Burford is a lovely Cotswolds wool town, but head off the pretty (and always busy!) High Street to St John’s Church for some offbeat sights and stories.
The Unwanted Tomb
Lawrence Tanfield was a politician, judge, and a highly unpopular local lord of Burford Manor because of his arrogant and mean behaviour.
When he died in 1628, both Westminster Abbey and Burford church refused to put up a memorial.
But his wife Katherine decided he should get one anyway and marched a team of workmen to the north chapel.
The result was a huge, garish shrine depicting the Tanfields lying below six Corinthian columns surrounded by arches, obelisks and the family coat of arms.
Underneath the couple rests a skeleton carved in stone apart from one real, human thigh bone (origin unknown).
Spirit in a Bottle
The townspeople tolerated the grand tomb (well, it was hard to shift), but burned an effigy of the unlovely twosome every year for a couple of centuries to show the hate lived on.
The vengeful ghosts of the Tanfields were said to haunt Burford by hurtling round the town in a blazing coach and a priest was hired to exorcise the town of these unwelcome visitors.
He captured their spirits in a bottle and hurled it into the nearby River Windrush. Locals were so concerned that the ghastly pair would escape if the river ran dry that they topped up the water during hot summers.
Standing by the Tanfield tomb is a ‘weeper’ effigy of their only daughter.
Elizabeth Cary (her married name) taught herself several languages and was such an avid reader that she bribed her maid for extra candles so she could study at night, defying her mother’s instructions to get some beauty sleep.
The reading paid off: Elizabeth Cary penned the first published play by a woman, ‘The Tragedy of Mariam’, in 1613.
She also found time to produce eleven children and learn a few more languages.
Scratched into the font of Burford’s church is ‘Antony Sedley 1649 prisner’: He was one of 340 Parliamentarian soldiers locked inside.
The group were known as the Levellers and had demanded reforms (and pay) after the victory of their Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell in the Civil War against the king-supporting Royalists.
Cromwell decided to teach them a lesson.
The group were ordered onto the roof of their church/prison to watch as three of their leaders being shot – the bullet marks scar the church wall. Sedley and his friends were then released.
The rebellion was over.
Three ‘A’s: Arts and Crafts, Americans and an Antique
Other highlights in the church include a memorial with the earliest known English images of American Indians, and stained glass windows by Arts and Crafts designer Christopher Whall.
Oh and one of Britain’s oldest mechanical clocks has been ticking away here since 1685.
… and watch out for that blazing Tanfield carriage battling through the permanent traffic jam on the High Street!
A Bit About the Author
Sean Callery is a Blue Badge guide for the Heart of England and the author of Offbeat Cotswolds.
Looking for things to do in or around the Cotswolds town of Moreton in the Marsh?
Here’s a list of places to visit, all within a 10 mile radius, closest first.
1.6 Miles- Batsford Arboretum
Batsford Arboretum is home to the country’s largest private Arboretum (a place with a lot of trees, in case you’re wondering) – a selection of trees and shrubs covering 65 acres.
As well as being able to tour the grounds, there is a visitors centre with a cafe, shop and plant centre. The Arboretum dates back to the early 17th Century and is now run by a charity known as the Batsford Trust.
It’s open every day of the year excluding, Christmas Day, from:
9-5 Mon – Sat
10-5 on Sundays
It’s dog friendly which is a great feature and would be sure to keep the kids amused for a day.
Chastleton House is a 400 year old Jacobean House and Gardens, built in the 1600’s and now owned and managed by the National Trust.
It’s one of the only National Trust sites that has focused on conservation rather than restoration, which means that there has been little change to the house in modern times, giving you an unspoiled look into how the house was built and used.
You can pick up a special explorer pack for kids to keep them amused during your time touring the house and gardens. The garden features a Topiary and a Croquet area in the summer months and you can get a free guided tour of the gardens.
Opening months are March to October with a few opening weekends in December. Website says dogs allowed in fields only so it doesn’t really count as a dog friendly location.
