Introduction to the history of Aston Tirrold and Aston Upthorpe
Aston Tirrold and Aston Upthorpe are ancient, separate settlements that are listed in the Doomsday Book. A range of archaeological finds demonstrate continued activity and occupation in our parishes - flint tools from the Neolithic period, a Bronze Age well, a Roman floor and coins, a Viking spear, medieval buckles and pins, through to Victorian coins, pottery and bottles.
The villages lie protected by the Berkshire Downs to the south and to the west. Together they provide a sheltered micro climate. The earliest settlers wisely built away from the swampy lands to the north, while benefiting from the numerous springs, streams, wells and ponds that characterised the landscape. The fortified ramparts of Blewburton Hill provided a safe haven for people and their animals when danger threatened, whilst many a traveller would descend from the Ridgeway track, just three miles to the south, to shelter in the land below.
Farming and estates
The ground here is very fertile with rich soil. Wheat, oats, barley, fruit and vegetables grow easily, and grazing is abundant for livestock.
The villages remained largely agricultural until well after the First World War.
In the censuses for Aston Tirrold between 1871-1901 most villagers had jobs that were associated with the land and almost no one worked outside the two villages. The majority were agricultural labourers, servants to those who lived in the village or vital tradesmen such as carpenters or blacksmiths. The only other jobs listed were a railway labourer, a cab driver (horse drawn), a parish clerk, a physician, a police man, a toll keeper and a post office servant.
In 1900 the two largest estates, both owned by the Fuller family, were sold to the wealthy younger son of a Bolton cotton spinning factory owner, Francis John Kynaston Cross, and things started to change as he introduced new farming methods. In 1905 he built a new farm up on the Downs (Carrimer’s Farm). His more modern farming methods increased arable harvests, which together with the large apple and pear crops from the many village orchards, were carried by rail up to London. Mr Cross also changed the livestock kept from what was mostly sheep to include cattle and pigs.
1918 to present day
After the First World War the changes in farming continued apace through the decades. Now there is only one village based farm left within the parish boundaries at Carrimer’s Farm, while all the associated trades and services once connected with the land have long since gone. With new rail and road links, people were no longer dependent on work available within the villages, so they could live here but work elsewhere. For a time the changes meant limited employment opportunities within the villages - however with the advent of the internet some of those trends are being reversed, and several home based companies now operate successfully from within the Astons.
The villages today boast a wealth of old and new buildings, from ancient thatched cottages with cob walls, medieval manor houses and fine churches, to the newest glass and brick built modern dwellings. Both villages still retain their peaceful charm set amidst green lanes, open spaces, and ancient byways.
ASTONS DIGITAL COMMUNITY ARCHIVE (ADCA)
The Astons History Group archive of pictures, and documents, is gradually being digitised and added to our community archive. Do you have any interesting photos that could be scanned and added to the village archive?