Kempley Heritage

Some three years ago we decided to put on an exhibition for visitors to our annual daffodil weekend. Part of that exhibition told the story of Harry George who lived and worked in the village for many years. It also illustrated the history of our two unique churches. The enthusiastic response from our visitors inspired us to create and put on line the “Social History of Kempley”.

So if you think heritage is all ancient buildings and statuary think again.

We traced our village heritage in archives around the county and beyond. Found material tucked away in drawers and even attics. The Gloucester archive with its record of every house owner from 1831 to 1901 was particularly helpful. We also searched the diocesan records, the Swindon Library and the Lord of the Manor’s collection at Madresfield Court. Local newspapers, maps and artefacts were traced as well as the published history. Naturally we could hardly leave out the written and oral history surrounding the daffodil trade.

Trace who lived where in the village and what they did. If your interest is piqued you can move on to the audio stories and hear how the houses were used from the mouths of those who lived there.

Look at the births marriages and deaths (to be found in date order in the Parish Register but also and somewhat unusually under the surname of the spinster of the Parish). Be surprised by how the parish was organised to look after its own. Perhaps you might wonder why so many christenings took place in Newent and not the parish. The simple answer, illegitimacy, tells its own story of the morals of the time.

Go to 1919 when in the course of a few days, the local landowner, the 7th Earl Beauchamp, auctioned his whole estate. (details of the auction, the price and who bought what are all there in the Tardis). Imagine the impact on the community, which in two days saw the obliteration of centuries of “doffing the cap” to the landowner. The social and economic upheaval is extraordinary.

The 7th Earl, whose seat was at Madresfield was a man ahead of his time. He was an egalitarian who took a real interest in the lives of his tenants. He built the local church, established what would now be called a working men’s club and was generous with his gifts. He held high office in government and was leader of the Liberals in the Lords.

Follow the rise of non conformism in the Parish. The antipathy between that group and the high church establishment is a fascinating chapter. Two chapels were established by the mid 1850’s. Their 150th anniversary gave us a whole new set of fascinating material, ephemera, family geneology and details related to properties and farm holdings. It also helped us to personalise the TARDIS story.

All this and more is there to explore; do enjoy the journey wherever it may take you.