Prices – Free for National Trust members. Non-members: House and Garden – £10.50 Adult, £5 kids, £27 Family. Garden only £4 adult, £2.50 kids, Family £10 (prices need updating for 2020).
Cotswold Motoring Museum is situated in the picturesque village of Bourton on the Water. It’s designed to be a journey through the motorcars of the 20th Century, complete with vintage cars, classic cars, caravans and motorbikes.
Possibly most importantly, it’s the home of the famous Brum!
There are 7 showrooms over 7500 square foot where you can discover over 50 classic and vintage cars. The Museum is dog friendly too.
It’s open from 15th Feb until mid December and is open 10am-6m daily.
Prices- £6.25 adults, £4.50 Kids (ages 4-16), under 4’s free, £19.75 Family
Tags: Good for Kids, Dog Friendly
8.3 Miles – Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water is known as the Venice of the Cotswolds and is one of the most popular villages in the area.
It sits on the river Windrush and it’s main features consist of the many small bridges which cross the river in the centre of the village.
Bourton is buzzing with day visitors and has lots of quirky shops as well as places to eat.
A number of the other tourist attractions in this list are located here including the Cotswold Motoring Museum, Model Village and Railway and the Birdland Park and Gardens.
Price – Free (except for parking charges)
Tags: Good for Kids, Dog Friendly
8.3 Miles – Bourton Model Village
The Bourton Model Village is a replica of Bourton on the Water which is built at a one ninth scale of the actual Village.
The Model Village was opened in 1937 and took 5 years to build. The Village is famous for it’s mini Bonsai style tree’s which are pruned to replicate the scale of the model. See if you can spot the models village’s model village. It a gets a bit Inception like…
It aims to be open all year (weather dependant) but dogs are not allowed and there are restrictions on pushchairs and wheelchairs due to the size of the replica paths and roads.
The Village is child friendly, although given the strict instruction for what kids can and can’t go near, we wouldn’t want to be the ones responsible for the little one breaking a tiny house!
Price- £3.60 Adult, £2.80 Kids over 3, £3.20 over 60
8.4 Miles – Birdland Park and Gardens
Birdland itself is set in 9 acres of garden and woodland surrounding the River Windrush in the centre of Bourton on the Water.
It houses over 130 species of birds including Flamingos, pelicans, cranes, storks, parrots, owls, pheasants, hornbills and touracos among others.
There is an on site Cafe, a Jurassic Area complete with hidden dinosaur models and 2 acres set aside as a nature reserve where people have observed rabbits, foxes and deer as well as other animals. There is a small outdoor and indoor kids play area.
Birdland is open daily from 10am, closing only on Christmas day with varied closing times depending on time of year.
Surprisingly, compared to most other places dealing with animals, dogs are also allowed.
Prices- £10.95 Adult, £9.95 Concession, £7.95 Kids (ages 3-15), various family tickets available.
Chipping Norton, or Chippy, as locals call it, is one of the highest towns in the Cotswolds, but this was not always the case.
The town began down in the valley of the River Glyme – the earthworks of the Norman castle, built to keep the locals in order are still there.
But the local lord William FitzAlan had ambitions to make the town a major centre, so he built a huge market square (bigger than the area it covers today) up the hill.
Houses were built to surround the market space, and the long, narrow alleyways behind them remain, showing that these were burgage plots: long, narrow sites that gave every shop a window onto the High Street – this is the origin of the phrase ‘window shopping’.
The medieval buildings around the market place benefited from a makeover after 1704.
The construction of Blenheim Palace down the road made the ornate baroque style fashionable, and lots of Chippy’s main buildings got a makeover with smooth-stoned, symmetrical frontages.
However, cattle, horses and sheep were still sold here, as well as wool, which led to the development of the town’s weaving industry and the building of the iconic Bliss Mill.
The Bliss family played a huge role in the development of Chipping Norton, before they hit hard times and sold up in 1895.
The new management pushed down wages and resisted the rise of the workers’ rights movement. This led to a strike that is famous in trade union history, and one of Chippy’s alarmingly regular ‘riots’ as 50 policeman were needed to hold back picketing strikers when their fellow workers headed to do a shift at the mill.
