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Herefordshire is rural shire county, hilly with green fields and hopyards
and apple orchards with the River Wye flowing through it. Based mostly on
Old Red Sandstone which decomposes to a strong, reddish hued, loamy, fertile
soil. The lower beds of red marl have layers of impure limestone called
cornstones, where these occur they give rise to some of the best orcharding
The shire has been predominately agricultural, consisting of very small
farms and smallholdings. From the Agricultural returns of 1933 it can be seen
that of the 6,527 agricultural holdings- 4,104 (63%) were under 50 acres,
2,225 (34%) were between 50 and 300 acres and only 198 (3%) were above 300
acres. Of the 450,000 acres on these holdings, some 320,000 acres (71%) was
Therefore a picture of a county with many small, fragmented, family farms all with
livestock, was evident prior to the second world war.
ASPECTS of The HISTORY of the Manor of Ocle Pychard and Ocle Court
The village of Ocle Pychard lies midway between Hereford and Bromyard and
was formerly in the Broxash hundred.
According to John Duncomb in his 'History and Antiquities of the County of
Hereford', published in 1812, 'Acle', as it was spelt, belonged to the
church of Worcester.
During King Canute's reign Acle was taken from the church and then as a
result of the Norman conquest granted to ROGER de LACI and there is a notice
in the Survey of Domesday, to this effect.
Acle would be derived from the Saxon 'Ac' which signified oak-possibly the
word was extended to describe a 'ring of oaks' or 'grove' or 'clearing in the oak wood'.
'Pychard' is derived from the family name of ROGER PICHARD (Picardie) , who
was mentioned in the Book of Fees in the reign of Henry III (1207-1272) and
held the estate for a period.
Pichard is also old french for 'green woodpecker'.
A JOHN PICHARD was vicar of Ocle Pychard in 1466.
It is suggested that Pitcherd is derived from an ancestor of Sir Roger's
called Sir Miles de Picarde, a Senlac knight, who helped Sir Bernard
Newmarch conquer Brecknock, and thereby secured great estates in the
A Sir Roger Picard owned the manor in 1222, according to 'The Family of
Picard or Pychard' London 1878.
Sir Thomas Clavowe was a knight of Welsh descent and he held the manors of Ocle Picard, Cusop, Hergest and Yazor from the Mortimer, Earl of March. Reputed to be soldier, poet and intellectual and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He was captured along with Edmund Mortimer, uncle to the 11 year old Earl of March, by Owain Glyndwr's army at The battle of Pilleth in 1402. His marcher lands were destroyed and he received an annuity for life from King Henry IV, as compensation. He later followed John Wyclif and became a Lollard.
After the death of Sir Thomas Clavowe the manor probably passed to his son, before it then became held by the WHITNEYS as early as 1428.
'OCLE PITCHERD' is one of eight manors owned by Sir Robert Whitney when he died on August 5th 1567 and was taxed for 'one Knight's fee late of John Clanbowe in Ocle Picard' and on his death the manor of Ocle Pitcherd descended to his son and heir, one James Whitney.
The connection with the Whitney family was resumed recently when Mary Lou
Whitney (now Ericcson) visited Ocle Court and kindly showed us the relevant
details in the privately funded and published book on the Whitney family.
The manor was then held by The Chamberlayne family, given in deeds, from
Then the Walwyn family until in 1732, when Ocle Pitchard was given by
Mr.Walwyn as a dower for his daughter Margaret, on her marriage to Morgan
From manuscript notes by William Morris, Ocle Court was in the hands of a
William Graves in 1774.
In 1816 the estate passed to James Gill.
In 1832 to J.L.Brett.
At some stage Ocle Court was owned by Lt. Colonel Thomas Heywood whose wife
founded the St. George Home for orphan girls, now The Orphanage.
From 1851 the Postlethwaite family were the owners until in 1890 Ocle Court
was purchased by George Cresswell (our great grandfather).
George Cresswell was Chairman of the County Council, a Justice of the Peace, and initiated
The Cresswell Penny fund to build the County Hospital in Hereford.
The present house of Ocle Court itself dates from and has a Georgian front.
The S.E. wing is timber framed and has 2 roof trusses c.1600.
George Gill was responsible for the removal of the wine cellars under the
great hall at the front and after much soil removal and excavation, built
the present state rooms. These were again renovated in 1890 to 1893.
The oldest house in the village is The White House, there are records of a
dwelling dating from Norman times. The present building dates from the late
The church is dedicated to Saint James and was initially built in the 1200's
but was completely restored in 1869.
Castleton (from the Latin castra meaning camp) was built as a fortified
residence with a moat but is now a farmhouse dating from 1800's.
Lyvers Ocle was built in the 1600's, on the site of a cell of the
Benedictine Abbey of Lire in Normandy dating from Norman times.
Hillhampton and Monkton were both built in the mid 1600's.
Burley Gate Inn, sadly, now a private dwelling, was built in the
late 1600's and some original timber remains in the west gable. It was complete with it's own commercial cider house.
It is also worth bearing in mind that we are all still very grateful round here for the arrival of electricity in 1956 and mains water in 1965.
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