DSCN5903 Welcombe Hills Hotel

The Lost Village of Welcombe

DSCN5903 Welcombe Hills Hotel

I was sent this today by Richard Morris:

About 40 years ago I joined a group of field archaeologists lead by a well known local archaeologist Della Hooke. I spent a long time walking over the Welcombe hills mapping the ridge and furrow, the medieval field system, in an effort to see if we could find the exact location of the long lost village of Welcombe. Sadly we couldn’t find it but think it was probably buried under what is now the Hotel.

Archaeologists usually refer to these lost medieval villages as DMV’s (deserted medieval villages). The normal cause of the loss was  plague and Stratford had some terrible plague years including 1564 the year of William Shakespeare’s birth, which was one of the worst.

But the demise of village of Welcombe (the name means Spring Valley) was different. One of the biggest land owners of the area were the notorious Combe family. In 1602 Shakespeare paid £320 for four yardlands (about 120 acres) of arable on Welcombe fields from William Combe who was a wealthy lawyer and Mayor of Warwick. However a later relative, another William Combe   was involved in the enclosure of the land around the village. This greatly concerned the town council and particularly the town clerk Mr. Greene,who in his memorandum went to find his “cousin” Shakespeare in London.

“at my cousin Shakespeare coming yesterday to town I went to see him how he did. He told me that they assured him they meant to enclose no further than to Gospel Bush,and so up straight (leaving out part of the Dingles to the field) to the gate in Clopton hedge, and take in Salisbury’s piece, and they mean in April to survey the land, and give satisfaction and not before.”  However by December Combes men had started digging the ditch and creating a hedge mound, but a few days later women and children from Stratford and Bishopton came and helped to fill it in again. On March 28th at Warwick assizes, issued a restraining order on Combe and any other from making an enclosure- which was against the laws of the realm. Combe however persisted, he threatened and beat the poor tenants, imprisoned them and impounded their pigs and sheep. By buying up the land and houses, he depopulated the entire village!

Later that year Greene noted in his diary that Shakespeare told him”he was not able to bear the enclosing of Welcombe”.

Welcombe DSCN9065 resize
More info on this at The Shakespeare Blog
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