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The Cotswolds History & Heritage of Wool & Stone

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Home Page Cotswolds Wool Trade Buried in Wool Cotswold Limestone
Cotswold Landscape Old Salt Travel Routes Old Coaching Routes Silk Production
Tobacco Leaf Growing The People Pre-History Further Information
Did You Know? Wealth Survey 2007 5000 years of history More to the Cotswolds....
Word Meanings      
Cotswolds Heritage

Meanings of some of the words and phrases found on this website:-

A motte was the mound of ground on which a castle was built. The bailey was the outermost castle wall.
The tenancy of a plot of land on a yearly fixed rent.
Small church to 'ease' the crush of the congregation in the main church.
The word as used in the names of various places found in the Cotswolds like Chipping Norton and Chipping Campden. Chipping comes from the word 'cheapen' which is the medieval word for 'market'.

Comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon chieftain named Cod in the 12th century that owned high land or "wold"- hence "Cod's wold" and eventually became "Cotswold". The Cotswolds are sometimes known as "King Cod's land".

Also another explanation is that the word 'COT' meant an animal Pen (sheep in this instance) or containment and Wolds means rolling Hills.

Means a short valley or deep hollow like Winchcombe and Castle Combe.
The Roman road running through the Cotswolds so called from the fosse or ditch that used to run along each side.
Neolithic burial grounds like Belas Knap near Winchcombe and Hetty Pegler's Trump.
The period between 1811-1820 relating to the reign (Regency) of the Prince of Wales - later George IV during the incapacity of his father King George III.
Comes from the medieval term used to describe a marshy muddy area of land.
Cotswolds History & Heritage
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
I remember, too, the light on the slopes, long shadows in tufts and hollows, with cattle, brilliant as painted china, treading their echoing shapes' Cider With Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of Laurie Lee's childhood and youth in a remote Cotswold village. From the moment he is set down in the long grass, 'thick as a forest and alive with grasshoppers', he depicts a world that is both tangibly real yet belonging to a now distant past.

The Wool Trade

'In Europe the best wool is English and in England the best wool is Cotswold'
(12th century saying).

In the Middle Ages the Cotswolds was well known throughout Europe as the source of some of the best wool. The Cotswolds were ideal for sheep so the Abbeys and monasteries raised huge flocks of the 'Cotswold The Cotswolds Lion SheepLions'. These native sheep were large animals with golden long fleeces. Merchants became rich and spent much money on the wool churches as well as building fine houses for themselves such as Grevel's House in Chipping Campden. At that time 50% of England's economy was due to wool.

The world-famous row of cottages at Arlington Row, Bibury was originally constructed 600 years ago as a factory for processing wool. In the 18th century cloth manufacture became centred on the Stroud valleys where there was plenty of waterpower, and at its height there were about 150 mills. Many still exist today, although, used for other purposes.

William Camden in 1610 wrote as part of his great work Britannia, a topographical and historical survey of all of Great Britain ........


In these Woulds there feed in great numbers, flockes of sheepe long necked and square of bulke and bone, by reason (as it is commonly thought) of the weally and hilly situation of their pasturage; whose
wool being so fine and soft is had in passing great account among all nations.

Buried in Wool

From early times England was noted for her woolen products and home grown wool was a major part of the national wealth.

During the 14th and 15th centuries the protection of this national product was of great importance, and an act was passed in the reign of King Charles II for the express purpose of increasing the consumption of English wool.

Subsequent to the BURIAL IN WOOL ACTS 1667 and 1678 all bodies were to be buried in wool only, unless they have died from the Plague and an affidavit sworn accordingly. The penalty for not doing so was £5. These were repealed in 1814.

It was decreed that:

"No corps should be buried in anything other than what is made of sheep's wool only; or put into any coffin lined or faced with any material but sheep's wool, on pain of forfeiture of £5."

In addition, an affidavit to that effect was required not later than 8 days after the burial.

The following transcripts (although not unique) were found in the Rothbury Parish Register.

"Elizab. Litster, Late of Low Trewitt, deceased, ye 2nd daughter of Edward Litser was buried in nothing but wooling accordyng to ye Act on ye behalf, as does appear by ye affidavit made by Edward Litster and John Vint to Mr. Thom. Collingwood, one of his Majs. Justice of ye Peace, and his certificate under his hand bearing date ye 2nd of 7br., 1678."

