Background

Cold Aston, also known as Aston Blank, is a rural parish lying besides the Foss way 18km east of Cheltenham. The ancient parish contained 955ha and was roughly rectangular in shape. The boundaries, some of which were described in a pre-Conquest perambulation of an estate in Cold Aston and Notgrove, included the river Windrush on the north-east, the Foss way on the south-east, and the course of a stream on the south-west, in the southern corner of the parish that stream joined other headwaters of the Sherborne brook to form Broadwater bottom, part of the valley called Turkdean in the Anglo-Saxon period. Cold Aston boundaries were unchanged until 1987 when the parish was enlarged to 961ha.


Village Name

In the earliest records the parish was called simply Aston, perhaps to indicate its location east of Notgrove, with which it was held in the mid 8th century. By mid 13th century it was usually known as Cold Aston, the epithet describing its bleak situation on the high Costwolds. In the middle Ages the village was sometimes called Great Aston to distinguish it from the hamlet of little Aston, which, situated within the parish by Windrush, was accounted a separate manor and was a separate tithing in the late Middle Ages. The name Aston Pipard, recorded in the early 14th century incorporated that of the principal landowning family of that time. Aston Blank, possibly a reference to the lands bareness, was recorded as a name for the parish from 1535 and gained official acceptance. The parish's official name was changed from Aston Blank to Cold Aston in 1972.

Land

The land of the parish rises from 145m in the river valleys on its north-eastern and south-western sides to over 210m in the west. Most of the land is formed by the Inferior Oolite. The underlying Midford Sand and Upper Lias Clay are revealed in the Windrush valley and the higher ground is formed by the filler's earth, capped by the Great Oolite. The open, rolling farmland drains mostly to the south in valleys formed by streams, which in places follow, underground courses. One stream, rising in Notgrove, flows east of Cold Aston village to Broadwater bottom and another is crossed by the Foss way south-east of the village. Although a spring rising near the centre of the parish at a place called the Ring in 1704 provided water for several landowners, irrigation was difficult and much land at the south end of the parish was known as Dryground long before the 18th century . The downs bordering the Windrush were inclosed long before the rest of the parish, which retained large open fields until 1796. Apart from Aston grove in the south of the parish and several small coppices on the steep side of the Windrush valley in the north-east, there was little woodland in the mid 18th century. Although some planting took place soon after the inclosure of 1796, Cold Aston had only 54a of woods and plantations in 1905. Several new plantations were created later in and above the Windrush valley but the area of woodland returned for the parish in 1986 was 45a.

Population

Cold Aston manor, comprising the whole parish except Little Aston, had 18 tenants in 1309 and 18 parishioners were assessed for the subsidy in 1327. The depopulation of Little Aston in the early 14th century reduced the number of parishioners of whom were assessed in 1381 for the poll tax. There had been an overall decline in population by 1524 when there were only ten taxpayers. The number of households in 1563 was said to be nine. In the later 16th century the population probably remained unchanged, the number of communicants being estimated at 48 in 1551 and 50 in 1603. In 1650 there were said to be 14 families but the hearth-tax return of 1672 named 25 householders. In the 18th century the population rose gradually from 120 in 1710 to 216 in 1801. By 1861 it had grown to 325 but for the rest of the 19th century it fell and in 1901 it was back to 214. Thereafter it fluctuated between extremes of 254 in 1911 and 205 in 1931, and in 1991 the number of residents was again 214.

Further Information

Indepth information about Cold Aston can be found at the British History Online website.