FHS Archive Room

Since 2004 FHS has been collecting information about Fairford’ s history. In 2008 we obtained a designated space in the refurbished Community Centre, which is a room on the top floor front of the building. It was appropriate as the north facing window contains some of the original 18th century glass.

The collection contains anything relating to Fairford’s history, not only books and paperwork but also objects e.g. the Fairford ‘Wane’ brick, a collection box in the form of a WW2 submarine, Fairford mugs, presentation cups, pictures and items collected by June Lewis from Fairford, Manitoba etc. etc.

FHS is always pleased to accept donations, large or small. We have a collection of oral CD memories, unfortunately we have nobody to organise this at the moment. However, we are very ready to accept written memories of Fairford, this is the local history that will be lost in the future. If you would like to talk to someone about your memories so that they can be written down, please contact us.

We always try to help with family history enquiries. All the parish registers, wills and inventories
are online www.ancestry.co.uk, other researchers have deposited their information with us so sometimes we are able help and to put distant relatives in contact with each other.

The FHS Archive Room is open on Monday afternoons 2-4 we are always pleased to see visitors then or please contact FHS by phone or email if that time is not convenient.

The Fairford Parish Registers

On 29 September1538 a royal injunction was published throughout the realm by Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General. This read that:
“The curate of every parish church shall keep one book or register, which book he shall every Sunday take forth, and in the presence of the churchwardens, or one of them, write and record in the same all weddings, christ’nings, and burials made the whole week before; and for every time that the same shall be omitted, shall forfeit to the said church 3s, 4d.”
Initially there was much suspicion, especially by the clergy, that this was just a ruse to collect information for taxation purposes and therefore it would seem not all parished registers were actually commenced as early as 1538. A later injunction in 1597 instructed parishes to keep their records in a parchment book at which point many of the original registers were transcribed from the original paper copies. The following year saw an order that a copy of each parish register was to be sent to the Diocese Office of the appropriate Bishop within a month after Easter. These Bishop Transcripts are a useful check on the parish copy and can sometimes help with transcribing difficult to read handwriting.
It is not known when the Fairford parish register was first started but the existing books kept at Gloucestershire Archives commence in 1617 when the Reverend Christopher Nicholson was the Vicar. The registers could well have been started earlier than 1617 but may have been since lost, which, if so, is a great loss. The registers are all hand written, even up to the 1970s, and the standard of handwriting and clarity varies immensely, although some of the earlier registers are much more legible than many of the later ones!
A series of Acts between 1660 and 1680 instructed that all burials (except plague victims and the destitute) must be buried in ‘pure English woollen shrouds’. This was introduced in order to help England’s declining woollen industry and fines were made against families who did not comply. This accounts for many entries in the Fairford Parish registers which are annotated ‘buried in woollen’. The practice was generally ignored after about 1770.
Unfortunately for the local or family historian the Fairford registers do not often provide much detail other than names and dates. More fortunately however, the Fairford registers continue throughout the turbulent years of the English Civil War, unlike many other parish registers, although marriages are very sparse during this period, possibly because people were being married elsewhere or the marriages were not being recorded by the clergy.
Occasionally, brief notes have been added to the basic entries and some of these are noted below
• 21 Sep 1655 “A strange woman kild with the wagon who lived at Henly” (presumably it was the woman who lived at Henley!)
• 9 Sep 1690 William Robinson “killed by timber”
• 7 Dec 1697 “A stranger drownd near Mr Barkers house”
• 5 May 1734 Henry Fletcher “killed by a bell”
• 9 Oct 1737 Thomas Brown “kill’d by a fall from an apple tree”
• 9 Oct 1884 David Ormrod Archer “drowned whilst bathing at Freshwater, Isle of Wight Sep 27
The parish registers also record many instances where a significant number of people died over a short space of time as well as many instances where several members of the same family died within days or weeks of each other. These events probably indicate an epidemic of some kind; common diseases in the post-medieval era being plague, typhus, smallpox, cholera and consumption (tuberculosis). An example of this is the family of George Browne who lost his wife, two sons and a daughter in the space of a single week in 1621. Sadly, there are many other examples where an unusually large number of people, often from the same family, died over a short space of time.

