Village History

 

      The earliest village on the site of Bishop's Cleeve existed in the 8th Century and was called Timbingctun. At that time there was a monastery, which is thought to have stood close to the site of the present church of St Michael's. In the late 8th Century, Offa, King of Mercia granted the surrounding land to the monastery. Later the village became known as Cliffe, referring to the cliff-like escarpment of Cleeve Hill. When, in the 9th Century, the monastery and its land were given to the Bishop of Worcester, the village became known as Bishop's Cleeve, although the monastery itself soon disappeared.

     The villagers, who numbered around one hundred at Domesday, farmed the surrounding land as tenants of the Bishop and grazed sheep on Cleeve Hill, which was contained within the parish boundaries. The traditional open field farming continued until Parliamentary enclosure, in 1847, although Cleeve Hill remains common land for grazing to this day, protected by an Act of Law in 1891.

     In the late 11th Century the Bishop of Worcester had a residence in the village, which is thought to have been the predecessor of the Rectory, which was built in around 1250. This stone-built house retains much of its original plan and structure, including the Solar on the first floor. The Rectory was the home for all the Rectors of Bishop's Cleeve until 1972.

     Opposite the rectory, stands the 15th Century Tithe Barn, which was built of stone with a timber roof.. The section to the right of the original doorway was demolished in the last century, but the remaining part has been sympathetically converted to serve as a village hall.

     The village church was built in the 12th Century, on the site of the Saxon church of St Michael and the Blessed Archangel, and although it was restored and altered over the intervening years, the ornamental carved stone doorways in the South and West porches still survive. The church contains a 13th century effigy of a knight and the tomb of Richard Delabere, Lord of the manor of Southam, who died in 1636 and his wife, Margaret. The 16th century wooden gallery at the west end of the church, was given to the church by the Delabere family and is still in use.

     In 1445, a fire damaged many of the houses in Bishop's Cleeve, so very few survive from before this date. However, many of the timber-framed buildings, which replaced the ones that burnt down, still stand in the roads around the church.

     National events affected Bishop's Cleeve very little. In 1643, the Parliamentary army passed through Southam, on its way to relieve the siege of Gloucester, during the Civil War. In 1788, King George III visited Bishop's Cleeve during one of his sojourns in Cheltenham.

     The first school in Bishop's Cleeve was held by the priest in the small room above the South porch of the church, in the early 19th century. Educational drawings are still visible on the walls of this room. In 1846, a small National School was built near the church, in what is now called School Road. This became a Board School in 1874 and later a state Junior School. It was eventually replaced in 1981.