Sodbury manor and the market town of Chipping Sodbury
Niall C.E.J. O’Brien
Chipping Sodbury is a market town in south Gloucestershire about 14 miles north-east of Bristol. Before the Norman Conquest Old Sodbury which included the later borough of Chipping Sodbury, was owned by Brictric son of Algar. By the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 the king held Sodbury.
Sodbury under the Crassus family
By the early years of the 13th century Sodbury came to the Crassus family and the character of Sodbury manor changed forever. William Crassus had married a sister of William Marshal and was the father of five sons the eldest two of whom were named William Craasus the elder and William Crassus the younger. It was William Crassus the elder who got the charter for the market at Sodbury in 1218 and in 1224 was made seneschal of Leinster in Ireland for his uncle, William Marshal. The borough of Chipping Sodbury was created on a virgin site according to the research of Maurice Beresford, one of the few such medieval towns in Gloucestershire, in the first twenty years of the 13th century.
The name of Chipping Sodbury translates as ‘market place of the new town’ and the market was an important feature in the new town. On 12th August 1218 Henry III allowed William Crassus to have a Monday market at Chipping Sodbury. On 24th May 1227 Henry III granted a charter for a Thursday market at Chipping Sodbury while at the same time granting an annual fair on the Nativity of John the Baptist (24th June) for three days.
The market and fair at Chipping Sodbury, like at other towns across the country, provided the main venue for the purchase and sale of goods in the medieval period. The weekly market was geared for local trade while the annual fair (usually held over three days) provided access to the regional trade routes.
Market area of Chipping Sodbury
Records across the ages give us a glimpse of the burgage plots and the burgesses who made the new town home. In 1255 Muriel de Kidderminster acted as plaintiff in a case of mort d’ancestor for a burgage plot in Chipping Sodbury against Philip de Patepull and Alice, daughter of Geoffrey de Lyegrove. Muriel remised and quitclaimed the plot to Philip and Alice in consideration of 46s 8d. It would appear that most of the burgage plots in Chipping Sodbury were laid out in a regular size with 33 feet fronting the High Street as the norm such as the grants by Adam of Horwood, and John Brown, burgesses of Chipping Sodbury in the 14th century.
Sodbury under the Weyland family
By 1270 Sodbury had passed from the Crassus family to that of Weyland. On 6th November 1270 Henry III granted a charter to William de Weyland to hold a Monday market at Chipping Sodbury and an annual fair on 29th August. In 1280 the old date of 24th June was restored for the holding of the annual fair.
In 1276 John de Brandeston and Marsilia, his wife and former wife of William de Weyland, claimed a third part of Sodbury as her dower against Thomas Weyland (brother of William) and other property. In court Marsilia gave up the claim for a third of Sodbury in exchange for the manor of Middleton in Suffolk. For an account of the Weyland estates in Suffolk see http://celtic2realms-medievalnews.blogspot.ie/2017/08/john-de-weyland-estate-in-1312-suffolk.html
In 1278 Geoffrey de Aspale granted Sodbury manor to Thomas Weyland, Margery, his wife and Richard their son to hold for the lives of Thomas and Margery with remainder to Richard and his heirs. On 15th November 1280 Edward I granted a charter for a Thursday market at Chipping Sodbury to Thomas Weyland. In July 1290 King Edward instructed the sheriff of Gloucester to return Sodbury manor to Margery and Richard after it was taken into the king’s hand due to the felony of Thomas Weyland. The king had inspected the charter of Geoffrey de Aspale and was satisfied with its contents. But by November 1290, Margery and Richard Weyland had to appoint Robert de Denham and Thomas his brother as attorneys to demand against the king in the king’s own court for the return of Sodbury manor. Thomas Weyland had fled the country because of a felony and the king had seized Sodbury. In March 1291 the king ordered the sheriff of Gloucester to restore Sodbury to Margery and Richard.
Meanwhile in 1283 Thomas Weyland granted property in Ireland to William le Gras, which William formerly held from William de Weyland, in exchange for William le Gras acknowledging that Sodbury belonged to Thomas Weyland, his wife Margery and their son Richard.
