History Page

What can the History element of Past in Mind contribute to the results which are emerging from the dig?
Well, it may not be so companionable, but I think I can guarantee that the History will be the drier bit of the project – and I don’t mean it will necessarily be boring.
First of all, we can get a deeper understanding of the type of people who might have lived in the two very different houses that were discovered. What sort of expectations did they have for their lives? How free were they to live as they wanted? What sort of occupations filled their days?
Then, we can look again at some actual people at different stages of the history of the site and its surroundings. We already have names for several of these people (Walter, Matilda, Joan and William Colley, John Arden, Hugh Hey, Richard and Mary Biddle) and I expect that between now and Christmas we’ll be able to name several more. We should also be able to understand what these people believed, some important events that shaped how their lives developed, what they had in their houses, even what they ate and drank. Using a mixture of specific information we discover about them, and more general knowledge about the times in which they lived, we can hold these people up as a mirror to look at our own society and communities.
I firmly believe that History is about understanding the past in terms of how big events (plagues, famines, wars, changes of government policy) affected the lives of real people, and I still think that Studmarsh has a lot more to reveal.
Kate Lack.


So, what do we know about Studmarsh so far?

We’ve made a huge amount of progress on the history of the site – historical research is a very slow process, and we’ve done amazingly well already.


1. Studmarsh has been settled since at least Anglo-Saxon times

The first element of the place name suggests that the land was cleared, with tree stumps: it’s tempting to think that this was what Saxon speakers found when they first arrived.

The second element either means the site was wet or it was on the edge of the settled area (Studmarsh meadow is on the modern Whitbourne parish boundary, and divided by the Linton/Norton township boundary).

Margaret and Jenny are working on a map of A/S Studmarsh and its setting.


2. Was Studmarsh Depopulated in the Black Death?

We are investigating this! Judith has looked through all transcribed Bishop’s Registers and although they do not contain much of direct relevance, she has found some vital clues.

The Bishop’s ‘Red Book’ of 1280 lists 149 tenants of Bromyard Foreign [Winslow, Norton, Linton and Brockhampton], and this equates to about 670 people. In 1377, after the terrible famines of 1314-1324 and then plagues in 1349 & 1361, the Poll Tax records suggest that there might only have been about 170 left.

Among the tenants of Bromyard Foreign in 1280,Bryan has found John and Robert of Brocampton and Margerie, Hugh, Matilda and Walter of Stubmershe. A highly significant fact is that two of these lived on the older established agricultural land, but the other two had ‘assarts’ (land encroaching on what was once common waste or woodland, because of population pressure). Mel asked what ‘assart’ is derived from and Judith has looked it up – It’s from Latin ex =out & sar(r)ire to hoe or weed (Anglo French), which is interesting because it might mean that it was only recognised as a separate practice after the Conquest.


3. What effect did the famines and the Black Death have?

Hereford diocese has a unique account made during the Bishop’s visitation of all the parishes in 1397, and Claire and Andrew Bailey have been translating parts of it.

In Brockhampton, the parishioners merely said ‘All is well here’.

In Bromyard, there were some petty neighbourhood disputes: Alson Broune was in particular trouble for cursing the men of the parish and selling her hemp cloth in church.

In Bishop’s Frome however, the vicar, Adam, died early in plague year and the parish seemed to be struggling fifty years later – it was unable to find money to pay for buildings and services.

Cradley was one of a group of four parishes which lost about half population in 1349 alone: civil society was apparently in danger of collapsing completely, and fifty years later, things were still bad.


 “Also they say that Master Richard, and Master William, the Parish Chaplain, were armed at night in the parish, chattering and disturbing the peace of the parishioners, contrary to the decency of the church”.

 “Also they say that this same Master William, the chaplain, committed adultery with Agnes Haxley, as common gossip goes.  They say that this same Master William has been defamed because of an affair with Margaret, the wife….”

 “They also say that Richard Peacock committed adultery with Alicia Swan, who is married.”

 “They also say that, in the absence of a Vicar, the Vicar’s house suffered damage to the roofs, walls and shutters.”


4. The Sixteenth Century residents

Andrew Kneen has found evidence for two properties in Swithin Butterfield’s 1577 survey of the Bishop’s manors. One was called Studcroft, the other Studmarsh (alias Yearnes), with 15 acres of pasture and meadow.

Di has been looking through Bromyard and Whitbourne parish registers, and discovered many possible entries relating to the Beedle, Colley and Ardern families, who occupied these houses in Elizabeth I’s reign.

Sue has discovered that a Joan Colley left a will in 1560, which still exists, and we now have a copy of it. Deborah and Sue have been working on a transcription of it, and it may provide new clues.


5. The Seventeenth Century and later

We know that in 1674 Richard Beadle left meadow called Studmarshe to two of his daughters, but we have not yet traced its history after this. The inventory [list of possessions] attached to his will is a very valuable document, and can shed lots of light on what his life was like.


We now know that at least part of our site has been called a ‘meadow’ since at least sixteenth century. This is an odd description for land away from a river that flooded naturally. Is this significant? Was it being deliberately flooded to increase the hay yield (vital for winter feed and hence to increase animal manure for arable fields).

