Giorgian Ashow

Georgian Ashow

The agricultural pattern in the upper Avon Valley in the middle of the eighteenth century was very different to that which had existed one hundred years before. By 1750 most of the land was being farmed on a five year cycle in which cereals were rotated with clover and possibly turnips. This maintained the fertility of the soil and produced high yields so supporting a sizeable rural population. Many of the fields however which resulted from the seventeenth century enclosures were too big to be worked efficiently under this system and so they were split into more manageable units. The result was a progressive subdivision of the land into a large number of small holdings.

Much of the character of Georgian Ashow is captured in Matthias Baker's estate survey of 1776 which like those in 1597 and 1649 lists all Lord Leigh's tenants in the parish and identifies and values their lands and properties.

The parish in 1776 was highly fragmented. Excluding woodlands and waste ground, the land under cultivation consisted of 130 plots of an average size of 5 acres. The largest field was a mere 16 acres. Names had been assigned to the new fields, and some had been changed, so the appearance and nomenclature of the landscape was very different to that of 1649. So many new enclosures had been created to the north of the village that an east-west track had been built to service them. The pattern of roads through the village however was unaltered. The river could still be forded in two places and both of the old north-south and east-west roads in Bericote remained in use. The agricultural tenants in 1776 came from different families to those in 1649. The level of change is shown by the fact there is only one surname (Tims/Tym) which appears in both the 1776 and 1649 lists of land holders. With this single possible exception, a complete turnover of the families living in the parish appears to have occurred in the interval of five generations.

The pattern of land holding in Georgian Ashow was based upon freehold and tenancy. As principal freeholder, Lord Leigh owned most of the 1053 acres in the parish. His holding included farming land, woods, glebe, lanes, rivers and all the properties. The land was rented to fifteen tenants, five of whom held farms of over seventy acres. By far the largest landholder was Mrs Hiorns who lived south of the river in what is now Bericote Farm. Her 253 acre tenancy included large parts of Bericote, valuable meadow land along the banks of the Avon, and a number of closes to the east and north of the village. The estate map shows clearly that Dial House Farm, home of Mary Judd; Abbey Farm (then known as 'The Croft'), home of James Lee; and Grove Farm and Witherwell Barn, rented by John Lynes, were in existence in 1776. Joseph Badhams (who was presumably a relation of Thomas Badhams the churchwarden who lit his pipe with the parish registers) represents the other extreme of tenancy. His holding, which included his house and gardens, together with two plots of land called 'The Dog Croft' and 'The Pingle' amounted to a mere 1 acre and 33 perches. A further group of individuals is recorded in the 1776 inventory as renting properties but no agricultural land. These presumably were agricultural labourers several of whom must, by virtue of the size of her land holdings, have worked for Mrs. Hiorns.

It is likely that Ashow achieved its greatest population in the Georgian period. In general, agricultural improvements during the eighteenth century were responsible for a rise in rural populations, and in the absence of employment opportunities in the adjacent market towns, people tended to remain on the farm. The first decennial census, held in 1801, records a parish population of 205 and it remained above 170 until 1841, and again in 1881. The lowest recorded population was 80 in 1971 when the village was in the throes of redevelopment. The population in 2011 was 117.