Another uprising led to the 1845 trial of a policeman called Charles Knott who was over eager in calming down a belligerent pub customer, bashing him over the head with his cosh. The poor chap was flung into a cell underneath the new Town Hall. When they opened up the next day, he was dead. The policeman was found ‘not guilty’ because his victim, rather conveniently, was found to have an unusually thin skull.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
There were 20 coach houses in Chippy at one time, giving customers and horses a welcome respite from the bumpy roads. When rail took over, many continued as pubs, and legendary drummer with The Who, Keith Moon, briefly owned one here from 1970
Many of his mates from the music industry would have been the other side of the bar, for the town had a recording studio from 1972 to 1997. Its walls echoes to hits such as ‘Bye Bye Baby’ from the Bay City Rollers, ‘Too Shy’ by Kajagoogoo, and ‘Baker Street’ by Gerry Rafferty.
Today the town is a hidden gem in the Cotswolds, with independent shops, a wonderful ‘Woolgothic’ church, and a terrific theatre that lives in an old Salvation Army chapel and puts on one of the top pantomimes in the country every year. … Oh yes it does!
A bit about the author
Sean Callery runs regular walking tours of Chipping Norton through his Offbeat Cotswolds guiding operation ( www.offbeatcotswolds.com ). He is a Blue Badge Guide for the Heart of England.
Cheltenham began life as an Anglo Saxon village in the 11th Century.
Located in the Cotswolds, surrounded by beautiful green countryside, Gloucester also lies nearby, although protected Greenbelt land has stopped them from forming an area of conurbation.
In the 18th Century, medicinal waters were found over what is now the Cheltenham Ladies’ College – a prestigious independent school for girls. The town, with a population of around 110,000 oozes elegance and finesse.
It’s famous for its Regency architecture, cream white terraced houses protected by wrought iron railings.
See below for our top 5 things to do if you’re in Cheltenham:
Cheltenham Cricket Festival
If you’re a fan of cricket then this is a must see festival. Full of beer, sun and cricket, it could not be any better.
A great atmosphere, great food and usually great games located on the grounds of the prestigious private school, Cheltenham College. You’re surrounded by a road which makes it feel like a bit like the jewel of the countryside has invaded the urban landscape.
Cheltenham Jazz Festival
Taken place over 14 different venues across the town, the music is as diverse as where the venues are.
Contemporary jazz acts can start from gospel, salsa to flamenco. The Town Hall usually hosts local schools’ jazz bands, allowing the young talent of the area to flourish the given opportunity to perform.
Pittville Pump Room
Built on the estate of Joseph Pitt, this became the main attraction in the town in 1788 when King George III came to visit.
Today, The Pump Room is used for music concerts, poetry readings, formal black tie events as well as a back drop for famous visitors such as Lord Byron, Jane Austin and the Duke of Wellington.
The beautiful Regency style room isn’t just available to the upper class, it is more often than not hired out and commonly used for weddings and dinner events.
Montpellier and the High Street
This gorgeous area is dominated by Edwardian and Georgian town houses, lined up neatly like an army of soldiers.
Wide open spaces, not too dissimilar to spaces found in London (for example, Trafalgar Square), can be found near many of the shops on the high street.
The choice of shops are excellent, accommodating everyone and you could spend a whole day walking up and down the high street.
As an added bonus, if you visit during the Light Up Cheltenham festival, the area is illuminated with various colourful displays and they run guided tours detailing the history of the town.
Again, based around the high street, there are tonnes of bars and pubs for you too choose from. Everything is within convenient walking distance so you won’t be running up unnecessary taxi bills!
Begin your night out in a pub such as the Beehive Inn, try some local beer and ale (from what I hear they’re excellent) before moving onto a classy upmarket bar like Bentley’s. End the night either in Blush, a trendy, chic club conveniently close to the Bus Station and taxi rank. If you prefer something a little less alternative, Sub-tone is a great place. It’s a club with the layout of a house!
So there you have it, 5 great things to do and see if you’re in Cheltenham. Be sure to check them all out, you won’t be disappointed.