We have seldom seen anything more picturesque than the sexton’s house adjacent to the well-kept churchyard of to-day, and we left Minchinhampton village with a sense not only of the beauty and comfort of its buildings, but of its ancient history: for through Minchinhampton, ages before the time of the Saxon priest, there had flowed the life and forcefulness of Rome. The great Roman military road that passed from Chester to Gloucester ran hither, and Vespasian, the future Emperor, who was then a lieutenant under Aulus Plautius, must have passed this way in command of his legion. (p. 30)
We made our way to Tom Long’s Post, where seven roads meet, and felt ourselves at home at sight of the notice-board and byelaws of the National Trust, or so much of them as could be read, for wind and weather had played havoc with the printing. We were now upon a high tableland 1,600 feet above sea-level. (p. 30)
Here the greatness of this Minchinhampton plateau made itself felt. It seemed limitless as it was treeless, and we remembered that in the days it was taken from Goda and given by the Norman Conqueror to Queen Matilda’s Convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen, the March of Minchinhampton, as described in Domesday Book, included Rodborough, and extended to 4,940 acres, of which 3,488 were cultivated, 1,440 were woodland, and the rest pasture-land, spoken of as twenty meadows. A good deal of land must have gone out of cultivation since those days, for the common is now 500 acres in extent. (pp. 30-31)….
As we made our way on to this limitless expanse of breezy pasture-land, the sullen sun shone out, and I felt, as it were, transported to the great marsh of Lincolnshire, for herds of cattle were feeding here, there droves of horses were pasturing, their foals at their feet; and just as in “the wide enormous marsh” the few farms that exist, were hidden in groves of trees against the wind and seemed dark islands of shadow in an emerald sea. (p. 31)
What a breezy upland it is! Have the golfers at yonder “Old Lodge” ever played in more exhilarating air, or with wider prospect? People ask where is Minchinhampton Common? We answer, this sparsely-wooded plateau of the Cotswolds stands 1,600 feet above sea-level, is bounded on the north by the little river Frome and the Golden valley up which our train brought us to-day; on the south it is bounded by Avening brook, on the east by the parish of Sapperton, and on the west by the parish of Rodborough. (pp. 31-32)
By its height it dwarfs the girdle of hills by which it is surrounded, but it overlooks the valley of the Severn to the Welsh hills on one side, and on the other gives sight of the long range of the Wiltshire Downs. From a point near the reservoir the Crook of Severn and Hay Hill can be seen, and the Sugar Loaf hill by Abergavenny stands up distinct on a clear day. (p. 32)….
But this Minchinhampton Common takes us back to prehistoric days. There are upon its outskirts remains of the pit dwellers of a vanished race. There are remarkable tumuli and monuments of Neolithic man. One of these is the Long Stone, near Gatcombe Lodge entrance, which, when opened, showed a stone chamber in which a skeleton sat in the position his sorrowing friends had placed him long centuries ago. There is also in Gatcombe parish a good example of a crowned barrow—a barrow with a huge stone upon its summit, that used to stand upright, and was called “The Tingle Stone.” (p. 33)….
We made our way thence down the long white shining road through Burleigh into the Golden valley. We noticed the picturesqueness of the cottages built of the cream-coloured native stone, some roofed with thatch, the majority with tiles, which had weathered into red-brown. We were struck, too, with the apparent populousness of the whole vale. Villages climbed the heights, quarries shone in the sun; and the mills in the vale, all of them on a small scale, seemed not to detract from its beauty, but rather to strike a chord of industrial life that was being led under favourable conditions of sun and air and country surroundings. (p. 36)
Ere we descended to the Halt, we took a backward view of this wonderful common, and rejoiced to think that there had ever been in the past a sturdy determination on the part of the commoners to resist encroachment. In 1832 a court leet meeting resolved to send peremptory notice to all and sundry, who had made such encroachments, and since that time many had been the regulations made for the preservation of the common. Finally, by deed dated April 7, 1913, Major Ricardo, the Lord of the March, relinquished all the rights over the common, and transferred them for the sum of £1,200 to the National Trust. The good of the transfer is already apparent in the fact that quarrying for stone upon the common has been stopped, and in future its preservation in pristine beauty is assured. (pp. 36-37)
(A Nation’s Heritage, pp. 27-37)