ABBENHALL, (or ABINGHALL), is a parish and village in Westbury-on-Severn union, containing, by the census of 1861, 228, and in 1871, 307 inhabitants, and 682 acres; in the deanery of the Forest, archdeaconry of Gloucester, diocese of Gloucester and bristol, hundred of St. Briavels, West Gloucestershire; 3 miles south from Mitcheldean Road Station on the Hereford and Gloucester Railway, 4 north-west from Westbury-on-Severn, and 5 north from Newnham, on the road from thence to Mitcheldean. The rectory in the patronage and incumbency of the Rev. John W. Gregg, L.L.B., is valued at 140 pound per annum, with residence and 26 acres of glebe land. There is a school for children of both sexes, supported by the lady of the manor. The rateable value of this parish is £1635.
There is much of interest connected with this parish. Abben Hall, Avenhall, Abenhall, Abinghall (the name is spelt indifferently in old records), is described by the county historians as small, 5 miles in compass, full of little hills and dingles, with several commons covered with ferns and bushes, a brook running through it into the Severn. It is nearly surrounded with the woods of Abbenhall, Flaxley, Longhope, and the Forest of Dean, and being in parts 900 feet above the sea; the views are exceedingly picturesque, and the air healthy. The church, dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels, is Norman, and of the 12th or 13th century, with a good tower at the west and containing three bells. The chancel contains three beautiful brasses of the Pyrkes, of Dean Hall, and other monuments. Near the pulpit is the ancient frame for the hour glass. The font is octagonal, of the 14th century, and formerly blazoned with coats of arms. A small portion of ancient stained glass, with a head, supposed by the rector to be that of S. Catherine, was discovered by him and placed in an early window in the chancel. Last year (1874) the church was entirely restored, after being long in a ruinous state. The bishop, and a large number of the clergy attended the re-opening services, which were choral. The churchyard is a sequestered spot, with the church and rectory entirely embosomed in trees, among which, an elm and two yews are especially venerable, the two latter dating probably from the time of Edward I., when Sir Ralph de Abben Hall held the manor; his tenure requiring him to furnish two bowmen for the forest. Three ancient oaks are also on the verge of the parish. The burying-place of the Wemyss family is at the east end of the church. This family, with that of the Colchesters, has been long connected with the parish. The Lloyds have some interesting monuments; and at the gate is the old mounting stone, near which, in the memory of many, were the parish stocks.
Sir W. Atkins says - "The manor did anciently, and for divers descents, belong to a family of the same name, - Ralph de Abben Hall, died seised therof 29 Edward I.; John de Abben Hall, his son and heir, succeeded him, who died seised of it, and of the advowson of the church, 10 Edward II.; Reginald de Abben Hall, his son and next heir, died seised of this manor, 15 Edward III.; Sir Ralph de Abben Hall, son of Reginald, died seised of it, and of the custody of a wood in the Forest of Dean, 21 Edward III." It appears by this account that this family held the manor of Abben Hall four descents at least; and it is probable that the Talbots married the heiress of this family, for they quarter the arms of Abben Hall, which are Or with fess gules, and held at this time great estates in the neighbourhood.
The manor is now divided, being the property of Mrs. Davies, of the Wilderness (originally Wild-deers-nest), and Charles Barton Esq. The rectory is in the patronage of the rector. The registers of this parish reach back to the time of Elizabeth, and contain some curious information. During the last century the annual return of births averaged only 5, marriages 1, deaths 4. At election of Knight of the Shire, 1776, 7 freeholders polled.
THE WILDERNESS, the seat of Mrs. Davies, stands on a hill about 900 feet above the level of the sea; it is beautifully wooded, and affords a prospect rarely equalled, commanding views of the Severn, the Vale of Gloucester, and the Malvern Hills.
WOODVILLE, the residence of James John Grenfell Borlase, Esq., is a new Gothic mansion, commanding a view of the town of Mitcheldean, with its church and spire, and the fine woods of the forest and the Wilderness.
Clergy Gentry and Private Residents
BLOOD Mrs., Francis, Ferneyfield
BORLASE Christopher Gullett, Esq., Woodville
BORLASE James John Grenfell, Esq., Woodvile
DAVIES Mrs. Henrietta, The Wilderness
FRAZER Capt. James Alexander
GREGG Rev. John W., L.L.B. (rector), The Rectory
ROBERTS Rev. Lewis (Congregational), The Manse
ROBINSON John Esq., Abinghall house
Trades and Professions
AFFLECK Henry, paper manufacturer
BAKER Joseph, shoemaker
BARNARD Philip, farmer
BARNARD Thomas, farmer
BORLASE AND SON, Solicitors
BOUGHTON John, farmer
CONSTANCE Samuel, boot and shoemaker
COOK James, blacksmith
GARDINER Edward Henry, baker, grocer, and draper
GRIFFITHS John, nailmaker
HAILE Mrs. Charlotte, "Lamb" inn
HAYWARD John, tailor
PARRY Joseph, shopkeeper
SAVIDGE Charles, farmer, Shapridge farm
SCUDAMORE John, farmer, Church farm
SMITH Thomas, carpenter and wheelwright
WAKEFIELD William, shopkeeper
YEARSLEY Richard, farmer, Folly farm
Letters through Ross. Mitcheldean is the nearest money order and telegraph office.
School - Miss Ann Ball, mistress