A Brief History of the Parish
Chalford is often called the Alpine village of the Cotswolds and anyone who travels into Stroud on the train from Kemble will easily see why. Lovely stone cottages cling to the steep slopes and terraces between which donkey tracks form pathways.
The name Chalford may derive from Chalk Ford as the area certainly, in parts, is underpinned by limestone. The Anglo Saxon word for chalk or lime is ‘ceale’ so this, too, points to the limestone connection. However, it may also be a corruption of ‘calves ford’ from the ancient British cattle way which dropped down from the hills to Chalford Vale. Whatever the history of the name, Chalford itself grew largely as a result of the woollen and silk industry which was located in the Five Valleys by the early Middle Ages.
The original villages which comprise the parish – Chalford, Chalford Hill, France Lynch, Bussage and Brownshill – started as squatter settlements, expanding to house weavers and other cloth workers for the growing industries. Numerous lovely stone cottages in the parish date from this period, while many of the larger, grand houses can be seen, on inspection, to have started as humble cottages to which wealthy mill owners added extra rooms and imposing Regency fronts. And though few mills are still used for their original purpose, many remain, now converted into offices and dwellings, but still retaining the unmistakeable appearance of old mill buildings.
As the wool trade ebbed and flowed so did the population and prosperity of the area. By the mid 19th century, the cloth industry had largely moved North to Lancashire and Yorkshire, and Chalford villagers fell on hard times. By the mid 20th century over twenty-five percent of cottages were deemed unsuitable for habitation. Fortunately in the 1970s, the historic value of the villages and dwellings was recognised and many cottages were sold for renovation and extension. The result is a collection of houses and cottages that can still be matched to their original period, though some would say, often with less sympathetic additions. However in the last few years the Parish Council has recognised that such unsuitable extensions and additions ultimately detract from the beauty of our area, and we are in the process of completing our Neighbourhood Plan which will have policies designed to ensure that both new buildings and alterations to existing ones, are carried out sympathetically.
In the late 1970s, land belonging to the Manor Farm in Bussage was sold to developers. As a result, the last 30 years has seen a large number of much needed dwellings built on this land. This area is well provided for with a range of houses and bungalows to suit all needs, as well as a small supermarket, chemist, takeaway and a doctors’ surgery. This increase of population has greatly benefitted the schools and businesses and invigorated clubs and societies in the Parish.
It is also hoped that the renovation of the Thames and Severn Canal, which is being undertaken to restore full navigation, all the way to the River Severn, will benefit local people and increase tourism to the area.