Highnam through the Centuries
Highnam today consists of Highnam, Linton, Over and Lassington. In the past, Over was the most important and it should be noted that until Highnam church was built, Highnam was part of Churcham.
Why was this area settled in, centuries ago?
The Severn, a powerful river, comes down from Worcester as far as Maisemore. There the river divides into two, with half going each side of Alney Island. This meant that from time immemorial, this was the lowest crossing point of the Severn, for simple boats and simple bridges. The lowest crossing point from Wales to England. Certainly the Romans crossed there to get from their big military base in Glevum (Gloucester) to Caerleon, an even bigger military base near Chepstow. The town of Glevum needed timber for building, so the trees in Highnam were cut down. Originally the Forest of Dean stretched to Over. A tiny remnant of that forest can be found in Highnam Woods.
A further factor for the settlement at Over was the Leadon river which reaches the Severn there. This too was navigable by small boats. Transport by river was more efficient than by road.
The Romans stayed for around 400 years.
Pre 11th Century
680 – The Abbey of Gloucester was founded.
780 – King Ethelmund, son of Ingeld granted an estate of 30 hides at Over, to the secular priests of Gloucester Abbey. A hide is the size of a small farm. The land at over was used as a vineyard by the Abbey.
804 – Ethelmund’s son, Ethelric confirmed the estate to the secular clerks at the Abbey.
11th –12th Century
During the reign of King Canute, Wolfin le Rue was Governor of Gloucester, and also Lord of the Manor of Highnam and Churcham. In 1022 the secular priests were turned out of the Abbey and replaced by Benedictine monks. This so incensed Wolfin le Rue that, when he saw seven priests walking down the road from Churcham, he slew them all. He then visited the Pope to get absolution. His punishment was that he should give all of his estates of Highnam and Churcham to the Abbeyfor them to use for providing food from livestock and crops. So that is how the whole of Highnam became linked with the Abbey for several hundred years. Remember – they already had Over.
1033 – The earliest description of the land at Ham (Highnam). Wulfin le Rue gave Churcham and Highnam to the church of St. Peter.
1086 – The manor Highnam is recorded in the Domesday Book. The manor of Lassington, as listed in the Domesday survey, belonged to the Archbishop of York.
1095 – The earliest known reference to the Lassington church is it’s re-dedication to St. Oswald on Palm Sunday 1095, after the building of the Norman nave, chancel and side chapel.
1100 – Gloucester Abbey owned Churcham & Highnam. The eastern manor of Churcham became known as Highnam in 1100.
13th –14th Century
By the 13th Century, part of the leaden had been diverted to create a mill race. Over the years this was used for turning several mill wheels for grinding corn. They were great engineers.
1328 – 1337 A great Grange was built where Highnam Court is now. It consisted of a hall, a parlour, a great chamber and 2 porches. Also a chapel. On the northeast of the original Highnam Court the Newent road was recorded as the great road from Gloucester to Newent.
1332 – Gloucester Abbey was allowed to emparc 80 acres.
1329 – 1337 – John Wygmore, Abbot of Gloucester, believed to have built a greta grange at Highnam. Abbot Staunton built a house on the hill at Over, first wooden then stone. The house was called The Vineyard. It was reserved for the Abbot of the Abbey. In 1502, Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII stayed there en route from Prinknash Abbey to Raglan.
These two houses, at Over and Highnam, were to be served for monks if there was a plague in Gloucester.
15th –16th Century
1516 – John Arnold leased Highnam Court; a mansion was included with the property.
1530 – Henry VIII dissolved the monastery in Gloucester but kept the cathedral and said it was now C of E. He gave Highnam to the sitting tenant, John Arnold, but gave Over and the house there to the cathedral as a residence for the new Bishop. His residence was on the hill – The Vineyard. One of these bishops was Bishop Hooper.