Sodbury under the Earls of Gloucester
In January 1296 it was found that Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford held the manor of Sodbury with two parks containing 69 acres and a quarter of the salt receivable at Wych (worth 16d). There were also gardens, dovecotes, two mills, 454 acres of arable land in demesne with pasture, meadow, villeinage and cottars with rents from free tenants and assizes. There was also 2s 6d from Netepeny while the assize rents of Chipping Sodbury were £9 11s 7d. The Earl also had the toll of the market and fair at Chipping Sodbury which was held jointly with his wife Joan, daughter of King Edward. The market was worth 40s per year. The heirs of William Crassus held one knight’s fee at Sodbury while the total value of the manor was £41 5s 5d.
On 24th May 1307 a detailed inquisition post mortem was made concerning Sodbury. It found the manor contained, with other property, about 600 arable areas, two water mills, two dovecotes, pasture and meadow along with a deer park and a park without deer at La Leigrave along with a tenement at Bridehwike. In May 1228 the area around Sodbury was excluded from the royal forest of Horwood with a right to possess deer independent of the royal deer. In 1303 some persons unknown took some deer in the park belonging to John de Wylyngton near Yate-by-Sodbury. In 1310 other people illegally entered the deer parks of Gilbert de Clare at Sodbury while the property was in the king’s hand. In 1307 the whole manor of Sodbury was worth £49 6s 7d including Chipping Sodbury, free tenants and villeins. The whole manor was held by Joan de Clare, daughter of King Edward I and wife of the late Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford. Gilbert de Clare had Sodbury jointly with his wife in chief of the king by the service of one knight’s fee. Gilbert de Clare, then aged seventeen years, was her son and heir.
By 1307 the market town of Chipping Sodbury had 90 burgesses holding 176 burger plots and paying £9 14s 1½d per year. In 1307 the fair day was held on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The value of the fair is unknown as the inquisition document was damaged at that point but we do known that the toll of the market was worth 30s while the market town with pleas and perquisites of the manor was worth £15 7s 2d. It appears that the value of the market at Chipping Sodbury had declined by a quarter in the eleven years between 1296 and 1307.
In 1322 William Aylmer was appointed to keep and survey the wainage and stock of Sodbury manor and numerous other places in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire and was later joined by John de Donestable to share the workload.
Sodbury under the Despenser family
By the 1330s Sodbury had come under the control of the le Despenser family, the power brokers behind King Edward II. On 30th June 1337 Eleanor, wife of the late Hugh le Despenser, died. She held at the time of her death various property in Oxfordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire (Tewkesbury, Stoke Orchard, Fairford and Sodbury). At Sodbury she had the manor with the deer park and two fairs in Chipping Sodbury and the market. The manor was held of the king in chief by the service of one knight’s fee. Hugh le Despenser, her first born son, was her heir and was aged about twenty-nine years old.
Elsewhere we are told that the capital messuage at Sodbury was worth nothing because the house cost more to upkeep than what it yielded. There was a dovecote worth 3s 4d and a windmill just worth 6s 6d as it was in a bad state of repair. There was 460 acres of arable land of which 307 acres was sold before Eleanor’s death for 102s 4d. The remaining arable land was in fallow. There was 50 acres of pasture worth 12s 6d and a park for wild animals. The rent of the assizes was worth £11 14s 10¾d per year. The pleas and perquisites of the court was 10s per year and there were 15 customary tenants.
The poor and rundown state of the manor of Sodbury is contrasted by the growth of the borough of Chipping Sodbury. By 1337 there were two fairs Chipping Sodbury at the feasts of the Ascension and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist along with the market. The Ascension fair was worth 30s and that of St. John the Baptist 40s while the toll of the market was 5s. The growth in the town is reflected in the rent of the burgesses of Chipping Sodbury which increased from £9 14s 1½d in 1307 to £9 18s 6½d in 1337.
In April 1344 Hugh le Despenser appealed leave to the king to grant the manor of Sodbury to three clerks in trust, Edmund de Grymesby, John le Hamslape and William de Oseberstone. It was stated that Hugh le Despenser held Sodbury from the Earl of Gloucester by the service of receiving the Earl at the west side of the manor and escorting him to the east side. The jury of the inquisition taken at Sodbury found it no damage to the king if the clerks granted Sodbury to Hugh le Despenser and his wife Elizabeth. The manor was at that time worth £50. In June 1344 the king allowed the enfeoffment.