On the last page of the 18th Century register is the following information:
“December ye 6th 1718 The Yew Tree was planted in Fairford Church-yard by Frampton Huntington A.M. Vicar.
NB: The Wall from ye Parsonage Stable to ye Street was built at ye cost of ye Revnd Mr James Oldisworth Impropriator, but it was pointed & cop’d at ye charge of ye Revnd Mr Frampton Huntington Vicar purely for ye good & benefit of ye trees planted against it.”

This is presumably the yew tree that was recorded in the Parish News as having been blown down in a storm on 16 March 1986. It would be interesting to know which wall this referred to as it would then point to the location of the parsonage stable and the parsonage itself. This was written before the Free School (Community Centre) was built so the wall dividing that plot and the churchyard is probably the most likely candidate.

The Fairford Parish Registers can be consulted in the FHS Archive Room but all are now available at Ancestry.co.uk which can be consulted free at Gloucestershire Archives.

The Lifehold Estates of John Raymond Barker, Esquire, 1768-1884

The Society has been very fortunate to have been donated a unique historical document relating to Fairford property and people of the 18th and 19th centuries. The foolscap-size notebook is titled “Lifehold Estates belonging to John Raymond Barker Esq” and was donated to the Society by a Fairford resident, whose late husband once worked for the Ernest Cook Trust. The 46-page document records the creation and renewals of leases relating to John Raymond Barker’s property in Fairford, the earliest being dated 1768 and the latest 1884. Over 120 leases are recorded and the details given add greatly to our knowledge of Fairford’s residents and property ownership during the Barker and Raymond Barker family’s time as landlords. Some of the entries are quite revealing; for example the entry for Jonathan Wane’s lease of a house in Milton End on 26 May 1803 gives him the option of paying either four shillings for rent, or just one shilling and “2 couple of fat hens”. In fact poultry seems to have been an alternative form of currency in the 19th Century as six other lessees were given the option of paying part of their rent in chickens!

The book has been transcribed and a copy of the transcription is available in the Society’s Archive Room in the Community Centre for all to see. Many of the old Fairford families are mentioned including the Wanes, Gilletts, Edmonds, Bettertons, Townsends, Beales, Savorys, Radways, Minchins, and many more. We are most fortunate to have been given this unique piece of Fairford history which will now be preserved for posterity. If you have any old documents in your attic or bottom drawer relating to Fairford please consider donating them to the Society where they will be cared for and made accessible for future generations. Alternatively we can take photographs of material so that the originals can be retained by the owners.

Fetid Fairford 1879-1914

Although today we all take the provision of efficient sewers for granted (until they become blocked!), this was not always the case. The Second Report of the Royal Sanitary Commission, published in 1874, presented the results of a nation-wide survey of the state of Britain’s sewers, drains, water supply and medical facilities. The report makes very uneasy reading!

Under the heading Sewerage the report for Fairford reads:
“There is no proper public sewerage or drainage in the town. Sewers are ventilated by open gratings and in part by rain pipes. Sewers and house drains are not trapped. Some drains go into the river, many into a watercourse, which empties into the river between Fairford and Lechlade. The houses are not generally supplied with waterclosets or privies capable of being flushed with water. Cesspools and ashpits are not deodorized. Houses do not generally drain into the sewers. A great many are without the means of communication.”

Under the heading of Water Supply the report states:
“Water supply is chiefly obtained from wells, some of which are polluted, and in very few it is pure, in part from the river Colne, into which very little drainage runs. There is no general plan for utilizing the rainfall.”

Perhaps surprisingly the section on Treatment of Disease records that: “There have been a few cases of typhus or scarlet fever, but no special outbreak of disease, since 1853.” Perhaps people had stronger constitutions in the 1870s!

The Commissioners obtained their information by sending out a questionnaire to each parish and the respondents for Fairford are listed as Lord Dynevor, the vicar; Robert Hayward, a plumber; Henry Dancy, the owner of a drapers in the Market Place; and Samuel Vines, a retired ironmonger. They sent in their reply on 16 February 1870 but it took another four years for the report to be published—nothing changes, does it?

A comment found in the Fairford Parish Council Minutes, July 8th, 1903. “Reference was made by Mr Cole that on certain days there was a quantity of soapsuds escaping from the drains of the cottages belonging to the Church Lands into the Green ditch & the Clerk was directed to write to Mr A H Iles drawing his attention to the fact.”

Another Government survey, Water Undertakings, published in 1914 showed little real progress with the majority of Fairford’s water coming from a spring near the Mill; the river Coln; and numerous wells.