1540 – A more substantial bridge was built at Over in stone with eight arches. Wide enough for two carts to pas each other with V shaped pediments on the side for pedestrians At that time there were 39 able bodied men in Highnam. They would have lived in Over, Highnam on the Green and Two Mile Lane, working on the land and the busy quayside at Over.
1542 – The manor of Highnam was granted by the crown to John Arnold.
1545 – John Arnold died and left the manor to his son Nicholas who was knighted in 1552
1580 – Nicholas’s heir, Dorothy, died and she was married to Thomas Lucy who assumed ownership. Lucy was knighted in 1593 and died in 1605.
1593 – Thomas Lucy knighted.
1605 – Thomas Lucy died
1607 – Lucy’s daughter Joyce took over Highnam Manor and was married to Sir William Cooke.
1618 – Sir William Cooke died. The estate was taken over by Robert Cooke.
1621 – Robert Cooke was knighted.
1643 – Robert Cooke died and the early house was seriously damaged in the Civil War battle fought at Highnam. Gloucester was a Roundhead stronghold and several thousand Cavaliers were camped in Highnam. They thought they were safe there, but Colonel Massey attacked him from the rear and. after a battle, the cavaliers were defeated. Up to 600 men were killed. A few escaped by retreating up the Newest Road. (The memorial can be sen in Rudford). 150 officers and 1400 men were taken prisoner and marched into Gloucester.
1658 – The new Court was built and its design was linked to Edward Carter, a pupil of Inigo Jones. The house was built for William Cooke, the son of Sir Robert Cooke, following the damage to the original structure.
Able bodied men were su[posed to give 4 – 6 days a year to maintain the road. This was never successful and as a consequence the roads were very poor. The roads were then turn-piked and this was paid for by tolls.
1703 – Following William Cooke’s death, the estate was inherited by his son Edward Cooke.
1724 – Edward Cooke died and the estate w as inherited by his son, Dennis Cooke.
1747 – Following Denis Cooke’s death the estate was inherited by his sisters. The estate passed by marriage into the Guise family.
1769 – John Guise reunited the manor.
1780 – The canal to Hereford was started, became redundant in 1854 and was closed in 1881.
1783 – John Guise inherited a baronetcy and took ownership of the manor following the death of his cousin Sir William Guise of Elmore.
1792 – All Gloucester executions took place at Over prior to 1792.
1794 – John Guise died and the manor passed to his son Sir Berkeley William Guise.
1796 – Hereford & Gloucester canal. Building began and a canal was opened from Gloucester heading north westwards to Newent and then onto Oxenhall tunnel, a distance of eight miles.
1824 – William Guise owned Highnam. He paid a teacher to teach 24 children, mostly from highnam, but also a few from Lassington who had to pay.
1829 – The new bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, was built over the Severn at Over. Shortly after completion the primary supports settled causing the centre of the bridge to drop slightly, which can be seen today. The integrity of the bridge remained and was used by tanks and trucks as well as cars. A replacement bridge was built in 1974.
1834 – Following Sir Berkeley’s death he was succeeded by his brother Sir John Wright Guise.
1838 – Sir John was forced to sell the manor following the crippling expenses of an election. Highnam Court was purchased by Thomas Gambier Parry.
1840 – 1855 The house was significantly renovated by the architect Lewis Vulliamy. James Pulham laid out extensive new gardens.
1844 – Highnam Woods contain a pinetum, a collection of conifers that was started by Thomas Gambier Parry in 1844 and included over 300 species by 1863.
1849 – Thomas Gambier Parry built and paid for the church, the rectory, the house on the cricket pitch for the caretaker of the church, and the school. The school had two classrooms and a 2 bedroom house for the teacher. The head teacher had some sort of toilet, but the children had earth closets outside. Toilets for pupils came in 1954, when a water supply and septic plant were installed. Heating was a large stove in each room, which the teacher had to keep going. Children attended from the age of 5 to 12 at first. In 1850 there were 45 pupils, including 11 from Lassington who had to pay 4d a week.
