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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 51°55′40″N 1°43′04″W / 51.92768°N 1.71783°W / 51.92768; -1.71783

Market Square
Stow-on-the-Wold is located in Gloucestershire

 Stow-on-the-Wold shown within Gloucestershire
Population 2,794 (2001 Census)
OS grid reference SP191258
Parish Stow-on-the-Wold
District Cotswold
Shire county Gloucestershire
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district GL54
Dialling code 01451
Police Gloucestershire
Fire Gloucestershire
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Cotswold
List of places: UK • England • Gloucestershire

Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It is situated on top of an 800 ft (244 m) hill, at the convergence of a number of major roads through the Cotswolds, including the Fosse Way (A429). The town was founded as a planned market place by Norman lords to take advantage of trade on the converging roads. Fairs have been held by royal charter since 1330 and an annual horse fair is still held on the edge of the town.





Stow-on-the-Wold, originally called Stow St. Edward or Edwardstow after the town's patron saint Edward, probably Edward the Martyr,[1] is said to have originated as an Iron Age fort on this defensive position on a hill. Indeed, there are many sites of similar forts in the area, and Stone Age and Bronze Age burial mounds are common throughout the area. It is likely that Maugersbury was the primary settlement of the parish before Stow was built as a marketplace on the hilltop nearer to the crossroads, to take advantage of passing trade. Originally the small settlement was controlled by abbots from the local abbey, and when the first weekly market was set up in 1107 by Henry I, he decreed that the proceeds go to Evesham Abbey.[1]


In 1330, Edward III set up an annual 7-day market to be held in August. This was replaced by Edward IV in 1476 with two 5-day fairs, two days before and two days after the feast of St Philip and St James in May, and similarly in October on the feast of St Edward the Confessor (the saint associated with the town). The aim of these annual fairs was to establish Stow as a place to trade, and to remedy the unpredictable passing trade. These fairs were located in the square, which is still the town centre.

As the fairs grew in fame and importance the town grew more prosperous. Traders who once only dealt in livestock, now dealt in many handmade goods, and the wool trade always stayed a large part of the trade[citation needed] Reportedly, 20,000 sheep changed hands at one 19th century fair. Many alleyways run between the buildings of Stow into the market square; these once were used in the herding of sheep into the square to be sold .

As the wool trade declined, people began to trade in horses, and these would be sold at every Fair. This practice still continues today, although the Fair has been relocated from the Square, and is currently held in the large field towards the village of Maugersbury every May and October. It is still a very popular Fair, with the roads around Stow being blocked for many hours on the day.

There has been controversy surrounding Stow Fair. The large number of visitors and traders has attracted more vendors not dealing in horses. In the past local businesses used to profit from the increased custom but in recent years most pubs and shops close for 2 or 3 miles around due to the threat of theft or vandalism.[2]

Civil War

Stow played a role in the English Civil War. A number of fights took place around the area, the local church of St. Edward being damaged in one such skirmish. On 21 March 1646, the Royalists, commanded by Sir Jacob Astley, were defeated at the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold, with hundreds of prisoners being confined for some time in St. Edwards.

Popular culture

The famously abrasive columnist and restaurant reviewer A A Gill in his 2005 book The Angry Island called Stow "catastrophically ghastly" and "the worst place in the world", resulting in an angry response from the town's mayor.

Given its exposed spot on the top of Stow Hill, the town is often referred to with the couplet "Stow on the Wold, where the winds blow cold and the cooks can't roast their dinners", but there is no source for this. It may be a corruption of the rhyme connected with Brill in Buckinghamshire.

At Brill on the hill
The wind blows shrill
The cook no meat can dress
At Stow-in-the-Wold
The wind blows cold
I know no more than this.[3]

Transport links

Several roads link Stow to the surrounding villages. The Fosse Way (A429), which runs from Exeter to Lincoln; the A424, which runs from Burford, into the A44 and into Evesham; and the A436, which connects Cheltenham and Gloucester with Stow.

Stow is no longer directly served by train; the nearest railway station is Moreton-in-Marsh (approximately 4 miles from Stow). This station is on the Cotswold Line from Hereford to London Paddington. An alternative is Kingham railway station (approximately 5 miles from Stow) on the same line.


  1. ^ a b British History Online: A History of the County of Gloucester, C. R. Elrington (editor), 1965, Pages 142-165
  2. ^ Tearoom bouncers tackle fair fear (BBC News story)
  3. ^ English Folk Rhymes 1892 By G. F. Northall RePublished by Kessinger Publishing, 2004 ISBN 141797804X

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Stow-on-the-Wold is a town in the North Cotswolds in England.

Get in

Driving from Cirencester, follow the A429 (the Fosseway) North, pass through Bourton-on-the-Water and you'll reach it (after another 5km). There will be obvious signs saying you've entered the town. From the North, follow the A429 South towards Cirencester.

Buses operate to and from Moreton-in-Marsh, Bourton-on-the-Water, Fairford, Cirencester and Cheltenham during the day.

Walkers would do well to avoid the busy A429 road.

Get around

On foot's fine.


The town centre whilst small is extremely beautiful, focused around the large market square and the pretty little streets leading off it.

  • Cotswold Sweet Company, Town Square. Oldy-Worldy sweet shop with massive choice of sweets and chocolates. Also really good if you want a bit of banter with one of the friendly staff.  edit


The Eagle And Child, The Royalist Hotel, Digbeth Street, 01451 830670. Expensive, serves food until 10PM, need reviews.


See Eat for pubs

  • YHA, The Square, Within the UK 0870 770 6050, Outside the UK 44 1451 830497 [1]. Unreviewed. Open every day from February 11 til October, then only on Fridays and Saturdays. Opening times: 8AM-10AM, 5PM-10PM Adults £14, Children £10.
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