Berry Hill Development by Stephen Yates

Berry Hill – the early years

Stephen Yeates, Research Associate of Oxford University’s Wolfson College

Meeting of 11th April 2013

Stephen is a professional archaeologist, but as a local boy Berry Hill, Five Acres, Joyford and Shortstanding are his hobby. These are all in the Extra-Parochial land of the Forest of Dean – carved out of the King’s hunting land, neither in the parish of English Bicknor or within the Forest statutory boundary (which Hillersland is in). Each of these hamlets has grown from one farm, one pub and one green area; whereas normal village development starts with a church and manor.

The early cottages (eg. along Bicknor Street) can be spotted by their small, high windows and very steep roofs which would have taken the local slates. Typical of the 16th and 17th century are direct-entry houses. Davara is an example with front door straight into the sitting room, its big fireplace and staircase behind. Plum Cottage on Bicknor Street has the standard large oven to one side of the fireplace.

Throughout their development English Bicknor Church (under the Archbishop of Hereford and then Gloucester) and Newland Church (given to Llandaff diocese) were disputing who owned what land and who tithes should go to. In the 14th Century the Bishop of Hereford excommunicated all Newland parish, including Coleford, for their drinking dens (called ‘scuttles’).

Hillersland: The Rock used to be The Cock, there is a building on site shown on Saxtons Map of 1608. Opposite is Hillersland Green. However, it is proving difficult to establish if Hillersland Farm or Blackthorns was the original. By 1758 a settlement is shown on the map, whilst Cinderford is still nothing except lime kilns.

Shortstanding: Sterts Farm is shown on the 1608 map; ‘sturt’ means a tail of land. There are references in the 1300s to a John Sergeant on the site, he was probably a King’s official. By 1758 we have The Royal Oak (which closed around 1908, now Oak Cottage) and The New Inn (so called as it was the second inn in the area; its back part looks to be late 17th century whilst the front is Victorian) as well as Jasmine Cottage and other structures. Also shown is the Gospel Oak which would have been part of the medieval beating the bounds ceremony for Bicknor parish; the participants would have needed refreshments – hence the pub.

Joyford: The 1608 map shows Joyford Mill and Joyford Farm. By 1758 more buildings are shown including what looks like The Dog and Muffler (previous names include Britannia and New Inn) and below it the old village green. The pub is a cross passage building and would originally have had a spiral staircase. The 1788 map shows an extensive field system. By 1859 we see a small hamlet with cottages spreading along Hillersland Lane.

Five Acres: Evidence of human activity goes back at least to the Bronze Age with a ring ditch (ploughed up round barrow) just south of Five Acres Farm. On the 1608 map there is no Five Acres Farm yet, but Little Five Acres Farm. In 1651 an historic case went up to the Courts in London: Five Acres Farm was partly on the King’s hunting land and was to be demolished; the Court overturned Forest Laws and so began the right for people to actually develop their land and property. By 1758 there is the farmhouse, a long barn and The Rising Sun (now The Gamekeeper). The Globe was built around 1854.

Berry Hill: ‘Berry’ would have originally have been written as ‘burgh’ meaning fort – was it originally a hill fort? The 1608 map shows Maiden’s Green by The King’s Head. By 1758 there are enclosed fields.

Stephen is still pulling together information on the area and asked if anyone one has any house dates or deeds, particularly pre 1860. Please pass what you have on to him: 834973. CS