Dursley Gloucestershire is midway between the major cities of Bristol to its southwest and Gloucester to the northwest. Several members of the Underwood Family were born and lived there in the 1800’s, either in Dursley itself or in the adjoining villages of Cam (or Cambridge) and Uley.
It is one of the many locations where members of the Underwood family have lived. At least fourteen people listed on the Underwood Family tree were born at Dursley, Gloucestershire. Others were married, worked, or died in the town.
When George Underwood married Matilda Curtis in 1851 he was living in Dursley Gloucestershire and working there as a railway engine driver. At least eight of George and Matilda’s eleven children were born at Atworth, and George remained a train driver there for at least thirty years, dying at Dursley in 1890 at the age of 71. Several of the children got married at Dursley and had children there, and some also died there.
Dursley Gloucestershire description in 1791
The following description of Dursley Gloucestershire is taken from the 1791 edition of ‘The British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacturing‘
This town was formerly remarkable for its extensive broad-cloth manufacturing; and still carries on a considerable trade in that branch of business; as also in card-making. It is a borough of very great antiquity, being one of the five boroughs returned by the sheriff of the county in the reign of Edward I, but it has long lost the privilege of sending men to parliament. It is now governed by a bailiff chosen annually. The town gives the title of Viscount to Earl Berkeley. Here is a handsome market-house, built in 1738, of freestone; market on Thursday; and fairs on the 6th of May, and 4th of December. The town consists of two narrow streets, forming something like the letter T, with a hamlet without the borough, containing more houses than either of them. On the S. side of the church-yard rises perpendicularly a copious spring, which drives a fulling-mill within a hundred yards of it. The church is large with two aisles and a tower.
Dursley, it is said, has been formerly noted for a sharp over-reaching people; whence arose a proverbial saying of a tricking man, “He is a man of Dursley.” Contiguous to the town are the remains of a rock of towfe stone, remarkable for its extreme durability: the exterior wall of the noble castle of Berkeley were built with this stone; and, although upwards of six centuries have passed since their erection, they do not shew the least appearance of decay. Adjoining to the town, an excellent and extensive paper-manufacturing has been recently established by Mr. Joseph Smith. At Cambridge, (on the Bristol road,) four miles from Dursley, is a very extensive manufactory of edge-tools; the proprietor of which is Mr. William Underwood. Stinchcomb Hill, near Dursley, commands prospects of as great extent and beauty as any eminence in the kingdom. …
Waggons to London, Bristol, Gloucester, and Tetbury, weekly. In Dursley is but one good inn, the Old Bell. – Dursley is distant from Gloucester 15 miles; Stroud 10; Tetbury 10; Cirencester 20; Berkeley 5; Wotton 4; and from London 107.
Dursley Gloucestershire Description in 1849
The following description of Dursley, Gloucestershire is taken from the 1849 edition of ‘Hunt and Co.’s Directory and Topography for the Cities of Gloucestershire and Bristol, and the Towns of … Dursley ...’
DURSLEY AND BERKELEY WITH CAMBRIDGE, ULEY, AND NEWPORT
DURSLEY is a parish, and market town in the union of Thornbury, and county of Gloucestershire, distant from the metropolis, 110 miles W. by N., and from Gloucester, 15 S.W. by W. This town is said to have derived its name from some powerful springs which rise near the churchyard and are the source of a diminutive stream called the Cam; and also from the rich grazing lands by which it is encompassed. This derivation appears to us a reasonable one, as we find the Cambrian language for water is dwr, and for pasture land lega or lea, hence Dwr lega or Dwr lea, since altered to the more harmonious term Dursley. It lies at the foot of a steep hill, which is mantled with stately beech trees, from the base to its summit. The government of the town is vested in the hands of a bailiff, and twelve aldermen; and the homage jury present three candidates for the office of bailiff, at the annual court leet, from which the lord of the manor selects one, who, when the period of appointment arrives, becomes one of the aldermen, should a vacancy in that body exist. In the reign of Edward I., we find Dursley among the number of boroughs returned by the sheriff of Gloucestershire. From it are now made the returns of representatives for the western division of the county.
The manufacturing of woollen cloth was, at one time, carried on very extensively, and although the trade is materially diminished, it still affords employment to a large number of the inhabitants. In the neighbourhood are strata of the tophus, a soft, brittle stone, which, on exposure to the atmosphere, becomes hard and durable. Of this material the walls of Berkeley Castle are built, and though the crumbling hand of seven centuries has past over them, they betray no symptoms of decay. In the centre of the town is St. James’ Church – an elegant building – at the west end of which stands a tower, in the modern Gothic style. The Independents and Wesleyans have places of worship here; and some extensive charities principally for the education of poor children, confer great benefits on the town. Edward Fox, bishop of Hereford, in the reign of Henry VIII. was born here. The markets are held on Thursday and Saturday; and the fairs, for cattle and horses, on the 6th of May and the 4th of December. In 1841 the parish contained 2931 inhabitants.
