Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Local History

Gloucestershire Local History Association Summer afternoon

Gloucestershire Local History Association was very happy to be able to hold its normal summer afternoon meeting on Sunday 27th June 2021. The event, hosted by Nailsworth Society Local History Research Group, had been planned for 2020 but had to be postponed due to Covid. Despite restrictions still being in place, the Nailsworth committee rose to the occasion and managed to organise a most interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Four different walks around the town were offered and attendees were able to take tea in small groups. The usual introductions and history of the town were offered via a video created at short notice and shown at intervals throughout the afternoon.

Topics for walks included following the old railway track, visiting Nailsworth’s mills and other industries, learning about the historic religious buildings and visiting memorial plaques for Nailsworth residents who died during the two World Wars.

I chose to visit the religious buildings which included the St. George’s Anglican Parish Church where we were able to admire the huge modern painting of The Last Supper painted by Lorna May Wadsworth which was unveiled in 2010, and Sir Oliver Heywood’s mural depicting daily life in Nailsworth during the 1980s. Our walk guides explained the history of the different denominations as we walked to Christ Church, which welcomes Baptists, Methodists and other non-conformists. We were lucky to be taken round the old Quaker Meeting House on Chestnut Hill, dating from the 17th century and still holding regular meetings today.

One of the walking groups with their guides.

GLHA is grateful to all the organisers and guides who worked hard to make this a successful afternoon. Our next Summer Afternoon meeting is due to be held at Cheltenham on Saturday 25th June 2022.

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By Vicki Walker

The King Ditched?

It is thought that in Saxon times a ditch separated the King’s manor of Cheltenham and manor of Swindon (Village, Glouc) from each other – hence the area north-west of Cheltenham now being known as Kingsditch.

During medieval times and well into the 18th century pastoral farming and ridge and furrow cultivation dominated the area.

Around the beginning of the 19th century it became more profitable to turn this relatively restricted area over to market gardening and to supply the expanding population of Cheltenham with fresh produce.

  Photo courtesy of Sue Brasher, Swindon Village

However, changes which would have ‘ditched’ any early monarch were afoot.

The Second World War saw the introduction of a ‘shadow factory’ and what followed is the steady take over of all available land for commercial development.

Much of the area is now covered by steel-framed one- and two-storey structures and owned by multi-national venture capital companies (scoff not, your pensions depend on them!).

For the last two and a half years, two volunteers have aided the VCH team working on Cheltenham’s ‘Big Red Book’, Volume 15 with research into the history of the Kingsditch trading estate from pre-history to the present day.

Now home to more companies than there were ever ploughs belonging to the manor of Swindon and Cheltenham combined (28 1086 Domesday) and employing many thousands -Spirax Sarco alone has 1,000 – it is Cheltenham’s largest commercial estate.


Eileen Allen/Sally Self

Sally Self September 2021

Major General Sir Fabian Ware, 1869 – 1949


by Bassano Ltd - whole-plate glass negative, 27 October 1916  © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG x154757)

Fabian Ware was born in Clifton, Bristol, where his mother ran a small boarding school. He became a teacher and, as a member of the Assistant Masters' Association, began campaigning for educational improvements. He was an “Occasional Inspector, Board of Education Examiner,” (1901 census) and was living in Hampstead. He married Anna Margaret Phibbs in 1895 and the family moved to Pretoria, South Africa, where he assisted in the organisation of their state education. When he returned to England he became editor of the Morning Post.

He visited Letchworth Garden City in 1906, which possibly gave birth to a life-long passion to preserve all that was best in architecture and the English countryside.

In 1912 he wrote a play called “The Chalk Line” that touched on the possibility of war with Germany and the blindness of pacifists. The correspondent in “The Stage” slated it as futile propaganda, which might have harmful effects!

But war came and Fabian volunteered but he was turned down because of his age. Instead he became head of a mobile Red Cross ambulance unit, leaving for France on the 16th September 1914 with the British Expeditionary Force. They were to search for missing men in the zone occupied by French forces. He was given the honorary title of major and put in charge of the newly formed Graves Registration Committee. He was subsequently attached to H.Q. Staff and made a Brigadier General.

Fabian Ware felt that the registration of graves was not enough. He wanted memorials that would last for ever, that were worthy of the sacrifice that had been made. He submitted his ideas to the Imperial War Conference and in May 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) was established by Royal Charter with the Prince of Wales as President and Fabian Ware as Vice-Chairman. The difficult job of deciding how it could be done was given to Lieut. Colonel Sir Frederic Kenyon, Director of the British Museum. His full report was submitted in January 1918 (available on-line via the IWGC website). Church leaders, regimental bodies, and families of the fallen were consulted.

The memorials were all to be uniform. This decision was not welcomed by everyone. In May 1920, Rudyard Kippling, Fabian Ware and Winston Churchill addressed a meeting at the House of Commons to answer criticisms and to explain the work of the IWGC. Every stone would be let into a long concrete beam set into the ground. Fabian Ware pointed out that every gravestone would have a cross, the star of David. or a suitable Islamic symbol. Mr Churchill hoped that the government would not stand in their way.

On the 25th February 1920 he was knighted for his services as Director-General of the Grave Registration. That year he also toured the cemeteries in Gallipoli, Egypt, Aegean Islands, Palestine and Italy! He would personally accompany people of note who wished to visit a cemetery anywhere in the world, whilst also giving lectures about the IWGC.

The contract for creating the cemeteries was not fully completed until 1933, when Fabian Ware announced that it had cost £80,000,000. New IWGC stones are still being erected as bodies are identified, such as the one in Amberley Burial Ground, erected in 2016

From 1920 until he died, Fabian Ware's home was in Amberley. He unveiled the Amberley War Memorial on 25th February 1921 and in 1924 he bought Dial Cottage. On Armistice Day 1928 Fabian Ware presented the Church with one of the original wooden crosses to an unknown soldier.

He also then began campaigning to save rural England, especially the Cotswolds. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) was formed in 1926. In 1928 the Gloucestershire branch of the CPRE was created with Fabian Ware as Chairman.

During the Second World War, he continued with his lecturing. In his 1942 Armistice broadcast he announced that the names of over 50,000 civilians in U K, Malta, and other parts of the world had been collected for perpetual remembrances, as well as those of the fighting services. After WWII, 100,000 graves were added in Britain. In Italy and Southern Europe there are 42 cemeteries containing 45,000 graves, and seven in North Africa where there are 40,313 graves.

He retired in 1948 and became ill the following spring, dying in Barnwood House Hospital on 28th April 1949. His funeral in Amberley Church on the 2rd May was attended by the Bishop and Dean of Gloucester, and representatives from the IWGC, the CPRE,and the British Legion, as well as a packed congregation. The Amberley British Legion formed a guard of honour.

A “Truly Great Gloucestershire Man whose name needs to be remembered by all of us.” Viscount Bledsloe

Commemorative plaque In Gloucester Cathedral

Census Returns/T he British Newspaper Archive (D2299/3116)/ Land Tax Returns for Amberley 1919, p13.

Maureen Anderson

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