Andrew Kneen has also been looking at the water supply to Grove Pool: might this be related?


6. What next? There’s plenty more historical research to do, as well as the things already mentioned

  • ·         Follow up register entries – look for wills and transcribe them
  • ·         Produce a detailed map of old routes to the site, and boundaries of parishes, townships and gardens
  • ·         Find what we can from inventories
  • ·         Work on relevant parts of the 1280 and 1577 tenants list and try to construct the landscape
  • ·         Follow up history after 1674


 If you are interested in joining any of the historical research groups please contact the Past in Mind Project Manager, Jenny McMillan: Jenny.McMillan@herefordshire-mind.org.uk


People Like Us

(by Dr. Kate Lack)

The historical research for this project is suddenly taking off! We are now planning a display of progress so far, for the next public event on 28th July.

Although there are signs of Ancient British and Roman activity in the vicinity, the place-name Studmarsh is Anglo-Saxon in origin. So a good place to begin seems to be an attempt to visualise the landscape as its Saxon farmers and families knew and understood it. How much woodland was there? What wild animals existed – and how dangerous were they? How many settlements, and of what size, might there have been? Were these people farmers, and if so what were they growing? Do we know any of their names? How did they travel to their neighbours? We are already able to answer many of these questions, and a group of volunteers is starting to make a map of the area, populated with the things that were important to the Saxon residents.

Other volunteers are finding out about Studmarsh and the Bromyard district in the Middle Ages (between the Norman Conquest and the Reformation). Some of this work involves translating texts from Latin. From these documents we are discovering how densely populated the area was, if either the Black Death or one of the occasional famines reduced the population, and whether these people were poor or relatively rich.

By the late Tudor period, we are discovering that it is possible to fill in quite a lot of detail about the lives of individual local people. We have known since the taster day that a man called Richard Beadle owned a meadow called Studmarsh in 1674, and now we are more confident that this is our site. Two groups are exploring the surviving records from this period, and finding out about the Beadle family and their neighbours – what land they owned, who they married, even something about what they had in their houses. Richard Beadle, for example, ate off pewter (at least on special occasions) and had three beds in the house (two with feather mattresses); on his farm land he had seven acres of grain in the fields as well as his meadows, and a cider mill for his personal use.

BeedleInventory (Richard Beadle’s Inventory in pdf)

4 thoughts on “History Page

  1. Hi All, Thank you for this page-Ive noticed for ages that this page had no replies, so just to say how glad I am of this the History page, so, I thought i’d leave a reply. (The replying access was not as easy as the gallery page, so It might need a bit of tweeking,) I saw that new info had been added, gladly, to this, the history page of the blog & just to say anyway – im very glad to have this page to refer to, as I havent yet set up my printer. So if I want to read it through again-I can :-). I have taken a photo of this the History page on my phone but that is not always easy to look at when my phone is in use alot for the other things like replying to texts & calls. Im glad we are having a break from the physical bit at Studmarsh, which was So Good 🙂 when I could get there 🙂 so with the autumn / winter weather now here, that its good that we can look forward to – inside work. I like all aspects of the project, so finding it hard with my time consuming personal life, to know which part of the project I’d rather do. Gladly- Now its History time. 🙂 Thank you to All 🙂 for the Past in Mind Project. I’m Sorry 😦 if it looks like im not interested because im always late, part of my problem, im affraid, which also needs tweeking by me. My Ongoing Challenge! So I Look forward to meeting up with All My Stud Mud Friends & Enthusiasts, when I can :-)Hope to See you Soon. 🙂 Helen D.

    • Hi Helen, thank you for your comment. Possibly the “Leave a reply” section is harder to find on The History Page because it is right at the bottom of the page. All the Reply Boxes tend to be at the bottom of the page unless you click on the title of the post, which will allow you to leave a comment after that particular post rather than on the general page. Hope that helps! Great to see you at the weekend and I can assure you that no one thinks you’re rude if you’re late – speaking personally I’m always impressed that you manage to get there despite numerous obstacles. So most people are actually very pleased to see that you’ve made it.
      Bye for now,

  2. Hi Claire, ive found how the Leave a Reply on this History Page works now. 🙂 The scroll arrows on the right hand side of the Reply box are very faintly there & not very noticable until I had clicked on it – then it all appeared – the curser & also the other boxes below to add your email addr’, name etc. I hope my explanation helps, its not a crititism, its just me & my not understanding some of the internet stuff & the way I think. Thanks for your reply, I’m glad that I’m welcomed, even when I’m so late. It was good to see you & everyone else, when I did get to Whitbourne. I hope, I will eventually be able to catch up on some of what I missed & look forward to our next meeting. So, for now, I say, Bye. 🙂 Helen

    • Hi Helen, well done :). There’s always lots of trial and error involved with computers but you’re doing brilliantly persevering with it all!
      I’m lucky having the screen reader telling me where all the arrows etc are – I forget that they may not always be obvious to spot 🙂
      Have a good day anyway. More rain 😦 x

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