The Great and the Good?
Landholders have played a large part in community life since Saxon times. Their impressive houses dominated the landscape. Landholders also employed many local people on the land and in their homes and were prominent figures in local society.
The Hold of the Church
St. Mary’s Church
The local gentry and peasantry had to respect the authority of the church which was, early on, both their landlord and only route to heaven! Landholders lavished money and gifts on St. Mary’s.
The Stanshawe family donated a bell bearing the inscription, “Robertus Stanshaw Syrner Meletare”, in the 15th century. Many memorials exist celebrating the local gentry.
The church also had a great economic impact; people had to give it 10% of their produce in tithes.
The 2 leading medieval families were:
- the Berkeleys based at Berkeley castle (Yate Court used as a substitute, 1516-1553)
- the Poyntzes based at Iron Acton
These 2 families were rivals for royal favour in the south of Gloucestershire. Violence often occurred if one or other felt slighted. Even carefully arranged marriages could not keep the peace. They were truly overmighty subjects!
The parish of Yate had 3 manors, Yate Court, Stanshawes Court and Brinsham, of which Stanshawes Court and the ruins of Yate Court survive today.
The de Wyllingtons acquired Yate Court in 1207. In 1299, a royal licence was granted, allowing it a moat, high walls, drawbridge and a portcullis.
Maurice, Lord Berkeley gave it a major makeover, 1517-1522. (He needed a worthy stand in for Berkeley castle).
From the 1550s to the 1700s Yate Court changed hands often; key events being:
- the tenure of Alexander Staples, d. 1590
- its occupation by Roundheads during the Civil War. When they left, they destroyed its fortifications to make it useless to the Royalists.
Yate Court never regained its former splendour. Later lords of the manor replaced it; first with Oxwick Hall and later with Yate House.
Part of the site was used to build a farm house which was leased to a long series of tenant farmers including the Shipp family, who farmed it from the 1780s to the 1880s.
In the 13th century, the Stanshawe family built a magnificent house with gardens and a deer park to the south of Yate and were lords there for more than 3 centuries.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries the Stokes family owned Stanshawes Court. It blossomed under Robert Hooper in the 19th - early 20th century.