"Mary Storrey, of ye Craghead, was wrapt or wound up in nothing but woollen accdng to Stat. on ye behalfe, as appears by Affidavit made by Robt. Storry, ibid, to r. Thom. Hursley, in his certificate under his hand, bearing date ye 5th day 5br., 1678"


The old saying - "You can't pull the wool over my eyes" came from being buried in a shroud of wool, and meant that "I am not dead!"

The Stone

The Cotswolds are very rich in Oolitic (meaning egg stone from the Greek) Limestone and so it was natural to start building with it in the Middle Ages due to its propensity and comparative cheapness. There are still a good few quarry's in the region still extracting and working the stone for repairs and the construction of new buildings. The old limestone houses and cottages are invariably 'Listed' buildings which means they are tightly projected by the authorities from alteration from the original and any new buildings invariably have to be built of limestone with matching roof pitches of 60 degrees.

The colour of the stone of the 'chocolate box' villages does vary depending on the location of where it was quarried. Generally, in the northern part of the Cotswolds the stone is a beautiful 'honey golden brown' and the further south towards the city of Bath the stone becomes 'creamier' in colour. The Cotswolds has more specially protected or 'listed' buildings of any other region.

J. B. Priestley wrote of Cotswold stone that - "the truth is that it has no colour that can be described. Even when the sun is obscured and the light is cold, these walls are still faintly warm and luminous, as if they knew the trick of keeping the lost sunlight of centuries glimmering about them." Walk or drive around Cotswold villages and towns for even a day, and you will know what he meant.

In the Oxfordshire Cotswolds the quarry at Taynton, near Burford, had a reputation for high quality stone. In the 13th century large quantities of creamy Taynton Stone was transported to Oxford for use on its colleges and later at Eton College, Windsor Castle and Blenheim Palace. The Radcliffe Camera building at Oxford was built using both Taynton and Burford limestone.

On the southern edge, the quarries at Corsham supplied the famous Bath stone used in the city. Stone from Minchinhampton was used for the Houses of Parliament and that from Leckhampton was used to build Cheltenham.

The most important centre for the supply of Roofing Stones was the village of Stonesfield (between Charlbury and Woodstock) where the villagers laid out the wet limestone in winter for the frosts to naturally split the stone.

The Cotswold village of Naunton also used to be a centre for the production of stone roofing slates. At one time 30,000 slates a week were dug from the thin stone seams in nearby mines.

Cotswolds Limestone Houses and Cottages

The Land

Typical dry stone wall in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is designated 'An Area of Outstanding Beauty' and is the largest in England and Wales, stretching from Chipping Campden, in the north, to Bath in the South (80 miles), covering an area of 2038 sq. kms (790 sq. miles) and comprises farmland over 80% of its area. It has the largest number of conservation areas of any region. The Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty has been shaped by people for over 6000 years.

Salt Ways

These ancient routes radiated from Droitwich in varying directions with the ways going in or around Worcester to travel south and to the West, the means used were by uses of the rivers, oxcart or packhorse.
It is significant that the salt ways predated Roman roads and drovers routes.

Salt has numerous uses , paper, soaps, setting of dyes in textiles, in medicine its uses in healing played an important role through the ages, it is used in the manufacture of many commodities and has been for many thousands of years so the importance of its transportation through the centuries has played a large part in the construction of the roadway system.

A route for the distribution of salt is believed to have been, Worcester, Elmley Castle, Ashton under Hill, Dumbleton, Toddington, Hailes, Winchcombe, Stow-on-The-Wold, Salperton, Coln St. Aldwyn, Lechlade, and through to the coast in Hampshire, Winchcombe was very much a crossroads for trading routes.
It was said that the aristocracy enjoyed some of their wealth through the levy placed on dealings in salt which was a merchandise of some worth.

It was something that was smuggled and therefore attracted attention of the revenue men.

Coaching Routes

Stage Coaches were in general use from the mid 17th century for about 200 years, with coaching inns or what was known as Staging Inns usually spaced some 7 miles apart, many offered very basic facilities whilst others had a blacksmith or a wheelwright attached to their premises or in close vicinity.

