Before 1800 much of the land in Wraysbury was common land and waste ground. The Lord of the Manor of Wraysbury in 1799 presented a bill to Parliament which would divide this land (and other land in Wraysbury) into separate enclosures and award these enclosures to certain individuals who would then own the freehold.
A number of villagers objected to the bill and presented the Lord of the Manor with a petition. To ensure the smooth passage of the bill he subsequently agreed to insert a clause which awarded the eight yards either side of the River Colne in perpetuity for the use of the inhabitants of Wraysbury. When each of the enclosures was divided the boundaries all ended eight yards from the river.
The common rights which the inhabitants had enjoyed were therefore exchanged for the right to walk along an eight yard strip of land which bordered the river Colne, to cut withies from the stream and throw mud from it upon the bank. The right to hold an annual fair at
and the land on which it should be held was also ensured.
On the 17th June 1803 the Wraysbury Inclosure2 Award was granted with the following to say about the 8 yards:
" AND FURTHER KNOW YE that they the said James Taylor Richard Davis and Thomas Wyatt the Commissioners as aforesaid in pursuance and further performance of the Directions of the said Act before setting out and making the several Allotments of the said Commons and Waste Grounds by the said Act directed to be made HAVE set out appointed and awarded and by these presents DO set out appoint and award unto and for all and every the inhabitants of the said parish of Wyrardisbury otherwise Wraisbury for the time being ALL those Spaces Pieces or Parcels of Land or Ground part and parcel of the Lands and Grounds by the said Act intended and directed to be divided allotted and inclosed being of the breadth of eight yards on each side of the River Colne or Mill River as the same is marked and distinguished by dotted Lines on the said plan hereunto annexed and which said space of eight yards on each side of the said Colne or Mill River is so set out by the said Commissioners for the purpose of being used for ever by the Inhabitants of the said Parish for throwing mud cutting weeds out of the said River and for such other uses and purposes as may be necessary for their accommodation and to the same Extent and in such manner no they enjoyed the same at the time of the passing of the said Act."
(page 9, para 1 certified copy 24 Feb 1944)
An interesting insight into the numerous occupations in Wraysbury at
the time can be gleaned from the entries for summonses in the Court Rolls:-
|| Thomas Potter
|| Weedon Grove
|| Willaim Harris
|| Francis Long
|| John Harris
|| Joseph Burt
|| Joseph Adkins
|| William Thomas
|| copper roller
|| William Whitmarsh
|| Nathanial Wilmot
|| wheelwright and carpenter
The coming of the railway in 1848 improved the lot of the villager
and widened the scope of employment but the population remained fairly
static until the end of the 19th century. Hirings took place each
Michaelmas which resulted in some fluctuation of population.
Prior to the close of this stage, the village was rural in character,
depending on the mills and agriculture for employment. A small number
of workers did, however, obtain employment in Slough and Staines, often
walking to work each day.
Two aspects of local life together provided the means of employment
of the local inhabitants from earliest times until quite recently.
The background and development of these is given below.
The Growth of Wraysbury and Hythe End Mills.
The Colne Brook has been harnessed in Wraysbury for more than 1,000
years to provide power for both the mills. They were mentioned in
the Domesday Survey of 1086 as having a value of 40 shillings per annum.
They were owned by the lord of the Manor and were the centre of activity.
Tenants were permitted to grind their corn only at the Lord’s mill .
Water mills were the earliest form of power known to man and as such
were successively used for a variety of tasks as technology advanced.
Wraysbury Mill is situated near the Horton boundary of the Parish.
It had Saxon foundations and was the principal mill on the Colne
stream, the actual site of the mill head and race being the same as at
the time of the Domesday Survey. The flour mill derived its source
of power from an undershot paddle water wheel which was driven by the millstream.
John de Remenham, one of the Wraysbury barons who was present at the
signing of Magna Carter, held the mill in 1289. In 1605 it began
to be used as a paper mill. It was worked night and day all
the year except on Sundays.
In 1722 the mill was tenanted by Jakes Colson who worked it as an iron
mill. It was turned into a copper mill in 1777 by the new owners,
Gnoll Co. of Neath. The copper for the mill was landed at a wharf
on the Thames to be minted at the mill and then taken to London.
The precise location of the wharf at the end of Wharf Road (SU 993 739)
is now occupied by two dwellings with the names "Copper Wharf House" and
"Old Wharf Cottage". On the site of the latter stood two small cottages
and the landing stage in front of the wharf.
Its use as a metal mill continued until 1844 under the auspices of George
and Thomas Glascott, brass founders. The rental was £600 per
annum. The school record of the time contains a reference to
the fact that a number of children were unemployed because of the closure
of the copper mill. The state of the paper-making (or metal) industry,
together with agriculture, largely accounted for fluctuations of population.
Gyll in his "History of Wraysbury" describes the modern inventions contained
in the mill in 1861 as:-
"comprising patent steam engines, at a very great outlay, the patentees
being the lessees of the mill, and the plant and machinery their own.
There are spacious rooms fitted with apparatus for pressing paper, rending
rags with steam power, drying, patent strainers, bleaching machines, steam
gauges, presses, slate cisterns, very perfect, such as tastes and experience
suggest, while the parish is greatly benefited by the employment of nearly
a hundred hands; the proportion between the sexes is about sixty women
to thirty or forty men and boys. Some men earn £2 a week."
