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Hereford Public Library


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Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, 1959


Guest Contribution: An Account of Rowand Vaughan

Place name:

Golden Valley






By A. S. Wood

Rowland Vaughan, born of an ancient Welsh family in 1559, the younger son of Watkyn Vaughan of Bredwardine (and brother of Henry Vaughan who inherited the Moccas and Bredwardine estates), spent his early days at home and as described in " his booke" , lived for three or four years at Queen Elizabeth's court, followed by a few years service in the Irish wars.

In 1585, he married his cousin, Elizabeth Vaughan, the younger daughter of Rowland Vaughan of Porthamel, Brecon, and his wife Elizabeth Parry co-heiress of Newcourt in the parish of Bacton, Hereford; and he became possessed of the manor of Bacton and of Newcourt in right of his wife's inheritance. They had a son John, a daughter Jane, and other children. Elizabeth died in 1611. By his second wife Anne (maiden name unknown) Rowland had two daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine, who are described in a later marriage settlement, Howorth-Shawe of 1647, as " daughters and heiresses of Rowland Vaughan of Whitehouse" .

The sequence of events by which he acquired Whitehouse in the parishes of Vowchurch and St. Margarets (with some land also in Turnastone), two miles higher up the Golden Valley from Newcourt, is unknown. In the middle of the 16th century, this estate, known as Moor, was owned by Symond Parry (younger brother of Myles Parry of Newcourt, and of Blanche Parry, gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth's Privy Chamber): he bequeathed it by will, proved in 1573, to Griffith-Joanes of Llowes, Radnor, and his wife Jane: and from this date the original name was altered to the present one.

The earliest documentary evidence of Rowland Vaughan being described as " of Whitehouse" is in a conveyance dated 5th March, 1606/7, of some land being part of the manor of Snodhill: his son John being also a party to the transaction. The next year, in an indenture dated 20th November, 1607, for the purchase of some land from John Parry of Poston, for £310, inclusive of the advowson of the rectory of Turnastone, and the right of patronage of the parish church, he is described as " of Newcourt" .

In " his booke" Newcourt is mentioned twice (pp. 120, 121) Whitehouse not at all, though " a Ring of ground scituate stirrope-wise" (p. 142), well describes the land around this mansion. Which of these two estates Rowland Vaughan regarded as his headquarters and home, is not clear, they were both typical manor houses of those days, occupied by some 15-20 persons; the water driven overshot mill was half a mile distant from Newcourt and nearby was the river Dore. It may be assumed that Rowland Vaughan's landed property could hardly have been less than 1,500 acres, but his fortunes appear to have steadily declined in his latter years, for it is recorded that Newcourt with its " parke" , and the rights of the manor of Bacton, was sold in his lifetime for £3,000. There is no evidence, visual or documentary, that a community of 2,000 " mechanicals" ever existed there, and the greater part of " his booke" can only be regarded as a figment of his imagination.

To ascribe the disappearance of a newly built settlement the size of a small town to the civil war is absurd: certainly the Scottish army besieging Hereford in 1645 plundered valuables and seized livestock and fodder over a wide area of the county, and also inflicted a levy of cash on many parishes, for instance Bacton paid £40 and Vowchurch £80: but no extensive destruction of houses or property happened in this district. Not infrequently Rowland Vaughan's description in " his booke" of the Commonwealth at Newcourt has been quoted as fact, without investigation of its fundamental accuracy, and can only lead to entirely erroneous conclusions never contemplated by the author : even his references to actual parochial conditions of his time cannot be relied upon, as for instance (p. 65) Turnastone is said to have had only one inhabitant ; yet in a tithe tearear (sic) of this parish 1607, Thomas Barnsley is cited as parson and three inhabitants mentioned are Abraham Powell, Humphrey Baker and Hendry Scudermore.

The lasting value of Rowland Vaughan's genius was undoubtedly his experiments and innovations in agricultural irrigation and drainage, whereby he greatly increased the yield, not only of his own lands by the " like advantage of drowning" , but also added to the value of other estates in the county where his methods were adopted. In the introduction to the reprint of " his booke" , 1897, E. B. Wood (no relation of the present writer) affirms that all trace of the irrigation works have disappeared. In a paper read before the Club on 20th August, 1936 (Transactions, 1936-38, p. 35), the late R. S. G. Robinson rightly refutes this statement and gives a detailed account of many of the principal trenches and other waterworks that can still be clearly discerned, some of which although not actually performing the original purpose they were intended to serve, are still in use as drainage courses.

To Robinson's description might have been added, that on Whitehouse land there are two long leats and storage ponds, both now dry, one of which was fed by taking in water from the Slough brook, and the other by a stream from the woodlands above: no remains of a mill building are now traceable, but several of the hillside irrigation courses are clearly visible. In the meadows below Whitehouse exists what is traditionally the dock at which boats for transport of goods to Newcourt were loaded and floated by a deep trench to connect with the straightened Slough brook, and so to the river Dore below Chanstone Court Farm. The " trench-Royall” was fed by the Trenant brook in the parish of Peterchurch and it runs parallel with the Dore on the west side across Poston Court and Turnastone Court farms, terminating on Chanstone Court farm.

Rowland Vaughan died before February, 1629, and was buried (if C. A. Bradford's identification in " An Unknown Elizabethan" is correct), at St. Dunstan's-in-the-West. A number of other references to his life and legal involvements occur in Bradford's typescript published in 1937, also in Pitman's " Bredwardine and Brobury Notes" and the Whitehouse deeds. Today Whitehouse still retains much of its Tudor character, but Newcourt, falling into disrepair, was rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century a very plain farmhouse.


A.S. Wood lived at Whitehouse, St Margarets.


Article is reproduced from the Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club with the permission of the Central Committee.

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