms between 7.30pm and 9.00pm. The talk is being given by Tony Conder, a well known local historian. Alney Island, Over, was a major port in the 18th and 19th centuries with a fascinating history. The talk is free to members of Highnam Heritage and is open to non members for a small entry fee. Please contact Jean Rosam or Susanna Stewart if you would like to come.

Contact Details

Susanna Stewart tel. 01452 308401

email –

Over Hospital

By | Highnam Heritage News

1893 – Contagious disease was prevalent all over the country at this time and for many years there were outbreaks of scarlet fever, whooping cough, measles and diphtheria in the Gloucester area.

The Isolation Act of  1893 stressed the need for Isolation Hospitals and gave Local Authorities the power to build or buy suitable properties and to manage them. Whilst the measure was welcomed by the Medical Officers of Health, it was not accepted by those living near the sites of the hospitals because of fear of diseases, particularly smallpox.

1895-1896 – Gloucester Corporation took the decision to build an Infectious Diseases Hospital at Over. Three events spurred this decision: 1. The Isolation act of 1893 and that a hospital was being built in the adjoining county of Worcester. 2. An Isolation Hospital already existed in Stroud Road, Gloucester but this was small and in need of replacement. 3. In 1895 – 1896 there was a serious smallpox epidemic in Gloucester. The Medical Officer of Health’s report for 1895 – 1896 gave the following details:

In the Gloucester area there was a poor public response to the smallpox vaccination programme. 1981 cases of smallpox of which 429 died. 129 cases of diphtheria and 74 cases of scarlet fever. By November 1896 temporary iron hospitals were being erected on the Vineyard Site at Over in case hospital accommodation was required for patients suffering from infectious diseases.

1897 – In May of this year the formal decision was taken by Gloucester City Council to provide a General Hospital for Infectious Diseases at Over.

During June, the eastern side of the Vineyard site at Over had been selected for the site of the hospital. It was agreed by the council that the hospital would comprise an Admin. Block with rooms for the Matron, Medical Attendant, Custodians and Servants with separate accommodation for nurses of fever and diphtheria wards. Rooms would also be available for convalescents.

In July, the Local Government Board gave sanction for the building of the hospital on the understanding that smallpox cases would not be treated here. Glos. Corporation appointed Gloucester based Messers Waller and Son and Messers Medland and Son as the joint architects. Also, in July, Highnam parish Council are informed of the proposal to build a hospital in the parish. The Parish Council objected to the scheme but, after solicitors advice, decided not to make any stand on the proposal to build a hospital in the parish. Alan was agreed in December by the Local Government Board for the purchase of the Vineyard site at Over. This land was owned by the Bishop of Gloucester.

HH is holding the comprehensive time line of Over hospital through to 1989. Contact HH for more details. 

Lassington Oak

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Citizen 18.01.1980 – NEW OWNER FOR FAMOUS OAK TREE

Lassington wood at Highnam – home of the famous Lassington Oak – may go from the ownership of Gloucester District Council. At last night’s meeting of the leisure committee members considered giving the two to three acre wood to Tewkesbury Borough Council.

Mr. Freddie Fitzgerald, deputy chief executive officer, said the borough council was currently considering a landscaping and forestation project on land immediately adjoining. This was part of a housing development. Gloucester was paying for maintenance and care of the wood and its nature trails, while the principal benefit was received by those living nearest – in the Tewkesbury district, he said.

Proviso – If it were to go to Tewkesbury then a proviso could be laid down banning development on it.

Members agreed with Councillor Peter Robins that before anything was done the value of the land must be ascertained and also how much it cost to maintain it. The land was conveyed to the County Borough Council in 1921 by Sir Anselm Guise. His object was for the Lassington Oak to be preserved and accessible to citizens of Gloucester and others interested.

The oak was blown down and virtually destroyed in 1960 and all that remains is a decayed shell.

Highnam Old School

Highnam Old School

By | Highnam Heritage News

Highnam Old School (with adjoining small house for the teacher) was built at the same time as the church of the Holy Innocents. It was a National School and comprised one L-shaped room with rows of benches and desks screwed to the floor. A small raised area was provided for the infants with their benches rising in steps. Lighting was provided by oil lamps and heat by a coal fire. There were earth closets outside.

In 1851, there were 45 pupils, including 11 from Lassington. The children were from cottages in the village, their parents mostly working either on the land or at the Court. Fees of 4d per week for older children and 2d a week for younger children were paid until 1891, when elementary education became free and compulsory. The school roll then rose to 70. School leaving age was 12. Until 1891, attendance had been sporadic, absences being caused by harvesting, bad weather and inability to pay fees, as well as sickness.

The fees of the children from Lassington were met from a new charity, the William Andrews foundation. William Andrews’ origins are uncertain but he was connected with the Murrell family who farmed at Maidenhall Farm. In his later life he lived in London where he was a Freeman of the City and a member of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Tailors. His own trade was a Gentleman Tackle Porter which means he owned a wharf and was involved with the unloading of ships. The charity he founded was still in existence when this text was published  and administered by trustees, two appointed by the Parish Council and three from the Local Education Authority. The money could only be used for educational needs, but Highnam children could benefit as well as Lassington children.

The above text is an extract from “Highnam, a history and guide”. The full text can be accessed through the website.