Cotswold Towns and Villages

Stow On The Wold

Stow-on-the-Wold Tourist Guide

If you enjoy shopping, you may wish to include Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire County as part of your tour of the beautiful Cotswold region of England.  Stow-on-the-Wold is a small but well known market town with a long history in both commerce and war and is between Bourton On The Water and Moreton In Marsh.  Previously known as Stow St. Edward and Edwardstow, it traces its roots back to the Iron Age when it functioned as a fort due to its tactical position on a 700 foot hill.  The name, seemingly unusual at first glance, simply means “Holy Place on the Hill.”  Seven roads intersect at Stow-on-the-Wold.  In 1107 Henry I set up the first weekly market event at Stow-on-the-Wold.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Edward III and Edward IV both set up annual fairs in the town centre of Stow-in-the-Wold.  These were intended to promote Stow-on-the-Wold as a major thoroughfare and were quite successful.  Many wares were traded but the wool trade is what Stow-on-the-Wold is most famous for.  At one fair in the 19th century, 20,000 sheep were reported to have been traded or sold.  So many livestock needed to be driven through Stow-on-the-Wold that you can still see tiny alleyways throughout the town called “chures” which were used for this purpose.

After the wool trade, horses became the principle commodity.  There is still a very highly attended horse fair each May and October just outside Stow-in-the-Wold.  If you visit during these months you can enjoy the horse fair, but be warned, the traffic in this tiny town can be gridlocked for hours!  Stow-in-the-Wold used to be sleepy in the winter months, but it has become an ever more popular destination for tourists and in recent years has become busy regardless of the season.

Stow-in-the-Wold’s town centre offers many goods to visitors; tourists can buy antiques, art and hand crafts in the prominent marketplace.  Marked off at either end by an olden cross and the historical stocks, the marketplace is a picturesque but bustling square steeped in historical tradition.  Quaint tea shops give tourists a pleasant place to relax in the middle of the day and enjoy traditional afternoon tea before pressing on to enjoy some more of Stow-in-the-Wold’s historical sites.

Considering how peaceful this lovely town is now, it may be hard to imagine it as the site of tremendous bloodshed.  Nonetheless, the famous last battle of the English Civil war was fought in Stow-on-the-Wold in 1646.  The Royalists led by Sir Jacob Astley were defeated there by Colonel Morgan, marking the end of the war.  You can visit St. Edwards, the church in the town where hundreds of Royalist prisoners were held.  The church was damaged in the fighting and now has a monument to Sir Hastings Keyte and others who perished in the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold.


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