Uley has been inhabited for more than 5000 years. The place name – Euuelege in the Domesday Book – is thought to signify ‘clearing in a yew wood’.
The village is dominated by an Iron Age hill fort known locally as Uley Bury. The site covers some 32 acres and shows evidence of occupation from approximately 300BC to 100AD. The Bury is a popular destination for walkers, commanding spectacular views to the west to the Black Mountains, the Malverns and the Severn Valley.
The Romans also made their mark locally, building a temple to Mercury at West Hill on the site of an earlier prehistoric shrine. In the mid-seventies excavation uncovered numerous artefacts including Roman writing tablets and a stone head of Mercury, which can now be seen in the British Museum.
Uley currently has a population of just over a thousand, but many more lived in the village during the early years of the industrial revolution. At this time the area was renowned for producing a distinctive blue cloth as well as other wool supplies and notorious for its large number of pubs (14 at one point). At least two mills were saw mills.
Poverty struck in the 1830s and the population dwindled over the following century but a certain spirit survived in its residents who remained curious, creative and industrious.
During the early 20th century there were many ‘retail outlets’ in Uley – many simply rooms in cottages – selling provisions such as bacon, cheese and butter, sugar, flour, corn, black treacle, sweets, haberdashery, fuel and medicines. Retailers from nearby shops in Nailsworth, Dursley and Wotton made regular deliveries of all sorts of goods.
A History of Uley edited by Alan Bebbington and published by Uley Society is available in the shop.