Alina, late the wife of Sir Edward Burnel died on 16th May 1363. An inquisition post mortem, made at Sodbury, found that she held the manor of Sodbury for life of the king in chief by one knight’s fee as a gift from Hugh le Despenser. The borough of Chipping Sodbury had two fairs per year, at the feasts of the Invention of the Holy Cross and the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The manor of Sodbury reverted to Edward le Despenser, kinsman of Hugh le Despenser, on the death of Alina Burnel. Sir Edward Burnel had died in 1316 to be succeeded by his sister Matilda, wife of John Lovel.
Sir Edward le Despenser died on 12th November 1375 leaving his two year old son, Thomas le Despenser, as heir. Sir Edward le Despenser held the manor of Sodbury in Gloucestershire with the borough of Chipping Sodbury of the king in chief. The manor included a pasture called Mansedmede and a close called Leigrave along with a deer park. There were at that time two fairs in Chipping Sodbury at the feasts of the Ascension and St. John the Baptist.
In 1378 Isabel, wife of Edward le Despenser, was instructed to pay David Hunt 2d (pence) per day as keeper of Sodbury park for life as long as the park remained in the king’s hand.
Sodbury in the fifteenth century
In 1405 Richard Mawerdyn was appointed by the king as steward and parker at Sodbury which was then in the king’s hand owing to the minority of Lord le Despenser. In April 1405 King Henry IV granted the manor of Sodbury and the borough of Chipping Sodbury to his wife, Queen Joan. By the 1430s Chipping Sodbury had been restored to the le Despenser family in the name of Isabel, Countess of Warwick and daughter of Thomas Lord Despenser.
For an account of inquisitions post mortem taken at Chipping Sodbury between 1419 and 1422 see http://celtic2realms-medievalnews.blogspot.ie/2014/12/inquisitions-post-mortem-at-chipping.html
Sodbury in the sixteenth and seventeenth century
But by 1522 Sodbury was back in royal hands. In the 1522 military survey there were about 77 financial contributors to the military fund from Chipping Sodbury. Eight of these people were weavers while others included a cordwainer, tailor, and shoemaker. Sir Anthony Poyntz was then steward of the town.
Chipping Sodbury was still listed as a market town in about 1600 but by then its fortunes appear to have declined somewhat. Although in the sixteenth century the town and surrounding area sent apprentices to Bristol, no apprentices were sent to Oxford and in the seventeenth century no apprentices went to Gloucester. There is equally no reference to Chipping Sodbury among the inquisitions post mortem taken in the reign of King Charles the First.
Sodbury in modern times
By the nineteenth century Chipping Sodbury was noted as an ancient market town with a population in 1870 of 1,112 people. The trade of the town was then chiefly in cheese and malt. In 1870 there was a market on the first Tuesday of every month and two annual fairs, Holy Thursday and 24th June. Until the 1950s Chipping Sodbury was still a relatively small town serving as a market town for the surrounding area but since then the motor car has made the town in a large commercial and commuter town for Bristol.
In 1974 Chipping Sodbury was taken from Gloucestershire and made part of the new county of Avon. But in 1996 Chipping Sodbury returned to the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire with the abolition of Avon as a county to be part of the unitary authority of South Gloucestershire. In 2001 Chipping Sodbury was still described as a market town with 5,066 people but since then the town has become part of the larger urban area of Yate with a combined population of over 26,000.
