Bishop's Cleeve, a brief history


What follows is a brief summary of the early history of Bishop's Cleeve. The information detailed was gleaned entirely from the two books referenced below. I am personally no expert in this subject. My intention was to eventually add more pictures of the village to supplement this text and to include more details of the recent history. However, there is already an excellent site dedicated to providing a pictorial archive of the village. You can get to this site by following this link. Other Bishop's Cleeve related links are give below.

A Brief History

The village of Bishop's Cleeve is now more of a small town. It is located a few miles north of the town of Cheltenham Spa in the county of Gloucestershire, England. It lies on a plain overlooked by Cleeve Hill, which forms the westerly edge of the Cotswolds. Although many of the old buildings of the village were pulled down during the 1950s, when the new centre was built, there is still a scattering of older houses to be seen. Some half timbered and thatched.
View of village from Cleeve Hill
Church The centrepiece of the village is the fine church with many Norman features. The tower and the nave arches were rebuild in the seventeenth century when other features were enlarged. Other important buildings include the old Rectory, a house dating from the thirteenth century and the remaining part of the tithe barn, now the village hall.

The village and the surrounding area have been inhabited from the earliest times. Iron Age pottery, Roman coins and other items have been found in the village centre and elsewhere. The discovery in 1968 of Pagan Saxon remains near Lower Farm indicated the extent of Saxon influence during that time.

Bishop's Cleeve appears to have originated in the late 8th century when Aldred, sub-king of Hwicce, gave land to support a Minster church in the area dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. A century later and the land came into the hand of the Bishops of Worcester where it remained until the sixteenth century. The area was known as the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Cleeve, from where the modern name probably originates.

By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, the estate measured 30 hides. A hide was traditionally the unit of land, which could support a family, but was also used as a unit for taxation. The Domesday Book entry reads:

"There are 30 hides, 3 ploughs an demesne, 16 villagers and 19 smallholders with 16 ploughs. There are 8 slaves and 1 horse. A priest has 1 hide and 2 ploughs. A radknight with 1 hide and 2 ploughs. There is a very small wood"

By the late thirteenth century, the estate contained 11 free tenants who held land. They paid rent and provided other services to the Bishop. Slowly over the following centuries, the tenants acquired more independence from the church. However, it was not until the sixteenth century and the dissolution of church institutions that the land became the property of the King, who subsequently sold it to local manor lords.


Cleeve Common and the North Coltswolds, by John V. Garrett (ISBN 0-946328-46-3)
Towns and Villages of England - Gotherington, Edited by David H. Aldred (ISBN 0-7509-0591-3)


Images of Bishop's Cleeve - a historical archive.
A very informative site about Cleeve Common.
The Tithe Barn - Bishop's Cleeve Village Hall.
Wikipedia Entry for Bishop's Cleeve.

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