Owlpen shown within Gloucestershire
|Population||32 (2004 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Owlpen is a small village and civil parish in the Stroud district of Gloucestershire, England, set in a picturesque valley in the Cotswold hills. It is about one mile east of Uley, and three miles east of Dursley. The Owlpen valley is set around the settlement like an amphitheatre of wooded hills open to the west. The landscape falls within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so designated in 1966. The population of the parish in 2004 was 32 (est.), the smallest in Gloucestershire.
Owlpen (pronounced locally "Ole-pen") derives its name, it is thought, from the Saxon thegn, Olla, who first set up his pen, or enclosure, by the springs that rise under the foundations of the manor, about the 9th century.
There are many signs of early settlement in the area. Round barrows and standing stones can be seen within a short walk of the manor house. Uley Bury, a mile to the west, is an impressive multi-vallate, scarp-edge hill-fort of the middle iron age (300 BC), commanding spectacular views over the Severn Vale and enclosing the Owlpen valley from the west. Hetty Pegler's Tump is a well-preserved middle neolithic chambered long barrow of the Severn-Cotswold group (2900–2400 BC). The West Hill Romano-British temple site was excavated 1977-1979, revealing a shrine to the titular god Mercury.
There are records of the de Olepenne family (who must have named themselves after the place) settled at Owlpen by 1174. They were local landowners, benefactors to abbeys and hospitals, and henchmen to their feudal overlords, the Berkeleys of Berkeley Castle, whose wills and charters they regularly attest as their attorneys and witnesses.
In 1464 the male line failed after twelve generations of Olpennes and the manor and lands passed to the Daunt family on the marriage of Margery de Olepenne to John Daunt of Wotton-under-Edge. The Daunts were clothiers who had been settled in Wotton since the 14th century. They later acquired land in Munster, Ireland, where by 1595 they had their principal estates at Gortigrenane Castle, near Carrigaline, and at Tracton Abbey, near Kinsale, both in County Cork. The main line failed on the death of Thomas Daunt VI in 1803, when the Stoughton family, Anglo-Irish landowners from county Kerry, inherited. They sold the estate in 1925-1926, after some 900 years of ownership in one family.
Listed buildings on the estate include the Grist Mill (1728) and Court House (c. 1620), today included among cottages available as holiday accommodation.
The Stoughton family built a new mansion c. 1848, called Owlpen House, a mile to the east of the original settlement, to the Italianate designs of Samuel Sanders Teulon. It was demolished in 1955-6 for the value of its building materials, though outbuildings including the gas works, lodges and stable block remain.
The Church of the Holy Cross stands just above the manor house. Of medieval origins, some work was done on it by the architect Samuel Manning in 1828 (nave) and it was restored by James Piers St Aubyn in 1876. The result is a richly textured interior of mosaics and opus sectile tiles designed by Charles Hardgrave and made by James Powell and Sons of the Whitefriars Glassworks; encaustic floor tiles by William Godwin & Son of Lugwardine; and stained glass windows, by Powells and Heaton, Butler and Bayne. It has been described as ‘the most elaborate Victorian-Edwardian interior in the Cotswolds’ (David Verey, Cotswold Churches). The church has been used as a filming location, most recently in 2008 for the BBC's four-part drama series, Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
The benefice was from medieval times a chapelry of the rectory of the nearby parish of Newington Bagpath, but has been united with Uley since the late 19th century, since when the united benefice has been referred to as "Uley-cum-Owlpen".
- Nicholas Mander, Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire: a short history and guide to a romantic Tudor manor house in the Cotswolds. (current edition: 2006). OCLC 57576417
- Norman Jewson, By Chance I did Rove (Cirencester, 1951, 1973; Barnsley 1986)
Media related to Owlpen at Wikimedia Commons