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St. Mary's church at Arlingham - - 109371.jpg
St Mary the Virgin, Arlingham
Grid reference: SO708109
Location: 51°47’46"N, 2°25’26"W
Population: 459  (2011)
Post town: Gloucester
Postcode: GL2
Dialling code: 01452
Local Government
Council: Stroud

Arlingham is a village in Gloucestershire, isolated in a loop of the broad stream of the River Severn.

The village stands on the east bank of the Severn, at the far end of the horseshoe-shaped loop of the river known as the "Horseshoe Bend", looking across the water to Newnham on Severn and the Forest of Dean.

Access to Arlingham is across Fretherne Bridge over the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal or Sandfield Bridge at Saul Junction.[1] Having the canal on one side and the River Severn on three sides of the parish and a single lane connecting it to the villages to the east, it has developed a distinct identity.

The rural character of the parish remains, and it has some ten working farms with dairy and beef herds and arable land.

The name of the village is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, in which it appears as "Erlingeham". The name may be the Old English Eorlinga ham, meaning Homestead of the people of Eorla'.[2]

The 2011 Census recorded a parish population of 459, which parish includes the hamlets of Milton End, Overton and Priding.

About the village

The area has many public footpaths, including a section of the Severn Way.

It is a six-mile walk, along the Severn Way, to the Wildfowl Trust site at Slimbridge.[3][4]

The area is also close to the National Cycle Network route 41.

Arlingham is in a conservation area, and has a large number of historic buildings.

Parish church

The parish church is St Mary the Virgin, a pretty, mediaeval church with architectural work of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Overall it is in the Decorated Gothic style.[5] The tower was built of local Cotswold stone in 1372, and remarkably the contract for the work has survived, in the Berkeley archives, drawn up in Latin, and made between the Vicar ‘and all the parishioners of the church of Erlyngham’, and the mason, Nicholas Wyshonger from Gloucester.[6] The Church still has some of the original stained glass windows dating from the mid-fourteenth century,[7] which are some of the oldest stained glass windows in Gloucestershire.


Evidence has been found of Bronze Age[8] and Iron Age occupation.

Romano-British pottery has been found in the area, including along the river bank at Arlingham Warth,[9] Iron workings are suggested by numerous dense concentrations of primitive iron-making bloomery slag distributed over the arable land south of Passage Pill.

The Domesday Book of 1086, records Arlingham ("Erlingeham") as being "King's land and part of the Manor of Berkely, containing 1400 acres",[10]

In the 12th century the Abbott of St Augustine's Abbey Bristol held the manor and lands in Arlingham, which included fishing rights in the River Severn.[9] Historic documents show that due to the abundance of fish in the River Severn, such as sturgeon, salmon, lamprey and alosinae or shad, fishing was a vital source of food, employment and trade from mediæval times until the 19th century, when construction of navigation weirs, to assist the increasingly large vessels traverse the River Severn, led to a rapid decline in the fish population.[11][12] St Augustine's Manor House in Arlingham stood on the site of the present St. Augustine's farmhouse.

The earliest record of Arlingham church is in 1146, when the founder, Roger of Berkeley, a member of the Berkeley family and Baron of Dursley gave Arlingham church and its possessions to the Priory of St Leonard Stanley. His daughter, Alice, married Maurice, son of Robert Fitzharding, who was given the manor of Berkeley by King Henry II and became the 1st Lord of Berkeley.

Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, in 1542 the Abbey's manor and land in Arlingham were passed to the Dean and Chapter of the Bristol Cathedral, Around 1566 Slowwe Manor and estate was purchased by Thomas Hodges.

In 1607, the Great Flood of Arlingham submerged the village;[13] part of the Bristol Channel floods of that year, after a massive storm surge was driven up the river. As a result of this flooding, the current of the River Severn changed. The riverbanks were strengthened and the area now known as "The Warth" was enclosed and recovered from the river.[14]

In 1650; Wick Court was rebuilt in its present form. Also in the 17th century, the wrought iron turret clock, with its relatively rare single hand, was added to the Church,[15]

In the last part of the 19th century, the Holford family of Westonbirt House purchased the Court estate and in 1882 Arlingham Court, empty for many years and in ruins, was demolished.[9]

Arlington was once known for drunken sailors: Severn is a navigable river which could be sailed for 160 miles from the sea to near Welshpool. Up until the 19th century the River Severn was a vital commercial thoroughfare as far as Gloucester, but the city was reached only at the highest tides, and barges waited, drawn up on the shire of the Arlington reach, where the bargees got drunk and terrorised the countryside.[16]

The Gloucester and Sharpness Canal was conceived in 1798 and completed in 1827, to make Gloucester accessible at all times and Britain's most inland port.

