Stonehouse History Group

Welcome to the web site for Stonehouse History Group

- promoting  interest in the History of Stonehouse & the locality.

Stonehouse Court
While looking through the
1881 census for Stonehouse you will notice that it contains some very interesting local social history, reflecting what it was like to live during those Victorian times. For instance, you will find the household of the Manor house “Stonehouse Court” now a hotel. The incumbents family were obviously very well off, the head of the household was Frederick Barclay Chapman, age 41, Late Major of the 14th Hussars, born London Regents Park, his wife was Augusta N Chapman, age 35, born Adelaide Australia, with their two daughters, Muriel E, age 14, born Roehampton Surrey, Dorothy M aged 9, and two sons, Wilfred C age 6, Gerald G age 4 all born Stonehouse.

Augusta didn’t have to do much house work as they had eight servants living in, James Makey, age 30, Butler, George Bryant 17, Page, Harriot Coley, 24, Cook, Emma Dodd, age 30, Ladys Maid, Sarah Tratt, age 29, Nurse, Mary Gulwell, 19, House Maid, Annie Harrison, 19, Nursery Maid, and finally Mary A Wooley, 18, Kitchen Maid. None of the servants were born locally.

Frederick his wife and two sons were still living in Stonehouse Court ten years later in the 1891 census. His two daughters were not there nor were any of the 1881 servants they had a complete set of new staff, again none of which were born locally, a Butler, Footman, Ladies Maid, Cook, Housemaid, Under maid and kitchen maid. The turn over of staff must have been fairly brisk.

Apparently Stonehouse Court was first mentioned as 'Stanhus' in the Domesday Book in 1086, referring to a manor house built in stone rather than the more common wattle and daub, building materials of the day. The manor is an impressive looking building and is now The Stonehouse Court Hotel, it serves as an impressive reminder of Stonehouse’s past. A rose, from one of its fireplaces, is used as the town's official emblem.

According to the Domesday Book, the manor was owned by William De Ow, a cousin of the Conqueror and had a vineyard - it is known that the grape was introduced into this country by the Romans, and it is possible that they had settled here.

According to Kelly’s directories Elizabeth I stayed here during one of her progresses.

Victorian Stonehouse

In contrast to Stonehouse Court the 1881 census for Stonehouse workhouse in Wheatenhurst Eastington made very interesting reading, most of the inmates were marked as imbeciles, lunatics or deaf and dumb. No such thing as "care in the community in those days".

While viewing each 1881 census record on the internet, you can select next household, so you can select to move around your town or village, which is what we can do around Stonehouse.

So let us take a virtual walk around the village of Stonehouse in 1881, interestingly, it was not a very large village in those days, not much larger than any of the surrounding villages. The population of Stonehouse in 1881 was 3,251, compared with King Stanley 2,117, Randwick 1,128 and Leonard Stanley 775. To give you a clue to what life was really like in a Victorian Gloucestershire village about 130 years ago, here are some facts:

The Prime Minister was Liberal William Ewart Gladstone; this was the second time of his four terms as Prime Minister (1868-74, 1880-85, Feb-Jul 1886 and 1892-94). Queen Victoria was on the throne and had been for forty three years, and she would be for another twenty, it was pretty much at the height of the British Empire. The population of Great Britain was 35 million, around half as many as there is today, Workers were working a six day, 56 hour week, the average wage for a man was about £1 10 shillings 6 pence (£1.52) and the average age for leaving school and starting work was 13.

The great Majority of the inhabitants of Stonehouse worked either in the Woollen Industry or for the Railway. This part of the Cotswolds was perfect for the Woollen industry: there was the availability of Cotswold wool; the constant supply of water from the River Frome and its tributaries, and the suitability of the natural salts in the spring water for cleaning and dyeing. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, the woollen mills in Gloucestershire could rival those of the north of England in terms of the amount and quality of cloth that was produced. There were 150 mills in the Stroudwater area at the start of  the 1800’s, many within the Stroud valleys. The Stroud valleys with their rapid streams made this part of the Cotswolds a natural choice for the mill builders. However, the industry went into rapid decline from the 1850s and by the start of the twentieth century there were only 20 active mills the county.

