The town is rich in history because of its location in the heart of Cotswold wool country, near to Bath and Bristol. Located within an agricultural area, Marshfield gained market status in 1234. The layout conforms to that of a typical market town with long narrow burgage plot gardens extending back from the narrow frontages, and served by two rear access lanes (Back Lane and Weir Lane).
The majority of buildings lining the street are of 18th century origin although several buildings date from the 17th century. The building style is largely Georgian. The facades of the buildings are unified by the consistent use of local stone and other materials, which adds character to the village.
Marshfield was a casualty of the Battle of Lansdown (July 1643) during the Civil War. A Royalist army under Price Maurice and Sir Bevil Grenville were hoping to link up with Charles I at Oxford and avoid a confrontation with the Parliamentary Forces gathered at Bath under Sir William Waller. Marshfield, which had about 300 houses at that time, on 4 July was used as an overnight billet and provision store for the King's army of 6000. Next day the royalists were tempted into an abortive Battle at Lansdown, each side withdrawing with heavy losses. Sir Bevil Grenville (whose monument now stands on the site of the battle) died in Cold Ashton rectory and as the Royalists fell back on Marshfield for repairs almost every house had wounded men on its hands. When the depleted army moved on the reinforced Cromwellian army soon followed. There was little time to stow away the church's simple treasures before the invading despoilers were at work. As a piece of local doggerel composed 200 years later had it "The empty niche above the door, where Mary's image stood, And ravaged reredos testify to their revengeful mood."
It is not known just what damage may have been done as a result of the Civil War. Canon Trotman, a prominent authority in Marshfield's more recent past, speculated publicly about the likely missing treasures. He noticed the large stones on either side of the east window, with rough infilling under them. The large stones evidently formed canopies for figures now missing and which have been the marble figures found in 1866 during alterations at the Angel Inn (now 42 high Street) and later removed from the parish. Two or three other figures probably completed the statuary. Canon Trotman further presumed that the figure of the Virgin may have been taken from its niche in the porch by the Parliamentary troops, but adds forcefully, "Even they could scarcely have done more havoc with the church than the hand of the so-called restorer in 1860 who, while substituting the pitch pine seats...for the old carefully locked pews and capacious gallery, effaced at the same time much that should have been interesting to us today." Canon Trotman was speaking in 1906.
With Cromwell's victory in the Civil War, the period of the commonwealth (from 1649 until the restoration of Charles II in 1660) ensued during which time marriage was treated as a secular rather than religious ceremony. John Goslett as a magistrate therefore married 92 couples during that period from the parish and around, in may cases the banns having been called on three successive market days in the market Place at Marshfield (as an alternative banns could still be read in church). there was clearly no long-term disadvantage in all this for Mr Goslett for a tablet to his memory was nevertheless placed in the church, beside the east window of the north aisle.
David Long, from Pennsylvania, reports that on the flat open land between his village and the lane you can often find musket balls. Battle Of Lansdown. Looking towards the battle site from the field it would appear to be a logical distance away particularly as they would have been firing uphill at about 45 degrees thus landing some distance from the battle site.
" The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon the cloudy seas, The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor. And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door "
Somewhere near to the Three Shire Stones on the Fosse Way near Marshfield there lies, even to this day, a stone that marks the spot of what the Bath Journal calls "wilful murder against some person or persons unknown". The stone marked E.R. and the date 1761 refers to one Edmund Roach who, aged 38 yrs., was set upon by a highwayman. The 1761 Bath Journal reports, quote, 'We are this instant informed, that one Edmund Roach, of Marshfield, a Chandler (candlemaker) was found dead near Westwood, on the Turnpike road leading from this city to Colerne gate; and from all circumstances that yet appear, was murdered and robbed, marks of violence appearing about his head, his pockets pulled out, and his silver watch and money gone. He is supposed to have had in his pockets four 36 shilling pieces and some guineas. All the marks of the watch that can yet be recollected are, the dial plate pretty much soiled, the black enamel figures on it much worn off and had lately a new spring put in it, a pale narrow old silk string of ribbon, a brass key, and a common brass seal set with glass, and a head engraved on it'. The report indicates a reward for the highwayman if found with information requested by Mrs. Eleanor Roach.
On 27 July the Journal continues the story. " Since our last a man has been apprehended on suspicion of the murder and robbery of Mr. Roach last Saturday se'en night in the evening; he says he formerly belonged to the regiment of Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Y. Buffs, (Royal Gloucestershire Hussars) but, having a rupture, was discharged, and that he supported himself by travelling about the country, his account of supporting himself, however was so lame, he is committed to a place of security at Devices for further examination ". I have attempted research here and suggest this could have been the former Roundway Hospital near Devizes, Wiltshire. Nothing further is given and no name or fate was reported about the detained person. Current difficulties with this latest story are that Roundway wasn't opened until 1845 so maybe he was taken to a Village lock-up near there. The above story featured in a local Bath paper in 1936.