River crossings

There is no bridge across the Severn at Arlington, but crossings have been discussed, and there was an ancient ford across the river here. Arlingham is on the course of a Roman road,[17] which is said to extend from a river crossing of the Severn at Arlingham through Frampton on Severn to join the Fosse Way: it is believed that the remains of this can be found in Silver Street.[18] The roadled to the old ford by which the Severn could be crossed to Newnham.[19] The position of this ford can still be seen at low tide, when the water ripples over the shallow bed of rock, a few hundred yards from Newnham, just below Broadoak. This ford was still passable until around 1802, when the river changed channel, shifted and took away the sand bank that gave access to the fordable rocky causeway.[20]

The first ferry from Arlingham to Newnham was recorded in 1238[19] and the British Universal Trade Directory of 1792 noted that Newnham provided "a very safe ferry over the Severn". Horses and coaches were carried in the 18th century and animals were carried in an ox or cattle boat and crossed the river to the railway station in Newham when it opened in 1852 until 1914. Bakers in Newman crossed the river daily to trade, bringing back cream and farm produce.

The ferry continued in use until after the Second World War but gradually use decreased and lack of maintenance of landing stages on either side meant traversing mud - one of the duties of the ferryman had become carrying people across the mud.[9] In 1913 Arthur Cooke wrote in The Forest of Dean "At low tide a small portion only of the journey will be made by boat - the remaining area of tenacious mud-flats stretching from the farther shore must needs be traversed in the Ferryman's strong arms'. In the year 2000 Arlingham and Newnham on Severn celebrated the millennium by once again opening the ferry to link the two communities. The Assault Squadron Royal Marines 539 kindly provided two hovercraft. Three thousand people were ferried across to enjoy festivities in Arlingham and Newnham on 10 and 11 June 2000.

In 1810 the Severn Tunnel Company secured an Act of Parliament to build a tunnel under the river at Arlingham Passage. The plan was for a tramroad tunnel from near Newnham on Severn to the promontory near Arlingham. Work was started but problems with flooding meant the project was abandoned. There were various schemes for a bridge, most recently in 1950,[21] but environmental and financial constraints meant none of these came to fruition.[9]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Arlingham)


  1. Saul Junction: Canal & River Trust
  2. A.D.Mills, "Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names" (2nd Edition), p.12, OUP, 1997
  3. Sharpness to Saul Junction: Canal & River Trust
  4. WWT Slimbridge - Slimbridge Wetland Centre
  5. Express, Britain. "English Gothic - Decorated Period". 
  6. Bettey, Joseph (1990). "The Building of Arlingham Church Tower". 
  7. "Arlingham Parish Church". 
  8. Reading, The University of. "The Severn Estuary - University of Reading". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Antiquities of Artlingham. Arlingham Parochial Church Council. 2014. 
  10. Powell-Smith, Anna. "Arlingham - Domesday Book". 
  11. "Unlocking the Severn, the forgotten story of shad - Canal & River Trust". 
  12. "King's favourite fish to make comeback in River Severn project". 27 October 2016. 
  13. 1607 Bristol Channel Floods: 400-year Retrospective. Risk Management Solutions, Inc.. 2007. 
  14. 'Arlingham, A Snapshot In Time' (Arlingham Millennium Book Club Committee, 2000) ISBN 0-9540656-0-3
  15. "Arlingham, St. Mary's - Severnside Group of Parishes". 
  16. Waters, Brian: 'The Severn Tide' (J.M. Dent & Sons, 1955)
  17. Briggs, Keith (20 August 2013). "Map of Roman roads in England". Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  18. "Heritage Gateway - Results". 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Newnham: Introduction: British History Online
  20. Willis, Margaret: 'The Ferry Between Newnham And Arlingham' (Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993)
  21. [1]
  • 'Arlingham, A Snapshot In Time' (Arlingham Millennium Book Club Committee, 2000) ISBN 0-9540656-0-3
  • 'Where The River Bends' (Arlingham Church Book Production Team, 2009) ISBN 978-0-9540656-2-1
  • Sayer, J.: 'Antiquities Of Arlingham Parish' (Arlingham Parochial Council, 2008) ISBN 0-9540656-1-1
  • Willis, M: 'The Ferry Between Newnham And Arlingham' (Alan Sutton Publishing, 1993) ISBN 0-7509-0530-1