Jerry Hibbert

Thyme Travels into History Part Six - The Last 200 Years

by Jerry Hibbert At Thyme 24 Oct 19

In 1823 John Keble (of Fairford) became Vicar of Southrop and Eastleach. and lived at The Lodge (then called Southrop Parsonage) from 1823 to 1827. It was in this house that he organised reading parties from Oxford who sowed the seeds of the Oxford Movement, which shaped the Anglican Church as we know it today. 

The first reference to a Newman family in Southrop occurs in the Parish records of December 1720 when a William Newman married Sarah Harrison. A variety of Newmans then crop up in registers and on memorial stones in the graveyard until the present day. One was a 'land measurer' who had a handy note in his accounts book on measuring farmers' hayricks (for payment purposes): "If the heaves are longer than the top of the roof, take it top or bottom or half way up the roof, allowing one foot for the roof and as many feet for each hip as there is in one side of the roof. 6/- [six shillings] per sq. yard."  But in 1830, dissent among the farming labourers arose, known as the 'Swing' or Agricultural riots. They had many immediate causes, but were overwhelmingly the result of the progressive impoverishment and dispossession of the English agricultural workforce over the previous fifty years. The name 'Swing Riots' was derived from the ficticious name that was often appended to the threatening letters sent to farmers, magistrates, parsons and others, ‘Captain Swing’, who was regarded as the mythical figurehead of the movement.

It began with the destruction of popularly hated, labour-displacing threshing machines in East Kent in the summer of 1830, but soon spread. The protesters reinforced their demands with wage and tithe riots and by the destruction of objects of perceived oppression, such as workhouses and tithe barns, and also with the more surreptitious rick-burning, and cattle-maiming. If caught, the protesters faced charges of arson, robbery, riot, machine breaking and assault. Those convicted faced imprisonment, transportation, and ultimately execution.

When John Keble arrived at Southrop in 1823, he found the workers in a pitiable state: “…the labourers oppressed and starving, and sanitary conditions so bad that in a total population of 320 souls, there were between 50 and 60 cases of typhus.” In November, a crowd gathered on the village green, broke open the blacksmith shop adjacent (still to be seen behind the bus shelter), and took tools for machine breaking. The gathering was finally dispersed near the bridge by mounted militia with drawn sabres – “a gallant field of horsemen mustered by the Hon. Mr. Moreton”.  The ringleaders were not all apprehended. Some hid in the hay at the barn at Tiltup and narrowly missed being skewered by the pitchforks of the searching militia. Anybody that was caught was temporarily held at the Manor and segregated into those who rioted and those who spectated. Twelve men (including three from Southrop) were charged at Gloucester Quarter Session in January 1831, largely on the word of Churchwarden John Newman on “having riotously and tumultuously assembled in the parish of Southrop… for the purpose of breaking and destroying threshing machines”.  All were convicted of riot after a one-sided trial wherein the defendants were not allowed to speak.  The three Southropians were sentenced to one year in the House of Correction at Northleach (now the Cotswolds Discovery Centre).  They were fortunate not be convicted of machinery breaking which carried the much more severe sentence of 7 years prison, followed by transportation “to distant lands across the seas, there to remaine and not to returne.” It is reported that John Keble attempted to quell this riot but evidence suggests he was elsewhere at the time – possibly trying to quell others.

In 1847, the Ox Barn was built. This was regarded in its day as a state of the art building housing the oxen used for ploughing and traction. The sliding doors and 53 foot beams (Douglas Firs probably imported from Canada) were very modern design elements. In 1926, Wadham College put the Southrop Estate under the hammer in small lots and the estate was broken up. Under the current ownership, many of those pieces have been brought back together to create what is now Thyme.


Main Image: The Lodge, formerly Southrop Parsonage 
Additional images, source: eastleach.org

 

This is the last of the six installments of Jerry's history of Southrop, the manor, the farm and its buildings. 
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