Recent History of the Parish of Stoke Orchard and Tredington

The Modern History of the Parish of Stoke Orchard and Tredington starts in 1935 when the rural Parish of Stoke Orchard and the rural Parish of Tredington were joined under the combined heading of the Parish of Stoke Orchard.

Historically, although both Parishes had been dormitory villages for families working in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, Tredington had been known for fine farming and Stoke Orchard more for its industry based in the main for Cider production. In fact, when the new railway line was built in the 1840’s , the ne Bishops Cleeve Main Line station was used on a regular basis for the distribution of locally pressed cider.  Both Villages, from maps of the 19th century, being surrounded by fruit orchards, attained a peculiar prowess in the production of Perry from the Perry pear orchards that were prolific in both villages.

Criss-crossed by the Dean Brook, the Hyde Brook, The Lesser Fid, the Little Fid and the Swilgate, the Parish has long been subject to flooding and the both the road from Tredington to the A38, and  Bozard and Fiddington Lanes can be impassable at times. This matter has long been pursued by Council but remains basically unsolved.

In 1939, with the outbreak of the 2nd World War, Stoke Orchard was identified by the Government War Department, as a potential site for flying training but it was not until 1940 that the land was purchased from the Holms estate who owned the majority of the land around Stoke Orchard.  The airfield was actually laid out to South East of the village on an area of which part was formerly occupied by the local reservoir.

The airfield itself was laid out in 1940 and became a fully functional R.A.F. station - R.A.F. Stoke Orchard in 1941. The airfield itself has a very full and varied history as an RAF unit from initial training with Tiger Moths by No 10 Elementary Flying School through to its main role as a Glider pilot training station with No 3 Glider Training School flying Hotspurs.  We mention the Airfield as it plays a significant role in the modern history of the village.

During the development of the airfield, The Gloster Aircraft Company realised the potential of Stoke Orchard as a site for aircraft production, strategically dispersed away from the company’s main factory at Hucclecote, Gloucester.  Accordingly, two Dispersal Factory units (Numbers 39 and 40) were erected, not on the airfield but on adjoining land.  However, they were an integral part of the airfield with black topped perimeter tracks and haulage roads joining the units to the grass runway.  39- the CRE site - was the assembly building and 40, the other site on the outskirts of the village was the Flight shed.  The majority of aircraft assembled were the Typhoon and the Hurricane though some other craft were known to have been assembled here and there were documented initial plans for Whittle to use “39” as his jet engine development site. Following the cessation of Aircraft manufacture, Gloster used the area for Sir Roy Feddon to develop the Modern High Speed Jet engine.

At the end of the war, The Gloster Aircraft Company vacated both sites and “40” became the West of England Distribution centre for Tate and Lyle Sugar Corporation.  “39” was taken over for a short time by a company manufacturing cars but the company did not survive. The hangars and accommodation quarters of RAF Stoke Orchard were taken over by the War-Ag as a maintenance and storage unit for their equipment, however, on their vacating the site, Cheltenham Rural District Council took over the site with its “prefab homes” as an emergency housing estate - “The Park” -with grocery store, licensed club and child welfare unit.  The Park was not only had a community of its own, it was part of the main village.  The benefits of the local shop was enjoyed by all and the local bus service, the 62A, served the villages and the Park and came through the Stoke Orchard at 13 minutes to the hour travelling to Tewkesbury and 13 minutes past the hour travelling towards Cheltenham from 7.00am through to 7.00pm.- even later on some days.  Speaking to one of the residents of the Park, she said it was a wonderful place to live and for children to grow up – her daughter, now a world renowned artist, was brought up in the Park. In her memory in excess of 200 people lived there – mostly families waiting for new family homes in Cheltenham.

After the Nationalisation of the coal industry in 1947, factory unit number “39” was earmarked by the newly nationalised Coal Board as their preferred site for the National Coal Board Research Station – later to become the Coal Research Establishment. The choice of Stoke Orchard was said to have been made in an attempt to achieve a geographical balance in the NCB investment in such new facilities and jobs.  Stoke Orchard  was believed to be close enough to the South Wales coal fields to satisfy the S.W. lobby although that does seem difficult to believe.  On the 22nd May 1950, Dr Jacob Bronowski was appointed director of the Research Station as it was then known.  The establishment was designed to carry out research into the underground problems of mining, coal preparation, briquetting, carbonisation and in the latter years, fluidisation and fluid bed furnaces and furnace and burner efficiency.  The famous Bronowski egg was invented at Stoke Orchard and is still in use to this day as the most efficient way of briquetting certain steam coal, charcoal and coke dust. In 1965 a Planning Application was lodged with the Rural District Council and approved for a major development and expansion plan for the National Research Station.  This lead to more land being purchased from adjoining landowners but the actual expansion plan was never implemented.

