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Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England, on top an 800-foot (244 m) hill at the junction of main roads through the Cotswolds, including the Fosse Way (A429), which is of Roman origin. The town was founded by Norman lords to take advantage of trade on the roads converging there. Fairs have been held by royal charter since 1330; an annual horse fair is still held on the edge of the town. Today's population is about 2000.



Stow-on-the-Wold, originally called Stow St. Edward or Edwardstow after the town's patron saint Edward, probably Edward the Martyr,[2] 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.[2]

Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold

On 21 March 1646 the last battle of the first phase of the English Civil War took place one mile north of Stow on the Wold. After initial royalist success, the superiority of the parliamentary forces overwhelmed and routed the royalist forces. Fleeing the field, the royalists fought a running fight back into the streets of Stow where the final action took place, culminating in surrender in the market square.

Notable people

In birth order:

  • Clement Barksdale (1609-1687), writer and poet, was Rector of Stow-on-the-Wold from 1660 to 1687.
  • Edmund Chilmead (1610-1654), writer, translator and musician, was born in the town.
  • George Wilkinson (1814-1890), was the architect of Stow-on-the-Wold Workhouse in 1836.
  • George Pepall (1876-1953), county cricketer, was born in the town.
  • Harry Ferguson (1884-1960), engineer and inventor of the Ferguson tractor, died in the town.
  • Frederic Bartlett (1886-1969), experimental psychologist and academic, was born in the town.
  • John Howland (1895-1958), county cricketer, was born in the town.
  • John Entwistle (1944-2002), musician, producer and bass guitarist of the Who, bought Quarwood in Stow-on-the-Wold in 1978. His funeral was held at St Edward's Church.
  • David Loder (born 1964), racehorse trainer, was born in the town.


The town belongs to the Stow electoral ward. This covers the parishes of Stow, Maugersbury and Swell. In 2010 these parishes had a total population of 2,594.

Stow-on-the-Wold has an active Parish Council with 10 members.[3]

Stow-on-the-Wold is represented on Cotswold District Council by the Liberal Democrat Councillor Dilys Neill, who won a by-election in September 2016. The Stow Division is represented on Gloucestershire County Council by the Conservative Councillor Nigel Moore.

Cotswold District Council

Cotswold District Council Stow Ward
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Democrats Dilys Neill 555 64.9 +21.0
Conservative David Penman 300 35.1 -21.0
Majority 255
Turnout 855 40.5
Liberal Democrats gain from Conservative Swing 21%

Gloucestershire County Council

Gloucestershire County Council Stow Division
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Nigel Moor 2,340 63
Liberal Democrats Rachel Coxcoon 1,014 27
Green Andrew Maclean 210 6
UKIP Edeltraud French 139 4
Majority 1,326
Conservative hold Swing


Ancient yew trees at the north porch of to St Edward's Church

In 1330, Edward III set up an annual 7-day market to be held in August. In 1476, Edward IV replaced that 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 charter 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[] Reportedly, 20,000 sheep changed hands at one 19th century fair. Many alleyways known as "tures" 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.[4]

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 moved 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. 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.[5]

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.[6]

Popular culture

St Edward's Church

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".

"Stowe-on-the-Wold, Where the wind blows cold.
Where horses young and old are sold, Where farmers come to spend their gold.
Where men are fools and women are bold and many a wicked tale is told.
High on the freezing Cotswold." etc.

Stow-on-the-Wold was prominently featured in the eleventh episode of series 6 of Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson reviewed the Ford F-Series there. He chose to film it there because it is a typical village in the English countryside, as Jeremy compares it to the American countryside in the episode.

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.

From 1881 until 1962, Stow was served by Stow-on-the-Wold railway station which was on the Great Western Railway's Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway. The nearest railway station is now Moreton-in-Marsh (some 4 miles, 6 km, from Stow), on the Cotswold Line from Hereford to London Paddington. An alternative is Kingham railway station (some 5 miles, 8 km, from Stow) on the same line.


  1. ^ "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b British History Online: A History of the County of Gloucester, C. R. Elrington (editor), 1965, Pages 142-165
  3. ^ "Stow Town Council Members". Stow-on-the-Wold Town Council. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "Stow on the Wold Town Council". Retrieved 2013.
  5. ^ Tearoom bouncers tackle fair fear (BBC News story)
  6. ^ Bingham, Jane (18 February 2010). The Cotswolds: A Cultural History. Oxford University Press. pp. 58-. ISBN 9780195398755. Retrieved 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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