The History of the Valley of the Boars

Roman Origins
Turkdean is a small village with an ancient history. The extent of that history was demonstrated by the archaeological work undertaken by ‘Time Team’ for their Bank Holiday weekend dig in August 1997.

TimeTeam dig, 1997

Time Team’s archaeologists revealed the remains of a large Roman villa dating from the 3rd or 4th centuries (A.D.). At the time the   programme was originally broadcast the location of the dig was   only specified as ‘a village somewhere in the heart of England’ in   order to prevent freelance digging. Since it has been scheduled as   an Ancient Monument it has become a little better known, but it is   easy to miss all signs of the village’s Roman past although the “parchlines” of the buried remains can still be seen in the field in hot summers.

Turkdean Roman Villa digital reconstruction 1997
Turkdean Roman Villa

Time Team’s Turkdean Roman Villa episode is still available       online:  Channel 4 – Time Team. They concluded that the villa   with its elaborate bath-house and associated structures had   been built by a wealthy Romanised family of the local Dubonni   tribe in about 270AD and occupied at least until the Roman   withdrawal in c.400AD..

Saxon Life in the Valley of the Boars
Signs of Turkdean’s occupancy between the Roman withdrawal and the Norman arrival are now few and far between, but the current Norman-origin church might have been built on the site of a previous Saxon foundation, although evidence of this is scant.

However, in the days of Edward the Confessor (ie 1042-1066), the village consisted of two manorial estates: ‘Upper Dean’ and ‘Lower Dean’. Saxon holders of the Turkdean manors  included Osgot, Siward and Goisfrid.

The village’s name derives from the pre-Norman period, coming from the ancient British, (ie Welsh) word ‘Twrch’, meaning ‘boar’ and the Saxon word ‘dene’ meaning ‘valley’. So Turkdean is the Valley of the Boars – although the Boars disappeared long ago.

Norman Cataloguing
In 1086 the Doomsday Book listed Turkdean, then ‘Turchedene’, in the Hundred of Bradley.

The same Robert holds Turchedene.
There are 5 hides and 2œ virgates paying geld.
Siward held it.
In demesne are 4 ploughs and 12 villans with 6 ploughs.
All together there are 8 slaves and female slaves.
It was worth 6l.; now 100s.

Hide = Saxon measure of land capable of being cultivated by a single ploughman, varying in size between 60-180 acres, but standardised by the Normans as 120 acres.
Virgate (also known as a yardland) = a quarter of a Hide, or 30acres.
Geld = Tax levied from time to time at a number of pence per hide.
Demesne = Land retained in control of feudal lord.
Plough = A plough and the 8 oxen plough team.
Villan = A tenant, usually holding a yardland.
Slave = An individual owing service to another and therefore unable to move or sell their land or change employment.

At the time of Doomsday the Hundred of Bradley included the manors of Northleach, Farmington (then ‘Thormarton’), Stowell, Upper Coberley, Compton (Abdale), Hampnett, Hazleton, Yanworth, Salperton, Winson, Coln Rogers and, of course, Turkdean. The entire Hundred was assessed at 94 hides.

Thus 11th century Turkdean represented the Northerly outpost of the Hundred, while the neighbouring villages of Notgrove and Aston (now Cold Aston) were assessed as part of the adjacent Hundred of Wacrescumbe, although by 1220 the smaller Wacrescumbe Hundred had been incorporated into the Bradley Hundred.

Although Northleach would have been the largest component of the Hundred throughout this period the official meeting place at ‘Bradley’, the administrative seat for the Hundred, seems to have been at the Stowell crossroads where the Fosse Way met an ancient ‘Salt Way’ that ran from Lechlade north-west to Droitwich. However, all signs of ‘Bradley’ itself have now disappeared.

After the Conquest one of the two Turkdean manors was enfeoffed to Robert d’Oilgi (alternatively Doilie, or Doyley) who had fought with William at Hastings and was appointed Constable of Oxford and given significant estates across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire by his grateful sovereign.

