Turnastone: Stability and Change in the Herefordshire Countryside, 1800-2000
Turnastone is the smallest parish in the Golden Valley. The population is around 30 people, living on three farms, a few scattered houses and a small group of five houses near the Norman church. The church dates from the 12th century, built probably by the family of Ralph of Tornai (in Normandy) who gave his name to Turnastone. Passing along the one road through the parish nothing appears to have changed for years. No house built since 1928 can be seen. The roadside fields are grazed by the traditional local Hereford cattle and Ryeland sheep. The petrol pump at the little shop serves fuel by the gallon. The church uses the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Time has stood still.
Research on the parish history started in 2006 with nine volunteers, three from Turnastone itself, under the guidance of Brian Smith, a retired archivist and historian. Starting with a walk round the parish bounds and a visit to the County Record Office the contributors chose the topics they wished to research.
Many stories were gathered and checked for accuracy. The upland sheep pastures of Dolward had been cleared by the Cistercians from Dore Abbey, in the 1930s the village garage had fuelled aeroplanes landing on the meadows, the doctor’s horse had gone to war, not to return, in 1914-18, the 18th-century rectory was no better than a mud hut. Most surprising of all, our genealogist discovered the names and dates of over 1,100 inhabitants within the two centuries. There were witness accounts of children walking miles over the fields to go to school, of farming hardships, the Golden Valley railway, uprooted evacuees from Liverpool in 1941-2, dances at the Memorial Hall. And, of course, we learnt that even in this small place tucked away in countryside much had indeed changed over 200 years.
By Christmas 2009 the research was ready for editing. On 6 November 2010 the book was published through Logaston Press at a packed launch party when 100 copies were sold in a couple of hours. Three months later all 400 copies had been sold.
Contributed by the late Brian Smith
The book may be borrowed from the County Library. The Group has one unbound copy kept for photocopying short extracts. The database of Who’s Who in Turnastone may be consulted. Please send details of your interest through the Contact Us page on this website