Electricity was not around in 1881; mains electricity didn’t get to Stonehouse until 1925. In 1881 all the lighting was fuelled by gas or oil, the sewage works at Stanley Downton was not built until 1885, so there was no flushing toilets, mains water was not connected to the Stroud Water Company until 1888. (first sewers were built in London in 1863).  Transport would have been mostly shoe leather or horse drawn as the motor car wasn’t invented until about 1890, even the bicycle had only just been invented but was not widely available.

The GWR railway through Stonehouse had not long been built; Isambard Kingdom Brunel brought the Great Western Railway to Stonehouse & Stroud in 1845.The inaugural train with the G.W.R. directors on board passed through Stonehouse from Swindon to Gloucester on April 14th 1845.

Stroud station was opened on the same day. Only a fortnight before the road bridge over Rowcroft was still being constructed, after the demolition of a block of houses.On board were dignitaries of the Great Western Railway as well as the line's engineer I. K. Brunel. After the final Board of Trade inspection in early May, the line was officially opened on Whit Monday, May 12th 1845. There were four intermediate stations:- Tetbury Road, Brimscombe, Stroud and Stonehouse.

Tetbury Road served the village of Kemble, denied a station by Squire Gordon. It was sited a mile down the line on the border of his estate. Brimscombe station was sited between the villages of Brimscombe and Chalford with the intention of serving both communities. When Chalford Station opened on 2nd August 1897, Brimscombe station was left almost remote.

The Dudbridge/Nailsworth line had opened in 1867 but was not extended to Stroud until 1886. It was then possible to make the journey from Stroud to Stonehouse 18 times a day.

Living conditions were pretty grim compared to today; for instance: there was a serious outbreak of small pox in Gloucester which lasted from May 1873 to February 1875 with 151 deaths.

Another outbreak in 1895 assumed grave proportions in February 1896 when the disease spread among children at schools in New Street and Widden Street and then to many households in the southern part of the city. Children were moved from the union workhouse to Tuffley, schools in the infected areas were closed, and temporary buildings were put up at the isolation and cholera hospitals, but through the council's lack of organization infected houses went un inspected and victims were not isolated. The death rate was highest among patients in the isolation hospital. The city was virtually in quarantine and the assize courts and county quarter sessions were transferred to Cheltenham.

W.G. Grace and his three brothers debuted for the England cricket team the year before (1880) and beat Australia at Lords. The British army were fighting the Zulus in South Africa in 1881.

You will be amazed at the number of people in one family in 1881, parents often having seven, eight, nine or even ten children, also amazing was the number of families living in the same dwelling, where very few  do now-a-days.

Our Victorian walk will start from:-The Midland Station on the London Midland Scotland railway line down by the Bristol Road.

The Station Masters House.

Where lived John Orton age 41, born Seagrave, Leicester, he was the Station Master and Goods Manager with his wife Jane H. 40 born Charsihinton, Cambridge, and their eight children Annie E. Age 17 born Earby, York, Ellen 16 born Manton, Rutland, John W. 14 born Manton, Rutland, Louisa S. 12 born Belper, Derby, Scholar, Kate A. 10 born Belper, Derby, Scholar, Arthur 6 born Belper, Derby, Scholar, Beatrice A. 2 born Stonehouse, and Percy 2 months born Stonehouse, Gloucester, England.

John was obviously a railway man for much of his life and moved around as all of his children were born in towns that had a railway running through them (Earby, Manton and Belper). So we can probably conclude that he worked in all three railway stations previous to Stonehouse. He is also mentioned in Morris and Co’s Directory of Gloucestershire for 1876 as Stonehouse Midland Road Station Master.

The next household was Stonehouse Court as I mentioned above:-

Where Frederick B. CHAPMAN was Head Late Major 14th Hussar with his wife, children and also their eight servants.

The next household was Court Farm.

