History of Rodborough Fort

Rodborough Fort commands a prominent position on Rodborough Common overlooking Stroud. Although it is located amongst iron-age earthworks the Fort itself is not as old as many people think.

Strictly it is an inhabited folly and has been known as Fort George and Rodborough Castle in addition to its more correct name of Rodborough Fort. The original fort was built around 1764 by George Hawker (d. c. 1786). It passed through a number of prominent Stroud business men before being acquired by Alexander Holcombe in 1868 who rebuilt the original building on a grander scale.

Cheltenham Chronicle – Saturday 16 March 1901


Rodborough Fort, which stands at the western end of the towering eminence known as Rodborough Hill, is a conspicuous object for many miles from almost any point in the surrounding neighbourhood. The view from the Fort presents a magnificent panorama such as is probably unrivalled England. Nestling at its foot is the busy town of Stroud, whose mills have clothed the great army now serving King and country in South Africa, whilst the hill whose summit it crowns is one of the chief spurs of the Cotswold range, which here breaks the Severn Valley into smaller valleys, which branch off to Woodchester and Nailsworth, to Brimscombe and Chalford, to Slad, and to Painswick. On the left lie the Selsley Hills, on the right Whiteshill and Wickeredge Hill, and in front the Stonehonse valley extends on to the Severn, nine miles distant; beyond that the smoke arising from Dean Forest is plainly to seen; and beyond all the Welsh mountains and the lofty Sugar Loaf mountain, near Abergavenny, may distinctly seen on the western horizon in the light of a clear summer day. or when clothed with snow and ice in winter.

The original Fort was erected by Captain George Hawker, in 1761, upon a piece of common land granted to him the Lord of the Manor on a lease for lives.” Here he resided for several years. His death in 1781 it came by devise to his son Joseph Hawker, who sold it the same year to Mr. .lames Dallaway, who died there; and it was purchased by Mr. Joseph Grasebrook in 1791. The Fort has the architectural appearance which its name imparts, and its flag has floated and its three cannons have been fired on occasions of public and local rejoicing for many years past. It was rebuilt in 1871 bv Mr. Alexander Halcomb. of Gloucester anil London, and was jokingly suggested that it should be called Sackville,” by reason of his founding a sack hiring company. Mr. Halcomb did not long remain the owner, the Fort being purchased by the late Mr. Bell, tor the last sixteen years the fort has been in the hands otfcaretakers, and when Mr. Bell died about a year ago it passed to his son, whose first act almost coming of age was to put the Fort on the market for sale. It is probable, therefore, that it will be disposed of by public auction during the present month.

27 Responses

  1. Bob Young
    Bob Young at · · Reply

    A great collection of Rodborough and district postcards. Thanks for showing us all.
    It is a shame you no longer live in the Stroud area as I am sure you would enjoy our postcard club.
    We also have an online page and a postcard group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1683390465230024/

  2. Sue Powell
    Sue Powell at · · Reply

    What a great collection – very interesting. Came across reference to your website in ‘The Commoner’ leaflet and glad that I decided to investigate. My family has lived in Stroud for generations and most of the houses lived in have looked towards ‘The Fort’. Although life was very different even 50 years ago I can’t help but think that everything looked so much nicer with a bit of space!

  3. Tim
    Tim at · · Reply

    What a wonderful collection – thank you for sharing these with us!

  4. Penny Schneider (Jones)
    Penny Schneider (Jones) at · · Reply

    My great grandfather, George Bridges Philpin owned The Fort in the early 1900’s.
    He resided in Coventry and owned the Coventry Brace Company-supplying the forces in WW1 and men’s braces in general which were popular at the time..before belts!
    My father B.R.P. Jones went there for summer holidays with the whole family and I had pictures of picnics on the grounds and some of the well appointed rooms inside.
    Unfortunately for the family G.B. Philpin died in 1933 and the instructions in his will required The Fort to be sold…for a fraction of it’s worth due to The Depression.
    I visited from Canada in 1963 and we drove the steep incline up to The Fort where we picniced.
    I believe at that time its owners were using the grounds for a caravan park..with a great view of the surrounding countryside!