Landscape and Cultivation
The village of Turkdean sits at the centre of a parish of about 2,000 acres topographically defined by the deep valley to the West and the Roman Fosse Way to the East. The siting of a Roman settlement and subsequent village building seem to have been determined by the natural springs in the North of the parish on the East side of the valley.

Before parliamentary inclosure in 1793, Turkdean’s wolds consisted of large open fields, with water meadows in the valley bottoms and precious little woodland. Practically all this land was cultivated under the Saxon and subsequent Norman systems of tenantry until the Black Death of 1348-50. The latter half of the 14th century then witnessed a decline of about 30% in the local population which led to a widespread reduction in cultivation and economic activity.

The Cotswolds revived from the nadir of the Black Death through the introduction of more intensive sheep-raising, for which the region became famed and prosperous through the later Middle Ages. However, this sheep culture still utilised the open field system that had been gradually abandoned elsewhere as the system of arable demesne farming was adopted. From the late 14th century until the early 16th century “woolmen” based in Northleach collected the wool from Turkdean for sale to London merchants and the agents of European buyers, whose appreciation of the quality of Cotswold wool percolated into significantly increased prosperity for the Northleach merchants and the sheep-based farmers of the surrounding parishes.

This pattern of economic activity continued even as the wool trade declined in significance through the 16th and 17th centuries, leaving a sheep tradition which continued even after the inclosure of 1793 changed the landscape with the construction of the Cotswold stone walls that are now such an emblematic feature of the area. After inclosure, however, the significance of cash crops became an ever more important part of the agricultural economy with wheat, barley and oats being supplemented in the modern era with subsidy-dependent oil seed rape and linseed.

The population of Turkdean has ebbed and flowed across the centuries. Through Saxon and Norman times the population of about 25 was split between 20 tenants in Upper Turkdean and 5 at Lower Dean and this grew gradually through the 12th-14th centuries so that by 1382, even with the impact of the Black Death, the village’s population stood at 53.

The subsistence level of the community remained in the 40-60 inhabitants range through the later Middle Ages as the local economy moved over to sheep. In 1551 the population stood at 63, but had expanded to 84 in 1603 and to 120 by 1710. Numbers remained stable through the 18th century, recorded at 113 in 1775, but then, like so much of England, the village entered a period of accelerated growth in the early 19th century: the population of 143 recorded in the 1801 census had grown to 228 in the 1821 census and to an astonishing 447 in 1861.

From this high watermark in 1861, however, a savage outflow set in, as the effect of agricultural depression and the transfer to industry and urban living saw the population decline precipitately over the following 30 years – falling back to just 145 in the 1901 census. This decline continued at a slower pace through the 20th century, hitting 100 in 1991 and hovering at about 50 regularly resident inhabitants in the 2020’s

The signs of this demographic history are writ large in the village’s architecture. Many of the dwellings now in occupation represent the amalgamation of a number of older, smaller buildings, or have been constructed, enlarged or repaired with the materials of the older  buildings that fell into disrepair in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Yew Tree Cottage itself represents a combination of two cottages converted in to one dwelling in the 1930’s.

Other clear signs of the village’s previous size exist in the Church and, most obviously, the school – which was opened in 1874 (with 34 pupils.) The school remained open until 1950, when it became impossible to find a cook to produce lunch, although there were still 13 pupils in the school even in 1949. The school building was then converted in to a cottage although its previous usage is still obvious because of the bell niche and the long side windows left over from its classroom use.

All Saints Church, Turkdean: Church and Parish
The Norman knight Robert d’Oilgi is usually credited with responsibility for the building of the village’s church, originally dedicated to St. Mary, much later dedicated to All Saints in the 18th century. The oldest standing fabric of the church is the West end of the Nave which dates from the early 12th century when Ralph Basset, a ‘justiciar’, held the Turkdean manor and gave the church (together with the church at Little Rissington) to his son, also, confusingly, another Ralph Basset.

All Saints Church, Turkdean, Gloucestershire
All Saints Church, Turkdean

Signs of the original 11th and 12th century building and most of
the remnants of Norman work were built back in to the walls of
the church at the time that the nave was rebuilt in the late 15th or   early 16th centuries when a new South aisle was constructed and   the tower was added.

