After the Norman Conquest, Stoke was granted to Osbern Giffard in recognition of his military services. The Giffards were strong and reckless characters who - together with a number of other barons of the time - often clashed with the authority of the king. They were involved with the establishment of Magna Carter.
In 1322, his rebellion against King Edward the Second cost him his life and his lands. He was executed in Gloucester and his property was given to the King’s favourite, Sir Hugh Despenser. But in 1327, the king was murdered and Stoke Gifford passed to one of his gaolers, Hugh Mautravers. Family connections meant that the parish was eventually inherited by the Berkeley’s.
However, John Giffard’s widow, Margaret held the lands until her death. Consequently, we do not find the Berkeley’s recorded as holding them until 1337.
Margaret evidently tried hard to hold on to her lands. And we find an interesting reference, describing how in 1327, John Giffard purchased the wooded area known as ‘Le Walles’. So perhaps the Giffards did not disappear altogether from the village, but continued to dwell in a wild, woody corner of the parish.
A MAP OF THE 14TH CENTURY reveals many interesting features. Wallshut Wood is much larger than it was in later centuries. The woods on the Stoke Park hills extended towards it, leaving only a small area of clear ground in between. This area seems to correlate with where Splatts Abbey Wood now stands. So it may not have been woodland at this time, although it was surrounded by wooded country, and could easily have been invaded by the offspring of neighbouring trees.
Wallscourt, Stanley and Barnwood farms are shown at the edge of the woodland, which again suggests that Stanley really was established by clearing woodland.