LAW AND DISORDER
Back in the realms of time law and order was chiefly maintained by the Manor Courts which dealt with affairs of the manor, namely the transference of land, control of cattle, trespass, damage, neglect, vagrancy or local disputes; whilst the Ecclesiastical Courts dealt with the payment of tithes and the morals of the parishioners. Tithing men were elected for each area and were responsible for ensuring that the orders from the lord of the manor were carried out. Punishments varied; for small offences a fine would be imposed; for more serious offences, whipping at the whipping post or confinement to the stocks. Greater offences were dealt with by the Hundred Courts (County Courts) and punishment ranged from imprisonment to hanging. For treason the punishment was the horrendous one of hanging, drawing and quartering. Fortunately the inhabitants of Arle at that time, did not suffer this fate.
The following are typical extracts from the Cheltenham Manor Court Rolls.
April 1630 Item - it is ordered that the inhabitants of Arle shall set up a new whipping post for the punishment of rogues and vagrants by May day next upon paine of £10.
Oct 1694 The tithing man, Walter Hartlebury, is given order to supervise and lay a trunk in Ffiddlers Lake and to amend the lake by William Drinkwater between this and the sixth day of November upon paine of 10s for default.
In 1634, however, the inhabitants of Arle got on the wrong side of the law illegally growing tobacco, which, at that time, was the monopoly of the Virginia Company, who rightly objected to these country peasants doing them out of their livelihood. The 'peasants' were, then as now, trying to avoid paying the tobacco tax. As for the Ecclesiastical Courts, one William Farmer of Arle and his wife were twice prosecuted for not attending church, but had they done so, would it have made better Christians of them? In view of the following incident, we doubt it.
'Tis a Pity She's a Whore
On the 14th of January 1555 one Elizabeth Yarryngton, wife of John Yarryngton of Arle, was involved in a case of Defamation against one Mal Sherford, wife of Thomas Sherford of Cheltenham, each accusing the other of slander.
The following extract is from Hockaday's copy of the records of Gloucester Ecclesiastical Court (in Gloucester Library).
A witness for Yarryngton was one Katherine Sturmye, wife of Thomas Sturyme aged 43 of Cheltenham who gave evidence that "Betwixt mydsommer and corne harvest 3 or 4 yeres past, upon a Sonnedaye cummynge from Cheltenham parisshe churche, from Evensonge with Sherford and one Eleanor Tailer, talkyng together of many thyngs concernynge the Englisshe Service" (the recent change from the use of Latin to English in Church), Sherford then said of Yarryngton that ''she was a naughtie, lying and boasting drabbe and whoore".
Sturmye defended Yarryngton as a 'verie honest woman', whereupon Sherford said 'No, I wys (know that) she is an arrant whoore, for Henrie Lytull keepeth her up and down the house, for if he will not come to her, she will go to hym'. And at a later time she added 'Well I care not for her, I will bringe sixe men that shall say as I do say' and said that she went with the said Yarryngton to a sheepe sheeryng at Henrie Lytul's house at Heydon, and when they 'were down at the table to drynk, Lytull came and took Yarryngton by the hand saying "Come on dame ye must goe with me" and took her into a chamber for the space of an hour'.
Joanna Amounte, wife of John Amounte, aged 35 of Cheltenham confirmed previous witness.
William Mappe aged 28 of Cheltenham was a siefigare sytting at his work when Yarryngton came and told him about the slander. Just then Sherford came from William Lygon's place and accused Yarryngton of lying there, adding "thou camest lyke a queane to Arle and so thou dost continue." (William Lygon was Cheltenham's magistrate and Arle's Lord of the Manor). Alice Piers, widow, aged 26 of Cheltenham, heard Sherford call Yarryngton 'whoore' and say 'that all the men in Arle were not able to make a breakfast for them that did call Yarryngton a whoore.'
One Thomas Mylton aged 40 of Cheltenham was a witness for Sherford in cross suit and deposed that 'upon holy rode even called the Even of the Exaltation of the Crosse, (i.e. September 13th/14th) Mr. Lygon sent for Sherford and Yarryngton to come to Arle, but overhearing the two women quarrelling when by his stable, he rode away perceiving he could do no good. And deponent then heard Yarryngton call Sherford 'great whoore, foul whoore and lame whoore'.
