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.
SOME “TABLOID” HEADLINES FROM CRADLEYI
“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)