A view of KLB School from Wotton Hill - click to return to the website homepage

It's all around you... Finding out about your local history.

This page is intended to support Year 9 research on the local history of the area. For more information on any of the sites listed, you can visit the Heritage Centre, The Chipping, Wotton-under-Edge.

A view of the the Renishaw site

The old and the new

In Wotton and Kingswood, there are many old buildings which tell us about the local area. Sometimes these are hidden away. Renishaw stands next to an old mill.

The gatehouse to Kingswood Abbey

Kingswood Abbey Gatehouse

Detail of the gatehouse windowThe gatehouse and some precinct walling are all that are left of Kingswood Abbey, a 'daughter' of the famous Tintern Abbey. This Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1139 by a member of the Berkeley family and has existed in several locations over its history. The Abbey was demolished following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.


The Tolsey ClockThe Tolsey Clock

A clock existed here, at the top of the high street in Wotton, in the 17th century. Various repairs were carried out on the clock over the years. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the driving mechanism of the clock was in the loft of the Tolsey building. A man was employed regularly to wind it up and look after it. A plaque on the clock lists some of the people who wound the clock up manually.

Some of the names listed on the clock plaque
Eyles 22/6/97 - 20/4/98
H.Organ 19th Century
H.Organ (jr.) 1/11/39
Wyer until 24/6/1951 20th Century
Pritchard up to 1983

Queen Victoria had come to the throne in 1837 and to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 the present clock, which juts out into the high street, was installed, replacing the octagonal shaped one. More recently, the original portraits of Queen Victoria were replaced with new ones painted by Wotton-under-Edge artist Robert Collins, who worked from an 1897 Diamond Jubilee picture of Queen Victoria which decorated a mug.

William TyndaleThe Tyndale Monument

William Tyndale was born around 1484. His birthplace is not known, but it is quite likely that his parents lived in Stinchcombe. He spent his childhood in this area, before going to Oxford to study Greek. In about 1522 he was known to be living as a tutor to the family of Sir John Walsh of Little Sodbury. He strongly believed that the Bible should be studied in English and that it should be understood by people in all ranks of society. Many people found his views offensive, and persecution of him at Little Sodbury eventually caused him to leave the area.

He then embarked on a project to try and publish an English translation of the Latin  Bible. He failed to find a publisher in England willing to take on such a dangerous project and so he left the country and moved to Cologne to continue with his translation. In 1525 he began printing but his continuing efforts had made him many enemies in the religious community and he was eventually forced to move to Worms to complete it.

Close-up of the William Tyndale plaqueThe Tyndale MonumentIt was while he was living in Antwerp (in what is today Belgium) that his translation of the Bible was finally published. Attempts were made to bring him back to England to stand trial and he tried to remain in hiding. However he was betrayed and, after 16 months of imprisonment, was tried and then strangled and burned at Vilvorden, near Brussels, on the 6th of October 1536.

The idea of having a memorial to Tyndale was not suggested until three centuries later. At this time it was thought that Hunts Court, in the village of North Nibley, was Tyndale's birthplace and it was decided to place the monument on Nibley Knoll, overlooking the village and visible from KLB School. The foundation stone was laid on 29th May, 1863, by the Hon. Colonel Berkeley. Digitally enhanced close-up of the William Tyndale plaque The 111 ft high monument is made of stone extracted from Hampton Quarry, near Stroud, and was finally completed in 1866. The entrance is on the East side and inside a staircase leads up to gallery. The monument is decorated with four sculptures representing four different situations:

  • Tyndale leaving Sodbury
  • His conference with John Frith (one of Tyndale’s closest friends, and like Tyndale, one of England’s ablest scholars, also educated at both Oxford and Cambridge)
  • His betrayal at Antwerp
  • His martyrdom.

The Battle of Nibley Green

This is the last battle to be fought on English soil between private armies. The families of Lord Berkeley of Berkeley Castle and Lord Lisle of Wotton had quarrelled over who owned the Berkeley lands for a number of generations. This had led to a number of skirmishes and law suites and things came to a head when on 19th March 1469, Thomas Talbot, the Viscount de Lisle, challenged Lord William Berkeley to open combat on Nibley Green, close to the village of North Nibley.
William, having accepted the challenge that day, quickly enlisted the support of his brother Maurice from Thornbury and miners from the Forest of Dean and his army camped that night on the outskirts of Michaelwood next to Nibley Green.
At sunrise the next morning Lord Lisle's army moved down the hill from Nibley Church, on to the green. Lord Berkeley's army was clearly stronger and the battle was short but very bloody. Lord Lisle was shot with an arrow in the eye and then killed with a dagger and his army was routed.
Nearby Wotton Manor was sacked and, when his wife miscarried 16 days later, the de Lisle family line was ended.