The neighbourhood of Dursley is picturesque and beautiful, and the views obtainable from the surrounding heights are varied and extensive. From Stinchcombe Hill, on a clear day, objects may be seen in fourteen counties.
BERKELEY is a parish and market town in the upper division of the hundred of its own name, union of Thornbury, and county of Gloucestershire; distant from London 114 miles N. by W., and from Gloucester 15 S.S.W. It is situated in the rich vale of Berkeley, on a gentle acclivity about two miles from the Bristol and Gloucester Railway and one from the river Severn, beside a tributary stream of that majestic river called Berkeley Pill, which is navigable to the town at spring tides for barges and small craft. The town is tolerably well built, and consists of four principal streets, with some intersecting minor ones. The trade, consisting chiefly in coals, timber, malt, and cheese, is greatly facilitated by the vicinity of the river Severn, and the Berkeley and Gloucester canal which latter is navigable for vessels, of 800 tons register, up to Gloucester, 16 miles distant. In the reign of Edward the First, this town was a borough but the charter has been annulled. At the White Hart Inn, are held petit sessions for the upper division of the hundred. Berkeley was the birth and burial place of Dr. Edward Jenner, who introduced the practice of vaccination. The town is of great antiquity, for it was a place of great importance during the Saxon era, and from Doomsday-book we learn that it was a free borough, and a. royal demesne. The manor embraces nearly thirty parishes, and is one of the most extensive in the kingdom. William the Norman granted it to Roger de Berkeley, who built a castle at the south east side of the town; but Henry II. deprived his successor of the title and estates for espousing the cause of Stephen, and conferred them upon Robert Fitz Harding, who assumed the title of Baron de Berkeley. In this castle, after experiencing all the indignities which triumph could conceive, or cruelty perpetrate, the unfortunate Edward II. was inhumanly murdered by his keepers – two fiends in human form – the lords Gournay and Montravers. Above the steps leading to the keep is an apartment called the dungeon, still containing its original furniture and is shown as having been the spot where the horrid deed was perpetrated.
During the struggles between Charles the First and his parliament, the castle was garrisoned by royalists, who withstood a siege of nine days, when they were compelled to surrender. The noble building is now the residence of Earl Fitzhardinge, and presents to the eye, one of the finest and most perfect feudal fortresses in this kingdom, although it has experienced the repeated violence of angry elements for 700 years. Prior to the Conquest there existed here a religious house, which is mentioned in the acts of a Synod at Clovesho; it is doubtful. however, whether it consisted of Monks or Nuns.
The parish church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a large, and ancient stone edifice, in the early English, or pointed style of architecture, having a detached tower of more recent erection. The Independents and Wesleyans have, also, their respective places of worship. In 1840, a school for boys was founded on the British plan, and one for girls in 1842. They are supported chiefly by voluntary subscriptions but the pupils contribute some trifle.
The market is held on Tuesday, and fairs for cattle and pigs on the 14th of May, and the 1st of December. In 1841, the parish numbered 4405 inhabitants.
About two miles S.E. of Berkeley. and on the high road from Gloucester to Bristol, stands the agreeable village of NEWPORT, which, previous to the opening of the Bristol and Birmingham Railway, was a place of considerable thoroughfare.
CAMBRIDGE, or Cambridge Inn, is a village in the parish of Cam about four miles from Dursley, on the banks of the Cam, which, with the neighbouring bridge, gives the village its name. Here a memorable engagement occurred in the reign of Edward the First, between the Saxons and Danes, when the latter were completely routed. The parish lies low, but, from the occasional overflowing of the Severn, the land is materially fertilised; and the district is celebrated for the quantity and quality of its cheese.
The parish church of St. George, is a vicarage in the presentation of the bishop of Gloucester and Bristol. In 1730, Mrs. Hopton founded and endowed a school here for the clothing and education of thirty six boys and girls. The population of the parish in 1841, was 1851.
ULEY is: a village and parish in the hundred of Berkeley, situate about two miles east of Dursley. Its inhabitants are numerous, and, for a small place, it possesses considerable attraction. The parish church is dedicated to St. Giles. Here are also places of worship for the Baptists, Wesleyans and Independents. An ancient Roman work stands on the hill N.W. of the village, which is called Uley-Bury Camp, and at different times many Roman coins have been discovered there. In 1841, the parish contained 1713 inhabitants.
Original transcripts of the two documents mentioned above can be seen on http://www.dursleyglos.org.uk/html/downloads/directories.htm
Fuller information about Dursley in the 1800’s can be obtained from the Visions of Britain website (link below map) or from the Dursley local history guide website.