Eleanor Tailer, aged nearly 50, of Cheltenham also heard Yarryngton's words as above, adding 'and my Lady Lygon would have cut thy nose saving (i.e. except) that she, the said Sherford, did wayte upon (i.e. serve) her husband at the Plough up and down'.
Alice Lane, aged 26 of Cheltenham, with Elizabeth Mylton were standing in Mylton's closse (i.e. garden) about 2 o'clock on Thursday sennight (i.e. a week) after Holy rode daye last past, heard Yarryngton in Mappe's closse call Sherford, who was coming in the highe way from Arle Court with a pot of balm in her hand, a 'naughtie whoore, great whoore, and yll favoured whoore', Mylton being present.
Elizabeth Mylton, aged 42 of Cheltenham confirmed the above. The case concluded on 28th June, apparently against Sherford.
The above are examples of law and disorder in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it seems a period of good behaviour followed, but the above pales into insignificance when we compare it with what happened in the 20th Century.
The Battle of Barbridge
'The Battle of Barbridge' began in May 1987 when the residents of Arle Farm and Cavendish Estates were informed by the Council that the road at Barbridge had to be repaired and therefore it would be closed to them for about three months. This would entail a detour of about six miles, routed along Old Gloucester Road and Withybridge Lane to join the Tewkesbury Road at a particularly dangerous junction. Not unnaturally, the residents objected saying that they had been kept in the dark till the last minute and they also point out that apart from the extra time needed to use this route, were there an emergency, lives could be put at risk. This view was supported by Councillor Andrew Pennington.
The residents of Arle Farm and Cavendish Park asked the Council to make a temporary road through to Springbank but at a special council meeting this plan was rejected despite County Councillors supporting it. The majority of Councillors agreed with Councillor Harry Turbyfield that not only would the increased traffic in Springbank cause a hazard but feared it might become a permanent feature.
Families from Arle Farm and Cavendish Park presented a petition in favour of a temporary road, having gained the support of 300 petitioners. This they presented to Councillor Dudley Aldridge (see picture). However the residents of Springbank countered this with their own petition of 621 signatures so the Council vetoed the temporary access scheme. Angry families threatened to barricade Hayden Road to stop the contractors working on the road and some took to parking their cars in Springbank and walking through to their homes. Others, still seething at their treatment started to drive across the waste ground to get to Springbank. The battle hotted up, acrimonious exchanges began and the Council was called upon to take action. This they did in a way they later regretted.
In early June, at considerable cost, the Council sent in bulldozers to dig a six foot trench across the waste ground to prevent anyone driving across. At dead of night, residents from Arle Farm and Cavendish Park crept out armed with spades and shovels and began to fill in the ditch. They had made some progress when the police arrived and whole families were arrested. They were, however, released without charge. On the 6th June, after an emergency meeting, housing chiefs agreed to fill in the council-dug trench and give permission to the residents of Arle Farm and Cavendish Park to use the waste ground as temporary access. They were jubilant - not so the residents of Springbank and Councillor Turbyfield who had spoken on behalf of the Springbank residents said, 'It's not the best decision we could have hoped for but it's a rough compromise. Once the Hayden Lane repairs are completed, the Springbank land will be fenced off and not used again'. Despite all this, no children from Springbank were involved in any accidents because of this detour, yet the whole affair highlighted the inharmonious relations which did, and to some extent still do, exist between different parts of this estate, all of which could have been avoided with commonsense and goodwill on all sides.
The End of a Centrury
We have come a long way since the days when the Manor Court ruled the residents of Arle and the disorders of today are vastly different - car crime, vandalism, theft, assault, yes; and even slander still, and there is no doubt that some of us feel that the erection of a new whipping post might not be such a bad idea but there are many law-abiding residents of this vast estate of ours who are keen to see it regain its former good reputation and many who work hard to bring it about.
However, things are definitely beginning to improve on the Hesters Way estate and a number of organisations are now working towards a more integrated community. Hesters Way Neighbourhood Project which was set in 1994 to tackle some of these issues has made great inroads into community development and provides many services which were at one time not available to local people. Cheltenham Borough Council has realised that housing policies in the past helped to create an environment that was conducive to crime and have responded to the problem of law and disorder and are now evicting undesirable tenants and clamping down on neighbour nuisance. Policing in turn is also becoming more community based.