Stonehouse appears in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book of 1086 under its Old English name “Stanhus” – so called, it is believed, because the Manor house was built of stone rather than the usual wattle and daub. In medieval times the Manor lands included a vineyard, and the Manor corn mill at Lower Mill. Upper Mill also probably existed in 1086, and later became a cloth mill, joined by several others including Bond’s Mill. These mills continue today as commercial centres.
The manor house was completely rebuilt in 1601 and despite a fire in 1908, is still a beautiful Grade II* building, now occupied by Stonehouse Court Hotel. It is located next to St Cyr’s Church, near the Stroudwater Canal and the River Frome. St Cyr’s Church is one of the oldest buildings in Stonehouse, the tower dating from the 14th century. The churchyard contains an impressive array of 17th and 18th century monuments.
The woollen industry was important to Stonehouse people, first as producers of wool and later as experts in textiles. The small mills of the 17th and 18th century supported work at home for the growing population of the village, later changing to a factory system. As the textile industry declined, Stonehouse remained a thriving place as smaller businesses of every type took over. Stonehouse was in an ideal position for trade, having a river and a canal close by and, by the middle of the 19th century, three railway stations giving easy access to the Midlands, Bristol, London and local towns and villages. The GWR station at Burdett Road is still an important asset for the town.
Due to the availability of raw materials in Stonehouse, brickmaking was a flourishing industry. The Stonehouse Brick and Tile Company was established in 1891, gradually slicing away one side of Doverow Hill, and remained an important employer for some 70 years. The company closed in 1968 and the 202 foot high chimney was demolished. Many of the houses in the town were built from the company’s bricks. Among the buildings abroad built from Brick and Tile bricks is the English Clock Tower in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which celebrated its centenary in 2016. Stonehouse History Group sent a commemorative plaque which is now displayed in the Tower.
At the start of World War Two, Stonehouse was seen as a suitable location for the “shadow factories” for the aerospace industry. Sperry Gyroscope moved into Bond’s Mill and a new factory for Hoffmann’s Bearings Ltd was built in Oldends Lane. These two factories employed many people during the war and afterwards. The engineering industry grew and developed into a new modern industrial estate, based at the western edge of the town, now near the M5 motorway.
In 1901, there were about 14 public houses in the village. In 2018, there are two – The Woolpack Inn and The Globe Inn which both date from the early 19th century. The Woolpack is one of the oldest buildings in Stonehouse, developed from 16th century cottages and barns. It catered for the wool traders and farmers whereas the Crown and Anchor in the middle of the town (now the High Street Medical Centre) was the main coaching inn where the Bath coach stopped.
Despite the growth of industry, Stonehouse remains an attractive rural town close to beautiful countryside. Its wide High Street contains a number of historic buildings from old coaching inns to the Town Hall built of local brick in 1933. It is but a few minutes’ walk to experience the delights of rivers, woods and hills surrounding the historic town.