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Resource Sheet 1 - Extracts from the Victoria County History of Gloucestershire
Volume XI, Bisley Hundred, Stroud p99
Signal box at Brimscombe, IoE number; 133156 © Mrs Marion Teal

In 1756 the population of Stroud town was enumerated at 2,024 people. The whole parish contained c.4, 000 people in the 1770’s and in 1801 it had a population of 5,422. There was then a steady rise in population in 8,680 by 1841 and 11,519 by 1891. The dismemberment of the parish in 1894 left it with a population of 7,673 and in 1931 the urban district, including Uplands, had a population of 8,364.

The Great Western railway line between Swindon and Gloucester, following the Stroud valley, was opened in 1845; there was a station on the south of Stroud town and another, called Brimscombe station, at Bourne, and there were halts at Downfield (at Paganhill), Bowbridge, Ham Mill, and Brimscombe Bridge. The Midland Railway was brought to Stroud in 1886 by a short branch from the Nailsworth line to a station just south of the Great Western station. The Midland line was closed to passenger traffic in 1947 and enclosed entirely in 1966. Brimscombe station and the halts on the Great Western line were closed in 1964 and the goods depot at Stroud in 1967, but Stroud remained one of the stops for passenger trains from Cheltenham and Gloucester to London in 1971.

The opening of the railway with a station south of Russell Street in 1845 further stimulated the development of the south part of the town.

In 1971 the position of Stroud at the centre of the road communications along the surrounding valleys appeared to be one of the most obvious factors in the town’s development, but it was not a factor which operated to any great extent before the early 19th century when the existing roads, some of the most important of which ran across the hills, were replaced by new roads built along the valleys. At an earlier date the steepness of the roads discouraged much through traffic. Nutshell Bridge, Stonehouse, IoE number; 132011 © Mr JM Weager ARPS

The earliest of a series of road improvements for the region, the making of the new Bath road along the Nailsworth valley to Dudbridge in 1780, affected Stroud only indirectly by increasing the importance of the route through Paganhill; but in 1800 a new road built from the Bath road at Lightpill through the town and up the Slad valley put Stroud on the main Bath to Cheltenham route.

An even more significant improvement in 1814 was the building of a new road out of the south part of the town along the Frome valley through Chalford to Cirencester; the new road, which was more direct and passed some 300 yards lower down the hillside than the old road to Chalford, also replaced the route through Minchinhampton as the main road to Cirencester and London. In 1818 a new turnpike built up the valley of the Painswick stream past Pitchcombe replaced Wick Street as the main road to Gloucester.

In 1763 Daniel Ballard was running stage waggons to Gloucester and Bristol from his headquarters in King Street. In 1821 a number of inhabitants of the town were employed in road transport, namely 2 coachmen, 5 ostlers, 4 carriers, a haulier and 4 chaise-drivers.

The first London stagecoach service from the town was apparently the Stroudwater Flying coach, established in 1769, making the journey three times a week through Cirencester and Oxford.

By 1806 a Bristol coach service had also been started and by 1830 there were daily services to London, Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Until the early 19th century travellers from Stroud to London often went up to Bisley to join the old Bisley to Cirencester road, but an alternative route by Wallbridge, Rodborough Hill and Minchinhampton Common, was turnpiked in 1752 and thereafter was the more favoured Cirencester and London route.

The canal system did not, as was hoped, become an important national artery for commerce, its main use being the supply of coal to the industrial region of the Stroud Valley. It was inevitably severely hit by the arrival of the railways in the 1840’s, and did little business afterwards. In 1910 the Thames and Severn canal was taken over by the Gloucestershire county council which carried out a programme of reconstruction, but the canal proved no more profitable and the upper part, above Chalford was abandoned in 1927, and the lower part in 1933. The Stroudwater canal carried no commercial cargo after 1941 and was abandoned in 1954. The basin at Brinscombe and a short length of the Thames and Severn canal on either side were sold to the adjoining factories during the 1950s and 1960s and filled, and the company building was demolished in 1966; the remainder of the course of the canals adjoining Stroud parish survived, though mainly in a derelict state, in 1971.

Improved road communications and the canals, which linked Stroud to the Severn in 1779 and to the Thames in 1789, stimulated the growth of the town in the early 19th century, and the coming of the railway in 1845 produced further development. During the 19th century the town roughly doubled in extent, new broad streets of brick being grafted upon the old Cotswold town with its steep streets and gabled stone houses. Its position as the focus of an important industrial region was recognised in 1832 when it was made the centre of a parliamentary borough. The cloth industry had lost its dominance in the parish by the end of the 19th century but the adaptation of the mills to a variety of light industrial purposes maintained the growth of population during the 20th century.

Along the bottom of the valley, the growth of the small settlements around the mills and the crossing-points of the river was stimulated by the building of the canal in 1789 and the new London road in 1814, and a number of inns opened to serve users of road and canal. At Wallingbridge by 1820 there was the Ship and by 1856 also the Bell. Bowbridge had the New Inn by 1856 and the Ship at Brimscombe Port had opened by 1820. At Bourne in 1820 there was the Quay Inn and in 1856 the Railway, the Railway Canal and the King’s Arms. In the later 19th century the London road began to be developed, particularly at Far Thrupp and Brimscombe where brick terraces were put up. The earlier 20th century saw further building all over the valley: a new settlement was created at Blackness at the bottom of the Toadsmoor valley, and in the 1920s and 1930s there was a ribbon development, with detached and semi-detached houses, along the old road south of Thrupp and Bourne. In the mid 20th century new factory buildings put up for some of the industries that settled on the old mill-sites along the river emphasised the long standing industrial nature of the valley.

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