At this time the mill manufactured good quality paper for books, newspapers,
charts, plateprinting, drawing paper and "for the more expensive sort of
The mill was taken over by the Bell Punch Company in 1919 and a large
scale reorganisation took place. Two modern hydro turbines coupled
to a generator replaced the water wheel and these supplied electric power
to the factory. The Printing Factory had a floor space of one acre
and a three storey building for engineering and the manufacture of bell
punches. When the work was carried out, between 1919 and 1923, there
was a great shortage of building bricks and so the concrete blocks were
constructed by women on the site. The mill was finally closed
The second mill, the smaller of the two, stood near the junction of
the river Colne with the river Thames at Hythe End (TQ 018 724).
It was worked in conjunction with the Wraysbury Mill, eventually using
steam and water combined for propulsion. Gyll in his "History of Wraysbury" described the area as consisting of "dwelling houses, farm and
beerhouses not above 20. Paper mill on the Colne stream". During
the 1860’s it was noted for its manufacture of millboards made from rope
and employed 25 men and boys and a few women. The mill was finally
closed early last century.
A quotation from the Court Rolls of Wraysbury dated 1755 records that
"damming up of water in the millstream had flooded Wraysbury Common and
made the ford over the Colne dangerous". Until the Enclosure Act
of 1799 there was no bridge over the Colne by the Mill and entry had to
be made by ferry. Following the building of the bridge the Mill owner
was made responsible for its upkeep.
The Growth of Agriculture
Agriculture has played an important part in the economy of Wraysbury
from the time of the earliest Neolithic settlement. It has always
been based on arable farming and animal husbandry.
The text of the Domesday Survey of 1086 makes it plain that only a portion
of the land was worked at that time. As was common then, the agricultural
workers, or villeins, were housed in humble cottages for which the Lord
of the Manor received payment in manual labour and specific services which
were entered in the Court Roll. Among the tasks carried out were
ploughing the Lord’s land, making his hay and helping to get the harvest
gathered. Implements, but not sustenance, were provided for these
tasks. The worker had no freedom of action and was not able either
to move or marry without the Lords permission, nor was he allowed to sell
goods. (It was conditions like these which led to rebellions such
as that of Wat Tyler in 1382.)
An account of Wraysbury between 1803 and 1878 states that two thirds
of the land was arable and one third grass. The soil is described
as being "generally a black and blue loam and gravel and it is a cereal
village in a generally cereal shire. Yet the roots grown here are
particularly fine especially mangolds and turnips". No doubt these
especially fine crops coincided with the scattered deposits of brickearth.
The ancient estimated area of the Parish was that it contained 1610
acres but Mr. W.T. Buckland made a new survey in 1845 which gave a figure
of 1656 acres (present acreage 1650). Gyll records that in
1831 62 families were employed in agriculture, a further 68 families in
handicraft or the mills. Basket making and glove making came under
the heading of handicraft, good use being made of the osier beds located
at SU 993 734. These are thicket of willows in the early stages of
growth, which are used for wicker work and basket making.
In 1850 ten yeoman farmers, none of whom was a large owner worked the
land but in a conversation with a local farmer it was discovered that some
of those were, in reality, only smallholdings. The average wage had
formally been 8s. 6d. weekly but had by this time risen to 12s. This
apparently sufficed because very few paupers were to be found in Wraysbury
and "the condition of the poor is very creditable to the parish and equally
so to the rich; the former looking to the latter to redress the balance
of their lot and they are not deceived" .
Mr. Harcourt, who was Lord of the Manor in 1845 and resident at
was instrumental in organising Ploughing Matches which took place annually,
each September. They were run by the Wraysbury Ploughing Association,
consisting of about 100 members, the purpose behind them was the encouragement
of industrious labourers and servants. The matches took place between
Wraysbury and its adjoining village of Horton and, in addition to testing
the ploughmen’s skill, there was fierce competition with root crops, two
silver cups being awarded for mangolds and prizes for fruit, flowers and
vegetables. It was an occasion for the whole village, the children
having a day off school and receiving prizes for needlework and writing.
These were the functions sometimes attended by the Prince Consort.
- The week beginning on Whitsunday, especially the first three days of this
week. Whitsunday is also known as Pentecost and is a major festival in the
Christian church. It is celebrated on the Sunday which falls on the 50th day
after the Easter festival
A Whitsun Ale is, despite its name, not
a type of beer! Whitsun Ales are country fairs, with sports and competitions,
Morris dancing displays, music and of course socialising, eating and drinking,
in fact a major event on the social calendar.
After the Civil War (English, not American) the
Puritan government banned all types of merrymaking but after the Restoration of
Charles II, Whitsun Ales became a major event - helped no doubt by the fact that
Charles was born on a Whit Monday and so encouraged the celebration. The Ales
are often sponsored by a pub or brewery, giving rise to the misconception that
the event is named for the beer!
[Origin: bef. 1100; ME whitsonenday, OE Hwīta
Sunnandæg - white Sunday; prob. so called because the newly baptized wore
white robes on that day]
2. Farrier -
3. Brazier - a
person who makes articles of brass.
[Origin: 1275–1325; ME brasier, equiv.
to OE bræsi(an) to work in brass]
4. Maltster - a
maker of or dealer in malt.
5. Cordwainer -
Shoemaker, Leatherworker, c.1100, from Anglo-Fr. cordewaner, from O.Fr. cordoan
"(leather) of Cordova," the town in Spain whose leather was favored by
the upper class for shoes.