It was accepted that whilst there were empty beds available inns could continue serving drinks which meant almost 24 hour drinking, wayfarers and stragglers were acceptable.

Coaching routes through the Cotswolds generally followed the Roman Roads, Broadway was on the main route to London from Worcester and was an important staging point, Fish Hill was a steep climb for horses so frequently additional horses needed to be hitched to the coaches.

As it was a much frequented stopping place it was a place of many staging inns, it has been said that at one time there was as many as 40 places offering accommodation for coach travellers.

Silk Production

At the time of James 1st the production of silk was encouraged, it was he who was responsible for the planting of the white mulberry (the black mulberry does not attract the silk worm) on what is now the site of Buckingham Palace, however the gardens became a meeting place of women of ill-repute and his dreams of the gardens being important in the production of silk were dashed.

Silk was an important part of the Cotswolds industry, with mills being in many Cotswold locations amongst them being Winchcombe, Blockley and Broadway.

The mill in Broadway was established by a Mr.Mann in 1810 but closed in 1864, the remains still stand near West End farm. References to silk are still to be found in different places - i.e Silk Lane at Winchcombe amongst them.

There were other types of mills in and around Broadway, it is mentioned that in 1291 there were 2 mills in the manor of Broadway, in 1454 a Fulling Mill existed, in 1528 Broadway Mill was rented by a William Hannow.

In 1575 there were 2 water mills belonging to the manor but by 1640 they belonged to a family by the name of Savage who owned middle hill estate, it was still in their ownership in 1687.

Glove making was also a industry of the locality , Broadway Tower which was built in 1797 was used by Sir Thomas Phillips for his private printing press from 1822 - 1862 after which the site was used for glove making for some years.

Tobacco Leaf Growing

It was during the 16th and early 17th centuries that the area around Winchcombe was extremely poor , it was during this period that a family named Tracy established themselves at Toddington, the eldest son Sir John Tracy became involved with a John Stratford who was related to him by marriage, they set up a business together to grow tobacco in the area, with plantations at Toddington and Bishops Cleeve.

Tobacco was widely grown on the Cotswolds, the Vale of Tewkesbury and in an area which extended as far south as Wiltshire.

Winchcombe was crossed and re-crossed by Salters routes, John Stratford was a member of the Salter's Company, he was a dealer in woollen stockings and a member of the Eastland Company who dealt in broadcloth, his vast business interests also included the manufacture of tallow, oil, potash and soap.

At the very time of the first crop in the area coming to maturity in 1619 tobacco growing in the British Isles was banned, this was done in order that it could be grown on a commercial scale in the Colonies where it was considered that the need for employment was greater.

After which much of the land on the Cotswolds was turned to growing flax but despite the ban illegal tobacco growing continued on a substantial scale this resulted in a proclamation being read out by a parliamentary agents declaring it illegal, many fights broke out between them and the local populace who could see their livelihoods being lost.

As a result of such disturbances a fresh act of parliament was passed in 1652 banning the growing. Despite this continued and further disturbances took place when in 1667 the authorities sent in a platoon of Life Guards to destroy the crops and to quell the dissenters.

However, records show that the locals were still defiant as planting had taken place as late as 1675 at Winchcombe. The connection with tobacco and the past at Winchcombe still exists - there is a road named Tobacco Close and despite the lapse in time the occasional tobacco plant is still found growing in the Cotswolds.

The People

The Cotswolds is home to 85000 people and has one of the lowest population densities in England with less than 300 residents in over half its parishes. The region attracts 38 million visitors a year with tourism being the principle industry, generating over £130 million a year. The Cotswolds has one of the highest non-urban growth rates in the Country.


The Cotswolds is rich in Neolithic remains with about 80 long barrows of the Cotswold-Severn type. Belas Knap is one of the largest, whilst you can actually crawl inside the fine example of Hetty Pegler's Trump. The Bronze Age is represented by the remains of some 400 round barrows. The area is also home to the majority of the 32 Iron Age hill fortes .

Belas Knap overlooking Winchcombe

Latest Wealth Survey of England 2007

A recent survey (August 2007) by Barclays Bank indicates Tatton in Cheshire and the Cotswolds with typical household incomes of £62,350 and £60,800 respectively are the only places outside London and the South East to make the top 20.

