A Short History of Rangeworthy and Bagstone

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There have been many finds of Roman artefacts around the area and a small Roman town was discovered at nearby Hall End in 2004. The villages were once part of the Royal Kingswood Forest which stretched from the River Severn to the Cotswold escarpment until the trees were cleared in the 13th century to create pastureland, primarily for grazing sheep. Bagstone was listed in the Domesday Book of 1068 as “Bachestone Hundred” whereas the first known mention of Ryngeworth (Rangeworthy) wasn’t until 1303. The Earl of Gloucester, Hugh de Audley, held the manor of Rangeworthy in 1348 but it changed hands many times and it was the Hale family who were responsible for building a manor house at the end of the 16th century which forms the core of the current Rangeworthy Court Hotel.

Nowadays Rangeworthy is much larger than its neighbour and is home to the only church, pub and school but Bagstone once had its own pub (The Plough), shop, forge and a school which ran from 1897 to 1922. It also had a Tollgate run by the Trustees of Wotton Turnpike Roads which charged 6s 9d (34p) in 1837 “For one Horse alone drawing any cart” with “Two Oxen drawing to be considered as one Horse”.

A feature commonly associated with toll roads used by sheep and cattle drovers is a pound where stray animals could be kept (impounded) until their owner paid a fine to recover them. The village pound on the Wickwar Road in Rangeworthy was built in the 1840s and last used formally in 1883 but was restored by the Parish Council in 1993.

The Holy Trinity Church dates from the 13th century and has some Norman features but was extensively remodelled in 1847 when the parish of Rangeworthy was formed, having previously been a chapelry in the parish of Thornbury. There is a long history of dissenting in the West Country and there are records of the Rangeworthy Society of Friends being formed in 1665, a Presbyterian Meeting House being registered in 1706 plus Independent and Congregational meetings around the same time. The Methodist Chapel built in 1820 and extended in 1874 continued in use until 2000.

The Rose & Crown pub was opened in 1840 with facilities to brew its own beers although the current building wasn’t erected until 1890. Previous pubs in the village included The Sign of the Bell, The Star and Rock House. The last village shop, which had its own bakehouse for bread and a salthouse for curing ham and bacon, closed in 1991. Rangeworthy C of E Primary School opened in 1871 with 51 pupils and has extended to accommodate the current roll of 64.

There was coal-mining at Arnold Pit and Old Wood Pit and extraction of iron ore at several sites. Lime Kiln Road testifies to the production of lime for mortar and agriculture in kilns measuring 20 feet deep and 10 feet across until 1923. A brick and tile works down New Road used to produce drainpipes too.

The predominant occupation of the area, however, was farming and its associated cottage industries. The 1851 census records 54 male agricultural labourers in Rangeworthy dropping to 33 in 1881, down to 5 in 1985. The manufacture of felt and hats was a significant trade in the 19th century with over 30 families engaged in home manufacture in 1831. Felt was made by boiling and beating wool, horse hair and reeds until matted. Rabbit fur was sometimes added to the mix for a finer grade of hat. Some of the hats were exported via Bristol to the West Indies.

Teasels grown locally were sold abroad but also used in spinning and weaving. The red marl soils of the area are good for orchards and there were several cider mills and presses including the one at Rock House which continued producing cider and perry until 1953. Double Gloucester cheese was made in the summer months when milk was at its creamiest.

The King George V Memorial Hall was opened in 1937 with a message of goodwill from King George VI. It was built on donated land and over half the building costs was covered by donations; the remainder being raised through membership fees of 2s 6d (12.5p) and charges to use the facilities. It was extended in 1975 and again in 1998. It is regularly used by a variety of organisations including the Court Players, WI, Playgroup and Pre-School and is the venue for many of the Jubilee Committee’s events such as the annual Children’s Christmas Party.

Bombs were dropped on the village during one of the last air raids of WW2 on May 14th 1944 but only property was damaged and there were no casualties. Mains water arrived in 1952 followed by connection to the National Grid for electricity in 1961 although mains sewerage was not fully installed until 1972.

The villages were originally in the county of Gloucestershire and still come under the Diocese of Gloucester but were included in the new county of Avon when it was created in 1974. Avon was abolished in 1996 and the Northavon District which included Rangeworthy and Bagstone was merged with neighbouring Kingswood to form the new unitary authority of South Gloucestershire Council.

Acknowledgement: Most of the material in this article was drawn from “The fascinating history of Rangeworthy, Bagstone and Hall End” 2nd edition published by Rangeworthy Women’s Institute in 2000