Where Sarah J. GARDNER lived, she was a Private Governess, head of the house hold, unmarried, age 27 born in Miserden, Gloucester, with Lizzie E. CHANDLER her Daughter age 8 born in Minsterworth, Gloucester, Scholar, Frances M. CHANDLER Daughter Female 5 Stonehouse, Scholar, Edward CHANDLER Son Male 3 Stonehouse, Scholar, Sidney J. CHANDLER Son Male age 1 born Stonehouse, Elizabeth NICHOLAS Servant U Female age 15 born in Bridgend Penivar South Wales, Domestic Servant. Inters tingly Sarah was recorded as unmarried and a private governess to her four children with a different surname.

The next household was Bonds Lodge, where Henry WARNER lived Head age 43 born in Eastington, he was a Woollen Cloth Warehouseman

With his wife Charlotte age 42 also born in Eastington, and their two children, George J. age 12 Scholar and Lizzie M. A. age 8, Scholar both born in Eastington.

The next household was Bonds House where Edward BUBB age 37 lived he was born in Witcombe, he was the Manager of the Woollen Cloth Mill with his wife Ellen age 40 born in Woodchester and their six children Olive M. age 9 Scholar, Constance H. age 8 Scholar, Ernest E. age 6 Scholar, Arthur P. Age 5 Scholar Charles H. Age 4 Scholar William N. Age 1, all born in Woodchester and their servants, Julia WEBB U Female age 22 Stonehouse, General Servant (Domestic), Emily BROWNING U age 20 born in London, Middlesex, Nurse (Dom).

Bonds House

Also living at Bonds House was Timothy LACEY Head age 47 Stay Maker (S M) and his wife Mary A. age 47 both born Wootton Under Edge, Assistant Stay Maker.

Bonds Mill is situated here; Bond's Mill was one of the largest mills in Gloucestershire. The Bonds Mill estate was one of the mills used for textiles from the early 18 th century when a clothier from Stroud named John Bond rented the mill in 1714 until its giant wheel stopped turning in 1934. It was then taken over by the Ministry of Defence who cloaked it in secrecy as they designed and tested weaponry.

World War II saw a big increase in the growth of Stonehouse with the arrival of the Sperry Gyroscope Company at Bonds Mill and also Hoffman Manufacturing Companies across the road. It is also believed that Bond's Mill was equipped as a 'shadow' factory during world war II ready to swing into action should a major armaments factory be bombed.

Sperry Gyroscope Company Limited was formed in the U.K in 1913. They had sites at Brentford and Bracknell. Production of the Sperry Gyrocompasses commenced shortly thereafter. Production of Sperry gyro's continued in the U.K. until the late 1970's when the company was sold to British Aerospace.

By the mid 1980's it changed hands once more and became the industrial area known today. Interestingly both my parents worked for Sperry Gyroscope here in the 1940’s, and I did my electronics apprenticeship for Sperry’s here and at Bracknell during the late 1960’s.


Sperry Gyroscope Company Limited was founded by Elmer Ambrose Sperry - Born in 1860 in Cortland, New York, Elmer Sperry became a noted engineer and inventor, respected the world over for his engineering talent and dogged enthusiasm for all things mechanical. Like a similar inventor of his time, Thomas A. Edison, Elmer Sperry's interests ranged far and wide. As Preston Bassett, President of Sperry Gyroscope in 1950 said on the occasion of the company's 40th anniversary, "Mr. Sperry was primarily an inventive, mechanically minded Yankee" who possessed a "restlessness which motivated all the rest of his life". Sperry would eventually become involved in the technologies and development of dynamos, mining equipment, trolleys, electric cars, batteries, the new field of aviation, and many, many others. His interests, like those of Edison, were many and varied and led from one challenge to the next. Elmer Sperry, at the time of his death in 1930, had authored and was granted over 360 patents.

In recognition of Elmer A. Sperry's contribution to the people and government of the U.S., the U.S. Navy, on February 1, 1941, laid the keel for AS-12, the USS SPERRY at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California. On December 17, 1941, the USS SPERRY was launched and had the dubious distinction of being the first U.S. Naval combatant commissioned after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS SPERRY, a fleet Submarine Tender, served throughout the war, spending her entire time in the western Pacific. She served with distinction until 1982 and after 40 years of service was moved to Bremerton, Washington, where I believe she still sits today awaiting final disposition.

Stonehouse in 1881

A virtual walk around Victorian Stonehouse in 1881

Click map to magnify

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