The Tabernacle Chapel

The Tabernacle ChapelThis former church is now an auction room. The Reverend Rowland Hill (1745-1833) was well known as an evangelist. On the evening of 16th June, 1771, he rode into Wotton for the first time and preached to huge crowds under the market hall, now the Town Hall. Rowland Hill returned to Wotton a few months later and bought a site above the town, where he built a chapel, known as The Tabernacle, and built a house for himself.

Hill was well known as a supporter of Edward Jenner, famous for his discovery of a vaccination against the disease smallpox. Hill was one of the first people to be vaccinated and urged many members of his congregation to do so. If you want to find out more about Jenner, a former pupil of KLB school, you can visit the Jenner Museum in Berkeley.

The church closed in 1973 and the building was bought by Robert and John Woodward, whose replica of the Woodchester Roman Pavement (the Great Orpheus Pavement) - one of the largest Roman mosaics in Northern Europe - was created and put on display there. Sandoe's now use it as an auction room.

The Toll House

The Toll HouseThis house which some of you may pass on your way to school from Charfield, is an old toll house where money was collected for using the road.

The Rowland Hill Almshouses

The Rowland Hill AlmshousesRowland Hill founded some almshouses next to the Tabernacle Chapel. Originally this was a row of cottages in a field, set back some distance behind the chapel. These are now privately occupied. The almshouses featured in this picture here were built in 1883, replacing some cottages built in 1881.

  • Please note that the Reverend Roland Hill was not related to the Rowland Hill who was famous for creating the Penny Post!

Other famous residents of Wotton

  • Isaac Pitman was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, in 1813. His father withdrew him from school when he was 13, because he thought it was making his already poor health worse. Isaac made up for this by reading. He was fascinated by the pronunciation and meaning of words, and learned Taylor's shorthand* system when he was working as a clerk in the office of his father's cloth factory. Whilst living in Wotton, in the house in Orchard Street which bears his name, he decided to publish a cheap edition of Taylor's shorthand. However, he devised an improved method which he called phonography, or writing by sound.
  • Pitman later set up his own school, possibly at 11 Bradley Street, where he taught boys his shorthand system. He continued to develop and publish his shorthand, eventually giving up teaching to devote more time to it.

    *shorthand is a sort of code used to write down information quickly (useful for taking notes at meetings, for example.)

  • Stephen Hopkins was born in Wotton in about 1580 and probably left there as a young man when in his 20's. A Stephen Hopkins is recorded as having sailed from London to Virginia, America on 2nd June, 1607. The ship on which he sailed was severely damaged in a hurricane, and those on board were washed ashore in Bermuda. They were marooned there for nine months and built two vessels to take them to Virginia. Stephen organised an uprising against some of the men who were to govern the colony, on the grounds that the Governor had authority on the voyage and in Virginia, not in Bermuda. He was sentenced to death, but pleaded for the sake of his wife and children in England. There are no further records of him in Virginia, so it has been presumed that he returned home.
  • According to records, Hopkins also sailed with the Pilgrim fathers on The Mayflower , arriving at Plymouth, Massachusetts (New England) in 1620. Stephen's family of eight was one of only four families to completely survive the first, hard winter. He became one of the leaders of the settlement and his previous experiences of the Indians, in his first voyage, was very useful. He was noted for establishing good relations with the Indians. He died in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1644.

    Some recent research has found that there was a Stephen Hopkins and family who came from Hampshire. Therefore, the Stephen Hopkins who emigrated to New England, America may not in fact be the same person, but it is still an interesting story!

  • John Cambridge grew up in Wotton in the 18th century. His father was the licensee of the Star Inn and when John emigrated to Canada and became the founder of a shipping line he named it the White Star Line in memory of this. The White Star line was eventually to become the owners of the ill-fated Titanic and her sister ship.

ŠN. Landau - June 2000

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