  5. Jill Day
    Jill Day at · · Reply

    Does anyone know who owned the Fort during the 1950’s ? This was a time when I used to visit Stroud with my grandparents staying with my great aunt on Chapel Street. From there, the Fort was clearly visible and we did many walks around the Common. My memory is that I was told that the Fort at that time housed Hungarian refugees. Was this so and how might that have come about ?

  6. Mike Carter
    Mike Carter at · · Reply

    Nice site – thank you. Takes me back to my childhood in the early/mid ’50s when my dad was caretaker/gardener there. We lived in ‘the lodge’, which was on the right as you look in through the main gate.

  7. Emilie Dadswell
    Emilie Dadswell at · · Reply


    I just came across your lovely website. My family owned Rodborough Fort from 1981-1987 (I’ll have to find exact dates from my siblings), I notice Dadswell isn’t mentioned In the history. I was very young, but I have wonderful memories – learning to ride my bicycle down the hallway, many parties in the Chapel. It was a campsite in the time we had it. Sadly it was around the time Stroud had meningitis scare and the campsite folded due to lack of tourism. I was 7 when we left but I still dream about it. A very special place.

  8. Sarah
    Sarah at · · Reply

    As a young solicitor I represented the bank repossessing the Fort for mortgage arears. The owner planned to use it as a zoo. I was told she had several exotic animals in residence. I was chosen for this hearing because I was heavily pregnant, there had been a scuffle at an earlier hearing and my boss decided I should go because no one would attack a pregnant women!

  9. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill at · · Reply

    Hi Angus

    Sorry..just saw this. Yes, all those references are the classic ones. Thank you. I just wondered if your description was based on a more recent investigation. The Fort is surrounded by some incredibly intriguing landscape and archaeology, which, IMO has only minimally been investigated..including some probable ancient agricultural activity The bronze age spearheads, are btw at the Museum in the Park, where I worked for many years.
    While I agree with much of the records, I am not so sure about all of them..which I think need revisiting… With respect to Charles Parry, I would go a couple of steps further…

    I am not an archaeologist, but my girl friend Teri Paul is. She seems to agree with me that your site is a key ancient one and is to be interpreted with respect to the entire promontory ..including Minch.

    Your site or nearby was, I believe known as “Sweetmead”, in the 17c and there are later records of the Sheppards giving permissions for the Paul family to quarry stone. A dating of the massive quarrying in yr grounds would be interesting. The Minchinhampton Custumal gives the actual names of ppl quarrying in the area in the early 14c.

    The National Trust has a new archaeologist called Cat Lodge..I am sure she might like to say hello, as would I.

    My email is : stroudroots@yahoo.co.uk

    Check out the cheeky earthwork behind Winstones Ice cream factory.

    All the best

    Steve Hill

  10. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill at · · Reply

    Sorry Dave Nixon …no Danes or Vikings involved. Woeful Dane is an evolution/ corruption of the earlier name, “Wolfham Dene”. A Dene is a valley or hollow, shallow combe. As in the Daneway. “The way along the Dene”

  11. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill at · · Reply

    Penny Schneider. You may not be aware that the Earls of Coventry owned a lot of land in and around Stroud ..hence: “Coventry Land”. One reason why the Coventry Building Soc is here now . On the site of the Old Green Dragon pub in King Street.

    1. Penny Schneider
      Penny Schneider at · · Reply

      Interesting fact that I was not aware of…thanks for noting. My great grandfather was a Justice of the Peace as well….and a prominent Coventry businessman.
      A perfect spot to escape the busy city.

  12. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill at · · Reply

    Dave Nixon. As there is no obvious description of a “ham” here, there is an outside chance it might refer to “Wulfhun’s Dene”. A Wulfhun is associated via various transactions of the land and Edward of Salisbury/Azor.

  13. Steve Hill
    Steve Hill at · · Reply

    Angus. Ref Parry s review, and survey, 1992? which forms a significant part of the NT HER record ..his record of linear features in “two” places at Rodborough require attention. These features are v Def CONTIGUOUS , not separate, and can be walked along. IMO they relate to the area around the Fort and its ancient function. And also to the so called adjacent “trackways”. Question….where are the corresponding earthworks on the S/SW/W side of the Fort to match those in the other locations,? Well ….a short walk may have some answers…

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