Thomas Gambier Parry paid for the Highnam children. Electric lighting did not come until 1950 and four years later for the church.
1851 – The Ecclesiastical parish of Highnam was established. The 1851 census showed that there were 194 people in Highnam. That means Two Mile Lane and the Green. 12 at Highnam Court and 117 in Over. This included a toll keeper, a lock keeper, an inn keeper, a shop keeper, a boatman, a wheelwright, a carpenter, a blacksmith, a mason, a straw bonnet maker, a tailor and a dressmaker.
The church was commissioned by Thomas Gambier Parry. The surviving son by his first marriage was Hubert parry, the composer. Hubert was taught to play the piano and organ, when he was a small boy, by the organist of Highnam church. After Oxford, he did work in the City for a while as his father demanded, but still followed his misical instincts and was knighted in 1898. He was Squire of Highnam after the death of his father, and it was he who had Highnam Parish Hall built in 1904.
1869 – Further renovations were performed on behalf of Gambier-Parry and included a billiard room.
1871 – Thomas Gambier Parry of Highnam bought Stone End farm in 1871.
1979 – Road tolls were ceased so rates men could come out of Gloucester without charge and the locals could go freely into Gloucester. The Severn flooded regularly so passengers were then ferried into Gloucester.
1881 – The H&G canal was closed. The original portion of the canal, from Gloucester to Ledbury was drained and the Ledbury to Gloucester railway was started on the canal bed.
1882 – In 1882, Highnam, Linton, and Over had gained small parcels of land from Rudford and the North Hamlet division of Gloucester City.
1888 – Thomas Gambier-Parry died. His wife Ethelinda Lear retained the manor until her demise.
1896 – Ethelinda Lear died. Her husband’s son, composer Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, succeeded her.
1904 – Over Hospital was built for infectious diseases such as typhoid, scarlet fever and dysentery.
1914 – 1918 – World War 1
1918 – Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry died. His half brother Major Ernest Gambier-Parry succeeded to the estate.
1920 – Mrs Gambier pary was one of the founder members of Highnam WI.
1930 – The houses along the Newest Road were built. Also the plan for the Garden Village of Highnam. The first step for this was the building of the dual carriage way, opposite the shop/post office and laying out Maidenhall. The individual plots were sectioned off and sold to individual buyers to build to their own design. about 20 had been built before the war stopped all building. after the war the Garden Village idea was scrapped.
1935 – In 1935 Highnam, Linton, and Over were united with Lassington to form the civil parish of Highnam
1936 – The major died and the estate was passed to his one surviving son, Thomas Mark Gambier-Parry who resided at the estate until 1966.
1939 – 1945 – World War 2 – The WI were busy bottling food. The land around the Court was used by the Navy and the Army for training men. On the 28th April Highnam Court was commissioned as an overspill centre for Navy recruits and was defined as a tender to HMS Ganges. On 31st January 1942 operations at Highnam Court were transferred to HMS Cabbala. In 1944 some U.S. Army engineers were billeted at the Court and were camped in the field just below the church, for a few months, training for the D-day landings. Officers stayed at the Court – the rest of the servicemen had to use tents and huts. A RAF Blenheim came down in a field close to the Pinetum during a training exercise and the pilot and three crew members were killed.
1950 – Thomas Mark Gambier-Parry gifted the farms of the estate to W.P. Cripps, his cousin
1966 – Thomas Mark Gambier-Parry died. He was succeeded by his cousin, Thomas Gambier-Parry’s great-grandson Thomas Fenton
1977 – The Court, gardens and part of the park were sold to Roger Smith. The freehold of the Garden House outbuildings and walled garden remained in Tom Fenton’s hands, as did much of the park.
1992 – A restoration plan for the estate, the Singleton Report, was put together.
1994 – The Highnam Court Estate was purchased by Roger Head.