Significant refurbishment was subsequently carried out in the 19th century, in the 1960s and most recently in 2018/19. It was during the work carried out in 1967 that the 14th century wall-paintings were “renovated” out of existence as described by John Edwards in his paper for the Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society “Turkdean Church Wall-Paintings: A Cautionary Tale.” (Debate continues about the appropriateness and cost-effectiveness of restoration that could only partially restore some of the wall paintings.)

It was the second, clerical Ralph Basset who gave Turkdean’s church to Oseney Abbey around 1150. The Abbey added to its holdings in Turkdean through the purchase of a part of the manorial estate from Paulinus of Theydon in 1232 and used a portion of this acquisition to establish a vicarage before 1290. Oseney Abbey then farmed Turkdean’s church lands together with its manorial land in the parish and continued to hold the ‘advowson’ to appoint priests for the parish until the Dissolution.

At the Dissolution the Crown granted the parish of Turkdean to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, re-confirming this and the college’s right to present to the living in 1546. This link remained intact through the next four centuries, with the rectory land let to successive tenants until the late 19th century. However, Christ Church finally sold the rectory estate in 1911 and the rectory (or vicarage) house itself in 1948, but retained the right of presentation after this sale until exchanging it (for the right of presentation to the parish of Upper Swell) with the Bishop in 1964, which therefore marked the end of the Christ Church era in Turkdean.

It was in 1947 that the lengthy tradition of a resident priest in the village came to an end. and from 1947 Turkdean’s vicar simultaneously held the rectorship of the adjoining parish of Farmington, where he also lived between 1947 and 1967. In 1967 Turkdean’s link with Farmington was severed when the parish was united instead with Cold Aston and Notgrove, an arrangement that lasted until these three parishes were then merged with Northleach and four other parishes (including Farmington) which were then served by one (consequently rather overworked) Priest-in-Charge for the Northleach Benefice.

This organisation, under which Turkdean is served as part of the 8 parish Benefice of Northleach subsists today. The other parishes served as part of this Benefice in addition to Turkdean comprise: Northleach, Hampnett, Haselton, Farmington, Cold Aston, Compton Abdale and Notgrove. Thus, by chance, the local ecclesiastical administration has re-formed about half of the ancient lay administrative unit of the Bradley Hundred that existed almost 1,000 years ago.

Some of the Norman architectural remnants now ‘marooned’ in the Church walls.


Land and Buildings
From its earliest occupation the Turkdean community has been divided into two parts, with the larger community up the hill at Turkdean and a smaller outpost down in the valley at Lower Dean. This division mirrored the development of the village’s two manorial estates.

Robert d’Oilgie’s Doomsday ownership linked Turkdean, alongside Little Rissington, with the ‘Honour’ of Wallingford and, through this attachment, subsequently with Ewelme, but the manor lands passed to the de Tormions by the end of the 12th century and thence to the Bassets before moving on to the Paulton family who retained it through the 14th century until it was acquired by the college of Westbury-on-Trymm sometime before 1509. Confiscated from the college at Dissolution, the manor was then granted to Sir Ralph Sadler, later Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in 1544. However, ownership passed to the Baynstree (‘Bannister’) family in 1586 when reconstruction of the Manor house was begun.

The Bannisters remained owners of the Turkdean manor through the 17th century and were among the longer-lasting families to own the estate, but they sold their Turkdean and Hazleton lands to the Waller family (from Beaconsfield) in 1725 who also acquired land in Farmington which they retained when they sold their Turkdean land to the Willan family in 1799.

Bolton Ring, June 2012 c Michael Dibb
The Bolton Ring, June 2012 

The manor estate was basically reassembled under the     ownership of engineer and artist W.A. Rixon, who bought     much of Turkdean between 1902 and 1912. It was under   Rixon’s ownership that the manor house was upgraded from   the farmhouse it represented into a gentleman’s country   house. A copse to the East of the manor house was  named   The Bolton Ring in honour of Rixon’s wife, Lady Julia Bolton.

