Yate Heritage Centre: The English Civil War in Yate

July 07 2021
Yate Heritage Centre: The English Civil War in Yate

The conflict was bad news for Yate's grandest building, says David Hardill

YOU might be forgiven for presuming the English Civil War of the 1640s had no bearing on Yate. Despite being something of a Gloucestershire backwater in the middle of the 17th century, the town was nevertheless the scene of a siege which ended in a disastrous outcome for Yate Court, traditional seat of the lords of the manor of Yate.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Yate still possessed a significant Tudor mansion. During the 16th century, the Berkeleys occupied Yate Court, and developed the property from a fortified manor house into a sumptuous Tudor home, the premier building around Yate. Although later residents at Yate Court were more obscure than the Berkeleys, it remained a significant site: so much so that it would become a base for Parliamentary forces during the Civil War.

By 1644, both Royalist and Parliamentarian forces wished to seize control of the South Gloucestershire area. A Parliamentarian garrison occupied the Yate Court site, which was seen as a key staging post between Bristol and Gloucester. As well as being big enough to accommodate a garrison, it still retained medieval battlements from when it was fortified in the 1290s by Ralph de Willington. 

It became clear that the Parliamentary dragoons at Yate Court were vulnerable to attack from Royalist forces based at Cirencester and elsewhere. Colonel Edward Massey, a Parliamentary commander based at Gloucester, gathered 300 men to relieve the Yate Court garrison. Massey’s force rode from Gloucester to Chipping Sodbury, where they were believed to have wrought havoc and acquired valuable horses to enable them in their task.

Following the successful mission, Massey turned his cannons on the manor house, to prevent any royalist taking the stronghold in the future. He razed most of Yate Court to the ground, in line with military policy at the time, reflected in many ruined sites around the country. Only a few walls, gatehouse and farm survived from the Berkeley Tudor mansion. 

Unsurprisingly, Yate Court never recovered from this onslaught and, by the turn of the 18th century, Oxwick Farm became the new seat of the lords of the manor, while Yate Court became one of many mixed farms in the area. Today, only two main walls, a farmhouse and barn remain of the Tudor site. The original gatehouse now adorns part of Berkeley Castle.

Diary dates

Yate Heritage Centre is open for booking. We will restore drop-in opening when it is safe to do so. Email info@yateheritage.co.uk or call 01454 862200 to book.

Until July 20: A Night out in Yate, exhibition charting the history of pubs, clubs, halls and cinemas in the area. 

July 20, 7.30pm: The Old Workhouse in Cirencester 1725-1834, with Louise Ryland-Epton (Zoom event).

Contact info@yateheritage.co.uk for Zoom links.