Project puts Chipping Sodbury's history online

April 28 2020
Project puts Chipping Sodbury's history online

View from Yate Heritage Centre, with Sarah Floate

THESE days many of us have found ourselves with a little more free time on our hands than usual, making now the ideal time to finish that DIY project you started, catch up on that TV show you love, or, if you’re like me, devote more of your time to reading. And, although I love a good novel as much as the next person, lockdown has also given me the perfect opportunity to learn something new as well. 

The Victoria County History Project has recently published draft chapters of its history of Chipping Sodbury and surrounding parishes for free online. Written by Beth Hartland and Alex Craven, these chapters include overviews of Religion, Settlement and Local Government, as well as the social and economic landscape of the parishes.

Yate, by Rose Wallis, was previously published in 2015 as part of the VCH Shorts series, and work has continued on Gloucestershire Vol 14: Yate and the Sodburys during the intervening years. The scale of this community project is such that they often enlist the help of local editors and volunteer researchers, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. 

With the schools still shut, parents continuing to home-school their children might also appreciate the opportunity to switch things up and incorporate some local history into their lessons.

Those who visit the twice-yearly Mop Fair may be curious to know about its origins in 1807 as a place for those seeking employment to gather in search of a job (a sort of 19th century LinkedIn), before the 1890s saw the fairground amusements take precedence over hiring.

horse parade

Perhaps your family’s daily walk takes you past the parish church or one of the local schools, providing the perfect backdrop for a discussion about changes to Sodbury’s religious community or its education system?

Plans for a canal between Bristol and Cirencester that would have passed close by to Sodbury fell through in 1793 – maybe print off a local map, label some features and draw where it could have gone? Or try writing a short story set in January 1871, when the village was first lit by gas. Now is as good a time as any to take inspiration from a little closer to home. 

Of course, not everything covered in the chapters is going to be of educational value.

Some facts might just make you smile. Did you know that by the end of the 19th century, Chipping Sodbury had one of the highest ratios of public houses to population in the county, with one pub for every 90 people? In 1891 there were no fewer than 12 licensed premises – more than any other parish in the area. That’s one heck of a pub crawl! 

To read the Sodbury draft texts, or to find out how to get involved, visit the Yate and the Sodburys page on the Victoria County History Gloucestershire website.

Pictures: Chipping Sodbury pubs the Portcullis (top) and Cap and Feathers (below). Above, Chipping Sodbury Horse Parade, 1907.

Cap and Feathers