We stayed in a small cottage in Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. The market town stands at the junction of six main roads through the Cotswolds including Fosse Way, which was a Roman road. The town was founded by the Norman lords on a hill near the crossroads to take advantage of the passing trade. The wool trade was dominant and one of the main roads is Sheep Street with several narrow alleys built intentionally to control and count the sheep. Around the Market Square there are hotels, restaurants and independent shops including art galleries, craft and antique shops; all built in the local stone. There is also a museum of cricket in the town.
In the centre of the square are the ancient penal stocks. While I was photographing them, I entered into an impromtu history lesson with some Australian tourists who were curious as to their purpose. This sparked a lively discussion about whether they should be brought back into use!
We had a few drinks in the Porch House – the oldest inn in England dating back to 987AD with its medieval fireplace showing “witch’s marks” to ward off evil. The town itself did have a bloody past. it was the scene of a fierce battle in 1646 between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. So terrible, it was said, that the ducks were able to bathe in pools of blood. This is the origin of Digbeth Street – for “Duck’s Bath”.The Royalists were finally defeated and hundreds of prisoners were held in St Edward’s Church. The building has had several restorations over the centuries but parts date back to the Normans. The Grade I listed building has many historical points of interest, not least the curious Yew Tree Door. There are two ancient yew trees flanking the north porch and it is not known how old they are, but the wooden door was placed between them around the 13th century.
We had a nice meal in the Queens Head pub on the square. It was full of character dating back to the 17th century. It serves the local Donington ales and has been consistently in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. What we noticed about the pubs in Stow was during the week many of them closed at 9pm.
We enjoyed our stay in Stow-on-the wold as it was a great place to explore all the Cotswold locality.