After Rixon’s death in 1948 the manor house and its estate were separated, with the land then farmed by Geoffrey Milne until 1958 when a large portion of the land was taken on by the Mustoe family, after which much of the land was sold to Steve Winwood who united it with the Lower Dean Manor estate in 2012 (see below.)

Turkdean Manor remodelled by Smedvig family in 1999
Turkdean Manor 1999 extension

Turkdean Manor itself passed through successive owners in   the late 20th century until, in 1999, Peter and Esther     Smedvig acquired the Manor which they have subsequently   remodelled and substantially upgraded.

Lower Dean

The Lower Dean manor was held by Osgot before the Conquest and had been enfeoffed to William Leuric by 1086. By 1165, however, this estate had passed to Llanthony Priory which added substantial lands in Aylworth to this holding in 1291 and continued in ownership of the estate until Dissolution. Subsequently, in 1543, the Lower Dean manor was granted to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple in two parts, but they quickly sold both parts to the Priory’s previous tenant, William Walter.

However, the Walters did not remain in occupation long before selling it to the St Johns of Bletso, who owned the estate from 1575 to 1599. From the St Johns the estate passed to the Spencers, then to the Comptons by marriage and to the Duttons of nearby Sherborne by sale in 1613. After brief ownerships by Robert Brereton and John Rich the bulk of the estate came in to the ownership of John Coxwell in 1665, although the Duttons had retained some of the more southerly lands, known as ‘Leygore’, when they sold the manor. The Coxwells, subsequently by marriage the Nelthorpes, then held Lower Dean manor for over a century until selling it to the Wallers in about 1790, thus uniting the ownership of both Turkdean and Lower Dean manors. However, after passing to the Willans in 1799, following Thomas Willan’s death in 1828 the Lower Dean manor passed to the Taylers who remained in possession until 1903, adding a substantial rear wing to make the house something more than the farmhouse that they had acquired in 1828.

The Lower Dean estate was acquired by W.A. Rixon in 1905 and he made further improvements to the house which was then sold with the bulk of the land by Rixon’s heirs. In 1968 the house and a portion of the former Lower Dean estate were purchased by the musician Steve Winwood who remains the owner to this day and who acquired the land of the Turkdean Manor estate when it was sold by the Mustoe family in 2012, thus reuniting lands that had been held in separate “manorial estates” for the last 1,000 years.

When John Dutton sold the bulk of the Lower Dean estate to Robert Brereton in 1648 he retained around 350 acres of land in the South of the parish which was kept by the Duttons’ Sherborne estate and let to tenant farmers until 1813 when they sold this block to the Willan family which had bought the Turkdean lands from the Wallers in 1799. It was under the ownership of the Sherborne estate that the original Leygore farmhouse was built in 1797. So in 1813 the Leygore land, which historically had been part of the Lower Dean estate, became part of the more northerly Turkdean estate.

However, the Leygore block was then sold separately in 1831 to the Hewer family and subsequently in 1900 to Arthur Edmund Moss, a brewer from Hampshire, who substantially extended and upgraded the farmhouse into his country retreat in 17th century style. Following Moss’s death in 1943 Leygore was sold to Richard and Charm Fleming (Richard was Ian Fleming’s younger brother and a successful merchant banker.) The Flemings acquired further land for Leygore from the church estates of Rectory Farm in the 1960s and it is now Richard and Charm’s younger son, author Fergus Fleming, who owns Leygore (and who is now Chairman of the Parish, poor chap!)

Rectory Farm
The Church and its lands in the parish were held by Oseney Abbey from the 12th century until the time of the Dissolution, when they were granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church. The lease of the Rectory Farm estate was sold to the Wallers in 1790 who thus united the lands of the Turkdean and Lower Dean estates with Leygore and Rectory Farm and their Farmington estate. This lease passed with the other lands to the Willans in 1799, but on Thomas Willan’s death in 1828 the lease was unsellable and it remained in the hands of the Willans’ heirs until the lease was extinguished in 1880. After some years during which these lands were let from year to year, Christ Church sold the freehold of the Rectory Farm lands to W.A. Rixon in 1911, thus reuniting Rectory Farm with the Turkdean and Lower Dean estates once again. However, following Rixon’s death in 1948 the land and farmhouse were sold to Geoffrey Milne and subsequently passed to the Johnsons and then in to the ownership of Peter & Jo England from 1961 until 1968 when the present owner, Giles Daniels, purchased the farmhouse and some of the former Rectory lands through Edgebarne Trust.