1 Kensington and Chelsea £101,600

2 City of London/Westminster £81,425

3 Hampstead and Highgate £77,500

4 Beaconsfield £74,375

5 Richmond Park £71,925

6 Esher and Walton £71,800

7 Mole Valley £71,500

8 SW Surrey £67,825

9 Maidenhead £64,650

10 Tonbridge and Malling £63,550

11 NE Hampshire £63,475

12 Finchley and Golders Green £63,200

13 Tatton £62,350

14 Chesham and Amersham £62,075

15 Hammersmith and Fulham £61,325

16 Reigate £60,900

17 Cotswold £60,800

18 SW Hertfordshire £59,725

19 Twickenham £59,675

20 Sevenoaks £59,600

21 Guildford £59,525

22 Buckingham £59,450

23 Runnymede and Weybridge £59,425

24 Regent's Park and Kensington North £58,800

25 Wimbledon £58,775

26 Hertsmere £58,550

27 Epsom and Ewell £57,875

28 Windsor £57,825

29 Battersea £57,500

30 Putney £57,475

31 Bromley and Chislehurst £57,125

32 E Surrey £56,575

33 Sheffield, Hallam £56,400

34 Brentwood and Ongar £56,400

35 Altrincham and Sale W £56,075

36 Tunbridge Wells £55,975

37 Winchester £55,650

38 Surrey Heath £55,375

39 Hitchin and Harpenden £55,350

40 Henley £55,300

41 Macclesfield £55,200

42 Epping Forest £55,050

43 Wealden £54,825

44 W Derbyshire £54,700

45 Croydon S £54,225

46 Arundel and S Downs £53,375

47 St Albans £53,250

48 Chipping Barnet £53,225

49 Enfield, Southgate £53,075

50 Woking £53,000

Source: Barclays

Did you know?

People have lived and worked in the Cotswolds for over 6000 years

Farmland covers most of the AONB

Over half of the country's flower-rich limestone grassland is found in the Cotswolds

Cotswold stone buildings and villages are known the world over

The AONB has a network of dry stone walls at least equivalent to the length of the Great Wall of China

The AONB attracts 38 million day visitors each year

The native Cotswolds sheep was known as the 'Cotswold Lion', at one time providing wool for over half of England's cloth

The AONB has internationally important beech and yew woods

The AONB has a population of 2 million living close by, but has only 85,000 residents

Local stone has been quarried in the Cotswolds since Roman times

The endangered species of snail, Laurea sempronii, is found on just one wall in the Cotswolds

The Cotswold penny cress is found as a native plant only in the Cotswolds

Tourism is the number 1 industry in the AONB generating over £130m a year

The Romans arrived in the Cotswolds in AD47 building now famous roads, like the Fosse Way, and great towns like Cirencester

The Cotswolds has always been a favourite with artists and writers such as
William Morris and Laurie Lee

The Cotswolds building style is famous: it includes a steep pitched roof (60 degrees), ridge tiles and coping; tall chimneys; large window sills of stone or wood; and detailed window mouldings of stone

In the Middle Ages, Cotswold wool merchants built themselves grand houses and endowed magnificent 'wool' churches which still stand today

The AONB has some of the finest gardens and arboreta in the country, such as Westonbirt

The AONB has 10% of the country's breeding horseshoe bats

There are over 3000 miles of public footpath in the AONB

The geology of the Cotswolds has a big impact on the landscape: underlying much of the AONB is the Great Oolite, a limestone much prized as a building stone.

For further interesting information on the
History and Heritage of the Cotswolds:-

Fact Sheet on the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Morris Dancers in the Cotswolds

Cotswold Market Town of Stow-on-the-Wold

Deserted Cotswold Villages

Cotswold Place Names

The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold 1646

Tracks and Roads across the Cotswolds

The Cotswold Lion

An Early Cotswold Visit

The History of Bourton-on-the-Water

Cotswold Roofs

Cotswold Dry Stone Walls

Cotswold Ridge and Furrows

The Rollright Stones

The Gypsy Horse Fair at Stow-on-the-Wold

The Cotswolds - In the Beginning

Strange Things in the Cotswolds

Top Outstanding Things in the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds Heritage of Wool and Stone