From the Trowbridge Public records office (10/3/00) The original story from the Bath Chronicle weekly gazette (23 July 1761). Reads (in Old English) " Sunday morning last a tallow chandler and a dealer in horses of Marshfield in the county of Glouscestershire was found dead near Westwood on the road leading from this city to Colerne in the county of Wiltshire. He left Bath Saturday evening on horseback and his horse strayed the same night to Colerne. Monday coroners inquest sat on the body and brought in their verdict of wilful murder several marks of violence occurring particularly violent blow on the back part of his head supposed to occasion his death (Which blow it is thought was given by a large knotty stick that was found, bloody, near the place he was murdered and the print of a women's foot was plainly to be distinguished on the lower part of his belly. His pockets were turned inside out and his watch and money (amounting to £10:00) taken from thence- Monday evening , a woman enquiring for lodgeings, at Colerne for herself and husband was asked concerning her place of abode and not giving satisfactory answers caused some suspicion. She was thereupon strictly examined to touching the said murder and robbery. After some hesitation she confessed that her husband and some others had robbed the aforesaid Mr Roach and gave intelligence as to where her husband was to be met with. He was accordingly apprehended the next morning at Kington St. Michael in the said county of Wilts. He appears to be a seafaring man and on his examination confessed the robbery but denied the murder declaring that he found the deceased lying dead on the road having (as he supposed) been killed by a fall from his horse, he added, that he thought it no crime to rob a dead man he appears very resolute and yesterday a tinker was apprehended who has confessed his being concerned in the said murder and robbery and has impeached two other accomplices, besides that above mentioned who are likewise sailors. Diligent search is making after them. " (Old English ends).
So, the earlier report seems to provide a more accurate account of the events. The problem now is that it throws up more unanswered questions. Gina Parsons, who researches her family background with her husband, appears to be the GGGGG Granddaughter of Edmund Roach. (see also)
Where was the Coroners court Held ? Where did the Coroner come from ? There are now five people involved including a woman. Who apprehended them? There was no Police force at this time. Was anyone indicted? The account suggests the husband's story is believed. Mr. Roach was buried at Marshfield with the following epitaph on his headstone,
"BY MURD'ROUS BLOW MY THREAD OF LIFE WAS BROKE. DREADFUL THE HOUR! AND TERRIBLE THE STROKE! BUT HEAVEN PERMITTED! AND I MUST NOT LIVE. REPENT, THOU CURST DESTROYER OF MY LIFE. BEHOLD ME HERE, BEHOLD MY BABES AND WIFE! SEE, FROM THY BLOODY HAND WHAT WOES ARISE. WHILE CALLS FOR VENGEANCE PIERCE THE ANGRY SKIES. THOU TOO MUST SUFFER, THO 'THOU' SCAPE THE LAWS. FOR GOD IS JUST AND WILL AVENGE MY CAUSE. MY CHILDREN DEAR, MY WIFE, MY WIDOWED FRIEND. MAY PEACE AND SAFETY ON YOUR STEPS ATTEND. MAY VIRTUE GUIDE, AND TRUTH YOUR LIVES EMPLOY, THEN SLOW OR SUDDEN DEATH WILL END IN JOY."
Another story says that a rendezvous for Dick Turpin on the London-Bath road was reputed to be Star Farm, formerly a posting-house, half a mile east of Marshfield. This I'm sure could be disputed and would tend to be as a result of local lore of the times. No confirmed evidence of this exists.
On 7 July 1763. A highwayman robbed a gentleman's servant of 5/- at Tog Hill turning, amongst other robberies. (In Old English) He is described as being a short young man, much pitted with the small pox ; well mounted on a dark brown horse with a flick tail and blind in one eye. One of the stirrups is new and the other old, and the highwayman had on a brown surtout coat. He later that day fatally injured a pig killer at Wickwar. (Click for full story of Daniel Neale the highwayman.) (Old English ends).
On 29 January 1798 three highwaymen well-mounted and armed, stopped Mr Stephen Toghill of Marshfield at lynch Hill and with dreadful imprecations, demanded his money, which he hesitating to comply with one of them struck him on the arm with such violence as to deprive him of the use of it. Another with a knife cut his breeches from the waistband through his pocket down to the knee and robbed him of notes amounting to £43. Mr Toghill has offered a reward of £50 for discovering the offenders. (Old English ends). (One for crimestoppers!) This has now been verified. (Bath Journal 29/01/1798). Also in the Gloucester Journal.
The village fire engine was purchased in 1826 for £50:00 and was still in use in 1931. It had to be operated by a gang of men on either side of it using a hand pump. In 1896 the Fire Brigade had its capabilities tested to the utmost. Two houses with thatched roofs, in the main streets, caught fire at Mid-day, when all hands were engaged in the fields, but the Brigade mustered quickly in sufficient force to prevent fire spreading to other houses.