About Hartpury and a brief History

Hartpury is a rural parish of 3,500 acres with some 270 houses and a population of about 700.  It is situated about five miles north of the city of Gloucester. Geographically it lies within the the Leadon Vale; administratively it is part of the Forest of Dean.

The Name Hartpury

The present form of the name of the village has been in use since the middle of the 16th century. Before that it was referred to as Hardepiry, or similar, the earliest reference being c1150. The derivation is now thought to refer to the hard pear tree (i.e. one with hard fruit like perry-pears). Earlier associations with harts leaping through the woods are considered fanciful.

This locality was famous for its production of cider and perry and a variety of perry pear, the Hartpury Green, is now being re-introduced into the village. The pear tree has also been adopted by the Parish Council as the central part of its logo.

Although Hartpury as such is not mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086), the holdings of Merewent and Merwen were, the former being Morwents Place (the modern Murrells End farm) and the latter being Morwents End (the modern Laughtons, Drews and Coopeys farms).

The parish has always consisted of a number of distinct settlements or “ends” and five of these still exist – Moorend, Murrells End, Buttersend, Blackwells End and Corsend. Others such as Lampers End and Northend have disappeared. This, and the distributed nature of the village, has caused it to be referred to as “a village with five ends and no middle”.

The Manor of Hartpury

The Manor of Hartpury was given by Offa, King of Mercia, to the Abbey of Gloucester in about 760 AD. The Benedictines of Gloucester were granted the manor in about 1022 AD and after the Norman conquest were responsible for the church. By the end of the 16th century, they had established a mansion, known as Abbot’s Court, or Place, near St Mary’s Church as a country residence for the Abbots of Gloucester.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, the manor passed to Sir William Herbert KG, before being acquired in 1551 by Walter Compton, a clothier of Chalford, and his descendants seem to have made the Court their main residence until the middle of the 18th century. The Compton baronetcy was created in 1686 and became extinct in 1773 due to a lack of male heirs. The estates (and lordship of the manor) passed through the female line for two generations to the last blood descendent of the Comptons – Catherine Berkeley.

Catherine married Robert Canning, of an ancient Roman Catholic family seated at Foxcote in Warwickshire, and they built the new residence of New Court House, now Hartpury House, at Three Ashes Farm, to replace a Queen Anne farmhouse. They had no children but Robert remarried and had two daughters of whom the older, Maria, married Patrick Robert Gordon, a captain in the 78th Highlanders, who assumed the arms and additional name of Canning to become Gordon Canning. Following his death in 1893, the estate passed to the oldest son, Robert, who sought to sell it off. The estate was bought by his brother William with his wife Clara.

The estate, including many of the local farms and properties, was sold off in 1919 but Hartpury House and its grounds went to William’s sister, Mary, the widow of James Gwynne Holford of Buckland, Bwlch. Finally, on her death in 1947, the residual estate was purchased by Gloucestershire County Council and evolved into the present Hartpury College.

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