However, the work at the site continued to evolve, necessitating the construction of highly sophisticated testing rigs, steel chimneys, burn off flare towers  and specialist buildings which were an eyesore and totally incongruous and a dominating blight to this rural setting.  Added to this the fallout from the rigs whilst under test would have rung emergency alarm bells in every Environmental Health Office throughout the country.  There was a never ending struggle by the Parish Council on behalf of the community to protect them from pollution.

In the 1960’s , the Parish was cut in two by the construction of the M5, the erection of a 132,000 volt Pylon Line, the laying of a 24 inch water main from Tewkesbury to Cheltenham and the laying of a new Natural gas Mains framework.  Since then another 36inch gas main has been laid adjacent to the North Boundary of the Parish and a further 24inch water main - part of the National emergency infrastructure  has been laid adjacent to line of  the M5 through the Parish.

In 1992, in line with government policy, the Parish Council conducted a Village Appraisal, similar in fashion to the present Neighbourhood Development Plan. This appraisal consisted of a Questionnaire of some 110 questions for each person in the Parish to answer questions ranging from schools, facilities, future planning and lifestyle questions.  Following the Closure of the Coal Research Establishment, the Parish Council, acting on the results of the Appraisal embarked on a plan to rid the Village of Stoke Orchard of the Blot that was the CRE. Ten years of futile campaigning and planning followed, stymied by Borough, County, Government office of the South West and indeed the Deputy Prime Minister at the Time, all of whom refused to consider residential development because of the then holy cow of lack of Sustainability.

In the meantime, considerable residential development between 2005 to 2009 had been continuing in Stoke Orchard with between10 and 25 houses in Dean Lane on an infill, farm yard redevelopment and general development basis and some small infill, some barn conversions and a small 5 unit redundant farmyard development in Tredington.

In 2009, the Parish Council, working with the then Land Development company who had bought the CRE site, started work on a scheme that would make residential redevelopment of the CRE site sustainable. It meant that the  Parish Council  - under the then Localism Bill - could take the responsibility for the Development m have a large input into the design of the estate and of the units themselves and take on a shop, a Mini bus and a Community Centre, the Public Open Space complete with a MUGA and a LEAP.  This was a massive undertaking,  but after much lobbying and support from the Parish, the Planning went through.  This was achieved through the Vision of the Parish Council over a period of 20 years, under several different Chairs with a turnover of different Councillors all adopting the same theme adopted in the Village Appraisal of 1992.

The Initial Planning was for 126 houses to include a number of Live and Work units. However, there was no take up by the developer for this and no takes when it was offered on open market.  The Developers came back to the Parish who, following the findings of the Appraisal requested a Bungalow area in its stead.  On the 1st November 2014, the Parish Council received the keys to the Shop and the Community Centre.  Following that, an application to redevelop the CRE office block which had been retained during the initial redevelopment was submitted and another 38 houses were added to the original Orchard Residential Estate.  The Orchard Development actually filled a need to join the Village which historically had always been split in two halves as the original Village had two Manor Houses and functioned under two defined Manorial units.

In 2014, an application was made for a Residential development in Banady Lane comprising of 45 units. Following Refusal due the fact that Stoke Orchard had already achieved its development target, the site was won on Appeal. In addition to that development another 9 houses have been approved in Banady Lane.

It was around this time that the Parish Council decided to include Tredington in the Parish Title. The Parish must be congratulated on the way it has embraced change and the way the Community has come together in a cohesive and working community umbrella; recognition of which was received in the way of an award from the Campaign for Preservation of Rural England in 2017.

Around 50 years ago, the Wingmoor Farm Landfill site was opened against the efforts of the Parish Council. This was on an initial 26 years expected life. Over 50 years later it is still in use and  the continual stream of heavy and dirty traffic blights the roads and fly tipping and rubbish blights the countryside.  This has now been further blighted by the Hazardous Waste site  on Wingmoor East which accepts hazardous waste from nationwide bringing danger and potential serious problems to our Parish. The Parish Continues to be blighted by the level of Traffic using the roads to avoid the A46, Junction 9, and other traffic hotspots. This problem now makes our roads unsafe for Pedestrians and Cyclists and this problem must be addressed in the immediate future.