Bosbury in Herefordshire Archaeological News, No. 61 January 1994 published by the Archaeological Research Section of the Woolhope Club.

Woolhope is a village to the west of Ledbury and the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club has been in existence since 1851. It was was founded for ‘the practical study, in all its branches, of the natural history of Herefordshire and the districts immediately adjacent’. Nowadays it’s studies include geology, natural history and archaeology.

Field Meeting at Bosbury
13 members met at Bosbury Church at 10.30am on Sunday 17/10/93. Fortunately it was dry and sunny although cold after the heavy rain of the previous few days. The meeting was led by Leslie and John King. There had been a heavy frost the previous night, but as the day wore on, the fields became more and more muddy. John King briefly set out the proposed programme for the day and gave a short account of the Bishop’s Manor of Bosbury, (See below)

Bosbury Village
On the south side of the village street the houses are laid out in a regular way with the houses having almost identical frontages and long narrow gardens, giving the impression that they are the remains of the burgage plots of a failed borough with a market in the wide part of the road between the burgages and the church; this impression is supported by the fact that the field at the rear (now the site of the school) is named Oldberry Meadow (Tithe No 293). No documentary evidence has been found of any attempt by the Lord (the Bishop of Hereford) to found a borough here nor is there any market charter although there is one for the Bishops adjoining Manor of Cradley. However the Red Book of the Bishop of 1291 mentions 7 dwellings with curtilages paying rents of 12d to 16d yearly; there are now 12 small houses and 4 larger which form the Borough. The larger houses may have paid rent as part of farms and the 12 smaller houses be the 7 of 1291 since it was common practice to sub-divide burgages into smaller units.

The Crown House (formerly New Court)
We walked down the village street to visit The Crown House (until about 1750 called ‘New Court’) (Tithe No 206) and by the kind permission of the owners, Mr & Mrs E J Howe were allowed to view their magnificent panelled ground floor room. This had ceiling beams forming 9 square panels, having bossess at the 4 intersections (one missing) showing the arms of John Skippe (Bishop of Hereford 153942), William Pountney 1st Marquess of Winchester and Lord Treasurer l550-72 and Henry Scrope 9th Baron and Governor of Carlisle and Warden of the Western Marches with Scotland 1562-92. Above the overmantel were originally cartouches bearing the arms of Wrothesley, Scrope and Fox of Bromfield (but one has lately been stolen); there also appear the initials ‘RH’ and ‘MH’ for Richard Harford and Martha Harford (nee Fox).

The house itself is dated by RCHM as second half of the 16th century and much rebuilt in the l8th century but it was thought that the south west wing containing the panelled room was 15th century while the fenestration suggested that a ground floor window on the south side had been blocked up before the panelling was installed.

Old Court
We then retraced our steps and paused in the churchyard to look at the cross, bearing the inscription “Honour not the +” and on the other side “but honour God for Christ”; tradition is that the Roundheads agreed not to demolish the cross if this inscription was placed on it. The shaft is modern. when the cross was moved in the l8th century a large rough stone was found underneath, now in the churchyard by the tower.

Old Court was a favourite residence of the Bishops until it was let off in 1563. About 1554 it was agreed with the Bishop that the new tenant, John Harford, should demolish and rebuild it; he partially demolished it but instead refurbished New Court.

We looked at the east side of the gatehouse consisting of a carriage gate with a blocked door alongside, the latter, according to local tradition, being the door of the Bishop’s lock-up; little could be seen on the western side due to more modern buildings abutting on the gateway but RCHK dates it to the 15th Century.

Mr & Mrs Lane kindly allowed us to view the timbered ceiling, with original moulded beams with pyramidal stops, of their living room, believed to be part of the original Bishop’s palace and dated by a recent survey to about 1475. Mr Lane pointed out that these beams continued across the adjoining passage formed by a wall which is a later insertion, as is a chimney piece. He also said that a recent survey suggested that there had been a courtyard to the south with buildings on three sides; he confirmed that there is stone underlying much of the garden to the south of their living room.

Templecourt (SO 691 433.)
Next Mr & Mrs Gerald Blandford were so kind as to let us visit Templecourt, once the property first of the Knights Templar and then of the Knights of St John (see separate history below). This is an interesting site to which previous surveys may not have done full justice. The present house is 18th century but appears to incorporate medieval walling in its western foundations and on the north side of the house and outbuildings. To the west of the house is a motte and there appear to have been concentric moats, the inner one surrounding the motte (which has been partly dug sway to make room for a tennis court in the moat). The outer moat appears to have surrounded a bailey to the south of the house and to have formed fishponds to the north.

The Farm (SO 693 423)
After lunch at The Oak public house by the consent of Messrs Hawkins we visited The Farm, a name used in this form since at least 1699 (deed HCHO K11/3584). A field to the east of the farm buildings had the Tithe Map field name of “The Camp” (Tithe No 402); no documentary evidence has been found to explain the name.

The field occupies a low, gently sloping eminence with wide views except to the west and the site would be appropriate for a Roman fort or, even, a low lying Iron Age fort. No earthwork remains are visible, but slight changes of level around the highest part may form a flattish circular or oval area; other suggestions were that it had been used as a military camping ground on some occasion between the 13th century and the Napoleonic Wars; or that it derived from the Latin campus for an Open Field.

Another site examined at The Farm is probably a deserted settlement in the fields towards the modern road. Tithe Map No 412 “Tumpy Leasow” contains a complex of water channels and banks, perhaps old watercress beds. In No 408 “The Green” several hut platforms were observed and others in No 413 “Inglestone” and No 407 “Always”.

Appendix I The Bishop’s Estate in Bosbury

In 1087 the parish of Bosbury was divided into 2 manors, Namely: Upleadon with 45 househo1ders and 6 slaves: and the Bishop’s Manor of Bosbury of 34 householders and 2 slaves. Bosbury for long was a favourite residence of the Bishops of Hereford; a Harleian M/S states that “Bosbury was the See of the early Anglo-Saxon Bishops but they were told that their See must be in a large town” and so they established themselves in Hereford.

The last Anglo-Saxon Bishop, Athelstane(1032-55) died at Bosbury; many orders were issued from Bosbury by St Thomas de Cantelupe (1275-82) and Richard de Swinfield (1282-1375). A memorial in Bosbury church records that the latter’s father, Stephen, is buried there.

Domesday Book records a priest at Bosbury and that he had the large estate of one hide which makes it likely that Bosbury was a Minster; indeed one can detect the possible signs of a precinct bounded on the west by the river Leadon, on the north by Dowdings Brook and on the east and west by roads, with the church, vicarage and the Bishop’s palace of Old Court lying within its bounds. RCHM comments that both river and brook appear to have been straightened and that there are traces of ditches to the east of Old Court. Further some historians have suggested that in some cases the ‘bury’ (enclosure) ending is indicative of a Minster because it was normal to found a Minster within an enclosure.

Bosbury became a vicarage in 1286 when the Pope authorised the Bishop to impropriate the Rectory so that the Domesday priest’s hide is probably comprised in the Bishop’s estate recorded in the Tithe Award of 1840.


Reproduced from a copy in the possession of Robert Lane with thanks. 2012 BSS

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