End of post
 Taylor, C., An analysis of the Domesday Survey of Gloucestershire (Bristol, 1889), pp. 190, 300, 301
 Brooks, E. St. John, Knights’ Fees in Counties Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny in 13th to 15th Century (Stationery Office, Dublin, 1950), pp. 72, 73
 Herbert, N., ‘Northleach: New Light on the Making of a Gloucestershire Town’, in Bettey, J. (ed.), Archives & Local History in Bristol & Gloucestershire: Essays in Honour of David Smith (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2007), pp. 17-26, at p. 19
 Baddeley, W. St. Clair, Gloucestershire Place-names (Gloucester, 1913), pp. 42, 143
 https://www.history.ac.uk/cmh/gaz/gloucs.html accessed on 8th January 2018; http://www.british-history.ac.uk/list-index-soc/markets-fairs-gazetteer-to-1516/gloucestershire accessed on 8th January 2018
 Kowaleski, M., Local Markets and Regional Trade in Medieval Exeter (Cambridge, 1995), p. 41
 Elrington, C.R. (ed.), Abstracts of feet of fines relating to Gloucestershire 1199-1299 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, vol. 16, 2003), no. 561
 Walker, D. (ed.), The Cartulary of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Bristol (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, Vol. 10, 1998), add. doc. nos. 26, 27
 Elrington, C.R. (ed.), Abstracts of feet of fines relating to Gloucestershire 1199-1299 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, vol. 16, 2003), no. 810
 Elrington, C.R. (ed.), Abstracts of feet of fines relating to Gloucestershire 1199-1299 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, vol. 16, 2003), no. 817
 Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward I, 1288-1296, pp. 96, 147, 163
 Elrington, C.R. (ed.), Abstracts of feet of fines relating to Gloucestershire 1199-1299 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, vol. 16, 2003), no. 855
 Madge, S.J. (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, Part IV, 20 Henry III to 29 Edward I, 1236-1300 (London, 1903), pp. 183, 184; Sharp, J.E.E.S. (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. III, Edward 1 (Kraus reprint, 1973), no. 371
 Fry, E.A. (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 30 Edward I to 32 Edward III, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, London, 1910), pp. 81, 82, 83, 84, 85
 Dryburgh, P. & Hartland, B. (ed.), Calendar of the Fine Rolls of the Reign of Henry III, volume II, 9 to 18 Henry III, 1224-1234 (London, 2008), nos. 12/171, 14/177
 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward I, 1303-1307, p. 184
 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward II, 1307-1313, p. 261
 Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358, p. 85
 Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem, Vol. IV, Edward 1, no. 435
 Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358, pp. 84, 85
 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1321-1324, pp. 112, 118
 Sharp (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem, Vol. VIII, Edward II1, no. 132
 Fry, E.A. (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 30 Edward I to 32 Edward III, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, London, 1910), p. 265
 Fry, E.A. (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 30 Edward I to 32 Edward III, 1302-1358 (British Record Society, London, 1910), p. 265
 Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358, pp. 303, 304; Calendar of Patent Rolls, Edward III, 1343-1345, p. 268
 Dawes, C.B. & others (eds.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. XI, Edward II1 (Kraus reprint, 1973), no. 489
 Fry (ed.), Abstracts of Inquisitions Post Mortem for Gloucestershire, part V, 1302-1358, pp. 156, 157
 Chapman, J.B.W. & Dawes, C.B. (eds.), Calendar of Inquisitions post mortem preserved in the Public Record Office, Vol. XIV, Edward II1 (Kraus reprint, 1986), no. 209
 Calendar of Close Rolls, Richard II, 1377-1383, p. 49
 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry IV, 1401-1405, p. 494
 Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry IV, 1405-1408, p. 4
 Noble, C. (ed.), Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, volume XXV, 16 to 20 Henry VI, 1437-1442 (London, 2009), nos. 310, 330
 Hoyle, R.W. (ed.), The military survey of Gloucestershire, 1522 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, Vol. 6, 1993), p. 3
 Hollis, D. (ed.), Calendar of the Bristol Apprentice Book, 1532-1565, Part I, 1532-1542 (Bristol Record Society, Vol. XIV, 1948), Ms. p. 94, 165, 212; Ralph, E. & Hardwick, N.M. (eds.), Calendar of the Bristol Apprentice Book, 1532-1565, Part II, 1542-1552 (Bristol Record Society, Vol. XXXIII, 1980), nos. 262, 644, 647, 871, 1235, 1295, 1376, 1740; Ralph, E. (ed.), Calendar of the Bristol Apprentice Book, 1532-1565, Part III, 1552-1565 (Bristol Record Society, Vol. XLIII, 1992), nos. 27, 65, 703; Crossley, A. (ed.), Oxford City Apprentices, 1513-1602 (Oxford Historical Society, New Series, Vol. XLIV, 2012); Barlow, J. (ed.), A calendar of the registers of Apprentice of the city of Gloucester, 1595-1700 (Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Gloucestershire Record Series, Vol. 14, 2001);
 Fry, E.A. (ed.), Abstracts of Gloucestershire Inquisitions Post Mortem in the reign of Charles the First, 1625-1642 (London, 1899)
 Anon, The National Encyclopedia (13 vols. London, 1870), vol. 6, p. 825