Burford's distinctictive main street is long and steep. There is a jumbled juxtaposition of houses and shops. It was originally built as a street of shops - each would be a shallow, single storey shop, with workshops and stores behind, and living quaterers for the artisan above the worksho on the upper floors.Grey gabled buildings with lichen encrusted roofs, hotels, shops, tea rooms and inns. Crooked roof lines, leaning walls, no two buildings the same. Nice pubs like the Lamb below
A line of lime trees and a grass verge separate the houses from the road for half its length. At the memorial cross, the Tolsey, a market house from Tudor times, is now a museum.
Explore too the back lanes and alleys off the main street. The ancient Priory to the west, is now a closed nunnery. It holds memories of Nell Gwyn and King Charles II - their resulting son was created Earl of Burford.
The church is to the east, and has a splendid spire. It was used as a prison during the Civil War, and has graffiti scratched by the Royalist prisoners still to be seen inside it.
As the main street runs down to the river, there is a row of fine Almshouses and the school founded in 1577. The town then ends at the narrow stone bridge, that can only carry one way traffic
To approach Burford from the south is to be confronted with one of the finest
views of any ancient
market town in the country. The main street sweeps down to the River Windrush, past an extraordinary
collection of houses of various styles and ages. The hills opposite provide a frame of fields and trees and,
with luck, spectacular skies.
Burh-ford (meaning a defended settlement by a ford) was mentioned in Domesday Book in 1086, with a
population of about 200. The crossing of the river later progressed from a mere ford to a bridge, and
Burford's ancient packhorse bridge is still doing duty at the bottom of the hill.
Burford was the first Cotswold town to be granted a charter, some time before 1107, and a Merchant
Guild was formed. The Guild was given the right to hold a market and collect tolls from anyone wishing
to trade in the town. These were paid at the Tolsey, which stands at the comer of Sheep Street.
Burford flourished as a market town; the Cotswolds were renowned throughout Europe in the Middle
Ages for sheep and wool, and Burford was strategically placed for the transport of merchandise to air
points of the compass. Many imposing buildings bear witness to the importance of Burford at the height
of the wool trade, particularly the magnificent church of St. John the Baptist which is of almost
cathedral-like proportions; building began in about 1175 and was enlarged throughout succeeding
centuries until the decline of the wool trade
Although the wool trade has long since vanished, much of Burford remains unchanged in appearance,
with picturesque old houses, both great and small, to be seen in the High Street and side streets. Nearly
all are built of the local stone, which lends a pleasing unity to the scene. The River Windrush, flanked by
Willows, winds through meadows towards Burford, passes beneath the Packhorse Bridge, round the
Church and away through more meadows; fantastic for walks. However, Burford is no stranger to the
present day and is flourishing again with plenty to offer its visitors.
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