Mixing the Estates
Thus from the two original manorial estates of Turkdean, four land blocks emerged. The houses that formed the centres of these two manorial estates no longer farm the traditional estate lands with which they were historically associated, but have been repeatedly transferred between the various estates.

Having travelled separate routes for most of the last millennium, the lands of the two manors of Turkdean were briefly united by the Waller family along with their Farmington possessions and then with the Church lands in the parish by the Willan family in the early nineteenth century. These lands were brought back together once again by W.A. Rixon in the first half of the twentieth century and then by the Milne family. However, since Steve Winwood’s purchase of the Manor Farm lands from the Mustoes in 2012 the lands of the Turkdean Manor estate have mostly been brought under the ownership of Lower Dean manor. Further confusions will no doubt occur in the future.

The village otherwise consists of a number of mostly 17th century cottages and barns. Many of these were gradually consolidated and enlarged in the years after the mid-19th century, as the population of the village steadily declined – allowing the demolition of many of the older, smaller cottages and the improvement of the remaining buildings.

Turkdean in Film
 Vying with Turkdean’s appearance in TimeTeam and perhaps with   a larger audience comes Turkdean’s appearance in Spielberg’s   splendid “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Indiana Jones says to his   students: “Let’s get back to Turkdean Barrow near Hazleton. It contains a central passage and three chambers, or cists…”

Indiana Jones explains the complexities of the Turkdean Barrow in the Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Lost Ark, Turkdean

How on Earth this got in to Lawrence Kasdan’s script is a mystery,   but the reference seems most likely to be an amalgamation of   Notgrove Long Barrow, originally excavated in 1881, the now-lost  long barrow near Leygore that seems to have been accidentally   ploughed up and the two neolithic barrows at Hazleton that were   excavated in 1979-82 and which, in 2021, yielded genetic DNA material that has allowed the reconstruction of the oldest family tree in the world of neolithic Cotswold residents from 8,000 years ago. Fame indeed!

Further Reading
Verey & Brooks (eds.): Pevsner – Gloucestershire 1: The Cotswolds
This extract is taken from the most recent edition of Pevsner’s “Gloucestershire 1: The Cotswolds” revised by the late and lamented David Verey and Alan Brooks and published by Yale and Penguin on behalf of the Buildings Books Trust and details the architectural features of the Church as well as brief mentions of subsequent domestic buildings including Turkdean Manor and Rectory Farm.

Kingsley: Country Houses of Gloucestershire
Brief descriptions of Turkdean Manor, Lower Dean Manor and Leygore Manor are contained in Nicholas Kingsley’s masterful three-volume dictionary of the Country Houses of Gloucestershire, published in the English Country House series by Phillimore & Co. The Country Houses of Gloucestershire
Vol. 1: 1500-1660 – Turkdean Manor and Lower Dean Manor
Vol. 2: 1660-1830
Vol.3: 1830-2000 – Leygore
But we have a PDF of the extracts about the three Turkdean houses included in these volumes.

Herbert (ed.): History of the County of Gloucester
Volume IX: Bradley Hundred – The Northleach Area
The grand-daddy of all local history surveys is, of course, the Victoria County History series, now published by Boydell & Brewer. The Northleach volume, edited by Nick Herbert, covers Turkdean and all the adjacent parishes within the Bradley Hundred and John Jurica, wrote a fine section on Turkdean the full text of which is now available through the British History Online website.

Clarke: History of Turkdean
Finally, an altogether chattier approach was taken by Turkdean resident John Clarke, in his 1981 history of the parish based on local reminiscence and reportage. We have a PDF of this nicely anecdotal and personal article that fills in a few of the gaps in the more scholarly efforts. It was, it seems, his only foray into historical research, but rather fun.