It seems that we have a dubious past, as the first recorded use of the name, or something like it, was in the 12th Century when Gilbert Foliot, then Abbott of St. Peter’s Monastery in Gloucester, wrote to the Bishop of Salisburycomplaining of the criminal activities of one Walter de Pinchcum. Since then there have been many variations including Pichelecumb, Pinchenecumbe and Pychecombe to name but three, but Pitchcombe seems to have been the settled name for the last 200 years.
One of the lanes in the village, Wragg Castle Lane, hints of a grand past, but these days there is nothing to see and only a legend that Wragg Castle Farm incorporates a staircase that was part of the ancient castle. It was possibly one of many strongholds raised during the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154) of which 140 were ordered to be destroyed by a Council of Westminster under King Henry II in 1155. As the castle crumbled, local folklore has it that it became known as the ‘Wragged Castle’.
Village Land Ownership
Land transactions have been traced as far back as 1204 but two have been particularly significant. In 1608 John Throckmorton was recorded as Lord of the Pitchcombe Manor. He was a Roman Catholic, had other land at Lyppiatt and is thought to have been involved in the Gunpowder Plot – the gunpowder conspirators fled to the Throckmorton seat at Coughton Court after they were discovered.
In 1610 John Throckmorton sold the Lordship to Thomas Stephens of Middle Temple, Attorney General to Prince Charles, whose family retained it until about 1825 when it was bought by a local mill owner, John Little, whose family having built Pitchcombe House in 1740, have retained much of it ever since.
The Church and Chapel
The original church, the Pitchcombe Cradle, was built in 1376 and remained in use until about 1819. It was then thought to be too small – maybe attendance was compulsory – and replaced by the new (current) church which was constructed around the old one which was then knocked down from within.
That may have been a response to competition from the Congregational Chapel built in 1803 between what are still known as the Chapel Steps and Manor Farm. There is notrace of the building nor of any graves. It was used until about 1898 when its popularity had so declined that it was demolished.
School and Village Hall
The old school, also built in 1803 for “up to 50 children”, closed in 1923. After a period as a Sunday School it became the Village Hall in about 1953. Thanks to a lot of fund-raising and some help from Gloucestershire Rural Community Council and National Heritage Lottery Fund, it is now as good a hall as you will find in such a small village and the Management Committee ensures a full calendar of events throughout the year.
Pitchcombe House was built in about 1740 for Thomas Palling probably on the site of an earlier building. His brother, William, later built Brownshill Court on the opposite side of the valley in the Parish of Painswick. Thomas Palling left no issue and the house passed to his nephew, John Caruthers, great, great, great, great grandfather of the present owner.
Other Building of Note
Bedcroft has claims to be one of the oldest houses in the village arising from the date 1553 carved in a stone door lintel. However that may possibly have been re-cycled from an earlier building there or elsewhere as it is not much different from a number of other buildings whose features suggest they were built in the 17th or 18th centuries.
Smalls Mill must have straddled the boundary between Pitchcombe and Painswick at the bottom of Pincot Lane. It was completely dilapidated about 30 years ago and what you see now is nearly all new.
Likewise Wades Mill (formerly Pitchcombe Mill) was also on the Painswick Stream at the bottom of Wades Lane. There is little to see of the mill apart from the Mill House.
The present Pitchcombe Mill, c 1750, is included in the English Heritage publication ‘Textile Mills of the South West’ (2013) as a classic example of an 18th century woollen mill in the Stroud valleys.
The Eagle was the last pub in the parish closing on Old Year’s Night 1973.
Star Farm was undoubtedly one of the other pubs in the village as an internal door is divided across the middle to facilitate “off sales – but at present lacks a liquor licence!
The Halfway House on the A46/A4173 junction, which was the Post Office until August 1973 was probably another.
Pitchcombe had gained its first Post Office between 1876 and 1879 run from a converted annexe to Chestnut Cottage.
Although thought of as unchanged for many years Pitchcombe has gained about 25 new houses in the last 60 years and many others have been significantly altered or extended.
According to the Victoria County History “In 1818 a new turnpike built up the valley of the Painswick stream past Pitchcombe replaced Wick Street as the main road to Gloucester.” Then, a year later “In 1819 a road was built from Painswick to link with the new route at Pitchcombe thus replacing the Wick Street route (from Painswick) to Stroud.”
Apart from the three old mills, of which there are many references to be found, one of the most interesting industrial developments was that of Wades Mill under the ownership of Peter Matthews who was described in 1858 as a “bone manufacturer”. Kelly’s Directory for 1863 describes the business: “Peter Matthews & Son; agricultural chemists and manufacturers of oil of vitriol, super-phosphate of lime, bone dust and all kinds of artificial manures for corn, turnips, clover and other grasses, and dealers in Peruvian guano; Pitchcombe Bone Mills.”
Resthaven, was opened in 1938 as a 13 bed nursing home by Maud Little who had been Acting Superintendent of Standish Hospital (for wounded soldiers) during World War 1. It became a Registered Charity in 1964 and has since been extended to 36 beds by the Trustee Board which now includes four Pitchcombe residents.
Pitchcombe has its own Parish Council with 5 councillors and was in the front line several years ago when the Painswick Valley was threatened with massive development by the Stroud District Council draft Local Plan – which has very recently been finalised without this allocation. Indeed it shows no “settlement boundary” for Pitchcombe implying a presumption against any further development.
The parish covers an area of 2033080 m2 of which 14390 m2 is occupied by domestic buildings.
The first national census, in 1801, showed Pitchcombe having 40 houses inhabited by 216 people – 104 male and 112 female. By 1841 there were 63 houses inhabited by 243 people but by 1851 these figures had apparently declined to 45 houses inhabited by 145 people, possibly owing to emigration caused by the decline of the cloth trade.
100 years later there appear to have been 83 private households occupied by 281 people and the 2011 census shows 232 people living in 105 households. Of these, at that time, 29 were under the age of 18 and 73 were 65 or over. There are 113 dwellings in the village.
Credit: Michael Little