Brampton Abbotts was held by St Peter’s Abbey in Gloucester with another portion held by St Guthlac’s Priory in Hereford until the Dissolution. The principal landowners in the mid C19th were Lord Ashburton and the Dews. The church dedicated to St Michael dates from the Norman period, and the original Victorian school has been converted into a dwelling when the school moved into the outskirts of Ross. The landscape has changed dramatically since the mid C19th small fields and strips have been enlarged into huge arable fields
The ‘Withy Beds’ of 1829 (Field still has the same name) was once used for basket making and to be honest could still be with the amount of willow that grows if less undisturbed for any length of time.
1836 Tithe Act – The term tithe map is usually applied to a map of an English or Welsh parish or township, prepared following the Tithe Commutation Act 1836. This act allowed tithes to be paid in cash rather than goods. The map and its accompanying schedule gave the names of all owners and occupiers of land in the parish.
The payment of one tenth of local produce to the church had been established in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. This was originally in kind: every tenth stook of corn, etc. It originally supported the local priest, but in some cases the right to receive the tithe was acquired by an organisation such as a monastery or college, who paid a curate. With the dissolution of the monasteries, the right to receive tithes was acquired by a number of private landlords. In some instances, a tithe barn was built to hold the tithes. Tithes themselves were controversial, particularly among nonconformists who resented supporting the established church; and payment in kind was sometimes not convenient for either the farmer or the tithe owner.
Over time, in some parishes, the tithe owner came to an agreement with the tithe payers to receive cash instead of farm produce. This could be for a fixed period of time or indefinitely. During the period of parliamentary enclosure, the various Inclosure Acts abolished tithes in many places in return for an allocation of land to the tithe owner. However, in many parishes, tithes continued to be paid in kind.
Geoff Gwatkin of Ross-on-Wye http://www.geoffgwatkinmaps.co.uk draws and sells Tithe maps and I was thrilled at what he produced for us showing Townsend Farm in 1838.
Townsend Farm was originally sited further to the east and was owned by the the prominent local family, the Scudamores, in the 18th century. It was later purchased by Lord Ashburton and between 1838 and 1888 was moved to its present site.
Townsend Farm was sold in 1890 as ‘A Superior Farm Residence containing on the UPPER FLOOR (to which there are two staircases), 5 Bed Rooms and Store Room; on the GROUND FLOOR, Entrance Hall, 3 pleasant Sitting Rooms, Kitchen and Back Kitchen; Cellar in Basement’ together with an extensive range of farm buildings and the Cot buildings near the Wye.
Benefiting from the exceptional engineering prowess of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Hereford, Ross & Gloucester Railway (HR&GR) plotted a 22½-mile course from Grange Court Junction to Hereford, up the Wye valley, through Townsend farm. Construction was enabled by an Act which overcame its last Parliamentary hurdle on 12th June 1851, although the route had been surveyed as part of previous schemes as early as 1844.
A partnership of Thomas Brassey, Morton Peto and Edward Betts signed contracts to execute the works at a total value of £230,000. The route was built for a single broad-gauge line with an intermediate passing loop at Ross-on-Wye. The track was laid with Barlow’s patent 20-foot rails, shaped like an inverted ‘V’ and weighing 90lbs per yard. These were sunk into the ballast and secured with transverse iron ties at each end.
Trains began serving a temporary terminus at Hopeswood – five miles up the line from Grange Court – on 11th July 1853. However the section northwards proved particularly challenging due to the meandering River Wye – which it crossed four times – and intervening spurs of high ground, requiring four tunnels with a collective length of 2,626 yards. The average gradient was 1:70. In total, 36 bridges had to be built, 14 over and 22 under the railway.
Whilst good progress was generally made with the river viaducts at Backney (Townsend Farm), Strangford and Carey, heavy rainfall and an associated rapid change in water level could bring setbacks. Captain Henry Tyler inspected the line for the Board of Trade over two days in May 1855. He described the river viaducts as being “constructed of trussed timber beams, supported on stone piers and abutments, and braced by wrought iron tension rods, 1½” in diameter.” Each structure comprised six 44-foot spans. To test them, two tank engines – named Theocritus and Buffalo – were provided by the railway company, their combined weight being 63 tons and a length of 53 feet between buffer planks.
Tyler observed that “with this load, deflections were ordinarily produced in the beams of 0.24 inches, but, in some cases, in which it was evident that the iron bolts required to be screwed up, as much as 0.42 inches, and, in one case, 0.48 inches. An order was given in my presence for the tightening up of all the bolts of these viaducts; and though I should have preferred to see them of wrought iron rather than of wood, I have no doubt of their stability, as long as the timber continues to be sound and the bolts are kept to their proper strain.”
A formal ceremony to open the through line to Hereford took place on 1st June 1855; the inaugural train – sporting a Union Jack on its funnel – was greeted in Ross by a crowd of 5,000 townsfolk. The HR&GR amalgamated with the Great Western Railway in July 1862, the latter taking on responsibility for operating the line and receiving 60% of the receipts for its troubles.
The line was converted from broad to standard gauge over five days in the middle of August 1869.
As was the case elsewhere, deterioration of the viaducts’ timberwork eventually prompted its replacement. It seems likely that this was effected during 1898 and necessitated raising the pier height by several feet, adding sections of brickwork above the existing masonry. Some of the piers were either partly or wholly encased in concrete.
Severe winter floods in 1867 had provoked some concern for the stability of Backney Viaduct, but one of the piers of Strangford Viaduct did collapse in March 1947, water currents having undermined it. The two spans it supported were brought down as a consequence. Repair work took several months and was completed without the need to rebuild the lost pier, a longer span being installed instead.